The Backlog Rewalk Files: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition

“It shall be even bloodier than you hoped.” – Dorn Il-Khan

Love is a funny thing, humans.  Sometimes it feels so strong at first, only to burn out or fade over time.  But the best and truest love is the love that remains a bond; the love that, even when apart for a time, remains in your heart and can pick right back up where it left off when reunited.  (Editor’s Note: …who even are you?)  Shut up, I’m having a moment here.  I loved Baldur’s Gate.  I had always wanted to play tabletop D&D, but I lacked a very important component: friends with which to play.  So while I read as many rulebooks and companion materials as I could get my hands on and rolled character after character, I never got to take them on adventures and quests…until Baldur’s Gate.  So it was with some trepidation that I approached a fresh run through Beamdog’s Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition – could we pick up where we left off years ago?  In a word: yes.

Image result for baldur's gate EE wallpapers

First things first: I adore what Beamdog did with the visuals.  They were never going to take an isometric PC RPG from the late 90s and make it graphically spectacular.  But as you can see above, they took the approach of function over flashiness, and it absolutely worked.  The Infinity Engine was a landmark interface for the genre, and Beamdog took into account widescreen, HD monitors and incorporated interface elements that would normally have required additional user effort to access right into the main play screen.  They also smoothed out and enhanced the sprites for HD resolutions.  But the classic look and feel of Baldur’s Gate remains unchanged.  This carries through to the sound as well – hearing Imoen tell me “I’ve done had enough of this” as I instructed her to pick a lock made me smile despite the fact that I knew I was going to hear it 1,000 more times.

For those that may be unfamiliar, Baldur’s Gate operates on the now archaic-sounding Dungeons and Dragons 2.5 Edition ruleset (Editor’s Note: For comparison’s sake, you may want to mention that the modern ruleset is 5th Edition.)  What?!  What kind of masochistic non-nerd would still be reading this and not already be aware of that?!  (Editor’s Note: …fair point.)  While at first seeming overly complex and strict when compared to more modern interpretations, once you understand the system there is a tremendous amount of freedom to be had within its confines.  So many multi-class and class kit options are available that are either no longer viable or not nearly as unique and interesting as they were under the older ruleset.  So, what does an Evil Wizard, Esq. do when creating his Forgotten Realms avatar?  Well, obviously…he rolls a half-elf Fighter/Wizard/Thief multi-class.  (Editor’s Note: I…don’t know how “obvious” that is…)  Hey, sometimes I want to stab mortals, sometimes I want to set mortals on fire, sometimes I want to steal all of their things and laugh maniacally into the night…I like options.

Now we come to my favorite part of the Enhanced Edition by Beamdog…added content.  When Beamdog developed the new release, they didn’t just port the original game and it’s Tales of the Sword Coast expansion.  They wove into the game new party members and quests, incorporated characters from the sequel into the first game to add backstory, and finally, created and released Siege of Dragonspear, a totally new expansion that bridges the story gap between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II.  The new content is a masterwork – in particular the characters that were not originally present.  The original Baldur’s Gate assumed that you were going to lose party members – either to death or just utility loss – and replace them, so while it’s party members were often endearing in some ways, they were not particularly fleshed out.  Beamdog has taken the more modern approach of giving characters meaningful backstories and motivations, personal quests you can assist them with, and even possible romances with your character.  And these are not cookie cutter characters – they span the alignment gamut, with some being teeth-achingly sweet and others deliciously sadistic.  It’s tough to pick a favorite, but my party has included the half-orc blackguard Dorn Il-Khan, who gleefully gives the quote at the top of the page when asked to…do anything, really.  Even just walk to a certain point or open a door.  It’s amazing.

