Friday, May 06, 2016

Dragon Age II (spoiler review)

The least popular game in the Dragon Age trilogy, and I can see why. Gone are the excellent camera controls from the PC version of DA:O. Indeed, combat in general feels much more like a console RPG. In some ways, this is an improvement - the mage in particular is much more dynamic, and many fights are over quickly. Likewise, the Mass Effect style dialogue wheel means that Hawke, the player character in DA2, is no longer a silent protagonist (for better or worse). Some of his (or her) sarcastic comments are quite amusing, but Hawke lacks the dry wit of Geralt of Rivia.
Fenris, Varric, Aveline & Hawke

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dragon Age: Origins (spoiler review)

Unfortunately, my save files for the Isle of the Maker in NWN: Hordes of the Underdark were corrupted, so you'll have to wait a while for the next installment of that review. A colleague mentioned that Dragon Age: Origins was his favourite game of all time, so I decided to play that instead. It took me 85 hours for my first playthrough of the core game (without any expansions). My opinion (and many spoilers) are below.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hearts of Stone (spoiler review)

The first expansion pack for the Witcher 3 took me 22.5 hours to finish the main story quests. I'm glad I waited a couple of months before playing it, since the next expansion "Blood & Wine" still has no release date. I'll definitely be preordering as soon as its available. The following review contains plot details and spoilers for the game.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Hordes of the Underdark (spoiler review, part 1)

This game starts in an inn. Not on the Plane of Shadow, where you fled as Undrentide crashed to the ground (if only Heroudis had flown her citadel above 1000 feet, like the wise Dagget Filth had advised...). Soon enough, the inn is under attack, thereby combining two of the laziest beginnings possible for a BioWare game. This hackery might be forgivable if they had leveled up my character to cover the gap in time, but oh well. Can NWN:HotU possibly live up to the example set by chapter 5 of Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn? We shall see...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shadows of Undrentide

When Neverwinter Nights was released in 2002, it had everything I wanted in a CRPG. In particular, Kal & I had tried the awful multiplayer in Baldur's Gate, but there's only so much of "you must gather your party before venturing forth" that we could put up with. I had enormous fun on the multiplayer servers, especially the persistent worlds. I spent quite a few hours in the level editor as well, dreaming of creating an electronic version of my pen & paper city, Helsmuth. However, I have never finished the single player game. I only ever made it as far as Chapter 2. Partly it was the sheer grind of tracking down the "Waterdhavian creatures," but mainly because it just couldn't compete with the experience of playing D&D in person. NWN did finally convince me to convert my game from 2nd edition to the 3rd edition rules, though, so there's that.

The main reason I decided to buy NWN Diamond from GoG was because NWN2 was too demanding for my old (2009) laptop. However, the screenshots below were taken on my ASUS ROG running NWN at 1920x1080 resolution with 64mb textures at best video quality. I recently had the urge to play Hordes of the Underdark, but I really didn't want to start with a level 15 character. Thus began my first playthough of Shadows of Undrentide. The review below contains several spoilers for NWN:SoU.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Witcher 3 (warning: spoilers)

After 117 hours, I've completed my first playthrough of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I actually bought a new laptop specifically so that I could play this game, since my Acer Aspire with GeForce GT 640M could barely keep up with the Witcher 2. I've had enormous fun with this game and I'm very much looking forward to playing the two expansion packs, Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. However, after such a satisfying ending, I feel the need to take a bit of a break for a while. More details (and spoilers for all three Witcher games) after the jump:

Sunday, May 03, 2015

You know it's true love when she turns into a vampire

I've finished Shadows of Amn in BG2:EE just shy of the 2.95 million xp cap, which puts me a bit ahead of the starting value of 2.5 million for brand new characters in Throne of Bhaal. My party looks like this:

  • Gorion's Ward, CE half-elf Fighter 11 / Mage 12 / Thief 14
  • Korgan: CE dwarf Fighter 19 (Berserker kit)
  • Minsc CG human Ranger 17
  • Jaheira: TN half-elf Fighter 13 / Druid 13
  • Viconia: NE drow Cleric 19
  • Imoen: NG human Thief 7 / Mage 16
My alignment changed to Chaotic Evil because I succumbed to the sin of greed. I blame Elric of Melniboné (or, more specifically, Stormbringer). Also, I may have kicked Darth Sarevok in the nuts ("Release your anger, only your hatred can destroy me!"). My bad :-)

It would have been cool if the Fate Spirit at the beginning of Throne of Bhaal had given you the option of bringing back some of the BG characters who were left out of Shadows of Amn, like Xan or Shar-Teel. I suppose there's probably a mod for that.

I've got both the golden and silver pantaloons, although comically there were a few times when I'd unknowingly dropped them in a dungeon because my inventory was full. In the end, I stashed them in my bag of holding, which didn't create any issues when importing/transitioning to Throne of Bhaal. Korgan is wielding Crom Faeyr and with the Armor of the Hart and Gauntlets of Dexterity he has AC -10. Irenicus the Slayer still managed to dish out some major damage, though.
In my game, Viconia wears red dragon scale and the helm of brilliance, but I imagine that vampire Viconia (Vampconia?) was totally like this....

