In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir

aka: Neverwinter Nights 2: Gniew Zehira
Moby ID: 37818
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Description official description

Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir is the second add-on to Neverwinter Nights 2 and tells the events following the defeat of the King of Shadows with a mercantile group's effort to establish itself at all costs. But instead of a linear storyline like in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, the player can roam around freely in the regions of Samarach and the Sword Coast with the help of the new "Overland Map". On this map the player sees the world from an isometric view and can travel faster through the world while still seeing where enemies are or uncovering secrets. The overland map also increases the importance of previously less useful Dungeons & Dragons skills like "Survival" or "Search" to help the party avoid some of the many dangers roaming the land and help them find the hidden treasures.

The player can also now create his whole group of four adventurers (and two NPC cohorts) by themselves instead of picking up whoever the story tells them to. There are also two new races (the Grey Orcs and the Yuan-ti Purebloods) and three new classes (Swashbuckler, Doomguide and the Hellfire Warlock) to choose from upon character creation. The choices the player makes there are especially important this time around because in conversations the player can now switch quickly between speakers allowing them to influence the dialogue further.

The add-on also revamps the crafting system, now allowing the player to harness the skills, materials and spells from every member in their adventuring party when it's time to use the collected recipes to either create a new item or enchant an existing one. And in correspondence to the story, which focuses on a group of traders, trading has also been expanded, allowing the player to reap economic rewards and expand a modest merchant company into a massive trade empire by trading resources and goods and setting up trade caravans and such.

Spellings

  • 絕冬城之夜2:邪神降臨(資料片) - Traditional Chinese spelling

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274 People (217 developers, 57 thanks) · View all

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Average score: 72% (based on 23 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 10 ratings with 1 reviews)

Both a nostalgia trip and a visionary experiment

The Good
In their campaign to push the original NWN1 role-playing template in all kinds of unorthodox directions, this time around Obsidian expands the Aurora engine to host an extraordinary hybrid of Neverwinter Nights 2, Settlers, and Heroes of Might & Magic. That's right. No wonder it failed to get the attention of either NWN2 or the Mask of the Betrayer add-on: Storm of Zehir requires patience and time just to figure your way around the genre-bending weirdness of this package. Then it requires extra patience and time to make enough money by trading (Settlers portion), to reach higher levels by hunting down enough mobs and doing enough local sidequests (Heroes of Might & Magic portion), and to complete the overarching plot and its subquests (NWN2 portion) in order to finish the game. I did take the time and now I take my hat off to Obsidian realizing that they managed to push NWN2's envelope even further than Mask of the Betrayer and get away with it. Such bold and creative experimentation with an RPG engine and mechanics is to be commended.

Storm of Zehir catches us off guard because most of us approach it as "just another small scale NWN add-on". It does start off like that, but soon it blossoms into an epic experience that is only comparable to the most ambitious roleplaying games of recent times. And even that description fails to do it justice as essentially it's three games rolled into one. Let's count the ways:

  • Part of the framework here is to go VERY old school. It's an unexpected move since NWN2 and MotB both excelled in being forward-looking and experimental. But Zehir actually far surpasses them as an experiment. It starts off by adopting the wide-eyed, enchanted feeling of typical 1980's RPG's -- which was the best bit about them -- without falling into their traps of repetitiveness and eventual boredom.

  • This time, it's truly open ended, a game of the ignore-the-main-quest-and-explore-the-country variety which is vastly different from previous NWN games. It's a small miracle that the Aurora engine could pull this off.

  • Obsidian serves us their own version of Heroes of M&M seemingly without even trying. Because it's all based on the pre-existing NWN character, prestige and leveling system, which is one of the most complex and better-implemented CRPG systems ever, the game ends up as something that's arguably more intriguing and deeper than the actual Heroes of M&M series.

  • The trading system is not tacked on but forms an organic part of the whole. The game even manages to make this open-ended trading between towns a plot development device that makes the role-playing portion roll forward.

  • Even if the focus is not on in-depth characterizations this time, the game does not sacrifice lengthy, colorful dialogues as a lesser game would. The result is almost overwhelming, in a good way: the characters are alive, and the trading system is alive, and the sidequests are alive.

  • For once, the light, cheerful approach and the sunny tropical setting feel refreshing rather than juvenile, especially if you come to Zehir directly after completing the dark and oppressive MotB. This includes some odd characters like Volo who seem to be added mostly for comic relief.

  • The engine's graphical aspects seem to be upgraded. All aspects of Zehir's graphics are pretty, even in 2012. The dimly lit tropical caves are some of the most beautiful ones I've seen in a game.

  • The overland travel system is typical 80's stuff, well implemented. It surely is more interesting than the static region maps that most contemporary RPG's try to get away with for long distance travel.

    The Bad
    Yes, there are trade-offs. The plot IS thinner than in any previous Obsidian games, and far less interesting than MotB's storyline. The random mob encounters every 2 minutes ARE frustrating and draining, but they are a necessary evil needed to propel the open-ended mechanics forward (by giving plenty of XP). Towns ARE tiny and forgettable this time, because the game scheme needs many of them. Our optional cohorts are NOT very interesting this time, lacking elaborate background stories, but there's a good selection of them. To sum up, it's often quantity over quality with Zehir. This is the first Obsidian game to feature some unsavory elements from the hack-n-slash genre, which is almost the equivalent of a Steven Spielberg stooping to direct a porn film.

The limited, mediocre Aurora engine creaks and suffers under the daunting task of having to support this hybrid monster. Even with the final patch I've encountered a nasty show-stopping bug that required me to edit my savegame so I could progress. Come on, Obsidian!..

It all sounds worse than it actually is. Zehir does deserve that you give it a try.

The Bottom Line
It's great that Obsidian had the guts to create this complex experiment. It must have taken someting of a visionary game designer just to put the blueprints of Storm of Zehir on paper, let alone to successfully implement it as an unassuming NWN2 expansion pack. If there ever was a game that is more than the sum of its parts, this is the one. I'd LOVE to see a Neverwinter Nights 3 that stems from the crazy, genre-unifying Zehir experience. Just don't let Bioware do it: Obsidian must be the one.

Windows · by András Gregorik (59) · 2013

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Game added by Sicarius.

Additional contributors: Spenot, Picard, Paulus18950.

Game added December 9, 2008. Last modified March 5, 2024.