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Jason_the_Iguana: Well, from a commercial and popular perspective it seems to me Bioware's (and Black Isle's) choices made a lot of sense. These games were very popular and successful and Bioware is -still- making real-time-with-pause games as half their business model. Obsidian Entertainment kickstarted a couple million worth of fans' money who wanted more Baldur's Gate 2. So while a turn based system would have avoided the odd bit of clunky weirdness like you describe, "alienating turn-based fans" seems to have been the least of their problems.
Fair enough; like I said, that's more attributable to my personal preferences with RPGs for reasons that I'm not sure would be relevant to the thread.

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Jason_the_Iguana: Like I said. I like turn-based games. I'm interested to see what the Numenera Torment game will do with turn-based instead of real-time-with-pause combat. (As close as you're likely to come to being able to pay good money to see someone redo an Infinity game in turn-based mode.) But I'm also looking forward to seeing what Pillars of Eternity will do with BG style combat. Real-time-with-pause is fun to a lot of people, me included.

It honestly seems to me that your main issue with these games is that you don't enjoy the type of gameplay they're trying to offer. Particularly in the case of the older infinity games, if you don't enjoy the combat there's not enough left in terms of story to make for a good game, and the writing is somewhat rough at times, so no wonder you don't like them. But that doesn't make them as flawed or bad as you've made them out to be in this thread. For every poorly-written fed-ex quest there is a well-written and clever sub-quest. For every weird glitch in the combat system there's three challenging set-piece battles against strange and wondrous foes. The size, scope and variety offered by a game like BG2 is rivalled by few modern titles. In the end, for all their rough edges, these games have a great blend of high-fantasy gameplay and story to offer that keeps fans coming back for more after all these years. In my book, that makes them a success.
I might not be wild about the underlying gameplay style, but I could forgive it and get enjoyment out of the game otherwise if the game did well in what it set out to do; a gameplay style might not be up my particular alley, but I can still appreciate how it works in what it set out to do, as I have mentioned (albeit in a somewhat different context). The problem is that IE sets out to be a pseudo-realtime combat engine, but it is riddled with things that get in the way of that goal. The underlying pathfinding isn't very conducive to a lot of characters moving around at the same time or in the frequent tight areas (even with the nodes at the max), the first BG's choice to unpause in the inventory is bafflingly awful gameplay design that results in either not using a lot of the potions the player finds or forcing them to metagame to have them prepared, and the lack of any grid or other distance notations means that you have to guess if you need to move to attack from range (or for that matter whether you are able to aim through a doorway) or what your attack will wind up hurting (which can and will at times result in the squishy mage wandering into death's jaws), just to name a few.

Things get even worse when the games try to be about story. PST was the exception by delivering a moving plot that touched on the mutability of human nature, the nature good, evil, and belief in general, true love, sports, mawwiage, and many other things while having characters with interesting arcs and deconstructing some of the more sigh-worthy aspects of bog standard D&D; sure it still used the same awful combat engine, but the combat wasn't as omnipresent as it was in other IE games, and the near total lack of tight areas meant a minimum of pathfinding smegups. BG, on the other hand (1) delivered a plot that was broken on a technical level, (2) was host to a variety of non-characters who received no development or characterization beyond lame catch-phrases, and (3) kept devaluing the story it was supposed to be about by all but forcing the player to engage in sidequests to avoid getting curbstomped for being underleveled and underequipped at the end; this meant it had to rely on the underlying gameplay to save it, which again, was full of problems that got in the way of what it was trying to do.
Post edited May 31, 2014 by Jonesy89
I'll just refer to my earlier comment again that you seem to only see the bad sides and harshly criticise them, and forget about the rest of the forest. It's nowhere near anything resembling an objective view of the game.

You don't like it, though, and by God do we get that by now...
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Pangaea666: I'll just refer to my earlier comment again that you seem to only see the bad sides and harshly criticise them, and forget about the rest of the forest. It's nowhere near anything resembling an objective view of the game.

You don't like it, though, and by God do we get that by now...
I have attempted to point out some things I like about both series and explain how they factor in to my analysis. That said, I am concerned that doing so, and subsequently attempting to flesh out that analysis, may have steered this thread off of the topic of which of the two series is better.
Things like attack ranges and being able to aim through a doorway... eh, those are pretty minor things. You get them wrong two or three times and then learn to eyeball it. And if you do err on the side of caution and have your fireball miss the enemy, or err on the other side and singe your front-line fighter... well, those kinds of errors are rarely fatal. It's part of what keeps me on my toes in these battles. It's not a frustration, because I know I only have myself to blame if I mess up.

