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Tristan Kalogeropoulos
09 Dec, 2007

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Review

PC Review | A return to form for the franchise.
When the world first received Neverwinter Nights 2 it had been carried to launch by a swarm of bugs. While it held some reasonably enjoyable gameplay, it wasn’t until a significant amount of time after the initial release, and a barrage of patches, that its strengths showed through the tarnished exterior. With the core of its game moving closer to being fully cooked, Obsidian has brought us the next stage of its epic quest. Moving from the original’s traditional action oriented, classic adventuring romp, Mask of the Betrayer offers up a far deeper and introspective narrative. The game ends up being darker than a teenage My Chemical Romance fan’s heart felt poems, written in black ink and splattered across equally black paper.

Letting you start out fresh, or allowing you to import a character from the original NWN2, the expansion goes some way to allow newcomers, or those who have had a falling out with their original avatars, to jump right into the game. A couple of new base classes are available, along with some new prestige classes, so those wanting a new perspective on the series may want to try their hand at these more complex, magic oriented individuals.

Drow are you? (Yeah, we know how terrible that was).

Drow are you? (Yeah, we know how terrible that was).
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Continuing on from where the original left off, but in a slightly indirect manner, your character, waking up in a cave bewildered and disorientated, is soon to be the recipient of a curse that changes this D&D title into more than just a hack and slash quest for treasure and fame. The curse introduces a new mechanic to the series called spirit hunger. An integral aspect of the game’s plot, this infliction causes you to continually need to feed off the spiritual energy of the various wraiths and other spirit based enemies dotted throughout your travels. Traipsing across the lands like a heroin addict, this causes you to re-evaluate most of what you do as you constantly hunger for more spiritual energy. This manages to be both a novel and genuinely original gameplay element, but can also become a slightly irritating need throughout the game, which the less patient role-playing gamers out there will undoubtedly find too distracting to contend with.

Mainly part of the narrative, but also a by-product of the fact that there are few spirits for you to devour in the regular world, portals to a dark doppelganger universe are situated throughout Mask of the Betrayer. These take you to a black and white version of the lands you’ve just come from. When entering into these moody, dark worlds there is a chilling sense that you’re in the land of the dead, conveyed exquisitely by the artists charged with the task.

Generally, Mask of the Betrayer feels a decent amount more cerebral than Neverwinter Nights 2. With a deeper story than NW2 proper and a more complex, moody cast of characters, its gameplay is also more involving and rewarding. Some segments involve ‘puzzle’ type interactions with the environment, and some, logic based dilemmas. Along with these, conversations with non-player characters often flesh out the world in interesting ways and create an experience far more involving than simply a battle between good and evil hacking away at orcs.

Yeah sorry dude. I think they gave you an extra pair of arms instead of legs.

Yeah sorry dude. I think they gave you an extra pair of arms instead of legs.
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As a result of the fact that you’re controlling high level characters, there are a lot of things to keep track of when entering battles. Spell buffs and even just the general enemies in particular are incredibly varied and complicated, and keeping track of both your own weaknesses and your foe's is intensely important. Don’t expect to bring your high level character across from NWN2 and simply dominate here. It's a bit strange that at no stage do you feel as though you're the experienced adventurer that you are supposed to be, especially in battle. A bar fight against some local drunks can seem like a skirmish with a hardened group of skilled warriors. It would have been nice for the developers to make all of what your character has gone through in NWN2, and the skills gained through that, seem a little more substantial.

The main complaint, beyond the bugginess of the original Neverwinter Nights 2, was its general interface. As a result of Mask of the Betrayer being an expansion rather than a stand alone title, much of what was wrong with the base model is carried over here. The camera is as difficult to control as ever, and although the engine has benefited from the various patches and slight tweaking that it has received over the years, it is still a little demanding on systems to justify the visual results that are experienced. Sure, the superficialities are more polished than in NWN2, but there are better looking games out there. Unfortunately these things detract a great deal from the enjoyment of entering a world that has more to offer than most RPGs. The art direction is for more solid and evocative than many of the genre’s offerings. It’s just a shame that it has to be viewed through the smudged lens of Neverwinter Nights 2’s awkward engine and gameplay interface.

Due to the complex level play, and the continuation of the first game's story, one wouldn’t really want to dive straight into Mask of the Betrayer without first at least learning the ropes on Neverwinter Nights 2. However as an add-on, this new pack takes the series in some of the most pleasing directions that we’ve ever experienced. Not since Planescape Torment has D&D shone so brightly.
The Score
Not since Planescape Torment has AD&D shone so brightly. It's just a shame that all the fantastic elements of Mask of the Betrayer had to be contained within the same awkward engine that Neverwinter Nights was. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 Comments
6 years ago
Comparing it to Torment? I have to have this game then.
6 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
Comparing it to Torment? I have to have this game then.
Yeah, it would almost be on equal footing with Torment if it wasn't running on a clunky engine and interface.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $49.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2007
System Requirements:
Windows XP, Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or Athlon XP 2000 or equivalent
512 MB RAM
5.5 GB hard disk space
DirectX 9.0c
GeForce 6600 or Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card with PS 2.0 or better

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