How many software engineers does it take to screw up a beloved franchise? The answer is “However many work at Obsidian Entertainment.”
Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir is the second expansion pack continuing the ongoing disaster that is NWN 2. As those of you who bought the original game know, Neverwinter 2 took the original formula of the first game, and added to it ridiculous system requirements to draw graphics that weren’t that good, which you wouldn’t see anyway because the camera in the game was completely unusable. On top of that, they heaped a passel of crashing and hanging bugs, put the turd in the box, and shipped it to retailers all around the world.
Storm of Zehir preserves everything bad about NWN 2, but then adds new game modes and gameplay, proving once again the game publisher’s mantra: “Millions for new features, but not a penny for bug fixes.”
It’s a shame, too, because the new features, if they were implemented in a game that actually worked, would be compelling. First off, you’re given direct control over an entire party of characters that you create, rather than just a “main” character and NPC henchmen. More importantly, the game adds an “overland” exploration mode, similar to what was seen in the console title Gladius, where random encounters are spawned and can be sought out or avoided. Generally speaking resting must happen in this overland mode rather than in the actual “dungeons”, removing one of the “exploits” that made the game, in the past, seem a bit stacked in the players’ favor. These additions had the potential to be intriguing and thought-provoking. But set as it is in the context of a game which, at any moment, is as likely to crash, or to position the camera behind a brick wall, it just ends up being nothing more than useless beauty.
There is no franchise that can’t be killed by incompetence. The tragedy of Neverwinter Nights 2 is that the writing and imagination is still as good as it ever was. The game’s failure is a failure of engineering. One that could have – and should have – been avoided with just a little planning. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone without a superhuman tolerance for frustration.