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NWN2 - Tears of Ilmarid 2 - The Blood War Mod Review

Discussion in 'Mod Reviews' started by chevalier, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Tears of Ilmarid 2 - The Blood War, v 1.0.1
    Creator: Hohiro Kurita
    Type: Save the princess
    Creator's description: The Blood War is the second module in the 'Tears of Ilmarid' campaign. It is designed to be a continuation of the first chapter, which would have left you with a character around level 12-13.
    Requires: NWN2 MotB
    Download location: Link
    Review first posted June 8, 2009

    Quick Characterisation

    Long live King James! Down with the Reds! (Screenshot: The Reds)

    Background

    You begin your adventure in the OOC (out of character) Nexus. It's been a long time. Your noble warrior who made a living for a long while working as a mercenary on an island full of smugglers can return to combat. Let's dust the armour and we're ready.

    The author's cameo welcomes you at the doorstep of Chapter 2 and offers you a recap of Chapter 1 (Screenshot: Recap). The lovely, lovely Part 1. Now you know that the evil archmage Kriev is fighting over the control of your head with the dear Princess Evalyn, your rightful sovereign and of late, your dear companion (Screenshot: Where am I?, Screenshot: In your brain). As your remove his nodes one by one to force him out of your head (Screenshot: Nodes), you see how the princess prevails over the villain and ultimately he has lost.

    This is an awfully taxing experience and you wake up several days afterward and you learn that the princess only got up two days before you herself (Screenshot: It's good to see you, lad, Screenshot: She woke up two days ago). Your sight brings much joy to her face, but alas, it has been decided that you two will travel together no more, at least for the time being (Screenshot: I'm so glad to see you up and moving!, Screenshot: It's decided). Your task is to rendezvous with the good archmage Annias and do tasks for him (Screenshot: What do you want me to do today?).

    Atmosphere and Drama

    Atmosphere is the core asset of this module and the adventure is truly dramatic. I was truly moved when I learnt of the princess's passing out of exhaustion after the fight for the control of my character's mind. I was no less moved when I witnessed the authenticity of the welcome she gave him. So good to see you, much work yet afore us, no need to say much more since no words can convey the bond which formed in the short time travelling together in which you saved her life but she gave you yours back by pulling you out of the den in which you, once an imperial commander, were hiring yourself out as a sellsword.

    As in any rebellion in the name of the rightful monarch and against an established usurper, there are the forces that be and the needs of big politics and associated decisionmaking. The head local noble doesn't quite feel the wide-spread need to spring to attention at your sight (Screenshot: All's well here, my Lord). In his mind, this is his rebellion, just as in your mind, it's yours (Screenshot: The rebellion). It's readily apparent the princess isn't deciding according to her own wishes but according to the needs and the compromises she needs to make (Screenshot: No time for talk). The decisions don't appear to be hers if you look at it for a moment (Screenshot: Frowning), but you're still convinced that she's keeping the big picture under control and not playing the nobility's game. Still, you feel the pain of separation which is not going to depart from you until the end of the module.

    What is worse, there's just a slight hint that the princess might be just slightly falling out of touch with you (Screenshot: Distance? Or am I paranoid?), her most trusted friend and servant. What's even worse, the same can be felt on your side of things, as much as you don't want to admit it. Such it is with rulers and their champions. If you associate closely with those who carry the burden of rule, you witness this remarkable lack of choice they sometimes have in matters which concern them directly, as well as their friends. But you have to carry on for the rebellion needs to work out. I shall tell you no more at this point except that she does still care, as she will amply show.

    Character Cast - More Drama

    Besides the player character and the princess, there are several more of note, including Annias the court wizard, Ishmael the half-celestial friend of yours, Loranae the new companion and another new companion whom I won't name to avoid spoiling too much. Annias is as ready to send you on FedEx quests as he was to cast spells wherever you clicked in Part 1. He appears rather distant and this new flavour of interaction with him is rather disillusioning. On the other hand, you didn't expect a returning court wizard not to order you around, did you? In the end, it's all just you because he actually still cares (Screenshot: Houston, we have a problem). Even Lord Hanvid does (Screenshot: He paid the tab, after all). And the princess does so much more, but I won't spoil the fun for you (you won't get a screenshot, either).

