Review: NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer.

By Kieron Gillen on October 15th, 2007 at 5:21 pm.

Glorious corporate paymasters Eurogamer have published my review of the first add on pack for the second Neverwinter Nights game.

I have to give Mask of the Betrayer this: its qualities were enough to make me decide to restart the original Neverwinter Nights 2, so I could go all the way through the game and into the expansion pack in an enormous fantasy quest. This says something. It’s a big fantasy PC videogame quest like Grandma used to make.

Assuming your Grandma worked at Black Isle, obviously.

The rest is here.

Not joking about that either, meaning that I’d expect some NWN2 blogging here sooner or later. It’s an interesting experience to go back to the start of NWN2 after being in the expansion pack because it’s so vanilla. I mean, I like it, because I’m a big dirty geek, but it’s merely well-executed utterly derivative fantasy. More another time, I suspect.

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10 Comments »

  1. fragamemnon says:

    NWN2, like so many low-level D&D adventures before it, really never found a way to make the low-level game interesting. Kobolds, orcs, spiders, and bears just don’t make for engaging material, and there’s just not much else to work with.

    The entire second half of the game was far more varied and interesting, I thought, and had a much better, more original feel than the first half of the game.

    The review is pretty solid, though I sort of like the overall spirit of gravitas that many of the companions exhibit. All of them are total battle-hardened badasses in their own way,and it’s not suprising that they would be a pretty serious, somber lot.

    I do agree that the influence system is a bit too gamey for my tastes, and I don’t mcu of the sort of “trade-off” character options where you are forced to say or do something that will get you in good standing with one party member and piss off another of your party members. So it really feels like you are navigating dialogue trees not to roleplay or respond as you see fit, but in a way to manipulate your party members. It sort of feels dishonest at times, actually.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    I do like the team-mates – I think I may have fluffed the paragraph a little by lobbing that note in with serious criticisms. The key bit was noting that they were the opposite of the NWN2 cast – in fact, arguably, the NWN2 cast were too fluffy and giddy while the MoTB are too solemn. There’s a middle line – something like Planescape to choose an obvious example managed to walk – and I think that is the ideal note to strike.

    (I mean, it’s worth noting that both Madness and Joy Division are brilliant bands)

    Regarding the trees… yeah. It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. Having it as a BIG STATEMENT that you’ve changed influence makes it feel as if gaining influence is the point of the game, rather than the side-effect of the game. And – hell! – that saying “I like your hair” or whatever makes someone care more about you than you saving their life repeatedly in battle… well, it’s wrong.

    I think the system needs a rethink, basically. That said, there’s much in D&D per se which sits increasingly badly with me. Even old standards like the Alignment system just seem… well, dumb.

    KG

  3. Roosterfeet says:

    For me this goes nicely with the ‘games you’ve never finished’ article. I’ve failed miserable at making a NWN2 character that’s worth playing. I started with Tiefling Warlock and found out that she was pretty gimpy due to the Tiefling level penalty. Then I remade her as Tiefling Rogue with a couple of levels of Warlock for the nice dex buff. That version had really crappy sneak attack damage and you pick up an NPC rogue really early. Then I tried a sort of Jedi themed Human Fighter/Wizard Eldrich Knight. I got the farthest with the EK and, just as I had planed, he was a very effective self buffed melee fighter and high damage output tank. Of course the constant buff casting started driving me crazy, buffing during combat was a problem, and he was crap without the buffs. So I’m thinking it’s back to the drawing board again. I’m thinking maybe an Aasimar Cleric, something that you don’t have a good npc substitute for that can play multiple roles and compliment the party. I’m hoping that it will play sort of like my old World of Warcraft Paladin that I referred to as a “fireman,” always running around, keeping everyone else alive and generally putting out fires.

  4. fragamemnon says:

    Alignment is sort of meaningless unless it is enforced somehow-and while it is to some degree for certain classes, by and large you can game things to stay in a certain alignment without changing how you play or modifying the outcomes of your choices very much.

    It would be interesting if conversation options were gated by alignments, e.g.

    NPC: Is a man entitled to the sweat of his own brow?

    [Good] No, it belongs to those who need it the most.
    [Evil] No, it belongs to me.

    Or something. Having those kind of options tied into the whole influence conversation system might also ensure that the most loyal companions are the most likeminded with the player character-which makes perfect sense.

    Water under the brdige though. Obsidian still put out a great product for those of us who have been gleefully consuming the Bioware-style D&D games for almost a decade.

  5. Dan (WR) says:

    The NWN2 campaign left me cold, but I was interested in further interactions with my party – that was what sustained my interest the most.The influence system is badly flawed, but interacting with companions / making choices that affect how people see or react to you is the most interesting thing to me in games at the moment. I crave more. But better.

    Molyneaux seems to think vaguely the same way, but idiotically seems to have pinned his hopes on a dog for Fable 2. Which is fine for some, but I tend towards the Warren Ellis view of dogs. The slobbering, snappy little buggers.

    Are there any romance options in Mask of the Betrayer? The NWN2 was bad… and vaguely creepy. I like the attempts at romance in games like Baldur’s Gate 2, despite their crapness. There’s a big romance-less hole in gaming so I’m happy if designers at least give it a go.

  6. KingMob says:

    Fragamemnon, that’s exactly why I got PO’d with KOTOR II and quit halfway through – the game seemed too easy, and the part of the game I still cared about – making friends and influencing people – seemed like a complicated, callous minigame within the game that I needed a FAQ to navigate properly.
    I know it seems dorky, but when I play a Bioware or a Black Isle through the first time I want to answer dialogue either ‘as I would answer’ or ‘as my character would answer’ not in a carefully calculated way in order to get the exact party I want at the end of the game. It creates a conflict between the urge to micromanage and the urge to care about the characters, and that’s never a good thing in an RPG.

  7. MisterBritish says:

    Really enjoyed MOTB, though I will admit it quickloading after loosing influence. The epic-ness of some areas was also appreciated, even if you never felt truley epic since all the challenges were scaled up as well. A little of what hurt Oblivion was here too.

  8. Schadenfreude says:

    Posted this on Eurogamer but it got swamped amidst the usual “Anything under 8 is shit” debate…

    “It’s worth noting that the Dungeon Master client still isn’t finished. It was just as responsible as the level editor for making the first game shine in multi-player (NWN1 is #14 in Gamespy’s most popular, compared to #36 for NWN2). NWN2 certainly had a better single-player experience than NWN1 (Not as good as XP2: Hordes of the Underdark though) but they really, really dropped the ball on the multi-player side of things (Which was pretty much the whole point of the first game; they nearly didn’t include a single-player campaign at all).

    So what’s the deal with the companions in this expansion? Can you happily tell them to take a hike? I lost all patience with them in NWN2 game; especially when they sprung the horribly sign-posted betrayal bits on you and with characters that given the option would never be in my party anyway and would be in no position to stab me in the back.

    And whilst I’m on a grumpy-roll how is the influence system handled this time? In both KotOR2 and NWN2 I thought it was a clunky system. Coupled with the fact that the game wouldn’t let you leave companions behind it meant you spend the whole time trying to impress party members and get them to like you, which IMO is ass backwards. I’m running the show; if they want in they should have to impress me. The mechanism puts a certain skew on the writing that makes it seem like you’re playing second fiddle to the NPCs.”

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’ll admit, your comment got me thinking about the issues, and influenced my post upthread.

    KG