Currently playing: Nox Archaist

September 28, 2014

Icewind Dale - The elven tragedy

I persevered since my last post and was eventually rewarded. But before going ahead of things let me tell you what happened in Dragons´Eye.

I had just moved through several levels with lizards and trolls in my search of the heartstone gem when my next level was met by friendly priests who said they lived secluded from the world happenings above. They invited me to rest and even buy spells. There where a few locked doors there but no way out of this complex. I don´t like to steal from friendly characters but I had no choice but to see where these locked doors led. It turned out I stumbled straight into a cults' sacrificial ceremony and the whole appearance was a facade. They where all evil cultists praying to whomever their dark master is. 
The "friendly" priest had no idea what I was talking about

This level was quite hard since the priests are spellcasters and the tougher serpents that was responsible for the ritual where very good archers. After many hit-and-run fights with rests in between I was able to eliminate this whole sect and could advance into the mountain.

This is what happens when you get in my way
I have lost count of the order of the many levels of this complex but the final level was one of the hardest. It was full of traps that I at first was not able to spot, even with my thief (yes, finding traps hasn´t been my priority when levelling). After having taken serious damage every single time I was passing this level without even reaching my destination and after having spent dozens of antidote potions I was fed up with this. I had to find a new tactic.

Fortunately my priestess could help me since she possess a spell called "Find traps". With her at the front my party followed into her steps while she discovered all the nasty traps that where. It took longer time but it was worth it and I quicksaved at each small successful passage.

I don´t have to tell you the combats was hard and tedious. I could make one large battle per resting session of my group and had to travel back up two levels in order to rest.

Anyway, below is my.....fifth attempt ? to battle the last and final boss in the complex. I am now ready behind the spotted traps and put forward my thief to open the right door to bring about the conversation and then retreating back out again. I have summoned a few zombies and my mages are ready to cast fireballs and icestorms at the door entrance where I expect the boss and his minions to appear.


Let the fireworks begin!.....

When half of the enemy force was killed at the entrance and the rest hurt I went into melee combat, but not before casting haste on my fighters. With that ability we where able to defeat the major evil in this part of the world and received a whopping 40.000 xp.

I was of course eager to plunder the locked containers at this level. That turned out to be a more frustrating endeavour than expected. Even though I have increased my thief´s skill in open locks to over 110 I was not able to open them. Fortunately one of my mages had the spell knock but that meant I had to retreat back two levels to memorise them and rest and then repeat this procedure for 2 times until all locks was opened up. Add to that my problem with the traps at the level and you can imagine my patience was being tested.

Having two encouraging comments on my last blog I did however press on and was eventually rewarded not only by completing the whole complex of Dragon´s Eye but I also got hold of the heartstone gem. I was now heading back home to my village Kuldahar, only to be greeted with an invasion of orcs into the village. I had to fight my way through to the druid Arundel.

Having finally reached the safe haven again where I looked forward to sell all my stuff, get some gold and upgrade my party I was stunned by the fact that Arundel was in fact evil himself. He congratulated me to have killed one of his adversaries and then he humbled me and teleported away but not before telling me that the real Arundel lied dying in the floor above. 

I met him and with his last breath he told me to take the heartstone gem to the elven fortress of the severed hand. Only there would I find a person able to use the stone. I am not sure if Arundel was just recently duplicated or if he has been misleading me for a longer time but hopefully this was the only time I hadn´t met the real Arundel. Unfortunately he died of his wounds and I was again left to my own.

We cleaned up the village of the rest of the orcs roaming about and reequipped ourselves in the shops. As before I could just dream of buying a good magical weapon but at least I have over 7000 gold now after having sold of some magical items found.

We headed to the new fortress of the elven Severed Hand and entered the third chapter. I had just to enter to realise nothing was normal here. It was full of dangerous dark goblins. I had to battle my way upwards through the stairs for several levels until I reached an area with elven ghosts. Fallen warriors in the defense of the fortress. In the desperate fight against the evil their leader Larren had tried to cast a powerful protection spell but something went wrong and the few survivors was exposed to even more cruelty. I now had to stop all of this in order to reach my goal.

As before all the levels was indoors in cramped areas with fight after fight. At least I could rest when I needed to but it is becoming a chore. We´ll see how long I will let this game continue before giving it my final ratings.

I have always preferred the first person view instead of the 2D-isometric approach seen in this and other similar games. For me personally partybased games like Wizardry 8 or realtime partybased games like Legend of Grimrock always give me better immersion into the gameworld. Even in combat. 

