Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer PC DVD
Published by: Atari
Developed by: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is the first official expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2 and it's an expansion that's chock-full of content. There is an impressive thirty-hour campaign, new races, new classes, new prestige classes, many new spells and new toolset features that make creating your own adventures even easier than before. In many ways it's a great expansion that should satisfy Neverwinter Nights 2 enthusiasts.
We didn't have many issues with Neverwinter Nights 2 but one of the game's biggest problems was that the camera was far too cumbersome. Mask of the Betrayer still has a few problems in this respect but to be fair it offers a new way of viewing the game that makes the camera angle issues less of a problem. You can choose to play the game from a similar view as before, or you can opt to play the game in Character Mode or Strategy Mode. Character Mode essentially allows you to play the game from a third-person perspective whilst Strategy Mode allows you to play the game from a raised viewpoint, similar in nature to the view you would have in a real-time strategy game. Both modes still require a little too much camera control in my opinion but I preferred to use the Strategy Mode (the default mode) as it allows for a clearer view of the action and actually feels reminiscent of the old Black Isle Studios RPG titles.
The camera angle in the Strategy Mode was not the only thing to remind me of the old Black Isle Studios RPG titles. The single-player campaign has an ambience that's very similar to the Icewind Dale games. The storyline, which isn't really possible to go into as it carries on from Neverwinter Nights 2 and to reveal information here might be spoiling the storyline for those who haven't yet played through the game, is dark and intriguing. In many ways the storyline is much more satisfactory than it was in Neverwinter Nights 2. There are far more puzzles here and there are many more times where you need to make decisions which will determine the path you take through the game. In essence, it's not so action orientated and feels more deep and meaningful. You can either import a character, that must be at least level 18 and if the character isn't it will be levelled up to level 18, or choose to create a new level 18 character.
The level cap for your character has been changed from level 20 to 30. This allows your character to reach epic levels. Sixty epic feats and six epic spells have been added. New races such as the Wild Elf, Half-Drow, Air Genasi, Earth Genasi, Fire Genasi and Water Genasi have been added. The two new base classes that have been added are the Favored Soul and the Spirit Shaman. The new prestige classes are Arcane Scholar of Candlekeep, Invisible Blade, Sacred Fist, Stormlord and the specialized Red Wizard of Thay. There are new cleric domains such as Chaos, Darkness, Luck and War. Enchanting items have now become much less of a hassle as you no longer need access to a workbench as you can use an item known as the Enchanter's Satchel. The game also introduces a spirit-eating ability, which is interesting to say the least.
Neverwinter Nights 2 is one heck of a system resource hog and at the time of its release it was a real challenge for us to strike a balance between having the game looking good and not having the frame rate falling horribly low at times. Mask of the Betrayer not only looks slightly better, it also runs more smoothly thanks to the developers making optimisations. Of course the game is still going to need a fairly high specification PC to look its best but you'll notice that the frame rate no longer plummets when the action becomes intense. The game's interface has improved on the whole and is now slightly more user friendly.
Mask of the Betrayer is practically the same as Neverwinter Nights 2 in terms of its deaf gamer friendliness. The game is subtitled so you’ll be able to follow the impressive storyline. Cutscenes are shown in a letterbox format with the speech being shown in the lower border. The previous line of dialogue appears in the top border. Conversations with important characters (outside of the cutscenes) are displayed in dialogue boxes with the characters name and portrait being displayed. Comments from unimportant NPC characters and general thoughts from your characters are simply displayed as floating text. The comments made by the characters during a battle are not subtitled. All objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by accessing your journal (with the J key). Information such as the damage you deal and your attack rolls appear in text too. During a multiplayer game you can text chat with your friends making communications very deaf gamer friendly.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is, all things considered, a very good expansion that will undoubtedly satisfy those who have enjoyed Neverwinter Nights 2. I particularly like the addition of the Strategy Mode and the ability to play the games in a similar manner to old Bioware/Black Isle Studios RPG titles. The campaign in the expansion feels more satisfying and more involving thanks to the dialogue choices and puzzles. The extra classes, prestige classes and other additional content all serve to make the game a better, richer experience. Of course it all adds replay value to Neverwinter Nights 2 as you can play through the game again, taking advantage of all of the new features that this expansion provides.