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volume 1, issue 41

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Beaker's Bent:
The Baldur's Gate Rant

By Rich "Beaker" Wyckoff

Should I even go into the annoying real time battle system which took the one joy out of computerized AD&D for me? I started to remember why I resisted the Gold Box games for so long: the whole AD&D system is so unsuited to the computer in the first place - too few levels, too many ridiculous restrictions, no skill system to speak of (the real fun in most CRPGs). Remove the satisfaction of being able to carefully plant that stinking cloud in the doorway and immobilizes a couple of the Hill Giants just long enough for your Ranger to get up there and give them a couple good swipes with his long sword, and it turns out you don't have a lot left. It still seems odd that people could criticize Diablo for being a clickfest and then praise Baldur's Gate where if you try to exert control your mages lose their own spells if you give them a movement order after a spell casting order. At least in Diablo you knew what each click had a predictable and satisfactory result.

Just when it looked like I was starting to have some fun playing the game my own way and methodically hacking-and-slashing through map after map gaining xps, one or another of my NPCs would decide with little warning that I had ignored their quest for too long and desert, forcing me to back up to a save of several game days ago and make a mad dash to satisfy their conditions before they would abandon me. Meanwhile I was being driven mad by the absolutely meaningless annoying vocals repeat over and over again as your semi-evil characters keep saying one of their two "You suck" lines just because I'd been solving little problems and gaining reputation (because of course an evil character couldn't possibly be satisfied with winning the game). Not to mention the aggravation of the characters going through their completely predictable little exchanges about "Boy do I like/hate you," with the same over-acted little snibbets that had absolutely no visible impact on gameplay. I actually began to wish for Shamino and Iolo begging to be fed - at least I knew that they were really hungry and not just saying some lines over and over again which someone thought would make them seem more "real."

Well, of course there's the "epic" plot. Kill the local bad guy, find the letter which tells you who his boss is, go kill him, repeat until bored. I got bored all right, bored enough to lose most of my interest probably five or so hours from the finish. What really drove me over the edge and made me stop altogether was when I decided to explore some of the supposedly interesting dungeons before completing the game, went down to the infamous place with the Kobold commandos, and ran smack into one of the best "features" of all - regenerate on save! Yep, that's right - in order to discourage a standard feature of games, some of the enemies secretly come back every time you save (or possibly just load) the game. Nothing like clearing out that tough roomful of enemies and drinking up your last healing potions just to have them all pour out on you again when you start playing again the next day and accidentally walk back in that direction.

I've actually been easy on the game - I could fill this much space again with the rest of the annoying features (why, after nearly a decade of drag and drop interfaces in RPGs, would auto-stacking of similar inventory items be the kind of feature that first gets implemented for the expansion disc, for crying out loud?) One of my diehard but cynical RPG fan friends apparently has catalogued every thing that another game has gotten right over the past years but BG didn't - I decided I'd better not look or I'd never be able to stop this rant.

(Continued on Next Page)

 

Credits: Beaker's Bent logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Beaker's Bent is © 1999 Rich Wyckoff. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it. We have ways of making you talk.