    Of the remaining ones, Loranae is at least as well-cast as any character in the official games so far and this can be said even on the basis of as little exposure as the module's duration allows (Screenshot: So how did you end up in the Guild?). Your acquaintance with her starts in a classic device in which you find her in a rather vulnerable position, promptly save her life (with skilled assistance from herself) and then she gets to blush. Knowing the land around you, she takes over the exploration (Screenshot: Where shall we go next?). In combat, she's a competent knife-fighter, as you would expect from a rogue and a bit beyond (you'd wonder where an eighteenish rogue girl that wields Finessed daggers developed 15 STR, but hey... Screenshot: Take the bards down). Her apperance also introduces some dramatic tension, challenging any resolutions you may have made with regard to the princess. She is actually not the only one to do that, at least if you look at character plots from the point of view of some experience with the genre (Screenshot: We'll speak about my father).

    The other guy, whom I won't name (Screenshot: Explain later), is a more than competent swordsman, which precisely describes the kind of fighter he is (Screenshot: Fighter). Longsword all the way and a bit more. And no, he isn't a knight in shining armour type, even though his father was, "two steps down from the Emperor." A good fellow, even though he's currently making amends for past misdeeds. With all your heart you wish for him to be successful in redeeming himself. He will prove nice to keep around.

    I won't tell you more about your enigmatic friend Ishmael. After all, you need to play on your own. But what you can be sure of is that he will have his vaderesque entry, no doubt (no screenshot either). Last but not least, it is not only the characters themselves or the background which creates the unique dramatic feel of this campaign - including the module at hand - but the whole adventure constantly keeps it up (Screenshot: The misdeeds of the High King) in no small part due to the excellent storytelling. The somewhat rushed ending, which jumped from having only just arrived in the backyard of the empire to having an army capable of marching on the capital, did not put a large enough dent in it. Overall, this dramatic cast was what kept me looking forward to Part 2 and what is now making me look forward to Part 3.

    Content - in a Wide Sense

    One of the things that must be mentioned about the content is its brevity, alas. The module is very short compared to Part 1 and when I finished playing, it almost appeared to me to have been a teaser. The whole module is about the size of a class quest in Baldur's Gate 2. In fact, not much even appears in your journal. This is in contrast with Part 1, in which I feel there was much more to do, even though both modules have the same stated playing time of 4 hours. What you get to play is looks good, is well executed and there's only one scripting error that makes you reload but doesn't kill the atmosphere. The language is good with only minor issues that don't take away from the fun at all. I would say the polish is very good and above respectable, which is great because it would be a shame for such a good dramatic module to be rough on the edges. Well done indeed.

    I won't be mentioning area design separately, but I need to say I enjoyed what I saw. It was both solid and pretty. I really liked the look and feel of the townlets (Screenshot: Pretty provincial town, Screenshot: A night view) and wilderness areas (Screenshot: Forest area, Screenshot: The wastes at night, Screenshot: Old ruins), as well as the feeling of the more mystical locations (Screenshot: Stairs), although admittedly the shortage of things to do was a pain. There was nearly no freedom of exploration and even less meaningful choice, but that's not something I wept for in overall terms because the story was good and so was the story-telling. In a more paricular perspective, however, the urban locations other than the starting town of Baerdan could have used some more stuffing, the FedEx quests could have used some livening up (small combat before the third one was a good step in the right direction) and similarly the dungeons could have used more variety. Speaking of dungeons, one of them brought to my mind a pleasant association with the old convention of two paths. Namely, the left one was full of traps but no enemies, while the right one was well-staffed but lacked any traps whatsoever. The path of the rogue, or the path of the fighter. I did both and got all the XP, however.

