I’ve been playing proper Dungeons & Dragons for more than six months now, in a staggering display of a-regular-group-of-adults-actually-happening-regularly (albeit through the magic of the internet). While we’re playing the latest edition (5th), the familiar bestiary summons constant reminders of my first foray into that world — the classic computerised 2nd edition adventures that are Baldur’s Gate and its sequel.
(Actually, my very first foray was accidentally getting a Drizzt book out of the library; I just thought it was a generic fantasy adventure novel, I didn’t know any better. When I got Baldur’sGate and made the connection I was like “huh???”)
Thus I chose to eschew the most productive time of the year to play somebody else’s video games, and spent the post-crimbo haze burning through the Baldur’s Gate saga. (Though to be fair, as I’m pretty much note-for-note rebuilding the Infinity Engine dialogue system for Exon, it most definitely counted as research.)
Playing the two games back-to-back, I was struck by one major contrast between them: the respective presence and then utter absence of “wilderness” areas.
I like equipment in games. There’s a thrill to finding a new, better sword, that looks cooler and does more damage. But it seems to me that more and more games are somehow getting equipment… wrong. Everything seems to have less value, everything seems more disposable. There’s no thrill anymore, just a treadmill of incremental but almost invisible advances.
I had been waiting so long for this. Finally achieving Planescape: Torment a while back gave me the insatiable urge to revisit all things Infinity Engine, but I was somewhat hampered by… oh, sundry concerns like the last exams ever, nothing important.
As I mentioned before, Baldur’s Gate‘s expansion pack was to be my own little leaving present. With all the trifling concerns out of the way, I started playing it.
I was going to begin by saying that I don’t remember Baldur’s Gate being this short; then I realised that over a single day of solid playing I crammed in about ten hours’ worth of time… Repeat this for about four days. Compared to the ‘half hour a day’ that would have been in effect when I first got the game, which would have cause it to take a considerable length of time to finish… Then again, on my first playthrough I managed to take up about 365 days of in-game time too.
This time I was a little bit more savvy, and my party micromanagement skills were somewhat improved (though still pretty sloppy). It only took half a year to comb most of the landscape, bringing all party members up to the expansion-improved experience cap of 161000.