My time with Baldur’s Gate was taking a long overdue vacation with your best friend.  You both have been busy with work and life, but you still text and call each other.  When you finally are able to spend some time together, you still laugh at all the same things, you still finish each other’s sentences, and even when you disagree on something, it feels more of affection than argument.  My worries about the Enhanced Edition not living up to my nostalgic memories of the original were unwarranted – as soon as I got back into the game, just like spending time with an old friend, I was home again. – EWE

Advertisements

Let’s Play! – The Witcher – Ep. 1

 

Good evening, mortals!  As I said last time, my fire-haired eldest spawn has decided that I should do a series of Let’s Play streams taking us through the world of The Witcher.  To anyone that was able to join me live, thanks so much, and I’ll try to get the audio better next time.  But if you missed it, well, there’s no time like the present to get caught up!  Join me, won’t you?

Here’s a link to the original video on Twitch since I CAN’T GET WORDPRESS.COM TO EMBED THE GODDAMN VIDEO!!

I also uploaded it to my YouTube channel – and I would be ever so grateful if you followed and subscribed to either or both!  (Editor’s Note: “Grateful” here having the meaning “won’t immediately torch your village.”)  YOU’RE NOT HELPING.

That’s all for now, fleshbags!  To anyone in the US, have a safe Independence Day, but remember – if you watch or support the Orange Hobgoblin’s Nazi Dictator Military Parade, I have a meteor with your name on it. – EWE

The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity: The White March (I & II)

White March 1
Hope you like snow and ice!

Welcome back, humans!  I hope life has been treating you better than “President” and “guy you wouldn’t buy a used car off of” Trump has been treating poor people trying to flee to a better life in America.  Though I suppose given just how abysmal the treatment of them is, that’s a pretty low bar that life has to clear to treat you better.

Anyway, as you may recall, I’ve been strolling through the overgrown jungle that is my game backlog since I needed to replace my computer’s HDD and as a result lost a significant portion of my save data in many games.  I began this little journey in earnest with Pillars of Eternity, and decided I would give it a strong push through all of the expansion content – The White March Parts I & II – and then complete the game.  So how did it go?  (Editor’s Note: Some SPOILERS AHEAD for Pillars of Eternity and The White March.)

 

EWE and Editor Waterfall
Oh there was something behind the waterfall, alright…

The White March expansion was released by Obsidian in two parts, and unlike many expansion packs for RPGs, it is integrated seamlessly into the main story path of the base game.  Part I is accessible once you reach Act II of the main story, and Part II is accessible upon reaching Act III.  Your quest journal has a nice touch that keeps separate track of main quests for the base game, WM I, and WM II – though this doesn’t extend to the sidequests and “tasks” – those are all lumped together regardless of which part of the game they originate in.  Nonetheless, Obsidian deserves a TON of credit for making the new areas, NPCs, and quests feel like they were always a part of the world to begin with.  The base game itself was already one of more well-written fantasy worlds in gaming, and WM did nothing but drive that point home.  Most notably, your choice of companion characters escalated from sometimes-funny to batshit crazy hilarious!

1424AF89E34BF7B3462636249E4FE5DEF03C1097 (1920×1080)
Evil Wizard? Check. Foul-mouthed, possibly cannibalistic druid? Check. Robotic serial killer rogue? Check. Former war criminal barbarian? Check. Elderly masochistic hallucinogenic-addicted monk? Check. Um…one fairly well-adjusted hunter? Also check.

The character backstories and personal quests for the three new playable party members in WM are absolutely fantastic – some of the best, most genre-aware and yet not-total-parody fantasy character writing I’ve seen in video gaming, period.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of it – the personal quests for these three felt very short compared to the quests for the base game characters.  But as complaints go, that one doubles as a compliment – always leave your readers/players wanting more!  And it was the characters that sealed my desire to play the next game in the series – once I’ve got more time and funds.  But lets not discount the fantastic real-time-with-pause combat mechanics, either.

378952C1DB97F07D8B9A05B812D19B65B88E1B47 (1920×1080)
Yeah, that’s right – nobody screws with this crew of cutthroats.