These were the variables in EE Keeper during Chapter 6:

VICONIAVAMPIRE changes to 6 once you've completed the quest.
The dark love of Gorion's ward and a fierce servant of Shar, Viconia has achieved the sort of immortal fame enjoyed by only one other drow in Færûn. Deadly, fierce, and devoted to her infamous lover, Viconia's name will forever be spoken in hushed tones and remembered as the mightiest force of Shar's shadowy faithful.
 Volo's Chronicles of Baldur's Gate, 1369 DR 
I ended up picking up the thieves' guild as well as the De'Arnise Keep and planar sphere, although it was the most work of the three. You need to run back to the docks as soon as you get the message that Renal Bloodscalp's quartermaster is waiting for you, otherwise you're given the sack. This can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you're in the Umar Hills at the time...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

EE Keeper for BG2

I've been playing Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition on my Nexus 7 tablet, which is the 3rd time that I've restarted this game from scratch. I didn't have my save game from 2013 when I played BG:EE, since I had to wipe my laptop and the backup is in Australia. I also made a few screwups with my game in the early stage, which I've managed to fix using EE Keeper to edit the save files. You'll see lots of mentions of CLUA Console on the forums, but it's tricky/impossible to get this working in the Android version of the game, even if you use a bluetooth keyboard.

Here are the instructions for setting up EE Keeper for Android if you don't have a PC version of BG2:EE installed. Basically, you need to copy the 'main' and 'patch' files from the  sdcard/Android/obb/com.beamdog.baldursgateenhancededition directory on your device, then extract them using 7zip on your PC. You can configure EE Keeper to use this as the installation directory, then just copy your save games into My Documents/BG2/save or wherever.

Golden Pantaloons

Evidently, these pantaloons are part of a sub-quest that runs through all three games (BG, SoA and ToB). If you have an empty inventory slot, then in EE Keeper you can just navigate to the Inventory tab and use Change Item. In the Item Browser, click Filter List then enter "pantaloons" in the Text Search box and click the check box for Match Item Name. You'll see there are silver pantaloons as well, but you'll pick those up during a quest in BG2:SoA. The only other way to get the golden pantaloons is to import a save game from the final (Sarevok) battle in BG:EE.

Relationship Advice

There are three options for romance in BG2 if your main PC is male: Aerie the avariel (Quayle's ward), Jaheira the druid and Viconia the drow. Viconia will only initiate a relationship if the PC is a half-elf or human (unlike Icewind Dale 2 or NWN, drow is not a playable race). You can work around this in EE Keeper by setting some variables manually:

Global Variables


Local Variables

Select Viconia's portrait, then on the Local Variables tab add:
There are a few suggestions on the forums of simpler workarounds, but this is the only way that I could get it to work in the current version of BG2:EE on Android.

Scanlation courtesy RonPaul at Danbooru. Originals here?


Sorcerer's Palace suggests that it's possible to end up with 2 strongholds if your main PC is a multi- or dual-classed fighter, as long as you do the De'Arnise quest second. However, it seems that has always been viewed as a bit of a glitch, which Beamdog have fixed in their version of the game. If you want to pick up an additional stronghold, then just before the key scene at the end of the relevant quest, you need to change the following global variable:
You still need to be a fighter for this to work (in the case of the De'Arnise Keep), or a mage (in the case of the Planar Sphere), but there is a mod for multiple strongholds that gives you a bit more flexibility in this regard. Since I'm playing a Fighter/Mage/Thief, there is the possibility of picking up the Shadow Thieves guild as well, but I might see how I go with my two strongholds for the timebeing...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Age of Teleportation

One of the things that clearly distinguishes life in the Wild West from the "default setting" of D&D is the availability of rail transportation ... and the unavailability of magical transportation.

For those who can afford it, a 9th level sellspell would charge 450gp to teleport 3 passengers up to 900 miles in the blink of an eye. In a small city (population > 5000) there is an 86% chance of at least one 9th or 10th level wizard, or 10th level sorcerer (3.5ed DMG, p139). Of course, there's also the chance of a teleportation mishap, but every mode of transport has its downsides.

For everyone else, wagon trains and riverboats are still the norm. A long-haul stagecoach can cover from 70 up to 120 miles per day over well-maintained roads.

Charles O. Paullin (1932) Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, the University of Michigan.

Michael Graham Richard (2012) How fast could you travel across the U.S. in the 1800s?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Demographics, continued

"The power of the sword is more sensibly felt in an extensive monarchy, than in a small community. It has been calculated by the ablest politicians that no State, without being soon exhausted, can maintain above the hundredth part of its members in arms and idleness. But although this relative proportion may be uniform, its influence over the rest of society will vary according to the degree of its positive strength. The advantages of military science and discipline cannot be exerted, unless a proper number of soldiers are united into one body..."
Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, volume the first, chapter V, page 106. Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, London 1776.
If each of the Imperial Legions under the Immortal Emperor Drakus Coaltongue numbered 10,000 troops, that would imply that the population of Eastrealm would be at least 7 million. Given that the population of Europe at the time of Charlemagne (9th century AD) was around 25 to 30 million, that actually seems a little low. Bachrach estimates that, out of a population of 7-8 million in the Carolingian regnum north of the Alps (575,000 sq. miles), there were 2 million men between 15 and 55 years of age (ie. fit for military service). Assuming that 4% of this age cohort was mobilized for expeditio (military service), Charlemagne commanded about 100,000 troops.

The Imperial Roman army (14 AD) numbered some 250,000 men, equally split between 25 legions and 250 units of auxiliaries. The population of the Roman Empire (2 million sq. miles) during that time is estimated to have been between 50 and 60 million.

Bernard S. Bachrach (2001) Early Carolingian Warfare: Prelude to Empire, University of Pennsylvania Press.

John D. Durand (1977) Historical Estimates of World Population: An Evaluation, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 253-296.

J.C. Russell (1958) "Late Ancient and Medieval Population," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 48(3), pp. 1-152.