I play sort of old games (Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer)

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ArbitraryWater

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Edited By ArbitraryWater

I also played Costume Quest, but that game is too shallow and brief to deserve more than this passing mention
I also played Costume Quest, but that game is too shallow and brief to deserve more than this passing mention

Oh hi there. Didn’t expect me to come back so soon, did you? Well, guess what. Expansion packs are short and I still haven’t found a job in the last… 5 days since I wrote that other NWN2 blog. As you may have seen on the forums, I have an ongoing poll about which questionable console RPG I should play next after finishing this one. While Jade Empire has maintained a strong lead since the poll’s inception, it’s apparently not very friendly with 64-bit Windows and thus doesn’t recognize steam. If any of you want to give me a straight answer on how to fix it, or gift me a copy of the GOG version I’ll still play it,(EDIT:Fixed) but as for now the real battle is between Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy XII international since those are games I know will work.

If the original campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 was the archetypical D&D fantasy adventure (done well, I might add), then Mask of the Betrayer is pretty much the opposite of that on all counts while still clearly being a D&D game. It doesn’t take place on the Sword Coast, you aren’t fighting a great evil, andthere are no gruff dwarves to be seen. Instead, it takes place in the eastern Viking/Mysticism nation of Rashamen (I’d really just have to read the Forgotten Realms handbook to figure out what its deal is), you’re trying to figure out why you’re halfway across the world and also why you really need to devour all of these spirits, and your party members are all pretty unconventional (Red Wizard, Hagspawn, Half-Celestial, Spirit Bear or totally evil hive-mind of spirits inhabiting the husk of the spirit bear). If this is starting to sound a bit like Planescape or KotOR 2, you’d be right. It’s a more thoughtful, contemplative game and while it doesn’t straight up dissect tropes of the source material the two games previously mentioned, it’s still subversive in the way it handles them.

If you're a good guy, Okku the spirit bear joins your party. If you're not, you devour his soul and use his remains to host a group of clearly evil spirits
If you're a good guy, Okku the spirit bear joins your party. If you're not, you devour his soul and use his remains to host a group of clearly evil spirits

But unlike Planescape, Mask of the Betrayer still remembers that it’s a game and not an interactive novel (and unlike KotOR 2, it has an ending and I don’t kind of hate it). It’s far darker and gloomier than any D&D game in recent memory and at no point are you indulging the crazy gnome in your party to form an alliance with invisible giants who live in the sky. This is seen in the soundtrack and the visuals, but is most present in the opening premise: You wake up disoriented on the other side of the world, most of your party members from the first game are implied (then explicitly stated) to be dead (removing the suspension of disbelief that death actually matters in a world where the True Resurrection spell exists) and all you feel is an endless hunger for souls. It’s a great way to start off, and like Planescape the majority of the game revolves around investigating what happened to you and why you need to devour all of the delicious souls you come in contact with. To be honest, it treats its connections with the base game rather loosely, and other than some brief cameos of and references to your old party members there’s not much of a connection between them (so basically, just like KotOR 2). Ergo, you could play this expansion without playing the base game and not miss much, though my opinion still stands that the Original campaign is still worth playing…once. This? I feel like I should do another playthrough of this game because it’s shorter and because the choices are far more pronounced. I didn’t get to see much of Kaelyn the Dove because I played my chaotic-neutral character in such a way that she quickly became chaotic-evil (which I assumed a half-celestial being would be less than cool with) and then there’s the choice between the noble spirit bear Okku and the clearly evil One-of-Many and so on and so forth.

Have I mentioned the companions yet? Because they’re the clearest example of how much better the writing generally is than regular NWN2. Because there are only 5 of them, they’re all fleshed out and have active roles in the places you go as opposed to say… Grobnar or Casavir. It’s also much easier to gain influence with them and get whatever backstory-relevant information you want without having to open the console and cheat. There’s sadly not a whole lot of interplay between them like there is in vanilla NWN2, but that’s the price I’ll pay for all of them being interesting. It’s not just the companions either, I’d go as far as to say that Mask of the Betrayer is one of the best-written CRPGs ever made. There’s a reason why the project lead on this game (George Zeits) was a stretch goal for both Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera. It’s the kind of thing where I don’t want to give examples because it’s really worth looking at for yourself and because then I’d be spoiling the best part of the game.

