Fnord

It’s been a little while since my last roundup post. This has not been the most productive backlog-tackling month… Still, I beat two decently-sized games. Well, one game, and one DLC.

Age of Empires 2: Rise of the Rajas

16.1 hours, no achievements

More

The final DLC for Age of Empires 2, Rise of the Rajas deals with east Asia. 4 new civilizations (Malay, Burmese, Khmer & Vietnamese), and 4 new campaigns, all of which are quite good. Malay as a civilization is up there among my favourite AoE 2 civs in terms of just how fun they are to play.
In my last post, I talked about the African Kingdoms expansion, and a lot of what I said there still holds true here, the campaigns are better than those in the base game, and more inventive in general. And unlike African Kingdoms, the campaigns seem to have been better tested and polished in general. Units did not get stuck, and I did not find any leftovers from early versions of the levels. So thumbs up for this expansion, it's great!


Alicia Quatermain: Secrets Of The Lost Treasures

4.4 hours, 20 of 20 achievements

More

This is yet another time management game in the vein of 12 Labours of Hercules. In fact, this is pretty much just a reskin. Yes, there are a few details that are different between them, but they are still really similar. I thought this one felt slightly worse than the Hercules games though, the levels felt like they were a little bit more haphazardly made.

At first when I noticed that the bad guys were basically Nazis without swastika (look at the obvious villain on the store page for this game) I could not help but sigh. Making the bad guys Nazis and just leaving it like that is generally just a sign of someone having no imagination. but then it dawned upon me that the main character is more or less a female Indiana Jones, and then it made sense. So I'll give them a pass on that one.


Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced edition

35 hours, 36 of 129 achievements

More

It's been ages since I played the original BG, apart from a false start I had a few years back. And this was the first time I really got to experience both the Enhanced Edition content and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion (which I did not have back when I played through the game for the first time).

BG still holds up surprisingly well. It has a few design issues, the balance is really poor and so on, but it's still fun. The main issue with Baldur's Gate is just that Baldur's Gate 2 does pretty much everything better, which makes this game look a bit worse in retrospect. Pillars of Eternity & Tyranny also both dodged some of the issues that this game has.

The main story is actually not all that good. You've lived your life in a secluded keep where the inhabitants were more keen on studying books and discussing things with each other than to go out into the outside world. One day your foster-father tells you that you need to leave, and so you do. Just outside you get attacked by an armoured man who kills your foster-father, and you now need to find out what's going on. And like any good RPG you quickly get distracted and start exploring random dungeons and tombs, and help farmers who have lost their cows. In terms of gameplay, the game is at least solid. Combat is tactical, you've got a wide range of options and the enemy mostly follows the same rules as you.

I did have a lot of fun with BG, despite knowing the story, and the Enhanced Edition content was mostly quite good (even though one of the new characters was super weak through most of the game. Monks in AD&D are among the weakest characters at low levels, and only get decent at around the max level that BG allows). And as for Tales of the Sword coast, the new areas were generally very good (apart from an over-reliance on traps, which is one of the things I never found to be very well implemented in the games that use this engine), but they were not really integrated into the main game in a way that made much sense. For an example you end up taking a long journey out at sea for some reason, even though your mission on the mainland is (supposedly) quite urgent.


Dinocide

1.3 hours, no achievements

More

Do you like Adventure Island or the older Wonder Boy games? Then this game is for you! It's very similar to those old games. You need to constantly be moving forward, and picking up food, or otherwise your character will die. There's a meter on screen that tells you how close to starvation you are and every time you pick up something to eat it fills up a bit. The main difference between this and those old games is really the controls. Where in Adventure Island, the controls were overly slippery, here they are a bit too stiff. The levels are also a bit more complex. But the fundamentals are still the same.

This game is quite alright, but I feel that the price is too high for what you get. 10€ for a short, rather simplistic 2D platformer is too much to ask these days, even if the game does have a bit of replay value due to branching paths. This is the kind of game that's worth playing if you get it in a bundle, but it's not worth buying even for 5€.


Dream Tale

0.8 hours, no achievements

More

Dream Tale is a simple 2D platformer about a child with a big head that's dealing with loss. I think. It fits the mold for those at least.

The gimmick in this game is that different types of stars give you different abilities. Some lets you jump in the air, others let you hover, and each have a limited amount of uses, but you can refill them by touching another star of the same type. It works alright, not really to complain about, even if the hit detection felt a bit sloppy.
The biggest gripe I have with this game is that you're expected to scour each level for keys, and you need to find them to progress. You can beat a level without finding the key needed, and in fact many levels have multiple different paths, which are mutually exclusive, and only one will have the key, so you'll have to replay levels several times. Had the keys unlocked optional stuff I would have been fine with it, but to be frank, I don't think this game is good enough to warrant replaying levels several times just to get those keys.


Arbiter Libera

The main issue with Baldur’s Gate is just that Baldur’s Gate 2 does pretty much everything better, which makes this game look a bit worse in retrospect.

This is for the most part true. It doesn’t help that low level AD&D is an extremely acquired taste because some don’t like seeing their characters die if someone sneezes violently in their general vicinity, for example. BG’s response to this is basically “give everyone ranged weapons” so that wizard becomes a slinger with one or two spells.

VitoStippkow

so that wizard becomes a slinger with one or two spells.

I started BG once and this was really really weird for me. It was one of the reasons I stopped playing it after a while.

Fnord

AD&D can be really punishing if you don’t know what stats each class needs, so a first timer can really shoot themselves in the foot right from the start..

