Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition Twitter Commentary, Part 7
By Dwip January 17, 2013, 10:47 pm Comments (5) RSS Feed for this post

This is part 7 of my expanded Twitter commentary on Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. You can find the master list of all parts here.

If you’re just tuning in, there are spoilers below the fold. Go play the game, then come back here.

The bad part about fighting the various human adventuring parties scattered about the wilderness is that they’re almost invariably tough fights. The good part is that hold person has the tendency to be one of the most powerful spells in the game, and the loot is invariably fantastic when compared to generic hobgoblins.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the ankheg tunnels over the years, not the least because it’s a really good spot to grind xp, one 975 xp ankheg at a time, when you need that sort of thing. As with many other things in Baldur’s Gate, it’s also a pretty cool concept, and one that I’ve successfully imported to my D&D games over the years, including what was almost a TPK where ankhegs dragged a bunch of PCs down into their tunnels and ate them. Basically, if you’ve played in one of my games and got attacked by ankhegs, you have Baldur’s Gate to thank. Or curse.

You may recall the Blacklake thing from NWN2, and instead of rehashing that I’ll just outsource it to Shamus Young, but as far as Baldur’s Gate city goes, there’s not really a lot of point to closing off the city except to save the writers a bit of pain coming up with new dialogues and cutting the player off from some resources.

With that said, I’m not sure just opening up the city would be such a problem. There are a bunch of NPCs in there you could get earlier, and at a certain point it would be nice to have access to better spells and such without having to scrounge for them like you’re suddenly playing Fallout.

Mainly, though, the “bandits!” excuse they give you is pretty nonsensical, given the size and power of Baldur’s Gate and the Flaming Fist relative to a couple of mercenary groups.

Whoever was responsible for area design in the Baldur’s Gate city area threw in some pretty strange stuff, and the farm north of the bridge is no exception – it’s overrun with a horde of zombies that you have to go hunt down and kill. Kind of funny, unless you happen to miss one somewhere, and then it’s aggravating.

There’s an extremely longstanding bug with Turn Undead, in which it basically doesn’t work at all because the AI is busted, and even when you use it manually it often doesn’t work very well. That bug aside, I’ve never found it to be a very useful ability – either you make a few weak creatures you could kill anyway flee so you have to hunt them down, or it does nothing. This starts to change in BG2 when you can actually destroy undead instead of turning them (and oh look at all the vampires), but in BG1 it’s basically taking up space on your power bar.

The aboveground part of Firewine Bridge is a really cool idea – an ancient bridge over a dry riverbed. Tying it in with Gullykin was a really good idea, too, and one I wish they’d done a bit more with. Unfortunately, the whole thing is destroyed by the dungeon level. There are several things wrong, here:

– Long, narrow, twisty corridors. This is actually a legitimate idea, and could be challenging and interesting with the traps, if it wasn’t for…

– Frequent spawns of endless numbers of kobold commandos, who like to emerge out of areas you’ve just cleared and kill your mages and such pretty much instantly. As a result, you’re pretty much locked into scouting with a rogue and a fighter, while a fighter does rearguard, and even then you’re going to be killing a ludicrous amount of guys.

– You have a choice. Enter the dungeon right next to a mage and an ogre mage and get fried, or come around a corner into the mage and a bunch of winter wolves and get frozen and then fried.

Put shortly, Firewine dungeon isn’t legitimately hard, it cheats to be hard. A dungeon full of kobolds would be sort of hard if done right (see Nashkel), and a dungeon of mages would be hard if they gave you a little room (Shandalar’s dungeon). Springing them on you like Firewine does is just cheap.

Come to find out, and I really didn’t until now, outside of Baldur’s Gate city, the only place in the entire game with more than about 50 darts for sale is the smithy in Beregost, who carries something like 2,000 of them. Normally, I’m sure that would be enough, unless you’re playing a dart throwing fighter like I am, in which case you’re ultimately going to run out of them with absolutely no recourse except cheating or just going without until you can get into Baldur’s Gate and get access to multiple shops selling infinite darts.

I’m not really clear if this is just an oversight by the devs or a concious design decision. If concious, I find it fairly inexplicable given the abundance of the much more damaging arrows.

They apparently have pretty hard heads.

This is pretty annoying. When your guys run out of arrows/bolts/bullets, they’ll automatically switch to the next quiver over and keep firing at range. However, even if you load your first four quickslots with darts as a fighter, every time you go through a stack of darts (10 rounds or so), your fighter switches over to his melee weapon and banzai charges. My fighter was actually pretty good at frontlining, but that’s what I brought Kagain and Branwen to do.

It’s no secret that bows are easily some of the best, if not the absolute best weapons in Baldur’s Gate. They’re ranged, do pretty good damage, shoot multiple times per round, and the special ammos are immensely damaging. After a few levels, Kivan is pretty much an avatar of death even if you don’t play him particularly well.