One might argue that Icewind Dale´s perspective should give me better tactical disposition during combat. And that might be true in a few instances. But I would say that the tactical combat was way better in the old AD&D SSI games then. Here it could be hard to make up a line in battle since the characters sometimes tries to get around to get a swing to a foe so they are harder to control. 

Even so, I do use the environment as best as I can to my advantage but it is always the same kind of tactic. I fight from the door entrances where the enemy can´t surround us easily and where my mages could throw in fireballs and icestorms into the room before engaging in melee combat. But that is about as tactical as it gets. 

Most combats could be solved with this approach and right after you rest and restore your spells and hitpoints and are ready for the next one. In a few places I have had some trouble winning without any characters death and there I have had to try out different kind of tactics. But 90% of the time I only use the direct attack spells like Magic Missile, Chromatic Orb, Fireball, Icestorm and haste. Haste has proven to be one of my favourites since it doubles the number of melee strikes I can make. The drawback is that we are fatigued afterwards but I always rest and restore the group so that have never been any problem so far. 

Slowly I progressed through the enormous elven tower in search for Larren, the only one that could help me use the heartstone gem. Unfortunately he was the one that failed with the protection spell and seems to have gone mad. I eventually found out I had to collect four pieces that could be used to restore a machine that was requested by one of the few elves that hadn´t lost his mind here.

What had happend was that almost all elven defenders had become ghosts and had their souls stolen. They where the ones that attacked me but a very few had retained their minds even as ghosts and gave me valuable information. I eventually found Larren himself and he was unable to communicate with me until I had restored a machinery.

When he spoke he gave me interesting and valuable background information. I have to add that the voice acting in the game is very good even though it is only used on very special NPC:s.

 Anyway, Larren by using the heartstone gem was able to locate the source of evil that troubled the north to a place called Dorn´s Deep. It is to this place I am now heading....

September 21, 2014

Legend of Grimrock II - Release Date

Legend of Grimrock II will be released 15th of October!!!

My next game is set....Just look at this trailer:

Key Features:
  • Explore the wilderness and the dungeons of Isle of Nex: walk in ancient forests riddled with mysterious magical statues, fight the denizens of poison fuming swamps, dive in the Forgotten River in search of treasure, uncover secrets hidden deep below…
  • More than 20 hours of pure blooded dungeon crawling gameplay with grid-based movement and thousands of squares filled with hidden switches, pressure plates, secret doors, riddles, deadly traps and more.
  • Cast spells with runes, craft potions and bombs, fight murderous monsters with a large variety of melee-, ranged and thrown weapons, as well as firearms.
  • Create a party of four characters and customize them with 7 character classes, 5 races, and numerous skills and traits. Collect experience to hone their skills and discover improved equipment and magical artefacts.
  • 42 different kind of monsters including 30 new foes unique to Isle of Nex.
  • Play custom adventures created by others or make your own with Dungeon Editor.
  • More depth, variety and open ended exploration than in Legend of Grimrock 1. Enhanced AI, spell casting, puzzle mechanics and skill systems.

September 19, 2014

Icewind Dale - like wading through mud

My adventure in Icewind Dale has continued for several more hours. My party has now reached level 7 and I am beginning to access third and fourth level mage spells which includes the popular fireball. Unfortunately the town´s magician is not selling any level 3 or 4 spells so the only spells I know is the ones I have found.

When you find a scroll and is of adequate level you can try to scribe it into your spellbook. The success is dependable on you intelligence so it could fail and the scroll is lost forever. Once copied the spell itself is removed but is now accessible for you to memorize when you are resting your party.

Anyway after having looked around the whole of Vale of Shadows I still didn´t know the source of the evil. I returned to the druid Arundel in village Kuldahar to report my findings. He said that the only thing that would help us is to find the Heartstone Gem, a scrying stone that could help us find this source of evil. 

He suggested I might seek the Heartstone in the Temple of the Forgotten god and marked that place on my overland map. I went there and not surprisingly the place had been overrun by evil forces that had killed all the priests and temple guards. By wading through hordes of monsters and combats I finally reached the place where the heartstone should have been....except it had been removed. 

My only clue was a green potion I found on a priest and when I returned back to Kuldahar and told the druid about my experience he examined the green potion and concluded it could only have been coming from the Dragon's Eye. This initiated chapter two of the game.

So now I got another place to visit and this place consisted of several large levels with reptiles and shamans that made my progress quite slow. Fortunately it is quick to use quicksave and quickreload because I had to rest many times here. There are half a dozen levels that gradually gets more difficult. On the last levels you couldn´t even rest which means I have to return two levels back just to rest. That takes huge amounts of time since I have to do that after every other fight. Needless to say there are fights in almost every room so it becomes abit tedious.

