Sunday, March 1, 2020

An Opportunity To Go To The Moon (And Other Stories)

A little catch up on a few odds and ends that don't merit full posts of their own. Not that I couldn't spin them up into something longer. I can always do that. I just probably shouldn't.

Divinity: Original Sin

Seemingly determined, as always, to be the last aboard any passing bandwagon, this Friday I bought Divinity: Original Sin. It's been in my short but select Steam wishlist for a while but somehow I have only just now started receiving nudges by email when things go on sale.

I'm not sure why that's happening. I wasn't aware I'd changed any settings. It's quite useful. It also goes some way towards explaining the mystery of how people end up with such massive backlogs. Left to my own devices I'd probably think of checking my wishlist maybe three or four times a year. Except for those times, I wouldn't have a clue if anything had gone on sale.

I still wouldn't have bought D:OS just for that. I don't do everything Steam tells me. Valve is not the boss of me. But I had quite a bit of my IntPiPoMo winings left after buying Californium so I thought I might as well spend it. The game ended up costing me about £8.00 in real money, which seems like a fair price for something I was mildly curious to try.

A squirrel wearing a bone mask and riding an undead... something... started following me and won't go away. Also a cat. The squirrel is by orders of magnitude the most interesting NPC I've met so far and we can't communicate. The cat looks like she has something to tell me too. I've never regretted a choice at character select more.

So far I've played for... hang on, Steam knows exactly how long... oooh! Look at that. Four hours! I would have guesstimated two, two and a half. I must have been enjoying myself more than I thought if time slipped by unnoticed.

As I commented at GamingSF, where Telwyn was talking about the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3, under development by Larian, creators of the Divinity series, "D:OS so far ... seems okay. As usual, I can’t as yet entirely see what all the fuss is about. I read people gushing about RPGs and then when I get to play them I’m underwhelmed – I think it has something to do with ovehyped expectations but a lot more to do with what seems to me to be the overall lower standard of writing and voice acting that’s deemed acceptable in gaming."

That's probably a bit harsh. I'm not even off the starter island yet. And I am enjoying it. It just hasn't really grabbed me yet. Mostly I find myself wishing I'd taken the Pet Pal talent at character creation and wondering whether it's too late to stop and start over. Also the camera controls are some of the worst I've ever battled with, which does absolutely nothing for immersion. And it's a pig of a game to take screenshots.

Other than that, not much to say. I'm a little loathe to write too much about it here because I'm fairly sure everything there is to say about the game has already been said. Still, when has that ever stopped any blogger?


With Divinity: Original Sin, I just realized I'm now playing two Dungeons and Dragons games concurrently (...or not, as someone points out in the comments, because D:OS is not an official D&D product - it just feels like one to me). That's a bit weird. Of the two I'm enjoying Neverwinter more, which is a surprise even to me.

Something has definitely changed but I can't put my finger on what it might be. As I play, I keep thinking "Is it the game or is it me?". The whole experience feels very different from how i remember it on previous runs.

It feels more like an MMORPG for one thing. There are people everwhere. It's really busy. And not just in the sprawling maze of the hub city (which is, of course, caled Neverwinter, not Everdeep as I said in an earlier post. I knew I'd gotten that wrong and I was waiting for someone to correct me but no-one did so I'm doing it myself).

When I'm out and about adventuring I can barely get to the questgivers for adventurers on unlikely mounts. Not quite as unlikely as the ones in Azeroth, Norrath or Tyria but still quite outlandish enough to let me know I'm playing a bona fide multiplayer fantasy rpg with a cash shop.

I'd somehow always thought of Neverwinter as closer to the original Guild Wars - a central hub with instanced adventure areas - than a traditional quasi-open world MMORPG but many of the zones I've been adventuring in are open to all and the gate system for travel is no more artificial than EverQuest II's world bells.

The open air zones are attractive if a little hazy. So far I've been too focused on following the sparkly trail to the next quest marker to explore but at least they look like places you might want to explore if you found yourself with time on your hands.

The biggest change from previous runs is definitely the gameplay. The whole thing feels more streamlined, cleaner, smarter. I can see there's a lot of work waiting to be done in gearing up for anyone who takes the whole thing seriously and that's quite re-assuring to know. For now, though, everything seems to trot along quite nicely without much behind-the-scenes preparation from me and I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible.

I did the introduction to crafting. It made me think of Black Desert, which in turn made me think I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. Not because either of them are bad systems - just that they involve a level of micro-management I don't find particularly entertaining. I'd rather gather my own mats and craft my own stuff, if I'm brutally honest. I don't much relish roleplaying the branch manager of a regional garden center franchise, which is what these things sometimes feel like.