It’s still a game, by the way. I still think the Neverwinter Nights engine can’t handle group tactical combat with any sort of precision the way the Infinity Engine or Temple of Elemental Evil could, and much like the Original Campaign, not much precision is required. Since your characters are at epic levels they have more than their fair share of level 9 (and epic) spells on hand to deal with everything, which is also a good thing since resting is finally penalized in a way it wasn’t before. Since your character is constantly hungering for souls, they need to constantly devour them or suffer pretty significant penalties. Consuming too many souls increases your craving for them which increases the depletion of your soul meter which requires you to devour more souls to keep it topped off. It’s an annoyance and an inconvenience, but since you can eat the souls of almost any enemy you encounter if you’re evil (or suppress your hunger if you’re good) it’s not game-breaking in any sense. But seriously, the camera is inexcusably terrible and along with D&D fatigue is one of the reasons I’m asking the internet to recommend me questionable JRPGs instead of moving on to Storm of Zehir.

Alright. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to seriously think about playing Chrono Cross. I would've put more screenshots in, but this editor is being uncooperative.

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Tennmuerti

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#1  Edited By Tennmuerti

This expansion has one of the best "evil" endings in a game of all time for me. It's just so badass!

In fact the whole evil playthrough is incredible. In a way you could say it really interestingly reflects what would say playing as Irenicus be like (except winging it), pure pursuit of power.

I really think it was for the best that it had little connection with the main game too.

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ArbitraryWater

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You mean this ending? Yeeeeeeppp. (though I restored Akachi instead of devouring him on my playthrough) I also appreciated the ability to constantly threaten people with soul devouring in dialogue. I'm trying to think of another game that allows you to be so gleefully evil without coming off as a temperamental mass-murderer the way most Bioware games portray it.

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Tennmuerti

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Yea that ending, tho i might have devoured One of Many as well (during my evil playthrough) somewhere along the way, it's been a while. I think devouring Myrkul was the "oh shit" "fuck yes" highpoint moment as well, then you knew you were ready to tussle!

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Tarsier

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#4  Edited By Tarsier

NWN2 is great. i never was interested in the single player of NWN series. but the multiplayer is amazing if you find a good server. for example the baldurs gate : sword coast chronicles is still going strong, and even growing.

i recommend to check it out every time i get a chance . . http://bgtscc1.com/forum/

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#5  Edited By Jimbo

I liked Mask but remember feeling ripped off by the ending I got. The super bad ending is wicked.

The Mysteries of Westgate expansion is pretty good too, imo.

edit: also, apparently somebody put out a mod which recreates Baldur's Gate 1 in the NWN2 engine, which may or may not be a good thing.

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Tarsier

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@jimbo said:

I liked Mask but remember feeling ripped off by the ending I got. The super bad ending is wicked.

The Mysteries of Westgate expansion is pretty good too, imo.

edit: also, apparently somebody put out a mod which recreates Baldur's Gate 1 in the NWN2 engine, which may or may not be a good thing.

check out the server where this 'mod' is featured. its not trying to simply recreate baldurs gate. its taking the setting and time of baldurs gate as a starting template for new stories and experiences in the D&D universe. it is a fully multiplayer experience.

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deactivated-5e49e9175da37

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I tried to play through the NWN2 a few months back, part of a quest to play every Obsidian game in order before Eternity is out. Finished KOTOR2, was pumped, played 4 hours of NWN2.... that's a pretty slow game. With a lot of stupid fantasy nonsense that I just don't care about. Maybe I'll try again.

Is NWN2 actually better written than KOTOR2 or Planescape? Because I would like to play that game and not My First Campaign Against The Bandits. DISREGARD THAT I DON'T READ WELL ENOUGH

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ArbitraryWater

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@tarsier said:

@jimbo said:

I liked Mask but remember feeling ripped off by the ending I got. The super bad ending is wicked.

The Mysteries of Westgate expansion is pretty good too, imo.

edit: also, apparently somebody put out a mod which recreates Baldur's Gate 1 in the NWN2 engine, which may or may not be a good thing.

check out the server where this 'mod' is featured. its not trying to simply recreate baldurs gate. its taking the setting and time of baldurs gate as a starting template for new stories and experiences in the D&D universe. it is a fully multiplayer experience.

Two different things. The Baldur's Gate remake came out pretty recently and was the impetus for me to play NWN2 in the first place. Now, having played around 40 hours of the game I can confirm that the idea of trying to micromanage 6 characters in the NWN engine sounds like a nightmare.

This server, on the other hand, seems like the exact opposite of what I'd want out of Neverwinter Nights, which is to say that there are other humans involved and roleplaying is "encouraged". If I wanted to roleplay I'd go to my university "nerd club" or local "game shop" and see if any pathfinder groups were going on and join in there, which I haven't done as of yet.

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It's sad that many people discarded this game because of the hunger mechanic. Once you learn how to deal with that meter, you realize that the game around it is really something special.

The encounter with Myrkul stands out as the high point. First you talk to a dead god. Then once you are done, you can EAT HIM, if you want to. What other games let you do that?

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