Neverwinter Nights 2 Storm of Zehir Expansion - Standard Edition
- Platform: Windows Vista / XP
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- Media: Video Game
- Item Quantity: 1
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Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) is a computer role-playing game set in the fantasy world of the Forgotten Realms, one of the popular campaign settings of Dungeons and Dragons. It takes the player from the tiniest of villages into a sweeping tale of danger and war, chronicling their rise from a peasant to a full-fledged hero of the Realms, defending it against one of the greatest threats of the age. Build a character that suits your style of play - good or evil, chaotic or lawful, with any number of skills, feats...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I do like being able to have a party of adventurers I can design myself. I also like the ocean and sea tilesets, and the character Volo. There is some beautiful 3d scenery in this one, and a couple new races. The yuan-ti pureblood, the gray orc etc. And they reskinned a few of the models.
Unfortunately, I dislike the rest system, the emphasis on trading, and the fact that they still haven't fixed some of the unfortunate models like the half-elf and the elf. They need to redo some of the models. Its sad that a game with such great graphics is cursed with poor character models.
This game is enjoyable, but not my favorite expansion. I miss the long dungeon crawls, the ability to rest after encounters, and the more in-depth plot.
3 stars. Average.
A big difference between this expansion and previous NWN environments is the split between an overland map (where you move about an entire region) and actual locations in which you can move about. The overland map is wonderful for creating a sense of distance and ambiance, while the locations provide the depth necessary for combat, dialogue, and intrigue.
So as to get them out of the way, I will begin with the bad stuff. First and foremost Storm of Zehir has incorporated the dreaded 'random encounter' mechanic of D&D with the overland map critters. Because of the virtually limitless capacity for players to grind on overland critters the game was also built with the assumption that players would spend considerable time fighting cookie-cutter fights out in the jungle with 200 gnolls, 3000 kobolds, and a partridge in a pear tree. In my tabletop experience we have always avoided these kind of repetitive and functionally random encounters because: they are boring. Other players may disagree, as the wild popularity of MMORPGs might attest, but for me D&D has always been about story, and random encounters do nothing to move this along.
Secondly, the expansion has something of a split personality with regards to towns. Certain towns can be dealt with almost entirely in an overland map setting-- no loading required. But randomly and inconsistently, other towns require you to actually enter the town (load screen... load screen... wait some more...) and wander about. I would have preferred more consistency with when you actually had a town built in-game, and when you could access through overland text menus.
There are a few minor issues in addition to these two large ones, but by and large the positives outweigh the negatives. The first, and most gratifying, change from previous NWN2 content is the richness of the locations. Every environment is bursting with detail and objects; giving more of a feeling of a living world that players might recognize from Baldur's Gate titles, and less of the "our engine can only support 10 polygons on the screen at a time" of NWN [the first one].
Dialogue is also more satisfying in this expansion than previously, where unnecessary chatter has been reduced and useful conversation is more obviously there. Since this is an expansion, and not a game such as Baldur's Gate II, obviously the volume of dialogue is nothing to write home about. But what dialogue is available is tightly written, useful, or just entertaining.
Crafting has been improved in this expansion with the addition of 'recipes book' which can be directly accessed near workbenches to make gear. The mishmash nature of previous implementation has been cleaned up through a mechanic that has you open the recipe book, chose the recipe, and if you have the right components (many of which are simply gold costs now), viola, you make your item. The availability of crafting also reduces the dependence on finding merchants with items of the appropriate level and speeds up gameplay.
Finally, the last improvement I will get into is the story itself. Storm of Zehir builds on previous attempts with the old NWN expansions, and of course NWN2 in building a strong narrative that connects the various events of the core game, expansions, and Forgotten Realms into a story that sucks the player in and makes them feel like they are participating like they would in a real table-top game. As a DM my players always appreciated when their actions had implications in the world. When they built an inn and made a name for it, when they defeated the Dread Lord SomethingorOther and the townsfolk remembered it. Allusions to past events in NWN2 were well-placed and made me feel like I was really in a world where what I'd done previously mattered. I was proud of my Knight-Captain and happy to see her legacy lived on in some small part (with careful non-references to anything specific I might have accomplished...) I would love to see more expansions in NWN2, and have them all link in to each other in unobtrusive ways like this.