    Also, while battles were rewarding overall (Screenshot: Rewarding indeed) and they were probably made unforgiving largely by conscious design (Screenshot: Just barely scratched), I'd have been happier with a bit more variety in place of monster HP reserve or damage output, as well as some adjustments in scaling. For example, in the beginning, Kriev's footholds were more challenging than their low rating suggested, while close to the end of the game, when I saw at least five Challenging foes blocking my way with tower shields, I thought how was I ever going to get past that? And my party of three mowed them like a field of maize. Some of the other fights were simply too trying, considering the difficulty relied too heavily on a simple exchange of damage with Knockdown added on top (too many enemies had this ability, although the author did give a fair warning). However, it must be pointed out the combat was better scaled per average than in official releases.

    Another thing which falls under content and relates immediately to the above discussed combat is items. The module deserves commendation for its quest rewards and the companions' equipment. Useful, unique, powerful but not overpowered, just enough and not too many. I've hardly ever seen it done better than here. Additionally, the way in which you receive your rewards makes this all the more remarkable since how often does someone put a ring in your hand instead of just placing it in your inventory? Or carefully unwrap another item for you? And you get to find a holy avenger right before the final battle, which, not hard to guess, pits you against a very evil opponent. I sorely regretted not having the appropriate proficiency, but at least I have a reason to try something non-standard for the level 18 feat slot in Part 3. Things like this are a strength of this module and one that perhaps goes unnoticed. Other designers could certainly learn much from Hohiro Kurita here.

    Final Thoughts

    I can swing my sword in the name of my bonnie princess and I can take the battle to the damn reds (Screenshot: Another brand of the Reds, (Screenshot: What? The Reds aren't evil?). What more would I want? Chiefly, more content, more and more varied combat, more opportunity to wave the standard of rebellion. At the beginning of the module, I had only just arrived with the princess in a northern town on the outskirts of the empire, where a small gathering of rebels was ready. A moment later, sympathisers were gathering upon hearing of the princess's return. And just after my coming back from a trip divided approximately in half between FedEx quests and combat-involving fetching quests, a large army would march on the capital to provide distraction for whatever I would be doing on my covert ops assignment. I can only wish the author had more time to develop some aspects further as he had originally wanted. As for what I did not lack, I've said it all: the excellent atmosphere, the drama, the convincing character cast, the congruity of the module, the well-done pre-release testing, they were all there and they were of the highest quality. They make the module stand out and be unique.

    Rating this module is hard. On the one hand, it feels very short. On the other hand, it's very well done. On the one hand, it has great storytelling, drama and character chast, on the other hand, much of the ending isn't very convincing. On the one hand, locations are pretty, on the other hand there was little to do in most of them and many felt understaffed. All in all, the good things do prevail over the bad things and the rating I give is 8 out of 10. I had a lot of fun playing and I give it a hearty recommendation. I am looking forward to Part 3.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2009
  2. olimikrig

    olimikrig Cavalier of War Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Nice review chev, really enjoyed this module, so thanks for pointing me towards it :).

    I had a couple of 'game breaking' bugs, however. First I was stuck after destroying the third tome. Ishmael wouldn't spawn so I couldn't progress any further. A little googling provided me with the solution, though: open the console and type the following:

    DebugMode 1
    RunScript ga_scripthidden(th_ishmael, 0)
    DebugMode 0

    And Ishmael should appear in the Town Hall.

    Second bug was at the very end. Ishmael wouldn't initiate the final conversation, and typing the two commands the author recommends was fruitless (ga_start_convo(bw_ishmael, end_convo) OR ga_conversation_self(end_conv)). In the end I managed by just making a quick save and then loading said save. The conversation executed and I was taken to the nexus :).
     
  3. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Thanks! That means much to me as you've been into the mod reviews from the beginning of the "project".

    As for the scripting bug related to the third tome, I didn't encounter that one. In turn, I remember the door closing right in the middle (literally) of combat after reload in the inn in the second city. I wonder what gives. I suppose many of those bugs might be some things working in non-obvious or not exactly intended ways as it sometimes happens with programming languages.

    Good to hear you enjoyed it. Have you played Part 1 too? IMHO much better than Part 2. I might actually replay it just to review it. I remember I was emotionally moved by the story at some points. It really struck a chord with me.
     
  4. olimikrig

    olimikrig Cavalier of War Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Yeap played part one as well, which was awesome too :),
     

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