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  1. #21
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreeth View Post
    Never got round to finishing NWN2 or starting MOTB - is MOTB completely standalone or will I be missing out if I start playing it without finishing the OC?
    I might be wrong but I remember MotB being a completely separate story for the most part. It used your character(s) from the original campaign but never really made any important reference to it.

    If you can start from there I would definitely do so because it is much better than the pretty bland and boring original game.

  2. #22
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jockie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choca View Post
    I might be wrong but I remember MotB being a completely separate story for the most part. It used your character(s) from the original campaign but never really made any important reference to it.

    If you can start from there I would definitely do so because it is much better than the pretty bland and boring original game.
    There are some recurring characters in Motb like Ammon Jerro, but they play minor roles and I'd agree that Motb stands alone well.

    The only thing of slight concern coming in blind is that Motb starts you off at level 18 and goes into the epic levels, if you're unfamiliar with 3.5 dnd mechanics you might struggle to build your character effectively (the preset/auto-level builds aren't the best) - going through the OC 1-20 will help you better understand those mechanics. Obviously if you know DnD this won't be a problem.

    Here's a quick question - has anybody actually finished Storm of Zehir? I tried to play it and like it, but just found it to be really weak, generic and poorly realised. I loved the ideas behind it - the world map, the freedom, the fact your focus is on building a trade/adventuring company up, rather than focusing on specific world-ending threats. Just didn't quite click for me though.
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  3. #23
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    Thanks for the replies folks. Unfortunately it sounds like I'm going to have to trudge through the OC before starting MOTB. It's surely some kind of character flaw but I just can't start a game series with a continuing character without having built the character from scratch.

    Dagnabbit.

  4. #24
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jockie View Post
    Here's a quick question - has anybody actually finished Storm of Zehir? I tried to play it and like it, but just found it to be really weak, generic and poorly realised. I loved the ideas behind it - the world map, the freedom, the fact your focus is on building a trade/adventuring company up, rather than focusing on specific world-ending threats. Just didn't quite click for me though.
    I did finish it and it is in fact really weak, generic and poorly realised.

    Plus the plot is pretty bad.

    Might be worth a try in multiplayer (maybe) but as a solo adventure, I would not recommend it.

  5. #25
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    I played Storm of Zehir somewhat recently and posted my thoughts here.
    It really isn't very good and if you're like me and dive in right after MotB it's going to be quite a shock. However, the way it uses skill checks and gives unique dialogues for class, race and deity is mind-boggling. Whatever backwater deity you choose, there's going to be some extra dialogue for it.
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  6. #26
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    It really isn't very good and if you're like me and dive in right after MotB it's going to be quite a shock
    What's really shocking is that both Zehir and MotB were made by Obsidian, yet they could not feel more different if they tried.

  7. #27
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jockie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choca View Post
    What's really shocking is that both Zehir and MotB were made by Obsidian, yet they could not feel more different if they tried.
    I think it was pretty well-publicized that the majority of Obsidian had moved on to new projects after Motb and there was something of a skeleton crew working on SoZ. I remember Annie Carlson (now part of Double Bear) being one of the more vocal team members still working on NwN 2, but Avellone, Sawyer, Zeits etc weren't involved, which probably accounts for why it feels so different and perhaps the lack of quality.
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  8. #28
    Lesser Hivemind Node fiddlesticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choca View Post
    What's really shocking is that both Zehir and MotB were made by Obsidian, yet they could not feel more different if they tried.
    I actually regard that as a strength. Storm of Zehir is a combat-oriented game in the vein of Icewind Dale. The story isn't particularly great, but I love the way it handles different skills and party members. There's a lot of interaction that you won't see on any given playthrough and a lot of cool synergies. Not to mention it had one of the most interesting dialogue systems of any game I've played.

    Mask of the Betrayer meanwhile puts a stronger focus on the narrative and is similar to Planescape: Torment. There's a lot of great writing and the way your decisions shape the world around you is fantastic. Unfortunately the fights themselves aren't all that interesting.

    I liked both expansions, though for completely different reasons. They are definitely far better than the OC, at any rate.

  9. #29
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
    I actually regard that as a strength. Storm of Zehir is a combat-oriented game in the vein of Icewind Dale.
    I'd rather say that it tries to be a combat-oriented game in the vein of Icewind Dale, yeah, but I find it lacking in so many fronts compared to Icewind Dale 2 while MotB compares pretty well with those that came before it (it's even way better than Throne of Bhaal ever was).

    As for the OC, my only memories of it are that it was bland and boring.