So in short, Storm of Zehir is a fun expansion that you will not dream about in years to come, but that you might mention to your friends. If you like NWN style games, or are a D&D fan this expansion is well worth your time. If, like me, you moved away from your D&D group and hunger for the experience of hanging out with your friends haranguing your DM and squeezing out some story from the teeth of tactical combat, Storm of Zehir is the best new diary substitute out there.
The overland map concept, first off, is one that is a very good idea--in theory. When I first began playing the game, I enjoyed discovering new areas and having overland encounters. After a while, though, I grew very, very tired of the encounters. For one, there are far too many of them and it is very obnoxious and breaks the flow of the game to be continuously assaulted by a low-level group of monsters that has no hope of defeating my party. Perhaps this problem wouldn't be quite as annoying if it weren't for the fact that the load times of this game--the entire NWN 2 series, in point of fact--are so long as to be inexcusable. It got to the point several times where I was ready to abandon the game entirely because I quickly grew tired of it taking so abominably long to complete quests because I was attacked at every turn. This is but one example of a concept for which Obsidian deserves credit. It's simply too bad that they ruined their own concept thanks to the annoying flaws described above.
As for the dungeons, they were tedious at best. Most of them were one-room throwaways and, after a while, I had the feeling that every dungeon I entered was more or less exactly like the one before it. This was a huge disappointment, especially considering the fairly vast scope of the game. While I also tend to grow tired of dungeon after dungeon that consists of 15 levels with unnecessarily long tunnels, it really bored me to go into a room, kill something, and then leave without any sort of substantial payoff.
The trading system was another intriguing concept but this one was also more or less killed, this time by bugs. This is yet another thing about Obsidian that drives me straight up the wall. I don't expect any game to be perfect but Obsidian has an unfortunate tendency to release games that have some very serious issues with bugs. It was very frustrating to spend so much time making my way from one town to another only to find that, due to a bug with the storage system, the trade goods that I had shipped simply vanished into thin air. Yes, players did devise workarounds for this problem but the simple fact of the matter is that the problems shouldn't have existed in the first place.
Last but not least was the thinness of the overall plot. This wouldn't have been as obvious if it weren't for the silent party members. Yes, being able to construct your own party from scratch could be rather nifty but I don't really enjoy that level of micromanagement. I'd rather have interactive party members to help enhance and drive the central story than be running around with a bunch of drones of my own creation. It would have been nice to have the option of picking interactive party members or creating my own party from scratch. For the most part, I didn't even think of the party members as having names. Instead, they were ciphers like: the mage, the rogue, the fighter... Obsidian's writing can be brilliant at times but I feel this is the aspect with which the company is the laziest. The problem is that if you want to create a truly stellar RPG, you are not going to be able to do so by giving writing short shrift. There are hak 'n' slash games a-plenty for those who don't care about story. I play RPGs because I expect to get some sort of story out of them.
Overall, I was very disappointed in this game. I think it would have been a lot of fun and a very strong game indeed if all the focus hadn't been on the flashy aspects at the expense of the foundations that make an RPG enjoyable. I hope that Obsidian will take this under consideration in the future because I firmly believe they could be one of the best game developers out there if only they'd exert themselves to try a bit more.
However, all is not well. I have found SOZ to be less stable than the original game or the 1st expansion, averaging a crash or two a night. Additionally, the less linear plot is less engaging than past games, and doesn't really make the player feel very important to the world. Also, the trade sub-game feels tacked on, with little feedback on how the player is doing, and somewhat sparse rewards.
If you loved the first two adventures, you'll probably like this one, but it's not quite up to par.