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3.4 out of 5 stars
Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir Expansion - PC
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2008
Storm of Zehir is one of two long awaited expansions for NWN2. In this expansion they introduce a new concept of the 'overland map' which is both kind of cool, and rather irritating. I like the random encounters and treasure you find if you are fortunate enough to have a thief/ranger in your party. But at the same time, the encounters get repetitive after a while. The whole loading the encounter screen just to fight 8 kobolds you couldn't avoid, gets tiresome after a while, as does clicking to exit the cleared screen.

I do like being able to have a party of adventurers I can design myself. I also like the ocean and sea tilesets, and the character Volo. There is some beautiful 3d scenery in this one, and a couple new races. The yuan-ti pureblood, the gray orc etc. And they reskinned a few of the models.

Unfortunately, I dislike the rest system, the emphasis on trading, and the fact that they still haven't fixed some of the unfortunate models like the half-elf and the elf. They need to redo some of the models. Its sad that a game with such great graphics is cursed with poor character models.

This game is enjoyable, but not my favorite expansion. I miss the long dungeon crawls, the ability to rest after encounters, and the more in-depth plot.

3 stars. Average.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2008
Storm of Zehir follows in the grand tradition of Neverwinter Nights (NWN) expansions in attempting to set its own direction and tone while incorporating portions of previous narrative to draw players into the history of the world in which the game is set. Like previous expansions there is much to love, and a little bit to hate about this expansion as it pushes at the boundaries of the engine and the genre.

A big difference between this expansion and previous NWN environments is the split between an overland map (where you move about an entire region) and actual locations in which you can move about. The overland map is wonderful for creating a sense of distance and ambiance, while the locations provide the depth necessary for combat, dialogue, and intrigue.

So as to get them out of the way, I will begin with the bad stuff. First and foremost Storm of Zehir has incorporated the dreaded 'random encounter' mechanic of D&D with the overland map critters. Because of the virtually limitless capacity for players to grind on overland critters the game was also built with the assumption that players would spend considerable time fighting cookie-cutter fights out in the jungle with 200 gnolls, 3000 kobolds, and a partridge in a pear tree. In my tabletop experience we have always avoided these kind of repetitive and functionally random encounters because: they are boring. Other players may disagree, as the wild popularity of MMORPGs might attest, but for me D&D has always been about story, and random encounters do nothing to move this along.

Secondly, the expansion has something of a split personality with regards to towns. Certain towns can be dealt with almost entirely in an overland map setting-- no loading required. But randomly and inconsistently, other towns require you to actually enter the town (load screen... load screen... wait some more...) and wander about. I would have preferred more consistency with when you actually had a town built in-game, and when you could access through overland text menus.

There are a few minor issues in addition to these two large ones, but by and large the positives outweigh the negatives. The first, and most gratifying, change from previous NWN2 content is the richness of the locations. Every environment is bursting with detail and objects; giving more of a feeling of a living world that players might recognize from Baldur's Gate titles, and less of the "our engine can only support 10 polygons on the screen at a time" of NWN [the first one].

Dialogue is also more satisfying in this expansion than previously, where unnecessary chatter has been reduced and useful conversation is more obviously there. Since this is an expansion, and not a game such as Baldur's Gate II, obviously the volume of dialogue is nothing to write home about. But what dialogue is available is tightly written, useful, or just entertaining.

Crafting has been improved in this expansion with the addition of 'recipes book' which can be directly accessed near workbenches to make gear. The mishmash nature of previous implementation has been cleaned up through a mechanic that has you open the recipe book, chose the recipe, and if you have the right components (many of which are simply gold costs now), viola, you make your item. The availability of crafting also reduces the dependence on finding merchants with items of the appropriate level and speeds up gameplay.

Finally, the last improvement I will get into is the story itself. Storm of Zehir builds on previous attempts with the old NWN expansions, and of course NWN2 in building a strong narrative that connects the various events of the core game, expansions, and Forgotten Realms into a story that sucks the player in and makes them feel like they are participating like they would in a real table-top game. As a DM my players always appreciated when their actions had implications in the world. When they built an inn and made a name for it, when they defeated the Dread Lord SomethingorOther and the townsfolk remembered it. Allusions to past events in NWN2 were well-placed and made me feel like I was really in a world where what I'd done previously mattered. I was proud of my Knight-Captain and happy to see her legacy lived on in some small part (with careful non-references to anything specific I might have accomplished...) I would love to see more expansions in NWN2, and have them all link in to each other in unobtrusive ways like this.

So in short, Storm of Zehir is a fun expansion that you will not dream about in years to come, but that you might mention to your friends. If you like NWN style games, or are a D&D fan this expansion is well worth your time. If, like me, you moved away from your D&D group and hunger for the experience of hanging out with your friends haranguing your DM and squeezing out some story from the teeth of tactical combat, Storm of Zehir is the best new diary substitute out there.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Oh, Obsidian. You are such a visionary company and you have so many wonderful and innovative ideas but why, oh why, do you insist on giving short shrift to your writing? Every time I've played one of your games, I have had the sensation that you are on the cusp of something great but then you invariably fail to carry through, so that the end result leaves me feeling that you got impatient to release your game and so just hurriedly finished it off. While this is nowhere more evident than with the lamentable Knights of the Old Republic II, I fear you have suffered from the same problem with this game.

