|Bill Dungsroman 1/21/2004 |
BG3 By Way of IWD
It’s a good thing Black Isle made Throne of Bhaal (ToB), Lord knows Baldur’s Gate: Shadows of Amn (BG2) wasn’t long enough, har har. Actually, though, when fags on BG2 message boards screech “WHEN R THEY GOIN 2 MAKE BG3!??!!?” I just reply with “They already did. It’s called Throne of Bhaal.” And really, the ToB expansion is easily as long as many stand-alone games, but it does require you to have BG2 installed. And it does serve as a separate, multi-chapter part of the entire storyline, and gives a pretty satisfying ending to the whole thing. People clamoring for BG3 have obviously never played it, or are dipshit kids who ignored all the dialogue. However, combat had better be your bag if you want to play ToB, because it’s got that in spades.
|One of the fans who demanded it. (Junior, CSE, USCF Rating : 1077, Handle: Bhaal)|
Satisfy Your Inner Munchkin
Like any good expansion, ToB ups the experience cap to astronomical levels and adds all kinds of nifty bells and whistles. High-level character abilities, ninth level spells, absurdly powerful weapons, pants-filling monsters from the dankest recesses of D&D lore, they’re all here. When you finally realized girls weren’t icky you gave up on D&D long before any of your characters got this high in level. Now that you’re older and have realized your first impression of girls was mostly correct, you can install ToB and pick up where you left off. As we all know, D&D leveling isn’t like leveling in Everquest, so walking around 40th level in D&D means something, to a certain degree. For me, the hard part was remembering that I was so high level, and that I could do shit like call down meteor showers on my enemies (with no fear of injury to my party members), and fight with ridiculous speed and prowess when necessary. Literally fighting armies of enemies is doable, and you will have to more than once. Liches and other high-end monsters are commonplace. You’ve slain your last orc in this series, Bub. And although there are plenty of ph4+ \/\/34p0nz to hoard, you also get the opportunity to upgrade some of the better stuff from BG2.
Installing ToB prior to finishing BG2 is recommended. Aside from the bug fixes that any BIS game is obligated to include, ToB allows you to reach higher levels while still in BG2, lets you erase spells from your spell book (a very necessary feature unless you pull the gay maneuver mentioned in my BG2 review), and gives you a chance to pack up all your shit prior to finishing BG2, so you can carry it all into ToB. Watcher’s Keep is added, which you can enter while still playing BG2 (or in ToB if you prefer). Watcher’s Keep is fairly challenging if you do it in BG2 (after Chapter 5 or Chapter 2 if you do all the side quests), and pretty easy if you wait until ToB. A cool maneuver is to do it in BG2, and store all of your extra shit there, since it’s the only place you can access from both games.
There are some problems with all this added hoofooraw, however. Most of the high-level abilities are stupid, and you’ll want to research them fairly carefully before committing to them, since you only get one every so often, and higher-level abilities often rely on acquiring a lesser ability beforehand. And some of the mage abilities aren’t really abilities per se, as in ones that appear in the Abilities tab like they do for other classes, they’re just special ninth-level spells that you have to use a slot in your book to memorize in order to use. That’s sort of lame, it’s like a penalty against mages. But many of those special abilities/spells are bad ass, so it’s a trade-off I’m willing to take, I guess.
Is That a Plane In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
So you just finished besting that clown Jon Irenicus (really, though, Jon? All fear the terrifying wrath and unyielding power of Jon!), now what? Well, after lounging about in Suldanesslar for awhile, humping elf maidens and the like, Queen Ellisime tells you to go and talk to some stone faces laying in the grass somewhere. Fucking elves, man; what are you gonna do? Blah blah evil Bhaalspawn threaten Faerun, kill them. But first, go to this stupid Pocket Plane. Pocket Plane? Who writes this stuff? FYI, the Pocket Plane is a weird little place where you can teleport off to at any time. It has some fruity Trials or something, which made little sense, but it does have two very handy things. One, there’s this gay little Imp, Cespenar, who can upgrade your items. You just have to suffer through him rifling through your belongings and making unfunny lispy comments about them, in a voice that makes Imoen’s voice sound as pleasant as Halle Berry’s orgasms in Monster’s Ball by comparison. Also, there’s four buckets or whatever they are, which you can store all of your extra shit in. You ought to have plenty left over from BG2, and you’ll need it. Regardless, the Pocket Plane is kind of fucking stupid. You can go there any time you like, and return to more or less the same place you left. What, they made the expansion easier than BG2? My self-control was at an all-time high, seeing as how I didn’t blip off to the Pocket Plane after every single battle, which is entirely possible. Also, you can acquire the only NPC shipped with the expansion, Sarevok, there. Yeah, him. I found the concept of having him in my party interesting; the more Bhaalspawn the better, right? So I told Minsc to go fondle his rodent elsewhere and Sarevok joined, but I fucked up some important bit where you can change his alignment. As a result, he remained evil and bitched NONSTOP for the rest of the game for being stuck in my goody-good party. “We are a poor match!” Yeah, fag, I roam the countryside killing man and beast by the dozen, we’re a regular Forgotten Realms Odd Couple.
