We stopped by Atari's booth at E3 2008 to get a quick look at The Strom of Zehir, the much-anticipated expansion to Neverwinter Nights 2. The first major addition that fans of the NWN franchise will eat up is the new party-creation feature. Instead of starting your voyage with a cast of preset characters, you'll design your own friends, give them names, and even create your very own motto for your party. Obsidian said that many players felt that the relationships with preset characters felt forced and artificial, whereas this new creation system will allow for relationships and personalities to evolve dynamically. We didn't get to see the tool for ourselves, but love the idea of creating our own friends--we always need more.
You'll navigate the high seas on board the Vigilant, and it will quickly become apparent that your trusty ship has been sabotaged. With your party in tow, as well as the famous bard Volo, you'll begin to explore the land of Samarach and all of the mystery that it holds. We watched as Volo ran into a group of menacing goblins. Not being fluent in their language, Volo managed to insult the goblins and instigate a full-scale battle. You can expect plenty of such tomfoolery from Volo as you progress through SOZ.
Instead of the two-dimensional map in past NWN games, you now have access to a 3D overworld map that looks as if it was taken straight from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, for you NES fans. Here, many of the extra Dungeons & Dragons attributes from the 3.5 edition of the rules come into play, such as search, listen, and evade. Improving these will help you to spot enemies on the map from further away and avoid them, if necessary. Merchant wagons also dot the landscape, and you can buy low and sell high on your own virtual Wall Street. Many of the items will fluctuate in value and you can trade them in for cold, hard coinage.
Obsidian promises that SOZ will offer about 15 hours of additional gameplay; we'll have to take their word for it, given that we saw it for only about 15 minutes. You can expect to see Storm of Zehir sometime in the fourth quarter of this year for $29.99, or roughly 600,000 copper pieces.