Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Hands-On

We discover what's new in this expansion to last year's hit fantasy role-playing game Neverwinter Nights 2.

Neverwinter Nights 2 was one of the best role-playing games of 2006 thanks to its epic story and rich gameplay. You begin the game as a young ward in a small farming town, and then adventure your way through the game until you become a great lord, which requires you to oversee a mighty keep and a small army as you defeat the enemies of the city of Neverwinter. With Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, Atari and developer Obsidian Entertainment will try to follow up on your personal saga through a new campaign that will offer between 20 to 25 hours of gameplay. We got to dive into the recently finished expansion pack to discover what's new. As such, please note that this preview contains story spoilers.

Loosen up your sword arm, it's time to kill some monsters again in Mask of the Betrayer.

If you played through NWN2 then you know that the game ended on a cliffhanger. Your character was caught in the middle of a collapsing cavern, which prompted howls from fans, and of course the story couldn't end that way. Mask of the Betrayer is a brand-new campaign that will answer the biggest question from NWN2 (how you survive), as well as introduce a slew of new questions. However, if you're expecting another romp on the fabled Sword Coast, you're in for a surprise. You're no longer near the city of Neverwinter. Instead, you'll find yourself transported across the world to Rashemen, a region full of witches, barbarians, and spirits.

This expansion is made for high-level characters only. You have to be level 18 or higher to even survive the opening levels of the game. The good news is that if you haven't played through the NWN2 campaign, you can either select a premade level 18 character or create one for the expansion. There are some new races to select from, such as the wood elves and the elemental genasi, along with a few new face and hair types for some of the existing races. Mask of the Betrayer will also introduce a couple of new character and prestige classes, such as the spirit shaman and the Red Wizards of Thay. (What's cool is that all of these options exist for the original campaign, so you can play through NWN2 as one of these new races or character classes). We imported our existing NWN 2 character and were pleasantly surprised that we got to start with the red dragon armor and other high-level equipment that our character was wearing at the end of the NWN2 campaign. However, you'll lose the stuff that was in your backpack.

You begin Mask of the Betrayer at the bottom level of an ancient barrow, a burial site for a long-dead race of sentient animals. The powerful Sword of Gith has been taken from you, including the shard that was embedded in your chest. In its place is a dark hunger to recover it, and of course to find out who ripped it from your body. At the very start of the game you'll meet your first companion, a Red Wizard of Thay who has decided to help you, though her reasons may be dubious. Your escape from the barrow inflames the ancient spirits that guard it, including the local bear god. That incident will play an important role later on. Answers begin to be revealed when you reach Mulsantir, the main town in the expansion and what appears to be a hub for your many adventures. In Mulsantir you'll find yourself drawn into a web of intrigue that involves the Red Wizards of Thay, as well as a legend that involves a betrayer who tried to usurp the god of death. One of the intriguing things about Mulsantir is that it offers you access to the shadow plane, a dreamlike version of the real world. There's hardly any color in the shadow plane, so it's almost like you're exploring an oppressively gray world.

We don't want to get too far into the story and spoil all the details, so this is a good place to note some of the major gameplay changes in the expansion. Perhaps the biggest one deals with how you play through the game. If NWN2 had a weakness, it was the ability to rapidly rest after every battle, which let you fully heal and recharge all of your magical spells in about five seconds. Consequently, the game seemed a bit too easy. You weren't forced to make the hard choice about using a fireball spell or saving it for later on. Mask of the Betrayer has an interesting solution to this issue, and it's tied heavily into the plot.

The dark hunger that resides in you forces you to consume spirits to survive (the magical kind, not the alcoholic type). You become a spirit-eater, an entity that is feared in that region of the world--exactly how you find and devour spirits is something that will be revealed over the course of the game. Unfortunately, being a spirit-eater is a lot like having a drug addiction. The longer you go without consuming a spirit, the weaker you become, until you eventually die. However, if you eat too many spirits too quickly, it's like being addicted to a drug. You'll need to consume more and more spirits just to get the same level of satisfaction as before. So the trick is to balance spirit consumption carefully. A spirit meter will show your character's current hunger level, and it slowly drains while you play the game (though it pauses during conversations). If you rest in the game, you lose a fair amount of your spirit reserve. So if you rest repeatedly, you'll find yourself in big trouble quickly.