Let Me Guess: It’s In The Sewer, Right?
Listen, I thought the Wise And Usually-Correct Alououooundo said Bhaal would spawn a score of mortal progeny. That’s only ten, where did all these other faggots come from? The first part of the game has you in a fucking castle full of them. Did Sarevok manage to only kill that one wimp from the BG1 opening movie? Never mind, where’s the first dungeon? The first town you end up in, a walled-in hellhole known as Saradush, ranks an ignoble second among my Most Hated RPG Towns (the generic ones in Daggerfall don’t count, BTW), second only to Kuldahar from Icewind Dale (IWD). Why? First and most notably, the joint is apparently under siege by an invading army of fire giants and such, and they somehow periodically launch fireballs into the town proper. Expect to get hit by three the first time you go there, and then at least one every time you return. On arrival, you get sent on more fucking Fed-Ex quests. What level am I again? They’re entirely non-optional, unless you don’t want to buy spells or progress in the game beyond upper Saradush (i.e. nowhere). Lower Saradush is composed of two different routes to get into the castle to kill one of those idiot Bhaalspawn. One is through a dungeon, the other through a sewer. Was there ever any doubt? Either way, it gets you prepared for what you can expect for the rest of the game: waves of nasty beasties rushing you. Vampires, anyone? Fire giants? Golems? You name it, every annoying cheesy monster from the D&D pantheon is here en masse. This expansion plays a lot more like IWD than something cut from the BG cloth. You decide whether or not that’s a good thing.
|Travel to far-flung corners of the Forgotten Realms, explore their intriguing locales, and invariably end up waist deep in their fucking sewers. Man, what do these people eat?|
Most of the reason why this expansion is fairly time-consuming is that, like in IWD, there are plenty of monsters to fight. Most game areas are traversed in a crawl, as you move ahead a couple steps as some Boogums comes charging at you and beats on you awhile until you finally kill it. Since you’re so fucking powerful or whatever, part of the challenge comes in figuring out what is worth your Big Smackdown and what is just a random henchman. Like I said, what was a boss in BG2 is now a generic clod in ToB. It takes getting used to.
Part of the fun of this expansion, if you’re willing to take the time, is in figuring out how to “break” it. There are some truly ridiculous exploits when you play characters of this magnitude. My favorite is the Fire Resistance gag, where you can get your fire resistance to upwards of 115%, so that standing in a fire pit will actually heal you. The still-active forums at PlanetBaldur’sGate are full of entertaining anecdotes like that.
|The Burns That Heal. Hee hee.|
Those morons at Versus, who specialize in making strategy guides for games that drooling imbeciles can easily master, poorly attempted to make a strategy guide for ToB. It sucks. Sure, you get an updated item list (with clues to what weapons and items can be upgraded by Cespenar), and the explanations for the high-level abilities are pretty good (since most of them are nearly worthless, and fair warning is necessary). The rest of the guide is puke, though. Those retards try to tell you that multi-classed characters and NPCs are worthless for ToB; no, they aren’t. There’s so much XP available to you and yours, never mind the one level lag they might have. The editor apparently went blind from injecting heroin into his eyeball for lack of patent blood vessels in his extremities, since several pages in the middle of the guide senselessly repeat themselves while omitting other sections, and some pictures are just flat light blue boxes where they forgot to put a picture in. Oh, that’s what that dungeon looks like? Is it enshrouded in blue mist, you fucking morons?
Guess What? The End Boss Is Ridiculously Powerful Blah Blah Blah…
Spare me. Not only is the end boss tough beyond any you’ve ever faced before, this particular boss will have absurdly tough allies, with the ability to summon legions more of them, and it’s one you will have to defeat…wait for it…four times. With no time to rest in between, naturally, so your umbilical reliance on the Pocket Plane inevitably fails you. Walk into that final battle with every single goddamned wand, staff, scroll, and potion you can carry. All that stuff you’ve been miserly hoarding since BG2 is finally going to pay off. You’ll run out of spells long before the final final battle, I don’t care how many mages you have. For true masochists, you can download the Ascension mod from fileplanet or somewhere, made by those fine folks at fwstudios.com, which makes the final battle more challenging.
What’s The Verdict?
If somehow playing all of BG2 wasn’t enough for you, and/or you just want to feel what it’s like to wear the Big Drawers in the D&D universe, there’s little harm in playing ToB. But like I said, it feels a hell of a lot like IWD with all the near-ceaseless combat with small bits of story used as glue. To be fair though, the story that is there isn’t so bad, and it does bring closure to the whole BG story. If phrases on RPG game boxes such as “Diablo-like” and “based on the console hit” drive you nuts (like they do for me), this is as good as an alternative as you’re likely to get.