Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
N Amer - 10/09/2007
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Review
You awake, in great pain, at the bottom of a barrow in the center of a cage of runes, unable to move. A red wizard, Safiya, comes to get you. She cautions you to hurry and prepare yourself, there is danger about and you have far to go.
Each word you utter is a potential misstep with this unknown ally. Be careful. She may be your only hope of escape. But there is something else as well, something within you, prowling, angry, bound, and hungry.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is an expansion for NWN 2 (http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r24632.htm). It promises a 25-hour adventure. While not a true feast for the eyes, the game, nonetheless, offers a deep and rich narrative that oozes with evil, but allows players to have some choice in conversational tone. Not that it will change what direction the game ultimately takes, but it does five the sense of freedom to carry on a conversation, not just cast spells, shoot your bow or hack away with a melee weapon.
The storyline takes place in Rashemen, a land filled with malignant spirits, wizards, demons and gods. In addition to the story arc, the dev team (Obsidian; Mask is published by Atari) has included a new toolset that will allow players greater freedom to make their own modules. But that was not all Obsidian did to improve on the foundation of NWN2. The graphics have been upgraded (still not exceptional, but run them on high settings with an nVidia 8800 GTX card and you will see some wonderful textures). The overall performance has been optimized to create a smoother game experience. There is an enhanced companion and influence system They have their own agenda and will not necessarily follow you at every turn if that interferes with their own goals.
No spoilers here, but complete the end of the first chapter, and a quest called Wrath of the Bear God and a new game mechanic, Spirit Energy, will be unveiled.
Playable characters can utilize an Enchanter’s Satchel as a kind of mobile work bench. Of course, you need to have the skill to enchant weapons and armor or the satchel is just a slot in your inventory. And Obsidian has upgraded epic levels through level 30 with more than 60 epic feats and six epic spells included in the game. There are also new classes, new prestige classes and new races added to the mix.
You can import your character from the original NWN 2 title, or you can create a new avatar for this adventure. However, Mask of the Betrayer requires a character of at least level 18 to play. If you create a new character, he or she will be leveled up to level 18, and you can allow the computer to do that automatically within the selected character package, or you can do it manually. Should you choose the latter, you can go with recommended selections, or go your own way.
Part of the joy of the game is the customization, but not only in the way you construct your character. The level of difficulty can be adjusted and it has a profound affect on the gameplay. Easy will make sure that AoEs (damage attacks that have an area of effect) do not harm party members, and you cannot receive a critical strike. Damage from NPCs does a maximum of 50% damage (the same goes for PCs, or player characters). Then there is D&D Hardcore Rules and Very Difficult beyond that. In the latter, NPCs do 200% damage.
The game’s graphics are fine (the camera could be a bit more refined), and what sound there is works as well. You will hear ambient sound effects, some decent voice work (when it is included; not all characters talk, some of this is purely text dialogue), and the music is understated but serves to drive the action. Characters sometimes are viewed facing the wrong way in cut scenes and there is the occasional pathing problem, but nothing too ugly.
Because the game is strategic in nature (and a role-playing exercise as well), you can utilize the space bar/pause button to stop things, change around inventory items (like healing potions) between your characters, set up your spells to cast for all party members and then resume the game and have it all unleashed. Does that spoil the immersion? Not really. The AI is good in this game, but you will accomplish much more, and more easily, if you do a little hands-on with your characters.
Mask of the Betrayer is not a starting point for D&D novices, or even those new to the NWN experience. If you don’t have a clue what you are doing, this game will eat you alive. It is better to work through the NWN 2 original campaign before moving on to Mask of the Betrayer. Yes, that sounds like a lot of work, but when you run into a game that is thoughtful in one regard, and immersive in another, you tend to want to savor the experience.
Review Scoring Details for Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
The camera functionality is not very good, especially when it can jerk around, spin too quickly or get hung up on environmental elements. The interface is well designed and everything is within reach of the players. Expect a bit of a learning curve with this expansion. It is built for experienced players.
Some nice textures when the game is ramped up all the way. The spell affects are also nicely realized. You can toggle the level of violence depicted in the game.
The sound of this title does exactly what it needs to, in that it supports the story and gameplay.
A bit darker story told very well. This is D&D gaming, with the computer doing all the work and allowing players to enjoy the ride.
Improved toolsets allow players to create deeper modules and share them online.
This is a truly solid and enjoyable expansion. It can be very hard on the player, but part of the magic of the NWN series is that it requires you to think about what you are doing. Graphically the game does the job, the sound is well done, and the story is very strong. The original NWN2 had a few problems, something that has been addressed with this expansion. While the game has a few problems, it still is a reward for those who have played NWN2 and hungered for more.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer presents a bit darker story in truly immersive fashion
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 10/25/2007