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Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Review
developer: Obsidian Entertainment
PIV 2400, 512MB RAM, 4.3GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 09, 07 (released)
|» All About Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer on ActionTrip|
Obsidian's Neverwinter Nights 2 was a good game, but it left a lot of people disappointed (even frustrated) and for very obvious reasons too. In some ways, the entire experience felt like playing the original NWN all over again, though this time with a visual makeover and a bundle of performance issues. There was certain depth to the story and characters, but overall, the game simply lacked more polish. As far as I can remember, most complaints were related to interface issues, the faulty camera, etc. The whole thing was obviously shoved out the door too soon. However, since it was built on the reputation of the original, NWN 2 achieved decent success. (It should also be mentioned that after the patches, the game ran much better. - 2Lions)
Nobody can stop me! Muahaha!
This joint is starting to get crowded.
Nonetheless, a few cool elements were introduced, like new prestige classes, new feats, new spells and additional items, as well as an improved toolset for the mod-making community. What's more, at some point in the single-player campaign, players were given a chance to manage and build their very own stronghold. As it turned out, even with all these well-placed features on offer, gamers expected more from such a prominent franchise (especially, hardcore NWN fans). So, when Obsidian and Atari announced the expansion pack, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, many saw the project as the development team's chance for redemption. Well, we've been playing the game for the past week or so, to see if the ladies and gents at Obsidian pulled it off.
At the outset, it should be said that Mask of the Betrayer is designed for high-level characters, as it involves high-level enemies, deadlier traps and a variety of challenges created specifically for experienced avatars. In other words, you cannot play the game unless your avatar is at least level 18 or higher. Luckily, there's a selection of pre-made characters at the ready.
Upping the ante with tougher enemies and a more challenging experience altogether, Obsidian successfully implemented a number of new features that make the game a joy to play, particularly if you are a fan of the series. Regrettably, some issues form NWN 2 are still there. But more on that later.
Mask of the Betrayer ties up a few loose ends from NWN 2. Everything starts after the battle with the King of Shadows (the culmination of the previous game). You awake, alone and stranded deep beneath the surface, in a weird-looking cave. Gazing at the mysterious signs on the nearby pillars and walls, you are greeted by a Red Wizard, who offers to help you reach the surface. With no memory of how you got there, you accept this invitation. There's something else... Stirring deep inside you is a new, unknown hunger, which seems to have affected you drastically. Confronting one of the spirits in the cave, you discover a whole new power dwelling inside you. Without any idea of how to control this power, you are forced to press on, with the Red Wizard by your side.
Pressing on won't be an easy task if you don't know your way around NWN 2. The first obvious step towards better gameplay was improving the game's camera. The developers incorporated the over-the-shoulder view (Character Mode) and the RTS-like top down perspective (Strategy Mode). Now, in my experience, neither of these proved good enough for this type of game. Quite simply, the classic camera from the original NWN is best-suited for playing the game and you'd be well-advised to use it in this add-on. Once again, the camera's default setting isn't exactly the best solution. In fact, it may ward off many gamers right from the start, plus they might have to spend extra time adjusting the camera angle, mouse scroll speed, etc.
Aforementioned issues aside, we look towards the positive aspects of this expansion pack. For one thing, experienced RPG gamers and D&D hardcore gamers will surely find it a challenge all the way. You should also know that some of the key new gameplay features won't kick in until you've explored a decent portion of the area and completed several quests. When your character reaches "Epic" status, you'll be able to exercise new feats and spells that vary according to the class (or Prestige Class) you've chosen. Also, you are now able to try out new D&D classes like the Red Wizard of Thay, Invisible Blade and Spirit Shaman, each with their own unique abilities.
In Mask of the Betrayer players may also traverse through the shadow plane, which represents a dim reflection of places and objects you encounter in the "real" world. Here, you'll encounter various hostiles like spirits and shadows. There are a number of ways to defeat them. During the first portion of the game, you can kill them in the conventional way, using spells or weapons. When they're dead, you can snatch their essences, which are used for creating enchanted items. This can be done quite quickly and effectively, provided you know the appropriate spell. For instance, I used a 'Longsword +3' and combined it with a Water Essence. After casting Ice Storm, I was able to create an enchanted weapon with additional damage - Cold 1d6.
Once you've progressed further, your dark hunger starts gaining momentum and you'll develop a lust for souls. At this point, the game's greatest innovation comes into view. Two new bars appear on the main screen, indicating the status of your dark powers. The more souls and spirits you devour, the greater is your lust for them. Devouring spirits continuously quickens the darkness as it draws towards consuming you entirely. The catch is to find some way of balancing this power. One good solution is to cast "Eternal Rest" on spirits, instead of devouring them completely. That way, the consumption won't speed up and you'll be able to control these dark powers, to some extent, anyways.
8.6 Very Good
Engaging story, new elements really make a difference and they improve the gameplay, new music (finally), plenty of new spells, feats and items;
Camera issues still linger, as do certain other technical issues.