This new system ratchets up the challenge; resting after each battle is no longer possible. The side effect is that healing potions and healing kits are actually valuable, given that you can use them to restore hit points and avoid resting. Another potential problem in NWN2 was that your computer-controlled companions would unleash every spell in their arsenal during a battle, no matter how much overkill it would bring to a situation, which forced you to rest to recharge your companions' abilities. The designers at Obsidian say that they've worked on the artificial intelligence so it will be smarter about such things in the expansion. We'll have to see how that pans out as we play further through the game.

The expansion looks set to offer up a darker, more personal story than before.

Another feature is the new control scheme. Given that many role-players may be more familiar with the play style of massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, there's a new behind-the-back camera mode that lets you play entirely from a traditional third-person angle. Additionally, there's a new strategic mode that lets you pull the camera up toward the sky to play from a more top-down approach. If you were a fan of the standard NWN2 control system, it's still there, though you might need to fiddle with the game settings in order to activate it.

One thing is very clear: This is very much an epic expansion. Right from the start you'll battle high-level foes such as formidable animal spirits and shadow creatures that are extremely tough to put down. The new magical spells that you can unleash are almost unbelievable in power. Correspondingly, the rewards have been jacked up considerably. It's not uncommon to reap hundreds, if not thousands, of gold pieces from a single enemy, and there's plenty of low-level magical weaponry for loot. Nevertheless, you'll need it, because the shopkeepers in Mask of the Betrayer have some truly awesome items for sale, and the sticker shock is mighty. We've encountered at least one item that cost over half a million gold pieces alone.

The expansion looks great, courtesy of the new tile sets and the fresh setting. More importantly, it plays much more smoothly than Neverwinter Nights 2 did out of the box. Obsidian has managed to optimize the code considerably over the past year. From what we've seen of the opening levels, Mask of the Betrayer looks as if it'll serve up another intriguing and excellent story in the Forgotten Realms. The expansion has recently gone gold, according to Obsidian, and it will ship to stores early next month.

Written By

Want the latest news about Neverwinter Nights 2?

Neverwinter Nights 2

Neverwinter Nights 2

Follow

Discussion

39 comments
Buffalo_Soulja
Buffalo_Soulja

The spirit-eater thing alone makes me not want to play this expansion. Why should my character have to be a mindless, restless corpse junkie? They could just disable your ability to rest in some areas and solve the problem easily.

Siorindel
Siorindel

perfect! i was waiting for the expansion but lost track of the release date; its time to roll out the epic character sheets once again. All Cheer for Obsidian and the Forgotten Realms!

lev_six
lev_six

YES! A NEW CAMERA CONTROL SCHEME! I hope it works, the camera controls were the #1 reason everyone I know didn't like the game. I loved the graphics and game mechanics, the camera just never worked right, even when tweaked it still didn't quite adjust properly, or stay adjusted. I am going to pick this up.

limraz
limraz

Let`s see how much time finding/eating spirits will keep me from playing the main story. I only hope the game is balanced, because thousands of golds in one fallen enemies and overpriced items sound very much like Hordes of Underdark frantically search for cash to buy the names.

Juno2_17
Juno2_17

I felt so disappointed at the end of NWN2. Now I hear we have an expansion?! YES! Looking forward to this one for sure. Cliffhangers can bite my @$$.

ymaitre
ymaitre

@alcari: They did! I must have skipped that line! Damn me! ^^ (@ Gamespot: Bigger spoiler warning ^&%%^& ! :)

alcari
alcari

@Ymaitre, they did warn for spoilers :p I like the fact that they solved the mage balance thing, forcing multiple encounter per "day". That balances the mages out (for you D&D buffs out there, lets not start the discussion here, please??) I don't particulary like Rashamen, or the planescape content, but it sounds good. I hope this expansion is better then the NWN1 expansions. ps. Thay FTW

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

I need a PC change ... this looks good ....

ymaitre
ymaitre

Maybe you could have the delicacy to warn your reader about SPOILERS in your reviews. That would be real nice. Damn you ! ^^

maxim57
maxim57

Eating Spirits? Give me a fvcking break. They need to get the Baldurs Gate 1 developers to take over. Baldurs Gate best RPG ever (for it's day) NWN1 was good, NWN2 was mediocre. And what the hell is with being able to respawn at will in multiplayer coop after you die (NWN2), challenge much?

mavyn
mavyn

I won't be burned again... I am a huge fan of NWN1, but the expasion was a dissapointment. It was fun for a while, but it was SO buggy and there was no functioning multiplayer. Obsidan strayed too far from the feel of the original.

