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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    cool 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.

    Human Barbarian
    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.

    Human Rogue/Swashbuckler
    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.

    Feytouched Hexblade
    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.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    Default Re: Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years

    Quote Originally Posted by Falkenstein View Post
    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.
    That seems a little unfair, given that (as you mentioned yourself) Storm of Zehir was widely disliked (with good reason). Mask of the Betrayer and Mysteries of Westgate still hold up fine, at least for me. The original campaign...not so much.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years

    Quote Originally Posted by MinimanMidget View Post
    That seems a little unfair, given that (as you mentioned yourself) Storm of Zehir was widely disliked (with good reason). Mask of the Betrayer and Mysteries of Westgate still hold up fine, at least for me. The original campaign...not so much.
    On one hand I agree - Mask of the Betrayer in particular has the most interesting story I've ever seen in a video game or a movie (books are still better in that area). On the other I'm afraid MotB and MoW will both suffer from the same stuff I mentioned above - poor AI and unpolished engine. Even given that, though, they are definitely worth playing for those who haven't encountered them all the years ago.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years

    Let me share a brief report of the first part:

    The first big fight - on a beach against a big group of Battiri - went surprisingly well. They mostly died in just a few hits by my characters, also Sleep from my Wizard kept most of them out of action. A similar trend followed with all consequential fights on the overland map and in the dungeons. Only one fight proved to be a real challenge: jungle ruins filled with spiders and Yuan-Ti Holy Guardians. These guys enter the battle with various buffs (huge concealment, haste, damage reduction) and essentially rain critical hits down on my party. Even with the OP combination I'm using this fight proved to be hell, and that was at level 9. I managed to take down one, but that left most of my chars down on half or less HP. I left to rest and returned with +1 Enchantment on all melee weapons and Wizard armed with dispels. That made the fight much easier, as hitting every Holy Guardian with two Dispel Magic took away most of their buffs, leaving them an easy target. Also keeping my party hasted was crucial.

    With the ruins cleared out everything else in Samarach was very easy to deal with. I just managed to enter the Sword Coast and I'm going to do an important quest that involves me killing two Black Dragons, but will give me access to a merchant with all kinds of equipment including Adamantine and Mithral. It will probably be tough, but likely not half as much as the Yuan-Ti.

    As for the party: they all are very useful, but surprisingly the highest damage output is coming from my Arcane Archer. She has Weapon Specialization in Longbow and I found a +1d6 Cold damage Longbow in a store, which upped her damage output quite a bit. As some of my characters should grow into their full potential by mid-game levels (11 through 15), it is likely that soon my party will be near unstoppable and I'll have to increase the difficulty even higher - maybe to 800% enemy HP.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years

    Just in case somebody's interested: further progress report. Simply put: the might-based party is insane. Even though I upped enemy HP to 800%, they still melt under my attacks. I also went straight for +2 weapon and +3 AC enchantments and killed the Black Dragons, which has essentially given me access to +2 Adamantine weapons and +3 AC on all items (still in progress, though). With SoZ's access to almost unlimited gold via trading and enchantments that can give you elemental damage on your weapons, and make your weapons Keen or Holy, the fights are getting to be a breeze. I'm level 14 currently and now randomly adventuring around Sword Coast, getting experience and doing the merchant quests - preparing the party for the much tougher fights back in Samarach.

    All things considered: for being a low magic world, SoZ still lets you abuse crafting system quite a lot and cheaply - giving enchantments to items only costs gold. Crafting wondrous items still requires creature parts and gems, but is not really a must anyway. While there is the option to get +3 weapons and +4 AC, it is locked behind an extremely tedious quest which is not really worth doing. On the other hand +2 weapons and +3 AC recipes are available quite easily. Imagine you use +3 AC on a character's Armor (Armor AC), Boots (Dodge AC), Necklace (Natural AC), Ring (Deflection AC) and possibly Shield (Shield AC). This grants you total +12 AC or +15 with Shield. That alone is quite OP - now couple that with the fact that all of my characters will be able to get between 8 and 10 AC from base Armor + Dexterity combination. That already puts most characters to around 30 AC, which is quite a large amount for a low magic campaign. As weird as it sounds, the Wizard will be the one with highest AC, as her Int bonus is added to AC through Bladesinger (up to Bladesinger level). Such a huge optimization seems like a huge overkill, but you must consider how horribly unbalanced SoZ is - this party will tear apart most common enemies, but against boss fights it will probably still struggle.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    huttj509's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Re: Revisiting Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir after 10 years

    Inspired by you I also decided to revisit SoZ....and ran face first into a bug.

    Spoilers for West Harbor quest chain, if anyone cares.

    Spoiler
    Show
    I went to WH, went to the Dragon Caves, left without finding the wizard, killed the dragon, freed the wizard, went back to WH.

    At this point I decided to enter my trading post to be closer to Quirrel...I think this was a mistake. Found myself trapped inside WH. Quirrel won't talk to me, town gates are closed, and nobody else is there.

    I *suspect* there's some sort of "hey the wizard's back" sequence that moved everyone to the normal entrance or something...and I skipped past that with entering via the trading post.


    At least my prior save was at the hoard, so not much fighting to do on my way out.

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