Fnord

It’s not just the wonkiness of low-level AD&D, but also things like quests and how they’re designed, and your companions. Most of the BG 1 companions really have very little in the way of story or, well, character, where as in BG2, I think all the characters end up striking up conversations with you, and they have their own fleshed out backstories. There are fewer characters, but they are far more interesting. Also, BG1’s companions often have weird stats, making them of them incredibly bad.

But yeah, low level AD&D is not my favourite either. If your main is a mage you can summon a familiar, which gives you more HP, so that can make the first few levels a bit less bad. Generally I do find AD&D to work best in the level ~6-10 range, with 3-13 being alright. Any higher and the game starts breaking down.

Trent

I never did play any of the BG games…I had a Mac when they were released and still bear the scars of the ’90s Mac gamer. I used to watch my roommate play it, and wish it would run on my computer. That said, I have BG II Enhanced on GoG, but haven’t played it.

Alicia Quatermain was fun. I played it with my kids and they enjoyed watching me play.

Dream Tale was an early SG win of mine, and I was absolutely terrible at it. I think I got past the 2nd level or so and couldn’t proceed any further. For shame.

Fnord

I can highly recommend getting the Enhanced Edition of BG 1 as well then. You can transfer your character between the games. Just ask someone who knows the AD&D ruleset about how to make your character before you start, or you might end up making the game very hard for yourself

Trent

Which edition does BG2 use? I played AD&D back in the day (1st Ed I guess? There were no editions back then) and I played a little 4th Edition many years later (but still many years ago). I don’t think I’d go back and play BG1, though I guess in theory I could watch part of a let’s play or something.

Fnord

2nd edition of AD&D.

There were editions back then :P D&D is confusing when it comes to that though. AD&D was considered its own standalone thing, so there were regular D&D editions released alongside AD&D. I think by the end of AD&D 2nd edition’s life, there were 5 editions of regular D&D… and then they released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition.I think AD&D 2nd edition was released in 1990 or something like that.

Trent

I see. I thought that initially there was just Basic, Expert, and Advanced (in which Advanced was more complicated than Expert, which always made sense). This was circa 1980. All I know is that when I was playing D&D, there was no such thing as THAC0…I think that maybe came out in AD&D 2nd Ed?. And we had to roll our d20s uphill– both ways!

Fnord

D&D has always been a bit confusing. When I got into it, there was just D&D and AD&D, and the version of D&D I have in my game shelf seems to have been treated as an entry level product, as there’s advertisement for AD&D which they market as “the full experience”. Although earlier they had versions of regular D&D that were split into two parts, one low and one high level one.
I think AD&D always had THAC0. To my knowledge AD&D 1st edition source material still works well with 2nd edition, and so the core rules have to have been similar.

Trent

To clarify, there was the notion of what you needed to roll to hit armor class zero, but I don’t think they used the acronym THAC0 until later. Or at least that’s my childhood recollection.
This is the “Expert” edition that I remember, although I never played it.

Fnord

Yeah, you seem to be right. I looked up some AD&D 1st edition books, and THAC0 was not mentioned, while they were very prominent in 2nd edition.

Seems like the expert edition is a high level version of the game, from the description. I wonder how long it would take to reach those higher levels, if you follow the rules. Leveling up was rather slow in AD&D, by RAW (Rules as Written)

Oh, incidentally, the Swedish company Äventyrsspel had no issues “borrowing” some naming conventions from D&D… Just look at this

Trent

Okay, yeah, that matches my recollection. I only ever played AD&D 1st edition and a smattering of 4th Ed many, many years later.

That book cover is great! (I hope they didn’t get sued.)

Fnord

The cover art was, if I’m not mistaken, originally used for the fantasy novel series about Elric of Melniboné, and it shows the main character from that. They just got the rights for it. Interestingly enough, about 5 years after the release of the 3rd edition of Drakar och Demoner (which had the “expert” expansion), Elric got its own pen & paper RPG, which used the same artwork as was used for Drakar & Demoner as its cover art, so there were two games on the market at the same time with the same cover art. Most of the books released for Drakar & Demoner from this era just used generic fantasy art that they purchased the rights to, and while most of it was actually rather good, it did not produce the most coherent look. They did make original art for their Post apocalyptic RPG, Mutant, though (that’s the same setting as Mutant: Year Zero on steam). And as far as I know, they did not get sued, despite “borrowing” heavily from other RPGs. Not only Dungeons & Dragons, but also Runequest. And Drakar & Demoner is still around, although they have a different owner. The original company that released it went belly up in the late 90’s, and from its ashes we got Paradox (the people who make all those grand strategy games)!

Trent

I loved the Elric saga, and several other Moorcock Eternal Champion series as well! That was basically my summer reading in my early-mid teens.

That’s quite the circuitous route for Drakar & Demoner.

Zeruel

Been playing AoE2 HD a fair bit recently, but I couldn’t bare going through the campaign (mainly due to the slowness of the first few missions), but I need to pull myself together and go through it. Are the DLC campaigns overall better or worse than the base game? Also, which civilization’s campaign did you like the most?

Fnord

The base game’s campaigns are not exactly great. The Conquerors and both the DLCs have far far better campaigns than the original game.

Zeruel

Ah, okay, now I’m a bit more hyped for it then! Thanks for that :D

Ally

BG 1 is one of my favourite games of all time. I’ve finished it more times than I care to admit. I think I may revisit this soon to try and get some of the achievements.

Fnord

Played Siege of Dragonspear yet? I just started it, and it’s been really fun thus far. Encounters seem to have been designed more like Icewind Dale than BG, but I think that’s a good thing, the combat encounters were more interesting in that game.

Ally

I haven’t played Dragonspear yet, it came out not long after I’d done a 90+ hour multiplayer campaign so I was kinda tired of it. It’s getting towards the point I want to play again.