This was the first expansion pack to be released for Neverwinter Nights, and, somewhat surprisingly, it doesn’t feature the same protagonist as the original campaign. Instead, you’re put in the shoes of one of the pupils of Drogan Droganson, a dwarven Wizard and Harper (a member of a secret group dedicated to maintaining balance in the world) based in Hilltop, a small village of the Silver Marches, a region located east of Neverwinter. One day, a group of kobolds (small, bipedal sapient reptilian creatures) raids the school, stealing four artefacts from Drogan’s lab and leaving him injured and poisoned. Recovering the artefacts is the first order of business, but, as in all video games, your protagonist soon realises that direr things than kobolds are afoot. The expansion consists of two Chapters and an Interlude, which makes it a good deal shorter than the OC. It also ends on a cliffhanger.
Shadows of Undrentide makes a few additions in terms of gameplay and combat, such as a bunch of new Skills, Feats and Spells, as well as the possibility for your character’s morality to shift along the Lawful-Chaotic scale on top of the Good-Evil scale. You can still teleport from a dungeon and back, but it’s slightly more complicated than in the original campaign, and you can only do so in Chapter 1. Beyond that, mechanics mostly remain the same.
SoU makes other, far more significant additions. First, there’s an entirely new cast of characters, even though it’s much smaller than in the OC. All the henchmen are multiclassed, and you can let them know via dialogue whether you want them to level both of their classes or focus on one to the exclusion of the other, which will affect their attribute progression accordingly. You can pick between Xanos and Dorna in Chapter 1, but Deekin only becomes available during the Interlude. Xanos and Dorna are both Neutral, while Deekin is Good. No Evil henchmen this time around. Whomever your character finishes the Interlude with will automatically accompany her/him into Chapter 2, but the other two will become unavailable, with no further mention of their fate. However, considering the fact that Deekin comes back in Hordes of the Underdark even if you don’t bring him with you here, you could assume that the other two companions also stay safe if not brought along.
An important change where henchmen are concerned is that you now have the ability to control their inventory and equipment. This is extremely helpful, especially for squishy Wizard or Rogue types that have no need for Strength and are thus limited in the amount of swag that they can lug around. Now, they can offload some of it onto their henchman (especially if it happens to be Xanos), which allows them to explore for longer stretches of time before having to leg it to a merchant. Henchmen are also chattier now, as they will intervene in conversations with NPCs and sometimes spontaneously offer comments on the situation at hand. Their A.I. is still controlled via dialogue (alas), and you can still talk to them to learn about their pasts, but they no longer have any personal quests to complete. And neither of them is romanceable (luckily enough, in Deekin’s case).
SoU also adds five new “prestige” classes, which come with specific pre-requisites before your character is able to take levels in them; it’s impossible to pick one as your starting class. In other words, prestige classes can only be multiclassed into, and they’re usually designed as ‘extensions’ of one of the existing base classes. One important characteristic of prestige classes is that they’re exempt from multiclassing penalties, thereby making them much easier to multiclass into. Prestige classes also reach “epic” status after level 10 rather than 20 (except for the Harper Scout), but they’ll only gain experience past level 10 if your character’s level is above 20.
Overall, this isn’t a bad expansion, especially considering what the OC was like. The storyline is still a bit of a mess, and Heurodis is even less memorable as a villain than her predecessors, but it’s less convoluted and mercifully shorter than the OC. More importantly for someone like me who places a big emphasis on characterisation and interaction, the henchmen make more of an impression, due to being more personally involved and actually commenting on things that happen. It may not be much, but it really helps to make them more relatable. The main quality of SoU, however…is that it serves as a preparation for HotU.