The thing is, I -recognise- all the things you complain about. They're there, in the game, sure. But to me they all seem like minor details, niggles that you get used to or learn to work around quickly, leaving lots of great gameplay. I just never got frustrated by this kind of thing, as you seem to. Outside of the examples I mentioned earlier, I rarely struggled with the games' difficulty curve. And from the games' critical and popular reception, it seems to me that your position is a minority one. You call it a god-awful combat engine. Legions of others clamour for a return to that engine and are still modding more content for it. Yeah, I think this would be a good point to agree to disagree. What you see simply is not what the rest of us experience.

As for plot and story; yeah, I doubt anyone will contest that "Torment" is on a different level than Baldur's Gate. And I doubt that many people play Icewind Dale for the story at all, though Icewind Dale 2 actually has a lot more going for it than the first title, and may well be better written technically than either of the Baldur's Gates.

But again: people love Baldur's Gate 2 easily as much for the story as for the combat. (Baldur's Gate 1, again, is the work of novice writers and is markedly inferior story-wise.) This is harder to quantify so I don't know if this goes for other fans, but for me when I say I like Baldur's Gate 2 for its writing I do not mean the plot. Like I mentioned in my initial post here, the story of Irenicus and the Bhaalspawn's involvement therein is one big swiss cheese. I generally don't mind, though.

Because what Baldur's Gate does well is world-building. Athkatla is a great setting packed with little and big adventures. You mentioned BG1's urban setting working well, but BG2's is even better. (Though Torment's Sigil has them both beat.) There is a ton of content, tons of little things to discover in every corner. True, most characters aren't developed in any great depth. But they do have personality. Even minor nameless NPCs can have fun interactions. There's a great variety of quests, some straight-forward, some with plenty of twists and turns, most of them fun and well-written.

And then there are the characters who join your party. None of them have the development of a Dak'kon or a Morte, but they still react to the world and to eachother. There's a reason Bioware went on to build their next dozen games on BG2's character model. People love how the characters in your party banter with eachother and react to the world and your actions. I personally don't care that Edwin has about as much depth as his 2D portrait. His dialogue is hilarious. ("My name is Edwin Odesseiron. You simians may refer to me merely as 'sir' if you prefer a less... syllable-intensive workout.")

If a game like Grim Fandango has a story like a movie, I'd compare the story of Baldur's Gate 2 to a TV series. Some episodes are stronger than others. Some are silly, some are more serious. Some are filler. The overarching plot is rather weak. But there's a hell of a lot of fun to be had along the way.

Back on topic: that combination of fun stories and characters with good combat is why BG2 is my favourite of the IE games. (after Torment) Neither of the Icewind Dales are ever funny, even when they're good.
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Jason_the_Iguana: Things like attack ranges and being able to aim through a doorway... eh, those are pretty minor things. You get them wrong two or three times and then learn to eyeball it. And if you do err on the side of caution and have your fireball miss the enemy, or err on the other side and singe your front-line fighter... well, those kinds of errors are rarely fatal. It's part of what keeps me on my toes in these battles. It's not a frustration, because I know I only have myself to blame if I mess up.
The problem is that the these seemingly minor bugs can and do result in party members getting killed, especially on the standard difficulty. Take BG 2, for instance. Prior to me ragequitting, I tried to help out Nalia with her Troll infestation. By this point I had taken to breaching each door with the group acting like a SWAT team; my strategy had been to put the tank in front of the door, keeping the archer in back and having everyone else hugging the walls and filing in after the tank took the lead (with Yoshimo being second through the door to get a quick backstab). Incidentally, in case it didn't come across in my description, not only was it a generally effective approach, but damned if it wasn't a fun one; sure, it wasn't completely free of AI skullduggery, but I was having so much fun that the annoyance barely registered.

Thing is, I hadn't really been using magic all that much in this plan, and given that we seemed to be running into monsters that could wreck our shit if we weren't careful, I decided to keep Nalia (I had taken her on for RP purposes to assist with navigating the mansion) in back to hurl AoE spells to clear out a room should it turn out to be stocked with nothing but hostiles. I get everyone in position, kicked the door down, and promptly shat my self as I saw the room was full of Umber Hulks. I told Nalia to hurl some pain through the door, and I proceeded to get a few fighters in to hold off the brunt of them. I though it was odd that Nalia hadn't gotten to act in her round yet, but I chalked it up to rolling poor initiative under the hood; that's when I heard her casting a spell, and saw she had worked her way into the room and the front line, where she promptly got hit with an Umber Hulk Stare and was completely defenseless since the fighters (including the PC) who had been counting on her spell softening their targets were fighting for their lives. Game over not long after that.