A few reflections of the game so far:
  • It is very linear. So far I haven´t even been able to choose from two different areas to visit. The drawback of strict linearity is that the items you find just barely makes you keep up with the stiffening opposition. There are no shortcuts to get you good weapons or magical items unless you find them on your path.
  • The game is filled with combats after combats after combats. *Sigh*. When repeating the same type of encounter over and over again with not much variety it tends to get rather boring. The only thing that helps up the progress is the few NPC encounters and dialogues with the minions of evil or finding good equipment.
  • There where a few very tough fights in Dragon´s Eye. Here I met trolls that refused to die unless you torch them up in order to die. I had to use fireballs to kill them off or throwing flamable potions on them. If you don´t have access to any of that you have to flee in order to rest and memorize fireball. Also, those trolls was often followed by several spellcasting priests. They where extremely difficult because they always cast Hold Person on my fighters and the trolls hack them to pieces after that. After almost 10 tries I eventually managed to take down the priests first and then retreat to heal and get back to finish the trolls. 
  • My priests "Turn undead" almost never works against the undead I am facing. This ability is so far pretty worthless.
  • My thief has yet to succeed in backstabbing anyone. It seems that as soon as I order him to attack when he is sneaking he immediately gets visible and lose the edge.
  • The last levels of Dragon´s Eye is filled with very dangerous traps that either poisions you or freezes you. I have lost half my inventory of antidote potions in just one single level.
  • The prices of magical items in the Kuldahar village is ridiculous. Certain items costs several tens of thousands of gold each and the few I can afford with my 4.000 gold cash is never as good as the ones I have already found.

  • The story so far is way beyound Baldurs Gate as far as I remembered. This feels like a very ordinary story. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by it further into the game.

The game is testing my patience right now. I want to complete Dragons´s Eye and see what happens next before making any decisions on my continuation of this game.

September 7, 2014

Icewind Dale - Revisited

When Baldurs Gate arrived in 1998 I thought it was one of the best - if not the best - RPG I had ever played. It set a new standard with its in depth story and detailed gameworld. Where dialogue choices where available at every interaction with NPC:s. The voice acting was supreme the music was excellent. In short Baldurs Gate is one of the finest games ever released.

When Icewind Dale was released just a few years later (2000) I had already moved on to other games or slightly tired of the huge adventures in Baldurs Gate 2. Soon it was forgotten in the history of RPGs. Until this summer when I had more time than usual for myself but almost no game to play. At that time I managed to buy Icewind Dale complete for a few dollars at gamersgate and started up just a week ago.

Icewind Dale complete consists of the add-on adventures Heart of Winter and Trials of the luremaster.

The manual is over 150 pages! When did you see such a behemoth last time ? I was confident in my old school skills of the AD&D system so I didn´t read the whole manual to start. I quickly glanced over the statistical tables for each race, class and attributes to decide my group of six.

After one hour of rolling up my party I come up with 1 warven and 1 human fighter, 1 elven thief, 1 human priest and 2 elven magicians. You can choose specialisation for the mages but I abstained.

We started our adventure at a tavern in the cold outpost of Easthaven far up in the mountains. Just when we ordered the first round of ale, a man introduced himself as Hrothgar, the one who decides in this outpost. He welcomed us and said that after we have had a quick glance around the village, we should go and visit him. He had something he wanted to discuss with us.

I immediately took my group out to explore the outpost and talked to every citizen I could find. Most where ordinary citizens with not much to tell but since this is a Bioware game there is a lot of dialogues with many of them and I learned a lot about the town and rumours. People was worried. Strange things had happened around the area. I also helped a drunkard to get his last bottle of wine and a shopkeeper to get rid of a wolf in his home.

We started out with 500 goldcrowns and I used most of these to buy my two warriors armour and weapons that was fit for their chosen proficiencies. The whole group started out with one quarterstaff each and that is a weapon I have never chosen as a specialty. 

Hrothgar wants me to take part in an expedition to investigate problem in the south

Just south of the outpost across a bridge I first stumbled upon my first opponents. A group of goblins equipped both with melee and ranged weapons. They attacked me and now it was time to revive my old knowledge of the AD&D combat system. Everything plays out in realtime but you can pause the combat at any time issuing orders if you want to since the combat is divided into rounds.

What is good is that you have the text window just below the mainscreen and you will get info about everything related to the combat. Who is attacking whom and how much damage that is delivered or received. You can also switch on detailed statistics to see your dice rolls. Very good to really understand the combat system but for me the overview information is enough.

