Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir Previews

Three new previews of Obsidian's Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir expansion pack have made their way to the 'net. A bit from GameSpot:
The Storm of Zehir will also add a party-conversation system that, put simply, gives every character in your party the ability to converse with non-player characters and creatures that you encounter. You'll want to be choosy about who you let speak up though, and sometimes--for example, when the party was confronted by a large group of jungle goblins like those we saw today--it won't matter how skilled your characters are in diplomacy or intimidation because enemies like that just aren't going to be talked out of fighting.

Other new features that we got to see during today's demo included the 3D overland map, on which you can interact with other characters and encounter monsters, and the new death system, which forces you to resurrect your fallen party members or have them healed in a town rather than simply bringing them back to life at the end of the current combat. We didn't get to see it, but we're told that The Storm of Zehir will also introduce a new crafting system that will let you create many items simply by using your inventory screen (whereas you might previously have had to visit a blacksmith).

An excerpt from IGN
Storm of Zehir, while technically an expansion pack, actually functions as a stand-alone adventure which will give players a solid 15 to 20 hour adventure to enjoy. The most dramatic enhancement made to the Neverwinter Nights formula, Rorie told us, was that now you can create and customize a full party of four characters as opposed to taking advantage of pre-made characters. Rorie then took a moment to talk about the new character classes that will be available in the Storm of Zehir expansion. The first one he brought into view was the Swashbuckler, represented by a sensual, dark haired woman with a real air of the high seas. This class acts as the, you guessed it, swashbuckling musketeer and swordsman, and they may or may not carry parrots at all times.

The second class we were shown was the DoomGuide, represented by a hooded man in a flowing cloak. These characters will excel in combat against the undead. Lastly, Rorie settled on the Hellfire Warlock, which was -- surprisingly, considering the name -- a very petite girl who was casually engulfed in flames. Sounds like a sweet character to me. This class has access to demonic power, including the aforementioned fiery shield which can inflict damage on surrounding enemies.

And a snip from Stolen Droids:
In Storm of Zehir, you don't just create one main hero; you create an entire party of adventurers. (That's not a new feature!) yell the fans of Icewind Dale. It's true, you did get to create a full party in ID and ID2. However, in those games, your additional party members were just mute clones who swung their swords and cast their spells while your main character did all the talking. In SoZ, any member of your custom party can contribute to character interaction at any given time. So your evil rogue might demand a helpless traveler's money, only to get smacked upside the head by your lawful paladin.

(But what about joinable companions?!) cry fans of Baldur's Gate. In BG and BG2, as well as the original NWN2 campaign, you generally did not create more than one main character (outside multiplayer); instead, your protagonist was joined by numerous eccentric and interesting companions who formed your party. These companion characters were created by the developers to have complicated personalities, multiple interactions with your own character and each other, and even romances. Well never fear, companion fans, you have not been forgotten either. In addition to your user-created characters, your party can be joined by developer-created cohorts, complete with the same eccentric personalities and secret agendas.