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Page 2 of 2There are some other new improvements included in Storm of Zehir: two new races (grey orc and yuan-ti pureblood), three new prestige classes (doomguide, hellfire warlock, and swashbuckler), over 20 new feats (including (daylight adaptation) for underground races like the gray orc), and several (teamwork benefits.) I've long since gotten past the point where Neverwinter Nights 2 has enough races and classes for me, and so I found the teamwork benefits to be the most interesting.
Teamwork benefits include things like (camp routine,) where you're less likely to get interrupted when resting, and (fearsome roster,) where lower level enemies will leave your party alone when you're on the overland map. The downside to these benefits is that the requirements are sometimes silly. For example, for (circle of blades,) which gives your party a small flanking bonus, every PC in your party is required to have the weapon finesse perk or a sneak attack bonus. Well, who's going to waste perks on their party just to get a tiny bonus? Not many people is my guess. I only ended up learning three of the 12 bonuses when I played the campaign.
For the most part, the quests in the game are a little perfunctory. Somebody might ask you to kill some shadows in a crypt, and that's all there is to it. There isn't any impact on the storyline, and there aren't any decisions to make. And even when there are decisions, they don't have much of an effect. For example, early in the game you're given the choice of talking to a batiri chieftain or killing him, and either way you never see him again, and so there aren't any consequences to your actions. Also, the companions don't seem to add a lot. I never had a conversation with the companion I chose after I added him to my party. He just inserted a line of dialogue here and there.
It's almost as if Obsidian decided to make Storm of Zehir into a combat campaign, with little regard for story or character development. The problem is, the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine isn't especially good at that sort of thing. It was designed with scripted conversations and cut scenes in mind. In particular, the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine is rather slow and cumbersome, with long loading screen waits every time you change maps or save your game. These loading screens weren't really a problem in the OC or Mask of the Betrayer, because the maps in those campaigns were large and you'd stay on them for a while. But Storm of Zehir is all about quick hits. Each random encounter on the overland map generates a new map and a loading screen, and almost all of the locations are places that take ten minutes or less to complete. That means the ratio of playing the game to staring at loading screens is way too low. It took me somewhere around 20-30 hours to complete the campaign, but it felt like half of that time was spent twiddling my thumbs.
Worse, even if it had worked perfectly, I probably wouldn't have liked Storm of Zehir much, just because it was so dull. But it didn't even come close to working perfectly, and some of its bugs are just dumb. For example, you can find rare resources while trading with towns, and besides selling them, you can also use them to upgrade Crossroad Keep (yes, you have to upgrade Crossroad Keep again; let's hear it for originality). The problem is, if you actually send the resources to Crossroad Keep, they disappear! There's also an NPC who asks for nine rare resources when there are only eight in the game, and a quest update that suddenly announces who a murderer is before the murder takes place! Or how about this? When you exit to the overland map, you get to select who is going to lead your party, but then when you get there, half the time the game switches to someone else, and if that character isn't stealthy, then every enemy in the region starts making a beeline for you. Yay and double yay.
The best way I can sum up Storm of Zehir is that it feels like one of the Neverwinter Nights premium modules -- and not one of the good ones, either. It's boring, it's sloppy, it's frequently annoying (I'm thinking of the resting restrictions here), and, aside from about three battles, the combat is trivially easy. Even the voice acting is lackluster. The campaign didn't feel anything like Obsidian Entertainment to me, and after wasting a lot of time with it, I'm suddenly much more pessimistic about what we're going to see when Alpha Protocol comes out later this year.
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