See, I had learned from my mistakes to keep Nalia insanely close when casting spells, but she was slightly off center, and thought that the best way to get a better angle would be to walk forward until the obstruction disappeared. A minor quirk of the AI on paper, but one that resulted in a squishy character getting taken out of the picture and putting the party in serious trouble.

The same goes for all the times that a mage wandered into combat because the game provided no way of telling if the spell was in range or not, or how I either consistently nuked the party (killing them) or missed the enemy with AoE spells (which I needed to hit, and the failure of hitting anything get the party killed by healthy monsters that had us outnumbered). I could have tried to somehow keep an eye on them at the same time I was trying to make sure the frontliners didn't drop (which would simply mean that I would be that much more likely to miss a frontliner getting significantly hurt), but those are problems that shouldn't have existed in the first place because the source material had already fixed them. If the concept of telling the player whether they were in range or whether they had a clear line of sight to the target were new, I could stomach the game being stuck with something like this, but the base game system which it was based off of already did that.

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Jason_the_Iguana: And from the games' critical and popular reception, it seems to me that your position is a minority one. You call it a god-awful combat engine. Legions of others clamour for a return to that engine and are still modding more content for it. Yeah, I think this would be a good point to agree to disagree. What you see simply is not what the rest of us experience.
Again, popularity has nothing to do with whether or not it's actually good gameplay design. Of course, a more cynical person than I could say that it hardly matters that it's good gameplay design if people want to buy it.

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Jason_the_Iguana: As for plot and story; yeah, I doubt anyone will contest that "Torment" is on a different level than Baldur's Gate. And I doubt that many people play Icewind Dale for the story at all, though Icewind Dale 2 actually has a lot more going for it than the first title, and may well be better written technically than either of the Baldur's Gates.
I might have to replay it at some point; I'll need to have one of my more twink- oriented friends to help with the actual "build" part of character creation, though, because 6 feat trees to me are like garlic to a vampire.

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Jason_the_Iguana: Because what Baldur's Gate does well is world-building. Athkatla is a great setting packed with little and big adventures. You mentioned BG1's urban setting working well, but BG2's is even better. (Though Torment's Sigil has them both beat.) There is a ton of content, tons of little things to discover in every corner. True, most characters aren't developed in any great depth. But they do have personality. Even minor nameless NPCs can have fun interactions. There's a great variety of quests, some straight-forward, some with plenty of twists and turns, most of them fun and well-written.
I question the point about them having personality, but I will concur that the setting did have promise; shame I didn't get farther in to actually experience more of it.

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Jason_the_Iguana: And then there are the characters who join your party. None of them have the development of a Dak'kon or a Morte, but they still react to the world and to eachother. There's a reason Bioware went on to build their next dozen games on BG2's character model. People love how the characters in your party banter with eachother and react to the world and your actions. I personally don't care that Edwin has about as much depth as his 2D portrait. His dialogue is hilarious. ("My name is Edwin Odesseiron. You simians may refer to me merely as 'sir' if you prefer a less... syllable-intensive workout.")
Actually, PST did have party banter, to say nothing of certain party members having reactions to the world *cough*Annah*cough*; sadly, due to a bug, it happened very infrequently. I can appreciate having that sort of thing in there, but having it at the exclusion of actual character development really doesn't do the characters (and by extension, the story) any favors; it was nice that some characters in BG2 had arcs, but the way they played out independent of player involvement couple with being unable to talk with the characters about their lives greatly lessened the emotional involvement they could have provided.

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Jason_the_Iguana: Back on topic: that combination of fun stories and characters with good combat is why BG2 is my favourite of the IE games. (after Torment) Neither of the Icewind Dales are ever funny, even when they're good.
I can appreciate some parts of the combat in BG 2; being able to move past stationary party members is what made my SWAT tactics actually feasible, after all.
Post edited May 31, 2014 by Jonesy89
I actually like the story in IWD2 the best out of all four games. It's not one of these boring ass save the whole world from the big bad evil stories that RPGs and especially Bioware are so fond of. Instead it's this little grey story about the every day shitty behaviour of humans and what sometimes can grow out of this. It's rather introspective and small in scope. IWD2 is one of the very few games where I was genuinely really sympathetic to the "villains" at the end and would've preferred to join them and knock some sense into the people responsible.
Post edited May 31, 2014 by PsychoWedge
Re: Umber Hulks

One difference between us may well be that I never had any experience with 2nd edition P&P and didn't have any particular expectations based on that for BG. On the other hand, I was used to having to eyeball lines of sight and ability area of effect sizes from games like Warcraft and Starcraft. So if something like you describe happened, I'd reload and try again.

