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Page 2 of 2Overall, the campaign gets some good points for being interesting and different and well-written, but it also gets some bad points for its execution and mood -- not to mention its balance, since the combat is pretty easy throughout (think Hordes of the Underdark here) -- and that's why it only gets a (nice) rating from me. But I'll add this: I played a mostly good character who tried to suppress his affliction when I made my way through the campaign, and I'm looking forward to trying it again with an opposing type of character and different companions to see how it goes. For me, intriguing campaigns with a few problems are always better than run-of-the-mill campaigns with no problems, and Mask of the Betrayer has an intriguing campaign.
Besides the additions that you'd expect from an expansion pack, Mask of the Betrayer also makes quite a few improvements to the game engine. Some of these improvements are minor -- like a button that sorts your inventory, and the rest command now showing you how safe your surroundings are -- but a couple of them are significant.
The original Neverwinter Nights 2 had about four camera modes, and everything more-or-less worked for all of them. Now in Mask of the Betrayer, there are only two camera modes, and you can set up several options (including your hot keys) for both of them. In strategy mode, you get a (top down) view of your surroundings, and you typically use the mouse to point and click where you want your party to go. In character mode, you get an (over the shoulder) view of your surroundings, and you typically use the WASD keys to drive your characters around. Since the expansion pack allows parties to have up to four characters, I used strategy mode for just about everything, and it worked perfectly for me.
The other major change involves crafting. Neverwinter Nights 2 had sort of a complicated system that required lots of gems and components and workbenches and feats. I never really bothered with crafting at all, and perhaps that was a common reaction because Obsidian significantly simplified it in Mask of the Betrayer. Gone are the workbenches, and gone are all of the odd body parts that you'd receive from killing creatures. Now you simply get essences when enemies die, and all crafting takes place inside of a special bag, which you can carry around with you. Better yet, the description of the essences tells you what you can do with them, hopefully eliminating a lot of confusion, and the system ties in with your affliction in the campaign, which is nice.
On the down side, there are still some things that Obsidian apparently couldn't get to. Most surprising to me is that there still aren't any secret doors. The closest thing you find to a secret door in the campaign is a bookshelf in front of a door, and you have to bash down the bookshelf to get to the door (which, really, barely makes any sense). There is also still a problem with the maps. They're still kind of dark, and they still don't show where the doorways are, and so they're not as useful as they could be. But overall, I'm happy with the changes that Obsidian made, and I remain optimistic that future patches and expansion packs will continue to improve the engine.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is a quality expansion pack. It includes numerous additions and improvements to the original Neverwinter Nights 2 engine, and while I didn't hugely love the 20+ hour campaign that came with it, it's not because no effort was put into it. The campaign is complicated and intriguing but also flawed and kind of dreary, and so while I can't give it or the expansion pack as a whole a glowing recommendation, it seems easily worth its $30 suggested retail price.
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