BG:EE – THAC0 and Dire Wolves

Tonight’s plans got somewhat derailed by a bunch of excitement in the G+ community, and then I had to d/l a new patch for BG:EE, so I didn’t start playing until nearly 11.

Traellan’s new friends want him to travel to some gods-forsaken place to investigate the metal shortage but before we went anywhere we had to sort out our gear. Which meant I had to dredge up ancient knowledge of D&D rules, leading to a stupidly enjoyable conversation with Angela (who used to play D&D — I never did outside of computer games) about what THAC0 stood for and whether THAC0 20 was good or bad, and if lower AC was better than a higher AC, and things of that nature. (I did get a manual but of course I haven’t read it.)

Finally we were ready to set off. We spent a bit more time exploring the area around the Friendly Arm Inn, and found a priest who charged us the unholy sum of 100 gold to identify a magical belt we’d taken off…well, someone we’d fought. (Almost spoiled the surprise!)

100 gold! Can you imagine? And I thought it was the cut-throats who were out to rob us.

Just outside the Inn we encountered a pair of hobgoblins in foul temper. I must confess I was worried but Khalid and Traellan stood shoulder to shoulder battling the creatures while Imoen filled them full of arrows. It turned out not to be much of a fight. Not like that Dire Wolf…

And then it hit me. The metal shortage could wait. I had to go take my revenge on that pesky Dire Wolf. So back we went to the area outside of Candlekeep. It took a bit of time to find that wolf but when we did, we dispatched it in relatively short order, though I has happy Jaheira had a couple of healing spells memorized.

And that was about all of our adventuring for this evening. We’d been traveling for over 16 hours, night was upon us. Jaheira needed time to remember how to cast her magics, so we decided to make camp. More adventure awaits us tomorrow!

BG:EE – The Friendly Arm Inn

Beamdog sent over a patch to the PC version of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition tonight. Unfortunately the client doesn’t give you much info, but over in the forums are some patch notes. Looks like it’s almost all bug fixes, but while I was there I noticed a warning: Intel Integrated Graphics are NOT supported in BG:EE. That’s going to be a bummer for a lot of laptop users and I hope they can find a way to make them work.

As for me, firing up the game for Day 2 was quite enjoyable now that the initial learning curve is behind me, and I am already used to the graphics. Mind you I’m still learning things but tonight was more playing and less figuring stuff out, if you know what I mean.

Our Hero, Traellan of Edgewood, and his childhood friend Imoen were en route to the Friendly Arm Inn when I realized there was a lot of unexplored area that I was leaving behind. “I always explored the whole map.” Angela noted and me, ever curious, had to concur that this made good sense.

It made good sense until we encountered a hungry Dire Wolf, anyway. Thrice the foul beast slaughtered our merry, but much too small, band. I’m still getting the knack of things. Imoen has a wand of magic missile but using it tended to draw the wolf’s attention and she’s a slight thing that can’t take much punishment (Thief – she has 8 hit points!) Even though Traellan wears the badge of a Fighter he’s still not all that tough either.

After the Gods of Reload brought our heroes back for a third time, I decided to leave exploration for later, and we pressed on, sticking to the relative safety of the roads.

Although we met a few odd individuals along the way, the trip was more or less uneventful, though Trae’s head was spinning with fatigue by the time they staggered through the gates leading to the Inn. Inside were a motley bunch of revelers and it didn’t take us long to decide that the skulking half-orc Dorn was best avoided, and that the Druid and Fighter who were old friends of Traellan’s father made for better traveling companions. With introductions made, Traellan rented Merchant’s Rooms so that he and Imoen could get some much-needed rest before setting out in the morning.

And thus ended tonight’s session.

More than this happened, but I’m trying to leave out certain surprises for now, in case others like me who haven’t played wind up reading this. I actually think I’m already farther than I’ve ever gotten in the game in the past!

Also apologies in advance for switching from “he” to “I” and back again. I do that kind of “internal role play” thing when I play a game like this, so in my mind, I am Traellan and vice versa.

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition

I have a confession to make. I never played much of Baldur’s Gate when it came because I, uh, didn’t like it very much. ~ducks the incoming volley of rotten vegetables~

Honestly it was so long ago that I don’t even remember why I didn’t like it. I just know I tried to get into it a couple times and never did. I admitted as much when I was offered a review copy of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for the PC, but the marketing person I was talking to and I thought it might be interesting to see if anything about the game can change my mind. Also I have Angela hanging around me and she adored the game when it first launched (and she’s waiting anxiously for the iPad version to release).

So the first thing you need to know is where to buy it. As far as I can tell you can only get it via Beamdog which is yet another PC digital distribution service vying for your dollars. The PC version costs $19.99. The good news is that if you don’t want another digital service client installed on your machine you can just download the game the old-fashioned way, or so I’m told. I used the client.

The game should be out on iPad later this week, and Andorid and OS X in the weeks and months to come.

So what’s Enhanced? Well the game runs full screen on modern machines, for one thing. I believe there was a patch to allow Baldur’s Gate II to do that but it was never made for the first game, at least not in a way that made things easy for casual players. They’ve added a new tutorial which stands apart from the game, and there’s now a kind of endless dungeon mode if you just want to practice your combat. There’re a few new NPC characters to potentially join your party. In the tablet versions these are DLC but they come included with the PC version. You have Rasaad yn Bashir, a calishite monk from the far south and the first Monk NPC in the game. Then there is Neera the Wild Mage, a half-elf from the High Forest. She’s the first Wild Mage NPC. Last up is Dorn Il-Khan, a half-orc Blackguard bent on revenge. Blackguard is a new ‘kit’ for the Enhanced Edition and the player can choose to go that route as well. Blackguards are apparently kind of anti-paladins.

The old 3D cut scenes are gone, replace by hand-drawn animations. There’re new portraits and a couple of new voices to round out the Enhanced Features.

I decided to run through the tutorial first. I’m going to be honest with you; even though the game is “Enhanced” it does still look dated, and it took me a while to get past that. If you don’t have at least some tolerance for ‘retro gaming’ you might struggle with this one. The tutorial is fairly long and for the most part not very exciting but it does use a bunch of NPCs you’ll be meeting up with later. You can create a custom character for the tutorial and if you save your game, you can later Import that character into the main campaign and with the character comes a bit of gear you’ll pick up while learning to play. Every little bit helps; Baldur’s Gate is one of those games that reminds us how much easier games have become over the years. I managed to die in the tutorial!

I’ve barely gotten started on the real game; I spent most of my evening running around CandleKeep doing odd jobs for people. Baldur’s Gate is a huge game and kind of slow to get going. On the other hand I found myself being bothered less and less by the dated graphics and started to really enjoy reading all the lore sprinkled throughout the game. When you right click on a shortsword to get it’s stats, you don’t just get some numbers; you get a few paragraphs about the weapon as well (you can ignore these of course).

What made it even more fun for me is Angela’s reaction to a lot of the quips from NPCs. Heck even I remembered some of them. The Innkeeper proclaims: “My hotel’s as clean as an elven arse!” and half-way through his comment she’s quoting along with him.

I took a first tiny step on what will be an epic journey if I stay with it; a journey not only though the Forgotten Realm but through the history of gaming. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition feels old, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve gained an awful lot in the gaming world in the years since the original was published, but we’ve lost some things as well. I really enjoyed the feeling of rediscovering a piece of gaming history.

I’ll see how long that feeling lasts, and I’ll try to document my travels through the game here at Dragonchasers.