That Umber Hulk fight was a pretty brutal one though. And an optional one. As one of the NPCs in the area revealed, you could make a dog-stew in the kitchens to lure them all away and avoid them altogether.
I might have to replay it at some point; I'll need to have one of my more twink- oriented friends to help with the actual "build" part of character creation, though, because 6 feat trees to me are like garlic to a vampire.
Admittedly, the "twink" part of party design is one of the things I enjoy about these games. But the feat-trees in IWD 2 aren't nearly as complicated as they are in P&P. It's all rather streamlined and simplified. I don't think I did any planning in advance, just selecting what looked good as my characters levelled. The only pre-requisites are ones that make sense intuitively, like spellcasters needing the Spellcraft skill to get the best feats.
Actually, PST did have party banter, to say nothing of certain party members having reactions to the world *cough*Annah*cough*; sadly, due to a bug, it happened very infrequently. I can appreciate having that sort of thing in there, but having it at the exclusion of actual character development really doesn't do the characters (and by extension, the story) any favors; it was nice that some characters in BG2 had arcs, but the way they played out independent of player involvement couple with being unable to talk with the characters about their lives greatly lessened the emotional involvement they could have provided.
Yeah, I know Torment has party banter too, though not as much as BG2. I re-played the game with the fixpacks. Note that in BG2, the player -does- get input in the various character quests and plots. You can't initiate dialogue, but you can influence how things play out once the NPC initiates it. Still, Torment clearly is the superior offering here regarding depth of NPC development.

Psychowedge:

I get what you mean. Main-plot wise, IWD2 is much less generic than BG2. It's especially relevant when you play some of the less popular sub-races and meet the same prejudice and suspicion the game's villains did. Though I'll note that the interesting bits only pop up near the end. At the start, the plot is a bit much of "Take this camp out. And now this camp. And now those Orcs." At least they mixed up the gameplay with most of those areas.

What BG2 has going for it, though, is what exists outside of the main plot. IWD2 is extremely linear. That's fine for a story, but it does make it much more difficult for the setting to feel alive.
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Jason_the_Iguana: True, there weren't many reactions to alignment. I think I just accidentally included it in my list.

Definitely a lot of places where there are extra options or different responses based on class and race and skills/stats, though.
Thing is though, I don't remember any responses tied to alignment which is why I wondered when you said "not many" as that implies at least 2, I'm just wondering if I missed something. I knew pallies get the detect evil inaate ability which changes some dialog options. Drow and dwarves get some unique dialog as well as the Dreadmaster and Transmuter side quests but as far as alignment goes, didn't see a single one. I was hoping you could clarify where alignment counts for anything other than gear.


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Pangaea666: I hated, HATED, the mindflayers in BG2 though. It felt like an enemy you could not defend or buff against, and the only way was to cheese, and cheese HARD. Set up a wall of summons and hope you can contain the mindflayers in a doorway or whatever. They attacked so fast too, so if they managed to lock onto a guy, he was effectively dead. Reload and cross your fingers you're luckier this time.

The beholders were tricky too ofc, but I found them more manageable. At least it's possible to defend against them, for a time, and it's easier to use tactics against them. Well, a bit cheese there too I suppose, but with a mage/thief I went around in that Underdark beholder cave and spammed cloudkill. It sure took a bit of time, but eventually they all died.

Both were tough as hell, an absolute nightmare to fight, but it's kind of good too, because they truly are horrible enemies.
Regarding BG2's mindflayers, you had access to protection from psionic attack potions as well at bracelets that could charm the mindflayers, they actually gave you the necessary gear to deal with them in the same dungeon. As long as you weren't afraid of using the potions and bracelets, the mindflayers weren't trouble at all. Did you not use those items?

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PsychoWedge: I actually like the story in IWD2 the best out of all four games. It's not one of these boring ass save the whole world from the big bad evil stories that RPGs and especially Bioware are so fond of. Instead it's this little grey story about the every day shitty behaviour of humans and what sometimes can grow out of this. It's rather introspective and small in scope. IWD2 is one of the very few games where I was genuinely really sympathetic to the "villains" at the end and would've preferred to join them and knock some sense into the people responsible.
Same, remember the argument between Iselore and Madae? Iselore says he gets scorn from being a mix between human and elf, but tells her experiences of mobs driving the twins out of whever they go. Not exactly comparable experiences are they? If my characters could say anything to Iselore regarding that, they would say "Iselore, she does have a point". :)