GC 2008: Neverwinter Nights 2: The Storm of Zehir Impressions

We meet with Obsidian to check out a work-in-progress version of the second Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion pack.

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Earlier today, during a visit to Atari's booth at the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig, we had an opportunity to meet with Obsidian Entertainment's Matt Rorie and take a look at Neverwinter Nights 2: The Storm of Zehir. Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year, the second Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion will add a number of new classes and gameplay features to the popular role-playing game, many of which we got to see in action today.

The Storm of Zehir takes place during the same time period as the first NWN2 expansion, Mask of the Betrayer. The upcoming game takes place in a completely different area of the world, though, and tasks you with preventing Zehir, the god of poison, snakes, and darkness, from taking over the Forgotten Realm. The new content is designed for characters between the levels of 3 and 15; although it's possible for you to import an existing character, the idea is that you'll create not just a new one, but a whole group of them. The new party-creation system lets you create up to four characters from scratch and, as you progress through the game, you'll have room to add two of the scripted characters to your party for a total of six.

Somewhere in that mix you'll almost certainly want to check out the new classes that are being introduced in The Storm of Zehir, which include the swashbuckler, the doomguide, and the hellfire warlock. We were afforded brief looks at all three today, and they should be a fun group to hang out with. The swashbuckler is a fighter class that employs precision strikes and, as such, is more reliant on dexterity than strength. The doomguide is a cleric prestige class that's incredibly powerful against the undead. And the hellfire warlock is a prestige class that's more demonic than a regular warlock and, as we witnessed today, can use a hellfire-shield ability that consumes the character in flames to reflect damage back at attackers.

The Storm of Zehir will also add a party-conversation system that, put simply, gives every character in your party the ability to converse with non-player characters and creatures that you encounter. You'll want to be choosy about who you let speak up though, and sometimes--for example, when the party was confronted by a large group of jungle goblins like those we saw today--it won't matter how skilled your characters are in diplomacy or intimidation because enemies like that just aren't going to be talked out of fighting.

Other new features that we got to see during today's demo included the 3D overland map, on which you can interact with other characters and encounter monsters, and the new death system, which forces you to resurrect your fallen party members or have them healed in a town rather than simply bringing them back to life at the end of the current combat. We didn't get to see it, but we're told that The Storm of Zehir will also introduce a new crafting system that will let you create many items simply by using your inventory screen (whereas you might previously have had to visit a blacksmith).

Look for more on Neverwinter Nights 2: The Storm of Zehir in the coming weeks and months.

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