Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baldur's Gate, part 4

I received an email a couple of days ago from Good Old Games, announcing that they've started offering Baldur's Gate 1 for sale, with the original game and its expansion Tales of the Sword Coast bundled together in a new pack they're calling "The Original Saga", which I think is a bit of a misnomer, since the "saga" of Gorion's ward isn't complete until BG2 and its expansion.

I already own the 4-in-1 pack, so I can't conveniently find this out for sure, but since GOG always packages their games with their own installers with all patches pre-applied, I'd expect that their version installs the game and its expansion all at once. Speaking as an owner of the disc version, I can say it's a bit of a hassle to install the game, then the expansion (on another disc), and then the last patch, and also deal with the unskippable advertisement movies the installer launches at the end of the install process on both discs. (BG2 at least makes them skippable). I would assume, given GOG's no-DRM policy, that they've also eliminated the CD check for playing it, which would be very convenient. I'm almost tempted to buy it again.

[Edit: This is confirmed. And in retrospect, it was pretty silly to think they might not have eliminated the CD check, considering there is no CD included with the digital download. Duh!]

They're not offering Baldur's Gate 2 yet, but I expect it's soon to come. If I were them, I would have released them together, because I personally wouldn't want to play BG1 without Tutu.

The price for GOG's BG1 is only slightly less than what I paid for the 4-in-1 pack, though, which means that if BG2 is at the same price, it will actually cost a little more than what I paid for the disc version, which I doubt is in danger of going out of print soon. The shipping cost balances a little of that out, however. Whether it's worth a somewhat higher cost for the installation convenience and lack of CD check is for the individual to decide, of course. I am curious about the 47 included pieces of artwork, and the soundtrack would be nice to have.

Still haven't reached the titular city

The game's called Baldur's Gate, but I still haven't gotten to the city of Baldur's Gate. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that I'm also playing other games as the mood strikes me (such as Icewind Dale, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Dungeons & Dragons Online -- and I have some blog entries in progress for some of those games too), as well as other obligations that occupy my time, but the city is barred to access until you reach a certain chapter of the game. I'm still in Chapter 3, 179 game-days in, as I methodically clear out each zone that's appropriate to my level. I'm following Dudleyville's Baldur's Gate walkthrough, just as a guide to which areas I should go to in which order.

I'm more anxious to finish it now, though, since I've just recently tried out a few minutes of gameplay from Baldur's Gate 2, and it's really astonishing how much better it is! I really like BG1 as it is, but the first few rooms of BG2 really raise the bar, with characters reacting to things in the environment, descriptive text appearing as you enter areas (much like a DM describing the area you're entering), and puzzles to figure out! I can see why people always specify that BG2 is their favourite, instead of BG1.

There are also a lot more mods available for BG2, including at least one total conversion. I haven't played it yet beyond testing to make sure it works, but Classic Adventures will certainly be getting a writeup at some point, because it looks like hours and hours of fun -- old D&D modules being made playable in the Infinity Engine.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baldur's Gate, part 3

Regarding reputation. As I mentioned in my last post, my character's heroic reputation had been increasing at an alarming rate while simply questing around the Nashkel area -- alarming only because the evil members of my party had been complaining about it more and more. When I turned in a quest near the end of my gaming session yesterday, and my reputation hit 16, Edwin delivered a warning, saying he would have to take his leave if things kept going like this.

While evil characters have the ability to improve their reputation by donating money to a temple, the vanilla game has no simple option to negatively adjust reputation aside from killing innocents. As I'm not the murderous sort, I was glad to be able to take advantage of a clever option added by the BG1 NPC Project mod. In the Friendly Arm Inn, as well as some other places in the game, there are Lake Poets who offer the service of singing slanderous songs to damage your good name, in exchange for money. I paid 500 GP to decrease my reputation by the maximum 3 points (I think it's more expensive the higher your reputation is).

Unfortunately, the poet then wanders off to go spread the slander, and doesn't return for 3 days, by which time I've already accumulated more reputation points. That, combined with the cost, made me find a different, less in-game solution. Roleplaying aside, I just didn't want to lose Edwin and Viconia, nor did I want to play an evil character, so I ended up using the Happy Patch, which prevents NPCs from leaving the party for reputation reasons.

