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23 November 2016 @ 11:56 am
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn Final Thoughts  
That was a wild ride. And in some ways, I don't have much to say because I said it all already.

Baldur's Gate II hasn't unseated Morrowind as my favorite game, but it came really close. Morrowind has its mythological exploration and interesting cultures, and Baldur's Gate II has the relationships between the PC and the other party members. This is where Bioware romances started, and while they were pretty basic in their original forms, with only four romanceable NPCs and only one for a female PC, the basic structure allowed a thousand mods to bloom. Some of them good, like Xan, some of them...less so.

I wish I had written down my time through Baldur's Gate as well, because that really would have provided a complete experience. That full zero-to-hero arc is part of what makes Baldur's Gate I and II so amazing to me. In the very beginning, 250 hours of gameplay ago  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif, Chiyo was a sheltered orphan in Candlekeep and nearly died when an assassin set upon her in the stables of her home. Years later, she fought off a powerful elven wizard in hell for custody of her soul, and this isn't even the end of her story. The Throne of Bhaal awaits. Eventually. I'm not diving into that quite yet.

In the end, I was mostly happy with my list of mods except for Sword Coast Stratagems. I had it set so that pre-buffing was only on NPCs that the designers thought would reasonably have buffed before engaging the PCs, but that was much more extensive than I would have expected. And there were egregious moments, like stripping all the party's buffs between phases in the final battle but still allowing Irenicus to autobuff. If I could go back, I'd keep the spell AI but turn off almost everything else, including the harder battles. Those are obviously designed for someone willing to use a lot of the exploits that I turned off, like allowing simulacrums and projected images to use quickslot items, or keeping Vhailor's Helm--which I modded out of the game--on the PC and then using simulacrum/time stop cheese to do a ton of damage to enemies during time stops. I said in my original post that I'm in favor of difficulty-increasing mods as long as it doesn't mean the AI cheats, and it fell down too much on the AI cheating for my taste. It was just annoying, reducing every battle to wizards stripping buffs from each other, as I mentioned in probably a dozen posts.

The stand-out mods for me were the banter pack, which increases the number of inter-party banters, and the Xan romance mod. I took so long in Chapters 2 and 3 that almost all of the non-Imoen banters were exhausted during the time, but without the banter mod I probably would have run out of banter in the first ten hours or so. And Xan's romance... Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif It's cheesy in places, but I installed it as a parody of softlykarou and my relationship, with Chiyo as the eternally-chipper half and Xan as the doom and gloom half. I totally forgot the vampire dreams, which add a lot of context to Xan's eternal gloominess. It was mostly a well-written displace of understated emotion, with Xan's love coming out in little gestures unless Chiyo was under threat. The most memory part was probably when Chiyo picked a fight with a red dragon and Xan rushed over to her afterward.

If I could change anything, I'd go back and add more dialogue to the earlier sections. When I first started I would take notes while I played and do the write-ups later, so I had the gist of what was said rather than the specifics. Later on I would write the posts while I played, so I spent a lot of time transcribing dialogue. Some of that is because I was more interested in transcribing the text of plot-important dialogue rather than all the quests I was on, but part of it was wanting to more accurately preserve the experience. I might go back at some point and edit some earlier posts with the exact dialogue for more of the banter, since that's the best part.

The end of the game jumped right into Throne of Bhaal, but I'm not going to. I've been playing this game on and off for a year and a half, and the original reason I started, other than never having beaten it before, is I wanted to play the original before I played all the kickstarted isometric RPGs that were inspired by the old Infinity Engine games. And now I've done that, and I can go play Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity with a clean conscience. Probably Wasteland II first. I need a break from fantasy worlds.

Forgotten Realms as a setting seems almost overwhelming, but Baldur's Gate II presents it in a very digestible format. It really dials into the world, with the extended period in a drow city, the random githyanki that show up wanting their silver sword, the society of the elves and their gods, and Irenicus's plan.

Now I can see why Irenicus is so well-loved as a villain. Some of it is David Warner's voice acting, spoiled extensively here, but some of it is that I have a soft spot for "become a god" plots. Also, it's the way that he plans ahead. Insinuating Yoshimo into the party--when I first played the game, I took Yoshimo willingly and I would have been caught completely be surprise by his betrayal--setting up Spellhold as a trap, making common cause with the drow, starting the guild war in Athkatla...while it seems that he's distant and not paying attention for much of the game, in retrospect it's obvious that all the major plots that aren't quests to go get money, like the aforementioned quest to deal with a dragon, are the results of his plots. There are so many RPGs where the villain doesn't seem to be doing much during the game, or where the "true villain" suddenly reveals itself at the end despite never previously showing up at all *cough*FFIV*cough* that seeing one where he's so well-integrated is a joy. And most of the time, when he talked, I wouldn't skip past his dialogue because I wanted to hear the voice acting.

What a fantastic game. It took me almost 150 hours, but it was time well spent and I'm looking forward to Throne of Bhaal...eventually.
 
 
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
Current Music: Sole Signal - Illusionary (Another World of Beasts)