  10. #30
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    I only played this for a little bit before other games kind of got in the way, always wanted to go back to it because the world and stuff intrigued me.

  11. #31
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Alright, for the curious, here's my breakdown of the three campaigns:

    Original Campaign (OC)
    The OC is mechanically and structurally sound but is absolutely filled with cliche. If village orphans battling an ancient evil alongside Dwarven fighters isn't your thing, you might want to keep walking. If you can tolerate hoary genre conventions, you'll find that they're actually pulled off pretty well. The large and diverse party veers a touch too far into "wacky," but the upside is that they are a largely entertaining lot to spend 40 hours or so with. Meanwhile, the quest structure starts off very linear, with a few sidequests sticking out of the, um, side, but it gradually opens up quite nicely. At one point you'll be investigating a crime, and--shock!--the game doesn't give you a lot of suggestions about what to do, leaving you at the mercy of common sense and basic intelligence to really get the most out of it.

    The increasing freedom the player is given does mean the game loses a lot of urgency near the end, where you'll probably spend more time than you'd like dealing with the needlessly complex crafting system. Actually, let's talk about that crafting system. It's terrible. Besides being inordinately complicated in terms of feats, casting requirements, etc., many materials are extremely limited, and you may very well go the whole game without finding some gems necessary for your most desired piece of kit. This means that you won't dare craft anything fancy until the last act out of fear that you'll screw yourself over, hoarding endless amounts of stuff that might be useful, depending on whether you find the recipes you need.

    Past that, the final dungeon is tedious and completely changes the resting rules of the preceding dozens of hours, making it even more of a chore to plow through the extremely tough enemies present. This is topped off with an over-complicated, under-explained, pain-in-the-ass bossfight that I've never had the patience for to fight without dropping the difficulty to Easy. Oh, and the ending is slap-in-the-face bad. The other expansions have some subtle, self-deprecating jabs at it.

    So that's the OC. I'll follow up with Mask of the Betrayer, Storm of Zehir, and Mysteries of Westgate soon.

  12. #32
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Mask of the Betrayer (MotB)
    Ah, one of Obsidian's finest works. Where the OC was bland, MotB is strange. Where the OC was linear, MotB is sometimes frustratingly unclear. Where the OC spelled things out, MotB is vague; even the title is a metaphor!

    MotB is NWN2's sole epic-level campaign, which means skipping the OC and going straight here can be an overwhelming process as you apply 18 or so levels in rapid succession. Furthermore, perhaps to assuage the sting of the OC's dreadful and abrupt ending, the campaign assumes that you are using the same character, to the point that a few plot points won't make much sense if you are completely new. Past that, it's an entirely different tale.

    I really don't want to elaborate much upon the story in MotB, largely because it's structured in an unusual way. The game doesn't always point you directly to the next step in the main quest. Even when you are directed to go somewhere, you might not realize how important a step it will be. It's a game where you'll probably get to a point where you don't know what to do, decide to poke around in a side dungeon, and suddenly trip over the next important piece of plot. The plot coalesces slowly, piece by piece, and you probably won't have figured everything out before the final piece falls into place. That it wanders into a Neil Gaiman-esque territory of gods and souls and the very nature of the universe is, in some ways, just icing on the cake.

    Sadly, there are a few quirks to it that I dislike. It's extremely easy to fuck up at the end and get a crappy ending. I'm actually pretty sure I missed out on the ending I wanted (and got once before) because a couple of quests broke hopelessly and wouldn't trigger. Furthermore, you'll only ever have a maximum of 4 companions, but you can only ever bring 3 with you (unless you use the console, which I eventually did). It's kind of crappy, because the OC ended with you being able to bring 4, and actually allowed the entire 10+ member team to participate in the final battle, while MotB asks that you ditch someone for no good reason. Screw balance; by the time you near level 30 you won't have problems anyway.

    On the crafting front, they've basically wholesale replaced the enchanting system with a much simpler one. It still encourages material hoarding (grrrr) but you won't be so likely to miss out on the stuff you want.

    Finally, I have to address the Spirit Eater mechanic. Again, no spoilers, but your character is cursed. And the curse is actually something you have to manage; failure to do so can, theoretically, kill you! I say theoretically because, whether you go good or evil (did I mention it's also a thinly disguised morality meter?) you should get enough bonuses and special abilities to make it a pretty manageable process. It's mostly there to try to keep you from resting after every fight, and I didn't have any real trouble with it after meeting with the Wood Man pretty early on. There's a mod that removes it if you absolutely hate it.

