Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate Retrospective

Ossian Studios' Luke Scull has taken to his personal blog to pen a retrospective for Mysteries of Westgate, the Neverwinter Nights 2 adventure pack that they presented us with earlier last year. In it, he covers the addon's development, strengths and weaknesses, reviews (including our own), and crazy delays. Definitely worth a read:
The story could have done with some more work, but I have few issues with the dialogue in Mysteries of Westgate. In general, I think it had a lot more verve and wit than most roleplaying games. The writers who worked on the game did an excellent job of giving each character a unique personality. The one area that needed greater attention was the consistency of the writing, and finding a more cohesive voice and tone for the campaign. It's obvious the dialogue was penned by several different writers. We had some quests in there like the Brotherhood of the Ferret which some reviewers hated, particularly the American press whose humour was evidently out of sync with the Pratchett-inspired silliness. In fairness, in a game about vampires and curses, it wasn't entirely appropriate. There's an argument that the sidequests could have linked more with the main storyline, but there's an equally valid counter-argument that a city adventure, unless heavily reliant on a unifying narrative, needs small pockets of adventure to give a real taste of the place in all its diversity. I have no qualms with the approach we took, though I'd probably have cut the Brotherhood of the Ferret quest for being a little too zany.

Visually and aurally, I don't think there's much to criticise with MoW. In my opinion, the voice acting was better than both the official campaign and Storm of Zehir. The soundtrack was also superior to the official campaign and was probably on a par with or slightly better than that of Mask of the Betrayer. The new models, particularly the paeliryon, were equal to or better than anything in the Obsidian games. Unfortunately, due to the delay, the standard content was looking very dated on released. Our city areas might be the best created in any NWN2 title or module, but without new assets to spruce them up they were accused of looking old. We were also accused of making areas look too dark, but I don't see the complaint. Perhaps there is a critical point at which the game goes from looking gloomy to dark if your contrast isn't set appropriately, and I guess expecting reviewers to adjust this themselves was too much to ask.


Alan Miranda has already spoken about the discrepancy between the North American and European review scores. The former seemed to rate the game between 6.5-7.5, and the latter tended more towards 7.5-8.5 with a few 9s sprinkled in. There are the arguments that the North American press consider presentation more important than the Europeans, which is possibly true. The patchy VO didn't help our cause, and neither did the use of assets rendered old by the huge delay in release. As far as the community goes -- and these are precisely the folk the game was aimed at -- feedback was overwhelmingly positive and tended towards the 8.5-9 scores. The game was not designed as an expansion or as a startling new direction for the series. It was supposed to be released shortly before Mask of the Betrayer as something akin to the BioWare Premium Modules. As it was, it weathered two expansions (the first with the best story seen in a long time, the second with a new approach) and a whole lot of controversy to debut as something like a third expansion. We probably did pretty well in the circumstances. Sure, some of the reviews annoyed me -- those dismissive ones where the occasional RPG reviewer was going through the motions and assigned a low to mediocre score that held no relevance to those who formed the target audience. You just know the same reviewers were handing out scores in the 80s for the next piece of 1-hour long shovelware DLC released by the "right" publishers and developers. C'est la vie.

A word on the delay -- pathetic. I did say a word. Atari Chief Executive Jeff Lapin recently said of the company's affairs: "(they were) like an old onion that smells really bad and every time you peel away one problem, you find another." I hope those old onion peels are now rotting away somewhere dark and unpleasant and not still stinking up the place. During the time that Atari sat and did nothing with MoW, they could have put together a programme of Adventure Packs and released three or four successful products. The tools were there -- all they needed to do was harness the community. BioWare's efforts for NWN1 had even provided a blueprint of exactly how it should be done, yet Atari still failed to pick up the ball. You couldn't have contrived of a worse handling of the situation.