I think that so long as I stay well clear of the workshop I should be fine. My Warlock dinged twenty-three last night doing some proto-espionage work for The Harpers. It felt a lot more like the kind of thing I've been looking for. I look forward to quite a few more leveling sessions having jolly, swashbuckling  adventures, at least until my Warlock's  black crows all come home to roost. When you look at her backstory, it's no surprise the Moral Majority used to call D&D out as a gateway drug to Satanism.

EverQuest II

Yesterday I finally got around to finishing the Signature adventure questline from Blood of Luclin on my Berserker. It sounds late, given the expansion launched well before Christmas, but it's actually quite speedy for me. It took me more like six months to get to the same point in 2018's Chaos Descending.

The main reason it took as long as it did was that I was anticipating the final instance being hard work. When I finished the penultimate stage I made the mistake of going to the Wiki and reading the walkthrough for what came next.

There's a perennial problem with walkthroughs on the excellent EQII wiki: they almost always make things sound more complicated and fiddly than they really are. It's hard to avoid. Try writing a detailed, step-by-step guide to a series of scripted encounters without leaving anything out or being vague.

I've tried it and it's difficult to be concise, clear and comprehensive. In an effort to cover everything it's almost impossible not to make things sound more obtuse and convoluted than they are in practice. The EQII wiki does a brilliant job but the sheer level of detail can feel intimidating. That's why I used to love Borgio's video walkthroughs - he made everything seem really easy. Unfortunately he had a falling out with the game a couple of years back and that was the end of that.

The other reason I hadn't finished up the questline was that the same walkthrough showed me the rewards and they weren't anything I wanted. My Berserker could already fly in BoL zones thanks to having done the crafting Signature line and the weapon is a choice of one-handers, whereas he's used a two-hander almost exclusively for years.

Even so, it needed to be done sometime and I had the afternoon free so I set to it. And guess what? It was easy. The instance took around an hour. All the bits that looked annoying in the walkthrough were a lot more simple in person.

There were a couple of mana drains but I managed them effectively with the help of some of the Clarity potions I got from Overseer missions. My almost maxed-out Inquisitor mercenary did a great job curing detrimentals. My DPS was plenty good enough. The trash fights took seconds, the boss fights two or three minutes. None of those attritional fifteen minute slugfests from a couple of years back.

After an hour it was off to see The Duality for a debriefing session that made it very obvious our visit to the moon is going to be a two-parter. We haven't heard a peep out of Darkpaw about this year's expansion, except a very vague nod towards there being one, but I'd lay heavy odds on a trip to the dark side of the moon.

Over the coming months I imagine I'll slowly finish the Adventure sig line on the other five max levels and the tradeskill line on the three that craft. Plus I want a Provisioner, so there's that to do as well. Should keep me logging in for most of the year, on and off.


  1. Divinity isn't D&D game, BG3 is.

    1. Oh yes, that's true. It feels so similar I forgot it wasn't the official version. The last ruleset I actually played was 1st ed. AD&D. Everything since then kind of blurs into one, including D&D-like systems such as Divinity uses so I tend to think of them all as "D&D".

      What edition rules did BG1 use?

    2. I think it was 2nd with many changes due to real time combat.

  2. I noticed the Everdeep thing in your first post but thought it such an odd mistake to make that I wanted to see where it went from there, whether you were going to repeat it or what. Putting it into Google the only results I get with that name are about skincare products...

    1. I'm pretty sure I was thinking of Waterdeep, which would still have been wrong but would at least have been an actual D&D name.

  3. I like D:OS quite a bit, but it does require a lot of tactics to survive fights, far more than the old Baldurs Gate games. I've kind of shelved it for the time being --I'm about 30-40% through at the moment-- mainly because I'd have to spend more time working out tactics than I do have at the moment.

    1. It has several difficulty levels. I'm playing on Explorer difficulty, which is supposed to be fair but forgiving according to the description. Not too bad so far, although one fight did end up with all the party bar one dead. Luckily the one still standing had several scrolls of resurrection.

      There's a Story mode, too, which I believe was added relatively recently. That is presumably the easiest. I don't know whether you can switch difficulties as you go along, though. I wouldn't want to get stuck after twenty or thirty hours and then have to start over because the game wouldn't let me trade down.

  4. I tried taking my Berserker through the signature quest line today. I must be woefully undergeared for the solo instances. It took over 30 minutes for me to kill the last name in the Listless Spires! I might try looking in to some quick DPS wins; I don't think I can bare that again.

  5. Well, this has me reinstalling Neverwinter. Huh, didn't expect to be doing that.


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