Obsidian Entertainment, 2008
Obsidian Entertainment, 2008
《泽希尔风暴（Storm of Zehir）》没有前作的预算，也没有时间和人力开发。但它有一系列令人印象深刻的艺术资源（包括近 120 种独特的生物）、24 个子种族（sub-races）、15 种基础职业（base classes）、24 种进阶职业（prestige classes）和 1859 项专长（feats）——再加上十几种人物背景专长（background traits），提供给不满足于这些角色创建选项的玩家。
Where NWN 2's first expansion, Mask of the Betrayer, wriggled free of the main campaign's tiresome Sword Coast heroics to deliver a charmingly dark and offbeat fairy-tale narrative, Obsidian Entertainment's second add-on offered the chance for its designers to get genuinely creative with the series' gameplay.
Storm of Zehir wouldn't have the budget of either of its predecessors, or the development time, or the manpower. What it did have was an impressive collection of art assets (including almost 120 unique creatures), 24 sub-races, 15 base classes, 24 prestige classes and 1,859 feats – plus a dozen-odd background traits for anyone who wasn't satisfied with those character-building possibilities.
有了这么丰富的角色扮演资源，首席设计师 Tony Evans 和他的团队决定将《泽希尔》塑造成一款复古式 CRPG——能创建一整支队伍，有各种怪物，并且强调技能检定（skill checks）的轻剧情冒险。游戏将带领玩家穿越楚尔特（Chult）的神秘丛林，建立一个商业帝国，同时挫败蛇人（Yuan-Ti）的阴谋。
这个想法很不错，而且在重拾过时的 RPG 套路能够带来的乐趣方面非常有远见。遗憾的是，这份雄心遭遇了难以逾越的障碍——其游戏本身。简单来说，《无冬之夜 2》的本体不适合搭载这种 RPG。游戏加载时间长，玩法基于章节，搭配上连续不断的随机遭遇和狭小的定居点实在让人抓狂；而臭名昭著的糟糕 AI 则进一步消除了在战斗中玩出策略的一切希望。
不过有些方面也还算不错。游戏的地下城小得可怜但五脏俱全，充分利用了现有资源。楚尔特的丛林（和里面的恐龙！）充满新鲜感而饱受欢迎，而游戏最伟大的创新——基于小队的对话系统和世界地图——对后续 RPG 设计的深远影响远超游戏本身。
简而言之，《泽希尔》是游戏中的奇珍——不过它更可能吸引 mod 玩家、设计师和厂商死忠粉，而不是寻找踏实有趣的地下城探险的人。
With this hoard of role-playing resources in hand, lead designer Tony Evans and his team decided that Zehir would be a throwback CRPG; a story-light adventure with full party creation, a variety of monsters, and heavy emphasis on skill checks. It would take the player through the mysterious jungles of Chult, founding a trade empire while attempting to thwart a Yuan-Ti conspiracy.
It was a fantastic idea – and, in its efforts to re-establish the delights of unfashionably outdated RPG tropes, highly prescient. Sadly, the project's ambitions come up short against a pretty unassailable obstacle – the game itself. Simply put, NWN2 is the wrong vehicle for this kind of RPG. Its long loading times and module-based gameplay become truly agonizing when applied to a constant series of random encounters and tiny settlements, while the infamously bad AI continues to wreck all hope of creating legitimately tactical combat.
Other ideas simply feel half-baked; the merchant empire-building amounts to little more than trotting across the map collecting invisible lumber and dropping it off at various towns. The main plot itself is so lightly handled as to barely register.
There are genuine consolations, however. The game's dungeons, while often frustratingly small, make full and inventive use of its bestiary. The jungles of Chult (and their dinosaurs!) are a fresh and welcome locale. And the grandest innovations – the party-based conversation system and the world map – deserve to have real influence on RPG design long after memories of this expansion have faded.
Zehir, in short, is a real curiosity – albeit one more likely to appeal to modders, designers and Obsidian completionists than anyone looking for a solid, entertaining dungeon-crawling good time.