I have walked 500 miles

Above a port city of soaring spires hangs a female rogue on a rope spanning the blue sky and aims a throwing knife offscreen while in the background a woman on a balcony looks out at the sea.
This scene never took place in the game.

I think I’m more than halfway through Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. I’ve been playing the Baldur’s Gate series off and on ever since I loaded up the first game probably eight or nine years ago. I used the Baldur’s Gate Trilogy mod to have BG1 run through the BG2 engine, so essentially I’ve been playing a single run of a computer role-playing game for most of a decade. With the end fast approaching I wanted to take a look back at the highlights of my run. Call it a greatest hits compilation.

The player's adventuring party threatens Saladrex the red dragon in passable 90's graphics that are distinctly of their era.
What the game actually looks like. (Click to embiggen)

Let me just say that this game is fun as shit. It was and is my greatest tutor in the ways of Dungeons & Dragons.  I like the roleplaying and I like the combat. I like coming up with all kinds of screwy as hell solutions to kill monsters. Maybe I’ll scout out some enemies, then withdraw and attract their attention with some fireballs. Then I’ll cast Grease to knock them down, Web to tangle them up, then Greater Malison to mess with their attempts to avoid my attacks. Then I’ll pull out the crossbows, bows, and slings and go to town while they’re falling on their asses all covered in spider webs. Or maybe I’ll stay just out of range and spam twenty fireballs and a million firestorms and acid fogs, then go invisible and watch the chaos close up.

If you played these games before the Dragon Age ones then you would have seen that the latter series is basically a console-compatible version of this series with nicer graphics. Well, also Dragon Age is smaller because every line of dialogue needs to be voiced. I find the combat more fun with the Baldur’s Gate games just for how crazy it can get. I always feel rather constricted in the Dragon Ages in that there are pretty much just a few ways to win. Once you figure it out you’ll basically be doing the same thing over and over for each encounter. But not in Baldur’s Gate.

Anyway, I’m finally getting my character to the end of her journey as a Neutral Evil half-elf mage-thief. Look, I’d just read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books so I wanted a party of mage-thieves and for a while I was even able to roleplay that way. Plus “elven lady” was one of the few default character portraits available in the game.

Character screen showing the in-game stats of the Neutral Evil Half-Elf JarnosaxaIn-game paper doll representation of Jarnosaxa in the Robe of Vecna and wielding the Mana BowI’m doing an Evil playthrough which I’m told has given my party an odd composition – no Minsc the Neutral Good ranger, no Jaheira the True Neutral fighter-druid, no Keldorn the Lawful Good inquisitor. I don’t need any goody two-shoes on my team. I’ve got Anomen, the paladin who I got to renounce his religion and become Neutral; Edwin, the best sorcerer in the game and whose Evil alignment is a cause of concern for Good players who want to use him; Viconia, the dark elf cleric with an amusingly amoral outlook; and Imoen, the human mage-thief who I’m taking along despite her Good alignment because she’s my character’s childhood friend and half-sister. Hey, it’s a roleplaying game so I’m playing the hell out of this role. I’ve also got the super-evil secret companion as my resident asskicker. I used to have Korgan the dwarf but I sacrificed him in Hell when I had to choose between that and giving up two points from my stats – again, rolepaying Evil here.

As an Evil character I’ve been murdering my way through the world of Faerun. My character does have a soft spot for kids, letting me take some of the Good quests, but she will otherwise kill the shit out of anyone who gets mouthy. Notable murders and massacres include Drizzt Do’urden (boy, I really enjoyed killing him and then killing the friends who came to avenge him), Adalon the silver dragon (dragons are for slaying, especially the Good ones whose scales you can turn into armour), the Order of the Radiant Heart (they were trash-talking my boy Anomen), the Harper Hold, and the Temples of Talos, Helm, and Lathander. My greatest regret is not killing Elminster, but the people behind the fixpack mod “fixed” that bug. The best I could do was steal his wallet.

My toughest battle so far was with Irenicus – took me two weeks to figure out a way to do it, which involved getting my ass kicked, turning invisible and running like hell, then sneaking back and recovering the bodies of my party to resurrect them for round two. A close second would be Yaga Shura the fire giant, with his literally endless army and who I just finished killing a couple of nights ago. Cheesiest win would be against Kangaxx the Demi-Lich, where I went invisible and hid in a corner of his crypt until his spell protections wore off. I do have the Sword Coast Strategems mod installed which really ups the difficulty. The enemies don’t have more hit points, they’re just way smarter at using what they have. One time I got ambushed by thieves using invisibility potions and Backstab. I finally learned what that felt like.

My biggest “oh shit” moment from the games was when I was fighting Demogorgon the Prince of Demons and used my old Time Stop trick so I could take down his spell protections at my leisure. The world turned grey but he was still in colour; worse, he was coming right at me! I mean, have you seen this guy?

Demogorgon, Prince of Demons
A twenty foot tall baboon-headed octopus monster. That fight did not end well. Still, once I got the right combination of spells to take down his defences he died pretty easily.

I quite enjoy playing this series and will be melancholy at completing it. I normally don’t replay games where I roleplay heavily as I can only do them once – the first run is the canonical one in my mind and I feel weird doing it all over again. I’ve been considering Pillars of Eternity after this but apparently it’s not as involved as the Baldur’s Gate games. I’ve already tried Planescape Torment several times and the furthest I’ve gotten is after recruiting your first companion; something about the setting just doesn’t click with me. Oh well, maybe I’ll just get back to Borderlands 2 or finish up ICO.

And my favourite cameos are the Solamnic Knights in the Planar Sphere. Woo, Dragonlance!

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