Working on an expansion for a successful game is a pain in the butt in my opinion. If the game didn’t had too many problems, fans will know right of the bat that the add-on is being released just to make more money, usually including the content that didn’t make it in the original version of the game. If you have some more pressing problems to fix, you’re in a world of hurt: on one hand, if you resume to mainly bug fixing, improving the interface and such, fans will cry out “Where’s the new content?”; on the other hand, even if you want to do both (bug fixing plus new content), you have a pretty limited budget available, because, well, it’s an expansion, not a sequel.
As if the above weren’t enough, there’s also the game’s genre to take consider. If it’s a shooter or a strategy game, you’re covered. A few new weapons and units, a dozen extra missions or so, maybe a few improvements to the graphics and multiplayer if you’re feeling generous and you’re done. However, if it’s an RPG, one that emphasizes “role playing” at that, well… what’s life without a few tiny challenges?
For Mask of the Betrayer, things were even more complicated than that. Just like its predecessor, the original Neverwinter Nights 2 campaign wasn’t that really appreciated. It wasn’t flat out bad mind you, but certain elements, like the gruesome boredom from Act I, made novices and veterans alike to quit the game before finishing it. Funny thing is that because of this, the expectations for MotB were pretty high, since the expansions for the first Neverwinter Nights were appreciated for their improved single-player storyline.
To come out on top, Obsidian Entertainment made some interesting decisions. First off, the story of MotB can be understood even by those who haven’t finished Neverwinter Nights 2. The hero is the same from the storytelling point of view, and there will be references to the events, locations and characters from NWN2, but nothing that can’t easily be put into context even by those who haven’t finished the original campaign. You will however need NWN2 to play MotB.
Secondly, the designers have put a lot more emphasis on the decisions that you will make during the game and their consequences, which will greatly influence your companions, as well as the final outcome of the game. Speaking of which, there are four possible endings: one good (considered optimal by Obsidian), two neutral and one evil (which is very cool by the way). Barring the increased replay value that these endings offer (because you can’t see all four just by making one choice at the end of the game), they are also a lot more satisfying than the ones in NWN2, so fans will be pleased in this regard.
Thirdly, Obsidian bravely decided that some “old fashion” storytelling was in order, meaning that in MotB you’ll get to see elaborate descriptions, depicting emotions, locations and events, sometimes backed up by a narrator (Rodger Bumpass), whose voice is a lot better than the one from NWN2 (the in-game identity of the narrator, which you’ll discover at the end of your adventure, is also one of the more pleasant surprises from MotB). In this regard, Planescape: Torment fans will feel right at home, reading the intriguing passages that depict the character’s actions and feelings, among other things, while newcomers will probably just skip them (their loss). And even though the amount of text is nowhere near as large as that of PS:T, the quality is right up there with the big boys, with even the most insignificant ally having at least one or two interesting things to say.
WARNING! The following page contains elements which can be considered spoilers. If you wish to discover them for yourself, jump directly to page 3.