Every class in the game is functionally useful in different combat situations – to the point that you will find yourself regularly journeying back to your fortress of Caed Nua to switch out party members for different bosses and challenges.  And boy do I mean it when I say challenges – while you can reach a point where most regular encounters won’t give you much trouble, several of the optional bosses in the game are absolutely brutal and require close attention to party positioning and skill management.  For example…

EWE and Editor Cave

D854F7D8EA3DFBBC0C076962839E6A2C0AE0E847 (1920×1080)
Editor’s Note: See, there WAS a cave behind the waterfall! HA! It never fails! Now we can just grab whatever bonus loot Obsidian tucked away in here and…
4007D01920F341A987556A3545F0EAF94D7EC10D (1920×1080)
Editor’s Note: …oh. Oh dear. (EWE’s Note: Yeah, there’s your fucking treasure, asshat!)

So after THAT little mishap, I also discovered that not all of WM takes place in a frozen wasteland – some of the quests do take you to new zones in the more temperate zones of the main game.  For example, after you take care of an archmage who had decided that lichdom sounded better than death (Editor’s Note: and who’s reanimated head you kept floating behind the party as a pet…) you end up being summoned by one of the other archmages to a meeting.  Sadly, a village full of cultists decides to get in your way and must be…dealt with…but then you can have intelligent conversation with one of your intellectual peers…

Image result for pillars of eternity bog dragons 1920x1080
OH COME ON!

So, let me share a little life advice: do not attempt to send melee fighters against a dragon.  Just…don’t.  (Editor’s Note: I said I was sorry, and you only got set on fire a few times.)  But all’s well that ends well, yes?  And here is how THEY ended:

4F51241A2D8E89CF9DF748E4410C9CC1823B7788 (1920×1080)

3ABBEDC854857201E01196DED582E44633011740 (1920×1080)

What can I say, humans…I’m very good at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.  What IS nice though is that I got to play through this gem of a game.  It is a definite love letter to games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, but with enough subtle modern improvements that it doesn’t feel dated.  If you haven’t played it yet, what are you doing?  Stop reading and go play it! – EWE

 

 

The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity

Good evening, humans!  How are…ugh, honestly, I’m too tired to care.  I’m a little…busy…at work and consequently have been too exhausted to do much of anything.  Even if you were on fire right in front of me, I couldn’t summon the effort to enjoy it (Editor’s Note: Uh, you mean to put it out) sure, whatever – regardless, no fucks to give.  So there is only one thing to do when your body is breaking down and your mind is shattering from too much stress (Editor’s Note: Rest?  Eat better?  Eat at all?) nope, spend some precious evening hours replaying the Steam backlog that got erased!  (Editor’s Note: …we’re going to die, aren’t we?)  Probably.  Though we did some focus groups on reaction to our death and the results were…less than stellar…

Let Them Die

Regardless, before total collapse, a random stab into the backlog brings us to (drumroll) Pillars of Eternity.  No, not the more recent sequel – the original Kickstarter-backed love letter to classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate.  So far the early game is as strong as I remember it, with a fairly robust character creation system that mixes together some standard fantasy tropes and classes along with some more original and alien options, such as the Godlike race and the Cypher class, which focuses on soul manipulation as explained in the background lore.  And boy – so much lore.  Obsidian did an amazing job crafting this fantasy world and leaving it for you to explore and find bits and pieces of, letting you have as deep an understanding of the background of the world as you are willing to invest effort in seeking out.

2019-04-19
Was there ever really doubt about me being a Deathtype Godlike Wizard?  Have you even been paying attention?

The early scenario for the game does a great job of introducing the classic real-time with pause party based RPG combat, although by the end of the starting dungeon, you’re going to find yourself in some need for, uh, new companions.

Not These Guys

These early hours are pretty dark too – what with your caravan party being slaughtered and you stumbling into the starting town only to be openly threatened with death by the town guardsmen basically because the Mayor is in a pissy mood.  But then again, so am I, so that leads to the big question: will I complete Act I just by setting the Mayor of Shitholetown on fire?  Tune in next time to find out, fleshbags! – EWE