Normally I never split up my force by attacking several targets but instead take them down one at a time. My magicians was held back and occasionally I used their weak combat skills to throw their only memorized magic missile into the fight. Later on I equipped them with darts doing a meagre 1d4 in damage.

I eventually killed all goblins even though I probably had to reload once since one of my member was killed and I had no intention of reviving him for a fortune of gold at the temple. In the beginning I looted all items I could to be able to sell them back at the shop for a few gold crowns. Eventually I was able to equip the rest of my group with armors and weapons.

One of the first major tasks was to help Easthavens leader Hrothgar with investigating the disappearance of a caravan for the outpost. We immediately prepared and went eastward and came up to some caves that was filled with orcs. They are stronger than goblins but still manageable for my team. Here and there I found some chests filled with some good items like my first potions or the occasional magical scroll. 

There was one particular combat that consisted of several orcs and an ogre that I had some problems with defeating. After 3-4 deaths my solution was to drag them to me. Kill the first of them and then retreat from the cave. I was then able to rest my team and save and could go back right in again. They where still waiting inside at the entrance. That´s good. But the tactics used also meant I could take them down piece for piece. The cleansing of the cave gave me valuable experience points and we all raised to level 2 fairly quickly. I also found the remains of the caravan and was able to report back to Hrothgar to be given even more xp.

The whole expedition was killed but we survived

After having exhausted all sidequests in Easthaven I was ready to join the expedition. A voice begun to speak about the hard marsch of the expedition. It became trapped when giants blocked the passage in the mountains and hurled boulders down upon us. Many died - inclusive Hrothgar - and only my group eventually survived and managed to reach Kuldahar. But not before we had to clear out an entire map with filled with goblins fortified in towers and mills. 

We finally reached the small village Kuldahar that we where sent to help but now we looked more like refugees. At least I was glad to find a shop where we could sell all of our loot - bows and weapons looted from the goblins. They didn´t bring in much money so it was hardly worth it. Magical items costs several thousand of golds and I have not reached one thousand yet.

The wise man in the village was the druid Arundel. He was sorry to hear our sad story since he is desperately pleading for help. Malovent forces in the valley are on the move. It is not secure to leave the village anymore and many people have been snatched away never to be found again. Arundel guess the source of the evil could be found in the valley of shadows and want us to explore and find out more about this. Since he is a druid, he can feel the whole natural balance becoming disturbed by this new threat.

Before leaving we explored the whole village. It is complete with magical shops, inn, tavern, smith and whatever you need. A good place to have as your base.

When I was ready to leave we went to the valley of shadows. It was a snowy place in the mountains guarded by both giants and undead creatures. Small caves and alcoves was spread out everywhere. Inside I had to fight hordes of skeletons and zombies and the occasional ghoul. Most of these combats was pretty easy and we gained much needed experience points. Enough that most of us could reach level 4.

When you level up you are given a random roll to your hit points and at some levels you are given proficiency points to spend on weapon categories. The thief get points to spend between open locks, stealth, pick locket and disarm trap. I put most of my points into open locks and stealth. I have yet to use stealth to my advantage. I hope to succeed in backstabbing soon.

There is a gameplay option to allow for maximum roll of hitpoints at level-up but I don´t have it checked. Instead I plague myself by reloading until I am content with the roll. It´s practically cheating just as bad but it reminds me of how you do it in the old-school RPG genre which is part of my background.

In the valley I soon found a few keys. They where important to enter an inner sanctum. There I met an arrogant undead creature named Mythos that denied me further investigation. He wasn´t all out evil and said he had nothing to do with what happens in this valley but since he refused me to investigate further we had no choice but to discuss it with steel in hands. 

He was pretty weak despite his supporting minions but he didn´t have any good items on him either. Instead the few magical item´s I´ve found is mostly coming from locked chests. They have brought me short bow + 1, mace + 1, longsword +1, warhammer + 1. Those are really needed because I have met undead that can´t be injured my normal weapons.

My mages are still pretty useless in combat. At level four I could cast two magic missiles before running out of offensive capabilities. I am waiting for my first level 3 spell. Luckily, resting is not that hard in this game. 90% of the time you could rest without random encounters.

One of my trusted fighters

So far I like this game. The story is straight forward, the dialogues are well written. The most interesting NPC encounter has been with the evil undead Mythos that guarded the inner sanctum and an unfriendly inn keeper who illegally had taken over the establishment when the former owner mysteriously disappeared. But that´s another story.

One more thing to add, only major NPC:s have voice acting accompanied to the dialogue. The others have text only. I don´t remember how Baldurs Gate had it.

I need this kind of slow, turnbased game right now so Icewind dale fits perfectly. We´ll see how long I can keep up with this before I tire of the concept.