    Coming soon: Storm of Zehir and Mysteries of Westgate!

  13. #33
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    Cool quick reviews. I'll see what you thought of Storm of Zehir, I tried to launch it again today but I just can't seem to get past its overall clunkiness. Looks like I'll just stick to Icewind Dale 2 whenever I feel like making my own party of adventuring mass murderers in a D&D setting.

    The fact that it's got the ugliest characters in all RPG history also doesn't help.

  14. #34
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    I actually just replayed through MotB a few days ago, hooray for a thread! MotB is definitely one of the best stories told in a cRPG, and I'm happy to say that after the previous play through the evil ending is completely amazing. All of the companions are fantastic as well, particularly the Avellone written Gann and Kaelyn. I did cheat to get past the spirit eater mechanic this time around, because playing a ravenous spirit eater Wizard is almost impossible (automatic -2 to intelligence every time you rest, even with a full spirit-stomach, means you literally never get to use all of your spell slots).

    I've also been enjoying Storm of Zehir a lot more than I thought I would. It definitely helps to realize it's a complete 180 from MotB and try to approach it from that angle. It's story light, but the overmap and combat make it a blast to play.

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    for anyone having difficulty with the camera: Make sure you go into the options and set strategic camera to "free form" instead of "focused". It defaults to focused for some reason because it's an absolute abomination, but with free form enabled it feels just like playing Baldur's Gate 2 or Dragon Age.
    Last edited by Fiatil; 10-05-2013 at 06:37 AM.

  15. #35
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Storm of Zehir (SoZ)

    If you've followed this thread so far, you've probably noticed that SoZ is divisive. People either love it or hate it. Personally, it's probably my favorite campaign, despite being objectively inferior to MotB. Let's look at why.

    SoZ is so mechanically different from any other NWN2 campaign that it could probably have been sold as a sequel without too much fuss. Out go the old resting rules. Out go the rules about death (as in, characters can now actually die, but can also be healed with spells when k.o.'d). Out go the class restrictions on companions. Out go the single-character option for players. Out goes the static-picture overland map. Out goes the byzantine crafting system.

    Yes, now you're in control of up to 6 characters at a time (4 of your own creation, up to 2 "cohorts," recruitable NPCS who are analogous to the earlier companions, but far less well-defined), with full control over all of their feats, class levels, skills, everything. You are now wandering around an overworld, JRPG-style, discovering new locations and engaging in or avoiding random encounters. You now have use for the survival skills that previously had little value (a ranger now goes from an also-ran to an MVP). In fact, there are more skill checks on a minute-to-minute basis than any game I can think of. The revised crafting system makes it easy to kit out your team in amazing pieces of equipment, though you'll hit infuriating bottlenecks when it comes to getting materials for Wondrous Items.

    It's also a significantly tougher proposition than previous campaigns. The (presumably) small budget for the expansion means that areas are comparatively tiny, but they are brimming with surprisingly nasty enemies and devastating traps. And the non-linear nature of the game means that you can very easily wander into some death-trap without even realizing it. Even the final boss is better than the previous entries. Instead of a heavily-scripted encounter that strives for dramatic tension, he's just one tough sumbitch with a bunch of tough sumbitch minions. He's not gimmicky (ok, I think he's got some worshipers or something, but they shouldn't last more than about 30 seconds), he's just a bastard, and my recent defeat (on the first try!) of him with my most recent party earned a fist pump that neither the OC nor MotB warranted.

    So what is there to dislike? Quite a bit, actually. The story is almost perversely dull: after washing up in a shipwreck, your party enters the employ of Sasani's merchant company, and the vast majority of the game is spent, well, working for a trading company. Yes, it's swords-and-sorcery meets Dilbert as you acquire resources, negotiate trade routes, and make investments. Oh sure, you'll eventually find yourself dealing with end-of-the world stuff, but the game is mostly concerned with the effects of the free market on communities. If you ever wanted to get your MBA friends to try an RPG, this is probably the one to go with. [Note: From a gameplay point of view, the trading system allows you to become Scrooge McDuck-style rich and grants easy access to valuable crafting materials. It's dull, but it does serve a purpose.]

    Past that, the tiny areas are a problem. Not that they're tiny, mind, but because you'll see a lot of loading screens. They aren't terribly long, but they are very frequent. I'd love to know what an SSD would do to improve it. Even then, some of the new areas really push the wheezing engine to its limits. Samargol in particular takes a bat to the frame rate, even with shadows turned off (and shadows are the engine's biggest bugbears).