The game exploits this from time to time. There are a lot of hobgoblins with bows, and normal bandits are pretty dangerous in groups, never mind kobolds and kobold commandos with fire arrows.

And then there are the Black Talon elites, who wear good armor, carry good bows, and uniformly use ice arrows. They roam in sometimes very good sized packs in Peldvale and Larswood (and a couple other spots), and are intensely lethal when encountered. Fireball is often the best choice.

This is actually one of my biggest problems with the game – bows are completely overpowered. It would be one thing if the special ammos did a couple of points of elemental damage (like the elemental melee weapons do). This would be pretty good but not broken. +2d6 acid damage is just broken.

Makes me wonder about the existance of mods that rebalance this stuff.

One of my habits in games, especially Bioware games, is that if there are sidequests to be done, I will do all of them prior to doing any main plot missions if I possibly can. In the case of Baldur’s Gate, this will keep you busy for a very long time.

I probably would have done TotSC if I could have at this point, except that both Shandalar’s dungeon and Durlag’s Tower are extremely trap heavy, and Imoen was still a level away from gaining her thief abilities back at this point. So I decided to chance the relatively few traps in the Nashkel mines while I waited.

Again, there are a lot of places in BG1 with really memorable sound design, and the Nashkel (and Cloakwood) mines are among them. The music fits really well with the drips and drops and complaints of the miners. And while the actual mystery of the mines isn’t much (look ma, kobolds!), exploring the mines offers a nice mix of challenges and rewards, plus a few minor quests. Like the later climax with Davaeorn, the fight with Mulahey is a fairly iconic moment, and it’s a real sense of accomplishment every time I beat him, especially with a low level party. Unlike a lot of other boss fights, Mulahey is pretty perfectly balanced, and gives you some very nice rewards.

The only reason this isn’t one of the best parts of the game is because the plot isn’t yet totally gripping.

One of the annoying things about the writing for Neera is that I feel like I know the lore better than the actual writers (then again, I’ve spent 20 years with it and they probably haven’t). Missing the “the” in The High Forest is a pretty bush league mistake. Also annoying are the constant references to Tenser, who’s not even an FR mage. One really gets the impression that the writers just didn’t quite get it with Neera. I haven’t played the other two, so can’t really speak to if they’re any good or not. Aside from being a good mage, I’m not entirely sure if I like Neera yet or not.

You may recall Nimbul, the assassin who gives a dismissive villain speech about how hax0rz he is before attacking you outside the inn in Nashkel. Rather unfortunately for him, he happened to do this right in front of, not only my heavily armed party, but also every single guard in Nashkel.

The end was swift.

While using fear abilities as a player mainly means chasing enemies halfway across the map, NPCs using fear abilities on you is one of the worst things you can have happen short of paralyzation magic and dire charm. At a stroke, half your party will wander aimlessly all over the map, and there’s a not inconsiderable chance in any given area of setting off traps (with nothing you can do about it), running into large spawns full of enemies, or in certain memorable instances both at the same time.

There are protection from fear spells and items. You should be using them.

When Kagain is underground, he talks about how he likes being underground, where the gold grows. Which begs the question: how exactly does gold grow, and how can I get in on that? I’d be a lot more ok with my student loans if I could grow some gold to pay them off. I’m sure the Treasury Department would like a word as well.

That said, I’m pretty sure there are no gold mines anywhere in Baldur’s Gate, unless maybe Durlag’s Tower was one.

The contrast between Shandalar’s dungeon and the Firewine dungeon is pretty striking. They’re both roughly the same layout and tileset, both of them are filled with traps and guys, and Shandalar’s guys are all very high powered spellcasters, but unlike Firewine, Shandalar’s dungeon is pretty fair about not ambushing you at every turn. Basically, infinite quickly respawning kobolds is a terrible idea.

Or maybe polar bears really do just make everything better.

Computer Games - Baldur's Gate Series, Gamecraft Comments (5) Trackback URL for this post RSS Feed for this post
Comments on Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition Twitter Commentary, Part 7
avatar Comment by Samson #1
January 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Nimbul only dies quickly if you aren’t having the glitch where all of Nashkel’s guards are stuck in a stack on top of each other. Unable to move, yet highly agitated that someone is hostile in their town.

Otherwise it’s YOU who do the quick dying thing. At least for those of us who don’t exhaust all of the side quests before going there.

avatar Comment by Dwip #2
January 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Sounds like you played about a patch or two too soon.

That said, I can usually kick his ass without too much issue unless my party is super low level.

avatar Comment by Samson #3
January 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Could well be, but how was I supposed to know that BGEE would break an encounter that worked perfectly fine in the original?

avatar Comment by Dwip #4
January 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Yeah. just commenting that the environment in which you played and the one in which I played were different in what appear to be some really key ways.

avatar Comment by Samson #5
January 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Well it’s not like gamers are unfamiliar with the concept of paying to be beta testers :P

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