2020-02-23, 12:34 PM (ISO 8601)
Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years
I used to play Neverwinter Nights 2 a long time ago when it came out and loved the Storm of Zehir expansion, even though it was not widely accepted well at the time. I decided to revisit the game, though with a few mod improvements and thought it might be (mildly?) interesting to post about it here
First let's list the important mods:
- Kaedrin's PrC pack - adds massive amount of content to the game
- increased difficulty - enemy HP increased to 400%
- extra head and hair models - makes your characters look much better
- overland encounter reducer - cuts down the amount of overland encounters to 33%
- NWN2 client extension - makes the game playable on Windows 10
Besides that I set the difficulty to the hardest option and made a major change in campaign editor and set the number of characters to 8. Reason is simple: I want to try out multiple builds, while keeping the game challenging.
I remember that magic-based parties used to have a very hard time and also it looks like Kaedrin doesn't really support magic users that much (probably a limitation of NWN2 engine). Thereby I decided to go with a largely might-based party. I wanted to discuss the composition here, but then the forums went down for a few weeks, so I decided the party will be as follows:
Wood Elf Ranger
A dual-wielding Ranger is a very powerful character in its own right, which holds double the truth in Storm of Zehir, where you need a character with Hide/Move Silently and Survival as an overland map party leader. She will be pure Ranger to take advantage of Kaedrin's Protective Ward feat - it grants +2 AC and +1 Attack to pure Rangers (and just +1 AC to multiclassed Rangers).
Human Weapon Master
This will be a Scythe-wielding warrior focused on scoring massive amount of critical hits. She'll be just Fighter/Weapon Master (7 levels), but I might decide to throw in some other class later. For now, though, I believe Fighter's Greater Weapon Specialization and Melee Weapon Mastery are superior to bonuses obtained through prestige classes.
I wanted a Barbarian to see how they measure up against Fighters and Rangers in melee combat. While Human isn't the best choice from powergaming point of view, I didn't want Half-Orcs or Genasi because they are ugly and Wood Elf has a Con penalty, which is also quite bad for a Barbarian. She'll go into Frenzied Berserker when available in order to get that supreme Supreme Power Attack feat. Greatsword or Greataxe is the weapon of choice. I'll probably throw in a level of Fighter in order to get Heavy Armor and an extra feat.
In Storm of Zehir the traps are actually a real threat and you need somebody to handle them. A pure Rogue would be an overkill, though, and would sacrifice a lot of combat potential. This build will be rather complex and will combine Rogue and Swashbuckler. She will dual-wield and have huge Intelligence, which translates into extra damage thanks to Insightful Strike. Better yet, this damage bonus doesn't get halved for offhand weapons. Her primary role is to handle a lot of skills, but her combat potential is still quite solid. She can pick up some prestige classes, namely Dread Commando (essentially Rogue with high BAB) and Whirling Dervish (Rogue with extra skills, Improved Evasion and high BAB).
Feytouched Favored Soul
So far the party has four strong melee warriors. It is very likely they'll need healing, which is the purpose of this character. She will likely spend most of her time by healing, but unlike her Cleric cousins she can also fight in melee fairly well.
Sun Elf Eldritch Knight
An arcane caster isn't strictly necessary, but should prove helpful. Due to high enemy HP, though, damaging spells are close to useless, so another path must be taken. Necromancy is the best option, though she'll reach her high level spells quite late or not at all, as I plan to multiclass her to Bladesinger. That particular prestige class essentially trades a bit of spellcasting progression for extra HP, high BAB and a massive amount of AC (up to +15 if I went all the way in). With all that extra armor the Wizard can actually join the front lines as well, supplemented with an occasional Haste and Stoneskin. Necro spells could be nice in late game, but probably not needed.
I wanted to try out some of the new base classes and Hexblade looked like the most interesting option. It's very similar to Blackguard - gets bonus saves from Cha, high BAB, Heavy Armor, some sinister powers and minor spellcasting. Very appealing ability is Hexblade's Curse - an instantly activated ability that instantly lowers target's combat stats. Through a feat it can be instead used to instantly cast Silence (with a Will saving throw, though). This feels like an excellent counter to enemy spellcasters.
Moon Elf Archer
As the party so far has seven frontline warriors (seven if we count the Wizard), at least some ranged power is needed. For this Kaedrin's pack offers a new prestige class: Elemental Archer. It can be combined with Arcane Archer to get (with 9 AA & 5 EA) +5 Enhancement and +5 Elemental damage on all arrows you shoot. While this is not really achievable before epic levels (you can't get Arcane Archer before level 8), I believe it's sufficient to get AA to level 3 for +2 Enhanced and then grab all the EA I can for that amazing extra elemental damage. She will get one level of Wizard and 6 levels of Fighter before transitioning to AA and later EA.
As you can see the party is on the might side, i.e. only two real spellcasters and even they both are designed for melee combat.
Since I already have spent a few hours in the game, let me share a an impression with you: the game hasn't aged well. Especially in comparison to later games such as Dragon Age, Divinity: Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity or Tyranny, Storm of Zehir feels incredibly buggy and unpolished. The major letdown is its AI. The characters charge at enemies through seen traps, get clustered in a doorway (partly due to my doubled party size, but the engine should be able to handle this regardless), randomly stand back when enemies are attacking other party members, insanely run across the whole battlefield etc. It is playable, but not really enjoyable, especially when compared to the above games. Back in the day I remember loading times being a big issue, but with SSD that is no longer a problem.
On the plus side: overland map is fun, finding hidden goodies and using skills is perfect. I don't think any later game had a comparable mechanic.
I'm going to finish the playthrough (probably) and write a few reports here, but so far I can't honestly recommend going back to Neverwinter Nights 2.
Last edited by Falkenstein; 2020-02-23 at 12:36 PM.