I am a sucker for well-crafted characters and plot lines, therefore Demonheart in both forms hits the spot for me perfectly. In roleplay, combat usually bores me and I play mostly to immerse myself in a story. So as a roleplayer that is hard to please, let me just say: Chapeau, Madame Author. Chapeau indeed.
Demonheart first caught my eye when I dusted off Neverwinter Nights and searched for promising storymods, and was surprised and delighted to find such an exquisitely crafted and complex story and quickly became enchanted by the visual novel. Really, this storylover-fangirl-heart of mine felt funny for days now. I hope it’s okay if I leave my thoughts about both the visual novel and the module here. Please believe me when I say that I love both, since there will be comparison of both of them in the rather verbose musings below – when critiquing, I just loved the other approach a bit more.
It is amazing how much artwork and voice acting (kudos to the voice actors) can define a character – for example: Ari, due to her character design, has an exotic air about her that is difficult to express through written dialogue only and makes her, quire frankly, appealing and interesting. Sir Brash seemed more restrained and a tiny, tiny, tiny (really tiny) bit less trigger-happy in the visual novel, which together with the excellent voice acting made him more sympathetic. Furthermore, his motives and background where explained earlier in the story in comparison to the mod, which made it hard inplay to hold a grudge.
As an aside note: I do value my privacy when stabbing Brash like a vengeful Valkyrie (and then stab him some more for good measure) when given the chance. Having a witness in the demonspawn feels a bit weird. It’s just my preference to have my inplay roaring rampages of revenge in private and without an audience ;-)
I did notice that the visual novel made an effort to immerse the player early in the setting by going into more detail of the protagonist’s life and especially her relationship with orchid. That worked fantastically and is definitely an improvement compared to the nwn mod. However, I also noticed that the supposedly good characters (Mark, also known as target practice), Fisher and Jasper went out of their way to be selfish douchebags – Mark was just cold and opportunistic, Fisher is – sit venia verbo – batshit insane and manipulative as hell, while Jasper, apparently one of the nicest blokes around, only had his own interests of dating Bright at heart while ignoring her grief, confusion and general hopeless and desperate situation. Not the best time to make a move, buddy.
At first, I was a bit disappointed in Raze in the visual novel, until I finally realized what a delicate web of deception had been woven by the author. The nwn module had its own appeal in that matter: It took its time to build the suspense, only let Raze appear very sparingly and was generally more built on mystique. The key bonding scene (the protagonist’s dreamscape, which I adore as a scene) was playing when I was well in the game and showed a sophisticated, pragmatic, condescending and ruthless Raze, but also one that was vulnerable, curious and hungry for approval. He also seemed strangely enough very respectful of the person and privacy of the protagonist, and his immature and possessive outbursts were only shown at the very end of the game, when there was a definite impact (and some “competition” for affection he so craved). In comparison, the visual novel is less subtle about character design, but more comprehensive. Personally, I like the subtle approach with the slow and deliberate build-up better, but I can see the appeal of the very grounded way the visual novel approached this character. I don’t know which one is better, to be honest, but both work well.
As for the storyline – I suspect that the visual novel and nwn module have different story arcs – I can say that both worked well – especially the visual novel has fast and comfortable pacing and makes excellent use of the possibility to just jump from distance to distance without delay as the story progressed. I think the lack of combat and character creation (as in a skillset) made this feel less like accomplishments, but then again, this story works well without.
All in all, I like the nwn module, while unfinished, slightly better because it felt more immersive and gritty while I appreciated the slow buildup in just about every character design, while I am awed of the artwork and composition of the visual novel. Thank you, dear author, for this experience. I hope my disorganized ramblings didn’t offend and conveyed my appreciation appropriately. I also apologize for any mistakes made, since English is not my first language.