    Interestingly, SoZ seems to be far less inclined to bug out than the preceding entries. There are quirks, and there are bugs, and there are a few missing features (investing in my allied trade cartel didn't seem to do anything at all) but I can't recall ever finding broken quests or anything like that. Perhaps it's because the campaign never really tries to do anything too impressive (now that I think about it, I don't think it had any true cutscenes!). I don't claim to know.

    I don't really know what to say about SoZ. I'd love to recommend it, but despite my own passion for it I can see exactly why others loathe it. It's a bit of an oddity all round, but it's one you might come to love.

    Coming soon: Mysteries of Westgate

  16. #36
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lukasz's Avatar
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    eh.
    stupid thread.


    now i'm downloading NWN2 because of it.

  17. #37
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    shadows are the engine's biggest bugbears
    Even moreso than actual bugbears? =P

    Interesting write-up, I skipped over SoZ before, but that's because I thought it would be "NWN2 but harder, with less dialogue" -- but it sounds fairly unique! And apparently I stopped paying attention to NWN2 before this Mysteries of Westgate was released, for I had not heard of it until this moment. (MoB I have very fond memories of, but my favorite NWN2 memory is of running that castle in the original campaign, especially the part where you get to send that group of second-string adventurers out on different missions).
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  18. #38
    Lesser Hivemind Node eRa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiatil View Post

    Protip
    for anyone having difficulty with the camera: Make sure you go into the options and set strategic camera to "free form" instead of "focused". It defaults to focused for some reason because it's an absolute abomination, but with free form enabled it feels just like playing Baldur's Gate 2 or Dragon Age.
    The last time I tried playing NWN2 was shortly after finishing Dragon Age. My memory is a bit hazy, but I'm pretty sure I abandoned it quickly because the camera drove me bonkers. I'll give your suggestion a shot.

  19. #39
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    I've played them all, including a boatload of stuff from The Vault. I never had a problem with the camera in any of the games or expansions since release day, and certainly don't remember having to fiddle with settings to get it right. I played through the NWN2 campaign three times, including multiplayer with four friends. I stopped playing MotB because of the spirit mechanic.

    Reading comments about the game(s) all these years makes me think there must be something wrong with me as my experience seems to have been drastically different from everyone else.
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  20. #40
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Mysteries of Westgate (MoW)

    The final piece of official content for NWN2 is, in some ways, as much as or more of an oddity as SoZ. The sole example of a stand-alone module (versus a full campaign), MoW was made by a group of modders turned pros. In a cruel twist of corporate mistreatment, the module was completed for almost a year before being released, the result of a lengthy effort to incorporate some DRM. [Note: Ironically, the entire NWN2 package can be purchased from GOG.com with no DRM of any kind]

    The long wait almost assuredly ruined sales of what is a perfectly acceptable, though by no means amazing, piece of content and ensured that no additional stand-alone modules would be made, despite the game seeming custom made for that kind of DLC approach (I, for one, wouldn't have complained).

    The plot: you have a cursed mask, you've traced its origin to the city of Westgate, go clear things up! It's simple, and you'll meet some equally simple companions to help you along the way. In terms of writing, the whole thing's a bit amateurish and often too silly for its own good; the absolute nadir of the experience is an extraordinarily stupid, quest-long bit of Baldur's Gate fan fiction. Fortunately, it's a pretty lengthy campaign (about 10 hours or more) with a lot of side content and reasonably fast leveling curve. Even when it's silly, it's easy to get absorbed.

    I don't know about the timeline for MoW's development, but there's a very interesting parallel to MotB in the cursed mask. It's easy to hate the Spirit Eater mechanic, but it's worth noting that not only does it drive much of the plot in MotB, it's something that the player has to actively deal with. You can't screw around forever in MotB, as the clock is always ticking towards death. In MoW, the cursed mask doesn't have a real presence outside of cutscenes, and isn't terribly interesting in any case, so the plot is more functional than engaging.

    The last thing to say about MoW is that it's probably the most stable piece of content for NWN2. For something that wasn't made by the game's original developers, and could probably be made by someone with the patience to learn the toolset, it's a very well-made campaign.

    Final Note: Soundtrack

    I don't know how I failed to mention this before, but NWN2 deserves praise for its soundtrack. It's got a lot of great tracks, particularly SoZ. I'm not a "music guy," so I can't really elaborate, but the soundtrack deserves praise. If you purchase the game from GOG, you can get the soundtrack (though I can't shake the feeling that a few tracks are missing; can anyone confirm/deny?) in MP3 format.

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