There’s a nasty, DRM-shaped Illithid in the room that must first be slain in any review of Neverwinter Nights 2’s new ‘Adventure Pack.’ Ossian Studios acknowledged work on Westgate finished as early as 2007, but note that Atari were unable to decide how the pack should be copy-protected. So, perfectly reasonably, launch was held back for a year and a half. Wait, not perfectly reasonably, the other one. Ridiculously. That’s it.
Meanwhile, game-changing add-on Storm of Zehir was released. Westgate incorporates none of its technical advances. So, despite mod-team-done-good Ossian’s solid storyline and writing, the new content can’t help but feel like a step backwards. Arriving in the glum city of Westgate (overriding color: brown, featured weather: rain), your character is burdened with a mysterious cursed mask. Time to go investigating. Yet although it’s undroppable and apparently the cause of horrific nightmares, the mask quickly becomes nothing more than a harmless MacGuffin; there purely to drive the quest forward.
Soon joining your posse are pre-rolled companions: Rinara, a half-elf rogue, Mantides, a fallen paladin, and Charissa, a particularly self-righteous cleric. Interactions between the crew are well written, but your chats with the party have no obvious bearing on things. The central plot is erratic, with some truly exciting sections defused by unsure pacing. There are whiffs of artificially extended game-length, one particularly galling example coming later in the main quest, forcing you through hours of backtracking and drudgery to cobble together a frankly ludicrous amount of cash needed to progress.
The pacing problems carry over into the action: early confrontations quickly hit walls of difficulty that it can take an irritating degree of mid-battle party micro-management to scale. Later scraps, on the other hand, become strangely easy, with your foes unwilling to unload their best merchandise on you for fear of breaking it. Basing the action in a technically safe city, Ossian have also reduced the number of combat opportunities, making it harder to get a feel for the battling abilities of your cohorts. This, plus a willfully disobedient camera, ensures frustration hits regularly, detracting from the engaging main quest.
Westgate isn’t a particularly inviting place, and it’s tough to recommend this new content to NWN2 deserters. But for those aching for some more Neverwinter action, and who can stomach the technological lurch back to late 2007, Ossian have knocked together a decent, if inconsistent, set of quests.
Jun 26, 2009
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