The overland map concept, first off, is one that is a very good idea--in theory. When I first began playing the game, I enjoyed discovering new areas and having overland encounters. After a while, though, I grew very, very tired of the encounters. For one, there are far too many of them and it is very obnoxious and breaks the flow of the game to be continuously assaulted by a low-level group of monsters that has no hope of defeating my party. Perhaps this problem wouldn't be quite as annoying if it weren't for the fact that the load times of this game--the entire NWN 2 series, in point of fact--are so long as to be inexcusable. It got to the point several times where I was ready to abandon the game entirely because I quickly grew tired of it taking so abominably long to complete quests because I was attacked at every turn. This is but one example of a concept for which Obsidian deserves credit. It's simply too bad that they ruined their own concept thanks to the annoying flaws described above.

As for the dungeons, they were tedious at best. Most of them were one-room throwaways and, after a while, I had the feeling that every dungeon I entered was more or less exactly like the one before it. This was a huge disappointment, especially considering the fairly vast scope of the game. While I also tend to grow tired of dungeon after dungeon that consists of 15 levels with unnecessarily long tunnels, it really bored me to go into a room, kill something, and then leave without any sort of substantial payoff.

The trading system was another intriguing concept but this one was also more or less killed, this time by bugs. This is yet another thing about Obsidian that drives me straight up the wall. I don't expect any game to be perfect but Obsidian has an unfortunate tendency to release games that have some very serious issues with bugs. It was very frustrating to spend so much time making my way from one town to another only to find that, due to a bug with the storage system, the trade goods that I had shipped simply vanished into thin air. Yes, players did devise workarounds for this problem but the simple fact of the matter is that the problems shouldn't have existed in the first place.

Last but not least was the thinness of the overall plot. This wouldn't have been as obvious if it weren't for the silent party members. Yes, being able to construct your own party from scratch could be rather nifty but I don't really enjoy that level of micromanagement. I'd rather have interactive party members to help enhance and drive the central story than be running around with a bunch of drones of my own creation. It would have been nice to have the option of picking interactive party members or creating my own party from scratch. For the most part, I didn't even think of the party members as having names. Instead, they were ciphers like: the mage, the rogue, the fighter... Obsidian's writing can be brilliant at times but I feel this is the aspect with which the company is the laziest. The problem is that if you want to create a truly stellar RPG, you are not going to be able to do so by giving writing short shrift. There are hak 'n' slash games a-plenty for those who don't care about story. I play RPGs because I expect to get some sort of story out of them.

Overall, I was very disappointed in this game. I think it would have been a lot of fun and a very strong game indeed if all the focus hadn't been on the flashy aspects at the expense of the foundations that make an RPG enjoyable. I hope that Obsidian will take this under consideration in the future because I firmly believe they could be one of the best game developers out there if only they'd exert themselves to try a bit more.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2008
If you liked Icewind Dale 1 from several year ago you might be tempted to buy this game like I was. Basically, this add-on offers lots of combat and the ability to make your own party from scratch. But I stopped playing after about 12 hours. If you have lots of patience with 1. an awkward camera and 2. a combat interface that is sometimes downright broken, then you might enjoy this game. But for me, I got annoyed too many times. I felt like I was fighting the camera and interface more than the actual enemies in the game. It doesnt help that your party's AI is at best very imperfect. Often you have to turn it off in combat, then operate each character. That's fine with me, but your characters still dont respond as one would expect even in that mode. I should be clear that it looks like a lot of effort and thought went into making the game and there are times when I was enjoying it. This game should have been designed with a fixed 2D overhead isometric perspective. That would have solved all of the camera issues. Also, you can pause combat at any time but when you unpause, the real-time combat is 2x faster than it should be. You can easily lose your party simply because too much is happening at once on the screen. The load times between areas are frequent and that was probably the last nail in the coffin for me. Its a shame because there's a good game under there somewhere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2009
After playing NWN2, and the 1st expansion, I was eager to tackle the latest expansion, Storm of Zahir (SOZ). SOZ is a little different, in that the plot line is far less central to the game, there are many more side quests and a trading sub-game for those so inclined. I play NWN2 with a friend, and SOZ is more friendly to multi-play, with fewer places where one play is locked out of the dialog tree. SOZ also sports a overhead view outdoor mode, where you have random encounters and opportunities to explore the countryside. All-in-all, it's fun and different enough from the 1st two stories to be worth playing.

However, all is not well. I have found SOZ to be less stable than the original game or the 1st expansion, averaging a crash or two a night. Additionally, the less linear plot is less engaging than past games, and doesn't really make the player feel very important to the world. Also, the trade sub-game feels tacked on, with little feedback on how the player is doing, and somewhat sparse rewards.

