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September 10, 2007
PAX 2007 - Neverwinter Nights 2: The Mask of the Betrayer

By Mark Rollins

While I was at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle this year, I managed to sneak a peek at the new Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms game Neverwinter Nights 2: the Mask of the Betrayer, the new expansion pack.

Even though I found it under the Atari banner, it is really a compilation of several companies, including Obsidian, Bioware, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. Which leads to the obvious question: how many companies does it take to release an MMO game? Answer: as many as needs to license it.

Yet all joking aside, I discovered a lot of great new additions to this game that takes place right after the original Neverwinter Nights 2. For example, the addition of four different Genasi, elemental characters that the D&D crowd knows pretty well. There is, of course, the Fire, Air, Earth, and Water, and there are all sorts of graphic iterations to make them look very cool. For example, the Fire Genasi have a fiery look to them, the Air Genasi have wind flowing about them, and so on.

The character creation generators also give the users some great new choices for their characters look, such as tentacles for the Water Genasi's hair. Players have the option of starting Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) with these new character races if they wish.

In addition to the Genasi, there are two other new races: the wild-elf and the half-drow. Apparently, there was enough demand for these to incorporate into the game. There are also new character classes, such as the Spirit Shaman, who can cast all sorts of new spells to control spirits. Speaking of spells, there are some new epic level ones in this version.

The game takes place after a battle, and it starts with your player character in a burial mound chamber. Here, you will learn about your mission. If your character is at level 18, the adventure will start right away. If you are lower than that, then you can manually raise your level up.

The game developers spent a lot of time on the graphics and improving them completely. For example, there is this one toggle that allows a very wide angle view. I had to admit, this was one of the great features. It was kind of like an RTS mode, and you could move your party of characters around just like they were in a strategy game.

I'm certain that this game is a huge graphics engine eater, and I don't know how they got it to work without the game crashing every time. The representative there at PAX told me they had given NWN2 a complete overhaul with improved graphics and lighting.

One of the new features involved going into the "spirit-world", which was this monochromatic style world that was very unusual. It was like stepping into a black-and-white movie, which was unusual for a fantasy game, to say the least.

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer should be available in Fall of 2007. It should be pretty exciting when it finally gets here.


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