Oct 18, 2007
Expansion pack Mask of the Betrayer picks up from the moment D&D-loyal RPG NWN2 finished, with the King of Shadows defeated, and your character squished beneath a collapsed building. You're alive, but there's something wrong. You're now at the bottom of a dangerous dungeon, with only a suspicious Red Wizard for company.
Fear not if you haven't completed NWN2: you can fire right in with a brand-new level 18 character, which gives you the chance to try out the six new sub-races (Wild Elf, Half-Drow, and Air, Earth, Fire and Water Genasi), and two new classes (Favoured Soul - similar to the cleric, but with more divine power, and Spirit Shaman - a master of the spirit world). And the deific tone of these new classes is no coincidence. MotB is all about religion.
The story begins in your new homeland, Rashemen, which is wrapped up in the aftermath of a rebellion against the gods, and the betrayal of Myrkul, the god of Death (who rather fittingly was killed). Rashemen is a town filled with portals leading to a Shadow version of the world, where colour is washed out and lots of spooky spirits fester. With heavy tones of Zelda, a lot of the game is about going back and forth between the two mirrored worlds in order to progress.
It gets even more spirit-filled when the peculiar hunger inside you gets completely out of hand, and you find yourself with the moral dilemma of how to control your newfound need to consume spirits. In comes a traditional gaming morality play, choosing between Devour, where you feast satisfyingly but cruelly, and create an increasingly insatiable appetite, or Suppress, offering you fewer fulfillments, but more control, and the approval of key companions. Eventually this complication leads to even more involved item enchantment.
This new dynamic makes MotB more than a bunch of new dungeons for the main game. It's a whole new tale, with all-new locations, companions, etc. Where it falls short, however, is with the levity. NWN2 was immediately joyful, with hilarious characters and dialogue juxtaposing the dark story. MotB is far more serious, and while the companions fulfill the role of representing personality extremes, none of them are particularly entertaining company. There's no one to compare with Khelgar's dwarfish temper, nor Neeshka's impish naughtiness. Most are positively dull. And this isn't helped by the opening dungeon being tedious beyond belief.
Things pick up very quickly afterward, and the story - while embroiled in yet more "chosen one" cliché - flows neatly. And Obsidian's trademark ethical dilemmas feel meatier than previously. There are some pretty significant choices to be made, emphasised further by how you approach your need to gobble up spirits. And for the D&D aficionados, there are plenty more epic feats and spells leaping from the pages of the rulebooks.
If only it could have retained its sense of humour, this would be really good stuff. As it is, it's too serious too often, and still contains some of the bugs that bothered the original. However, with a tidied toolset and 25 more hours of story, it's still a solid and well-written expansion to an admirable game.