So now Ajantis can continue singing praises for my actions and acting like I'm a fellow paladin of Helm, and Edwin and Viconia will stick around without complaints, even though I'm up to reputation 19. Now if I could just get Ajantis to stop picking on Viconia. I'm not pleased that there's no way to say something during those arguments.


When I rescued Dynaheir, I expected something to happen, since I had Edwin and Minsc both in my party. And there was indeed a conflict, but perhaps the NPC Project is to thank for not making it a disaster. I forbade Edwin from attacking her over his protests, reassured Dyna and Minsc that I wouldn't be attacking her either, and they all agreed to remain in the party, with Edwin using his "keeping an eye on her" excuse.

However, I was only rescuing her so that Minsc and Edwin wouldn't leave on their own. I thought I could safely dump her after that, not realising that she would take Minsc with her. So, as I sadly found, I had to choose between Minsc or Edwin after all.

Regardless of Dynaheir being considered the second best mage after Edwin, I just can't stand her personality, and that's as important a consideration for me as her stats or abilities. Firstly, she's lawful good, so she's as annoyingly self-righteous as Ajantis (they get along well together, though -- they seemed to be forming a mutual admiration club before I got rid of her).

Secondly, I hate her speech patterns. I hate half-arsed attempts at Elizabethan English in general, but this grates on me every time I hear her say "Thy called?" or any other time she says "thy" where she should be saying "thee" or "thou". Better yet, how about "you"? It's so bizarre, I think it had to have been intentional, because I can't imagine the writers making such an egregious mistake. If that's the case, I just can't support the stylistic choice to give her such an annoying speech pattern.

Stand easy Minsc, thy needs not be so motherly.

So that's why I've lost Minsc and Dynaheir, and have been using Kivan as a temporary 6th party member. I really hate these enforced duos. Isn't party management challenging enough already, with the alignment and personality clashes? I even tried the trick I read about of leaving her in a house, closing the door, then kicking her out, but it didn't work. I'm guessing it's because I'm using Tutu, and the trick only worked in the BG1 engine, or else it's something that NPC Project fixed while adding other party management options.

Alas, Kivan became so much of an arsehole, acting like a jerk every time he was directed to do something, and joining Ajantis in picking on Viconia, that I had to do something about it. Since I couldn't find any other decent tanks to replace Kivan, that meant picking up Minsc, and separating him from Dynaheir by any means necessary.

"Whatever thy need," she said, as I sent her naked to say hello to a group of hobgoblins.

Bad, I know, since she didn't really deserve it. It's the only real break from my character. Minsc seemed to get over it pretty quickly.


I did learn a little from Xan when I picked him up the second time, catching up to the furthest point I'd played on my first character. Despite not wanting to add him to my party, I still wanted to complete the quest and get him out of the dungeon so if I happened to need him later I could find him at the Inn. I chose to temporarily remove Imoen from the party to fit him in, but she refused to stand by long enough for me to add Xan and then send him away to the Inn, since characters won't agree to wait in their current location if it's a dungeon or other dangerous area. So she went off to the Inn, and I just had to go there myself to add her again.

I kept Xan with me for the trip, of course, since something's better than nothing, and I found some of his spells useful for dealing with the group of amazons we encountered en route to the map border (which wiped out my party the first time I tried to fight them, since they kept paralysing everyone). Xan has the Charm Person spell, which I'd never had the chance to use. I'd used Kivan and Minsc's Charm Animal abilities, which first showed its usefulness when the Xvart Village brought out their guardian cave bear. I thought it would just make the creature complacent for a while, and was pleasantly surprised to see it start fighting my enemies.

So I tried the same thing with Xan, having him cast Charm Person on one of the amazons, and sure enough, she started fighting the others. I actually tried casting it on a second amazon as well, but she apparently resisted it. This fight went much better, and even though a couple of my party members were paralysed, I finished it with no deaths.

I still got rid of him after getting back to town, though. Minsc, Viconia, Imoen, Edwin, and Ajantis are my current best party.