This game ticks all the boxes for PnP-style fantasy without the preset characters. While I do love a story involving NPCs with rich backgrounds, a la Dragon Age 2, sometimes you just want to toy around with different party configurations and try out the various settings, dialogs, random encounters, etc. I come back to this one time after time.
Storm of Zehir is a great game that suffers from a sub-par engine and mediocre presentation. It simply looks inferior to other games. But this appearance is deceptive. Other than weak graphics and a clumsy engine this game gets much right. The idea behind the world map is spot-on and points other developers to a mechanism for meaningful world exploration that other games would really benefit from. This game offers RPG fans the chance to build their own party. Nothing else out there offers this level of depth of character development. For the world map mechanisms and the party building mechanisms alone it deserves 10/10.
Despite its less than stellar story and struggling engine, Storm of Zehir is still an easy recommendation for the right RPG gamer. In many ways it is a more strategic game than the previous titles, just as Icewind Dale was to Baldur's Gate. [February 2009, p.57]
Those who have always looked at the Neverwinter Nights series as a glorious toy they can tear apart and reconstruct into their own D&D fantasies are going to be very happy with what comes in this installment. If you've come to uncover the mystery of the "Storm of Zehir," you might want to stay indoors until the shower passes.
While not entirely successful, this tried to mix the storytelling of the first NWN2 game with the munchkinsm and hack-and-slash of the gold box games. I like custom create-your-own-party games, but these games have never achieved the storytelling ability of the more restrictive games (like NWN2). The 4+2 (4 PC + 2NPC) party size of the gold box series is better (Storm of Zehir is 4+1, 4+2 with leadership feat; it should be 4+2 / 4+4). Most of the better PnP adventuring party sizes are 5-8, and 6 is just right (4-12 are the playable boundaries). Maybe a 4+2+2 (4 player-created PCs, 2 long-term / full-control NPCs, 2 short-term / limited control NPCs) would be better with the leadership feat doubling the NPC allowances (4+4+4). Golden Sun and Final Fantasy V are probably the closest - you don't create all the PCs but you have heavy control on their development and their pre-existing levels aren't too much of a burden. Just thinking about it, Temple of Elemental Evil is a 5+3 game (5 player-created PCs, 3 NPCs) and its storyline isn't that bad, though still nothing intimate with the PCs in terms of background and personality. Golden Sun is still the best in hybridization of hardcore story and player customization. I still really like having 2-4 of my own characters though but don't need 5-6 unless its multiplayer (double PC allowance to 4-8 with multiplayer).
Storm of Zehir tries a lot of new things and for that reason it should be commended. The travelling, the improved skill checks, the ability to create your own party are all good things. Sadly, the plot is a bit lacking and we never quite get to experience this STORM of Zehir. It's there, you fight it and then it's over. Lackluster to say the least, but technically SoZ is a fine experiment that I would have loved to see more of. Also: the final dungeon is amazing.
This game is what NWN2 should have been. Gone are the game breaking bugs, the ridiculously complicated crafting system, the horribly imbalanced melee weapons, the dozens of companions you have to micromanage. Basically they've either streamlined or taken out almost everything that made the game tedious or unfun.
You now create your party at the start of the game, and those are your guys for the rest of the game, you tailor them to play however you want. You can pick up cohorts but they're not essential to the plot and they don't level up unless they're in the party, so you no longer have 12 guys you have to micromanage every time you get a new level. The combat system is much better, entering an area you're usually attacked right away so you have to actually make strategic decisions about what spells to cast in the short time you have before the enemy is on you. It's no longer a question of just buff yourself up for 5 minutes and then run around with your +8 sword chopping everything to pieces, you know what enemies you're facing and it's up to you to work out the best strategy to beat them.
The overland map system is really fun, and actually makes all those rogue skills, which were virtually useuless in the main campaign, have a use now.
Having said that, it's not all great. The plot is pretty non existent (although for me, 99% of video game plots are a total bore so I wasn't so bothered by that, better to have a token minimal plot that a massive but horrible one). There's also a very clear best way to build your party, and if you don't have prior knowledge of the overland map system you'll almost certainly find yourself re-rolling after the first couple of hours if you happened to build your party wrong.
That said, if you take a half an hour to read up on the overland map system and maybe a party creation guide before jumping in, you'll almost certainly be able to make the party you want and have a whale of a time.
One thing I really liked about this is the new dialogue system; all four of your guys now participate in the chat, and different dialogue options are available to different types of characters. Your wise character can interject with nuggets of wisdom, your charismatic characters can flirt with the NPCs or flatter them, your evil characters can throw around insults. This all helps you build up the rich personalities of the party you created and you genuinely become attached to your guys in a way the annoying companions in the original campaign couldn't have hoped to achieve. They're YOUR guys that YOU made and their personality is a combination of all their skills, stats, race and alignment.
The idea is semi-okay, well, good, in fact: it tries to emulate a real P&P D&D experience with your party going all over the map, creating its own story. There are very good designs in this expansion such as skill checks, looting and etc.
Unfortunately the execution is total The overland map just loads so slowly that it becomes very annoying to fight any kind of enemies. The economics of this game is also totally broken.
SummaryTravel the Sword Coast and Samarach using the open-ended exploration of the new Overland Map. Use skills like Spot and Survival while on the Overland Map to avoid ambushes and even find hidden locales and lost artifacts. Create your own full party of adventurers. Devastate your foes with a squad of fireball-flinging Sorcerers, form a sol...