As a fan of high-action fantasy and space opera, I demand villains that can operate on a grand scale — that can deliver conflict and challenge appropriate to my delusions of grandeur. However, as a slave to coherence and consistency, I demand villains whose motivations and actions can plausibly produce that level of challenge and conflict.
Now, I reject the notion that dumb action and plausible characters are mutually exclusive, as Hollywood and the AAA industry often seem to think. By all means, it’s a balance that’s hard to strike, but I think there’s rarely been as glorious a failure than the monstrous, enigmatic Reapers of the Mass Effect trilogy.
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.
Mass Effect 2‘s biggest problem is its plot. I’ve been through that a million times and it gives me no pleasure (except perhaps in the reinforcement of my own belief that I’ll be Doing It RightTM when it’s my turn).
So let’s harp on about combat and mechanics again.
I have played, and spoken of the Mass Effect series many times before… But not for a while. I’ve only ever played Mass Effect 3 once (when the extended ending DLC came out, I only replayed the ending), but I can’t exactly dive straight into the final part of a trilogy, no sirree.
Baldur’s Gate was the first Infinity Engine game I played so long ago: before I knew anything of this magic they call “Dungeons & Dragons”, before I knew anything about games and engines and how they worked, before I was a rampant modder…
(Though some time after I had taken R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale Trilogy from the library, completely oblivious to its significance as a small boy. When I finally got Baldur’s Gate, and found Drizzt, I was all “trololo?”).
It’s only fitting that, almost a decade after playing the first of the Infinity Engine games, I play the last.
The legend of Planescape: Torment has dogged me for years. It is a game that is whispered of in dark corners, spoken about in hushed, reverent tones. The kind of game that somebody knows somebody who has played it, but is always lurking just out of reach.
As a fan of Baldur’s Gate, I have wanted Torment for a long time, but it never deigned to show its face in the shops. Even as a cult classic, I had never heard of it being re-released.
Minor spoilers ensue… Only minor, though. Since only about four of you will have ever set eyes on Torment, spoiling the whole plot would mean nobody at all would want to read this entry. Rest assured, I haven’t completed it yet.