Yes, yes, this blog is not even a real blog, but I’ve been feeling the desire to talk about crap again. Serious things about disability and being poor and then also video games. (I already have places I talk about knitting and sewing and corsets.)
So at some point I will maybe possibly write a whole post about why video games are so essential to managing my disability. The short version is sometimes I am bedridden and they’re the only thing that entertains me and keeps me from climbing the walls.
It’s been at least a month that I’ve been in bed now. When this flare started I was distressed to discover I had no games I wanted to play. I’ve replayed my favorites A LOT. Most recently I played Dragon Age Inquisition six times all the way through. And I’m finally truly bored with it.
Also I’m broke. Beyond broke. So buying something…not an option. So I decided to replay one RPG that I enjoyed but have only played once: Planescape: Torment. I intend to write a whole post about how incredibly awesome that game is, 17 years after it’s release. I played it through in a huge marathon. And then I was bored again.
And since I enjoyed Torment again so much, I thought, “hey, I should try Baldur’s Gate because that’s the same engine.” And everyone says how awesome Baldur’s Gate 2 is, best RPG ever, blah blah. But again, no money to shell out, either for the $10 GOG original version or the $20 Steam Enhanced Edition. But lo and behold, my husband happened to own the discs for Baldur’s Gate 1.
I read up on modding the game, but discovered that the way everyone seemingly plays BG1 is through the BG2 engine, which requires owning a copy of BG2. Which, again, I don’t. Since I had problems with the widescreen and UI mods on Torment I decided to just go out of the box.
So, Baldur’s Gate is weird, y’all. It starts off like many RPGs, you have a mysterious quest, people are trying to kill you, you have to fight monsters and not die while gathering party members. Except the first weird thing is that there’s roughly a million and a half potential party members. So you’re constantly picking people up and then dumping them for someone new, and trying to keep the old people from running around with your best gear. And making sure your party members get along, and you meet their favorite quests in the right amount of time, or they leave. And they sometimes come in pairs, and you can’t have one without the other. In short, there’s almost no way to manage who you have in your party without doing internet research, and even then, it’s a constant source of stress. (If you’re me.)
But other than being annoying, the companions don’t really add much to the game or story. They just fight differently and sometimes whine. (And say the SAME TWO THINGS OVER AND OVER, looking at YOU Minsc.)
The other thing about this game I noticed right away is that is is HARD. I set the difficulty really low, not ALL the way down, but pretty far. And I was still constantly reloading to keep from dying. It doesn’t help that you start out with about 3 hit points. I’m not even exaggerating there. And ok, I made my character a bard, because I am contrary. (Note: Don’t make your character a bard. You are not very good at anything.)
Basically, if I hadn’t been coming right off Torment, there’s no way I could have played this game for a couple of weeks before rage quitting. (We’ll get there.) I was used to having only a handful of spells, and having to constantly rest, and micromanaging my party constantly in fights, etc. But I was also used to only having characters die in fairly extreme circumstances, and then having a healer who could revive them pretty much immediately. Not in BG1. You have to drag their corpse back to a temple and pay a priest to revive them. Which in practice means you’re constantly reloading to keep your characters from dying.
Honestly, I can’t stress enough how hard this game is, coming from modern RPGs. I know OG gamers will be scoffing about how things were better when they were harder, but I don’t know, this is a LOT of micromanaging and redoing to make any progress. I felt like every session I played had a 50/50 chance of either being fairly entertaining (meaning I was wandering around killing thing and mostly not constantly dying) or being just an exercise in frustration. And it’s not just because I’ve basically played my way through RPG history in reverse. Forum posts show up in my frustrated googles asking “was this game always this hard?”, “why do I keep dying?”, “I don’t remember it being this tough.”
If you try to seek help, via walkthough, guide, etc, I find the advice is super contradictory. One walkthrough which was recommended as “the best” offers no strategy, it just tells you to kill everything and acts like it’s no big thing. Another “spoiler free” guide I was at first trying to follow had me doing what I later read was “the hardest area of the game” when I was about level 3.
But I was really pretty determined to make it through this game. I wanted to move on to Baldur’s Gate 2. And I had nothing better to do. So I persevered. I built a pretty good party (except for the one chick who kept complaining), and I thought I was finally doing pretty well.
Until Cloakwood. The forest itself, not much of a problem. But every time I moved from one area to another, I was attached by multiple wyverns. And I would die. Or someone would die. Or I’d barely make it through, not be able to save, click on my desired destination again, and get attacked AGAIN. Finally, finally, I made it through cloakwood. I made it to the mines. And then I faced the dreaded party member dilemma. There was a new fighter/cleric character. My cleric was non-stop complaining. I wanted to change. So I did.
Except I didn’t realize I couldn’t take the new dwarf out of the mines without finishing that quest. He glitched, making my game stop dead. I had to go back to the beginning of the mines. I wasn’t good enough yet to finish the mines. And since I had to start over I thought I’d rebuild my party differently. I’d wanted to replace Minsc with the dwarf, but if Minsc leaves, his girlfriend and my only mage leaves. So I decided, ok, I’ll multi-class my thief into a mage. My walkthrough recommended doing this at the level I was at. Cool. Then I’ll have TWO cleric/fighters which means more healing, which means less dying, right? Except I didn’t realize making my thief a mage means I can’t use her thief skills at all. So, ok, I’ll go get a thief. I do this, dropping my ranger and mage. Then I pick up a shapeshifter on a temporary basis. Then I get to the mines again (fighting my way through wyverns, AGAIN.)
And I get the dwarf, and have my new party all ready. And get to the end of the mine, where there is a tough mage to defeat and some traps that if you set them off, you get super difficult enemies that are really hard to kill. So my thief, he who’s sole purpose is to detect and disarm traps? His skill isn’t high enough to see them. So, after dying A LOT and reading some more forums I learn there’s a cleric spell that can identify traps. Cool. Manage to get that spell loaded, and identify the traps. Still can’t disarm them.
So to progress in the game at all (and I tried beating this for HOURS) I have to go all the way back to where I went back before and NOT multi-class my thief so I can actually disarm freaking traps.
Which is the point at which I’m saying FUCK IT. This isn’t any fun anymore. There’s really hardly any story at all, just monsters to kill. The game feels a lot more like Diablo than any other RPG I’ve played. More strategy/action than anything.
So…yeah. What now? My options are currently: Neverwinter Nights, Morrowwind, or Jade Empire. I’ve actually started both Jade Empire and Neverwinter Nights before and didn’t get very far at all. Jade Empire was on the Xbox and I got my ass killed right away and didn’t try very hard. I bought it a while back from GOG for $2.99 so I want to try it on PC. I’m a huge Bioware fan and it’s one of the only of their RPGS I haven’t played. And when I tried Neverwinter Nights I didn’t like the engine, mostly. But I’m kinda used to that style of game at the moment, and my husband promises me it’s got better story.
So yeah, I dunno. Non laptop alternatives are going back to Inquisition, or back to Mass Effect 2, which I was in the middle of. ME2 is stressful to me, though. It’s good, but the action is pretty intense and it doesn’t really RELAX me, so much as lead to me sweating and all my muscles clenched. And it hurts my RSI in my thumb, which is one nice thing about laptop games. Low stress on the thumb.