Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181365)
Written on  :  Jul 24, 2008
Rating  :  4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars

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How To Deal With Addiction While Befriending Bear Spirits

The Good

Mask of the Betrayer is more than just an add-on. After Obsidian lovingly, yet somewhat carefully put their talents to display in the base game, green light was given to pure creativity in the inevitable expansion. With the engine tested and the gameplay system ready and prepared, everyone can take a pizza break, while the lead writer sits in the office undisturbed and, with a maniacal smile on his face, injects into the game his most daring ideas to be found in his refined and geeky prose.

Judge by yourself: the hero of the game is perpetually hungry. He has to eat spirits, otherwise he'll begin taking damage and eventually die. But not all hope is lost: a female wizard with a shaved, tattooed head and a demonic companion who practices hard English words while cracking locks is ready to help you. Of course we need more companions, so why don't we go ahead and choose a winged female cleric or a sarcastic-womanizing half-hag who will like me only if my responses to him are witty enough? Sounds cool, but I'd rather go with a multi-colored bear spirit with 30+ constitution and three attacks per round. Do we need anything else on our quest? Sure, chatting with masked witches would help; so will pacifying talking trees in an enchanted forest. Let's not forget to make an appointment with a coven of sorceresses, all of whom are sleeping. Never mind, we can just travel into their dreams and do some of the following: beat a bard at a logic game, become a skilled lawyer (how else will we help a poor shmo nullify his soul-selling contract with a devil?), or just fight demonic audience in a theater who attacks you because you don't know your role in an amateur performance. Then maybe we'll understand why dead gods are angry at me.

In terms of imagination, quality of writing, and sheer originality of characters and plot threads, Mask of the Betrayer is the closest possible thing to this game. The game was clearly aimed at a certain type of role-playing fans: those who wants their quests to be unusual and even quirky, and their dialogues witty and well-written. Like Torment, Obsidian's opus is intelligent, intimate, and atmospheric in a very specific way. The sheer weirdness of almost everything you witness in this game is a rare sight among products that follow such a traditional system as AD&D.

Speaking of which: the rules have meanwhile moved to the 3rd edition, which adds 35776 new spells and character classes. You can now play as a cross-dressing half-leopard astral monk/barbarian/taxi driver. No, not really, but you will spend a day or two in front of the character creation screen. And since this is technically an add-on, you will start right off the bat at super-high levels, memorizing tasty spells and enjoying life no matter which class you belong to. Despite the relatively short length of the campaign, there is place for character development, party experimentation, and everything else you'd expect from a game of this type.

There isn't much new here, except maybe the hunger meter, which is a cool idea. You crave for spirits. What will you do: devour all of them one-by-one? Your craving will go higher. The more you eat, the hungrier you'll become. Basically, you're a typical addict, and it's your choice what you do with this addiction. You can bravely "suppress" your craving. It's more boring, but it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. The game will react to your dealing with the addiction appropriately at all times.

Following the established tradition of its design school, Mask of the Betrayer is flexible and fairly open when it comes to ethical decisions. Almost all its quests can be solved in different ways. There are shades of chaotic, good, evil, lawful, and whatever you want. NPCs and companions react to your decisions, gain or lose influence, get angry, fall in love with you - in short, it's a full package of BioWare-style design philosophy.

The Bad

In terms of core gameplay mechanics, Mask of the Betrayer is essentially the same old thing: a treat for lovers of that particular type of RPG, but hardly a game that breaks new ground. The engine begins to show its age: there is a certain blockiness in the level design that can be hardly concealed in spite of the undeniable artistic quality of the visuals. Perhaps it is unfair to criticize an add-on for that, but the fact is that the campaign is pretty short and there aren't that many places to visit here. You can tackle some side quests, but most of the time the game is fairly straightforward.

The Bottom Line

Mask of the Betrayer is a great game for those who spend hours memorizing spells for their wizard character and love reading heaps of well-written, delicious, philosophizing branching dialogue. There is nothing revolutionary here, but if you worship Planescape: Torment, you can safely prepare a little altar for Mask of the Betrayer in the same temple.