El_Shabang
El_Shabang

To Humorguy_basic, If you were so moronic that you read the article after being warned that there were spoilers, then I think that you deserve to have the game spoilt for you, quite frankly. It was clearly stated that the article would include spoilers, soif you still read it, then blame them, and say that you'll never play the game then I have no sympathy or pity for you whatsoever. People need to start taking responsibility for themselves and quit their damn whining.

flusherli
flusherli

me wants nwn 2 mask of betrayer now :( its so hard waiting

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

... And now journalists know nothing and care nothing about anybody but hardcore gamers, ie those that have already finished NWN 2 - because they are happy to tell the ending of a game that I have yet to buy and will not buy now until it is very cheap and on budget. Not what Atari want, I presume. Users seem to understand about not giving Spoilers more than game journalists do! nowadays! In future if I don't own the main game, I won't read any articles on Gamespot about any expansion. This may mean I don't get the main game at all, but so be it Gamespot, I am sure you don't care either way.

rockatanski
rockatanski

Excellent! More NWN 2!! Definately was a slow patching progress on the main release but now it will be better than ever!

samirbemad
samirbemad

Been waiting ever since they announced it really, can't wait to get to level 30!!

rengetsu08
rengetsu08

WOW!!! This make me think over my plan of buying this next year. I really like the idea of Gold Edition of NWN2 with Mask of Betrayer Expansion shipping next month.

caliz
caliz

This looks great. Been waiting for it!

cyw1988
cyw1988

I love the NWN series!!! the first one was the best... the 2nd falls short a litle imo but was still alright... lets hope this expansion can increase the standard of NWN 2...

Vasot
Vasot

I liked NWN 2 Pretty good game even with the bugs I prefer playing NWN2 than any other MMORPG CRAP (WoW) out there I am looking forward for this expansion

HawkOfNavarre
HawkOfNavarre

NWN2 sucked ti hgh heaven; thought Ill probly get the expansion just for the Spirit Shaman class since its one of my favorite PnP base classes. If it doesnt live up; Ill just reinstall BGII, end of -.-

Crzy1
Crzy1

NWN has never been a first person type of game. Would be a little hard to control a party that you can't see half the time. Think someone just hasn't ever played the game. NWN2 is one of my all time favorites behind BG2 and KOTOR, anxiously awaiting this expansion.

ravenflt
ravenflt

Still no 1st person mode.. this game is lagging far behind the competition. Go for oblivion or two worlds imho, much better options.

creep93
creep93

Nwn2 was great. Can't wait for this one. ^^

Maximiliator
Maximiliator

hmmm... honestly i didnt like NWN2 that much.. The original NWN is still the best ! --- Max

KratosAurion7
KratosAurion7

Looks decent to me, but the spirit thing is..... well it looks weak. The thing about being able to rest after every battle is that you can IF you want to, but if you want to play with a little more challenge you give you a certain time to rest in a certain dungeon. I'd hate to switch the difficulty to easy just because I'm being killed by lack of spirits.

Mikeykin
Mikeykin

GIVE ME THE GAME OR I BLOW YOU GUYS UP!!! lol I can't wait any longer!!!!!!!

ShadyJade
ShadyJade

The spirit thing seems stupid to me....Hope the story is good and offers answers not more and more questions :D

dryden555
dryden555

wait for the reviews first.....

fastpunk
fastpunk

I get the feeling that this time they've done it right, no more cut content, no more half-implemented ideas. This should very interesting.

TacNuke_Tyger
TacNuke_Tyger

Why wouldn't a character be 18th level at the end of the original if there is only a finite amount of xps available in the game to begin with?

stenfisk
stenfisk

Yay fot mask of the betrayer!

sridanu
sridanu

sounds good. But i hope its better than the original.

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

Sounds good to me. Seems like they've fixed much of the complaints about the original game (which was shipped to launch) and added some keen new features. Here's hoping they have double-weapons in this game, like the Dire Mace and the Two-Bladed Sword.

froidnite
froidnite

I cannot wait for this expansion!!!!!!! I loved all of the original NWN expansions.

Trekeith
Trekeith

I really enjoyed NWN 2. Looking forward to the expansion.

m_hadi
m_hadi

caaaan't wait for it . . .