If you loved the first two adventures, you'll probably like this one, but it's not quite up to par.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2008
I brought a character over from Neverwinter Nights 2 and that made my party too overpowered and with all chars created in this exp pack, it was a bit too hard sometimes. But in both cases, I quickly ran out of things to do in the story line, with areas in the map not opening up. They need to make it easier to evade battles in the outdoors for lower level characters. Either its buggy or the way to open up areas is lost to me, time to hang this game up untill more info comes out on it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2009
For those old school gamers who actually played the original D&D, we're talking pre AD&D or at least AD&D version 1, this game is like playing the module X1: The Isle of Dread. X1 was one of the very first modules, after the B series which includes such classics as B4: The Lost City. The similarities include shipwreck, dinosaurs and the open ended exploration approach.

In current terminology, this game is less about a scripted overall story and more about "emergent gameplay" like the GTA series. For that reason, the characters are not as engaging as previous NW2 games. Given that you can create multiple characters in your party, not just the main character that also felt more like a real D&D game.

The cap is 30 levels. My recommendation is to play NW2 first, then storms of Zehir and then Mask of the Betrayer. Not only is this advised based on difficulty level, but also because Mask of the Betrayer doesn't let you keep your weapons, money or stuff in your inventory. Granted then it's not playing in the time line appropriately, but you get the best bang for the buck on your character.

The best race so far is the Yuan-ti, because of magic resistance. So you might be even better off to create/export a character in Zehir and then play in the above suggested order.

The trade part is fun and one of the elements is the characters are trying to revive the sword coast economy. I did like the part about having to find resources to upgrade. It seemed like the have resources sent to your keep didn't work.

It's nice change of pace from the other games, more another aspect of D&D. One of my favorite aspects was the overland map that made wandering monsters a real important part of the game, not like a prescripted thing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2010
This is our first experience with an open ended RPG PC game. NWN2 has been linear storylines up to this expansion. Our group has trouble self motivating to drive the story. Feels a little like Diablo - wonder around fighting until you come across a new place. Strangely enough, we loved Diablo for what it was. Maybe because everyone new what to expect. SoZ was a surprise. The debate over how fun it is to play continues.

My personal rating is 5 star for an NWN2 expansion. Building four party members your way is great. The overland map is fun in single player but bores the LAN party non-leader characters to death. Good time to grab a snack. For the first time you can walk into a total world of hurt unexpectedly your party is not even close to capable of handling. Give it a shot but be ready to bolt before everyone dies. Live to fight another day against nemesis opponents who have bested you once and all you need is an edge to face them again. You will like the new death and dying system on this expansion.

For the first time, Atari has utilized the conversation capabilities of the game for multiplayer. Overall this is the best LAN game RPG. If you just want to game with a few friends and not the world of AH's with level 80 mega characters, this is the best.

If you gave up on NWN2 before this expansion, I recommend you at least hit this in single player. SoZ is the realization of a vision for RPG on the PC.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2009
Based on the synopsis, I was rather pessimistic about this game, but I enjoy the Neverwinter franchise, and was eager to find myself mistaken.

I can forgive the endless loads. I can forgive the dozens of tedious encounters, all of which involved killing mindless monsters and none of which involved imagination. I can forgive the error-prone controls. I never actually finished the game because, even though I was a couple of levels higher than the game recommended, the last fight was impossible. Even that I can forgive.

Someday I may forgive the wretched voice acting. I might even be able to forgive that fact that the Neverwinter franchise is too cheap to hire the original actors when reintroducing characters from the original NWN2 campaign (using Dave Walsh instead of Asa Siegel for Bishop in MOTB made me want to drop-kick my computer . . . when they hired someone else to play Khelgar in SOZ, I had had it).

As I said, the synopsis I was given made little sense, and I suspected that the story wouldn't either. I was wrong. There was no story at all. The half-hearted attempts at plot exposition and character development were turgid and purile. It had the sophistication and intrigue of a second grade school play (no offense to second-graders). There was no character interaction; it was like a party full of mannequins.

Before anyone accuses me have lacking the imagination to make up my own story, let me defend myself: There is a reason why I read, a reason why I play table-top D&D and a reason why I play video games. Table-top games allow me to invent my own characters and plots; video games and books allow me immerse myself in someone else's inventions. If I wanted to immerse myself in something like SoZ, I'd reread "Jane and Dick."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2011
I bought this game after reading the above reviews,deciding to see for myself the overland aspect of gaming/combat.For myself,I LOVED IT!!
One reason for this is my character choice.MY character was a Ranger/Rogue.In overland mode a high Survival/Search/Hide skillset is essential to avoid unwanted encounters.With these skills,you see AND AVOID 95% of those pesky encounters.
You can do the same by having Umajoa(NPC Druid) as leader when you enter overland mode.
W/out these skills though,yeah,you do get swarmed over and can barely move.

With this taken care of,this was an excellent game that kept me completely engrossed from start to finish.!.!.!
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