Best cRPGs: Current Ranking:

1. Jagged Alliance 2 (99%): God-king of cRPGs6. Icewind Dale (84%) Almost perfect pacing
2. Fallout (94%) Best pure cRPG. Pro-tips7. Icewind Dale 2 (82%) Pushed IE to the limit
3. Baldur's Gate (92%) Does everything well.8. Temple of Elemental Evil (79%) 3.5 employment
4. Fallout 2 (90%) More Fallout
9. Silent Storm (76%) Destructibility & verticality
5. Arcanum (86%) Tarant = best single area ever10. Planescape: Torment (72%) Loved & loathed

Commercial cRPGs only. Otherwise, Swordflight is ranked above Baldur's Gate.

Diablo 2, Best Builds, Resurrected


In Diablo 2, a build is a number of levels achieved in a class along with the stats and skills chosen, as well the items that are found, bought, crafted or traded. Leveling and building is easy; finding the godly items that make the build isn't.

As it pertains to killspeed, the best build in Diablo 2 is the Windforce Hydra Bowazon. Killspeed is king-tier criteria since the faster a build kills, the faster is its power progression and wealth acquisition.

Diablo 2 Best Builds:

I. Bowazon: Windforce HydraV. Necro: Summonmancer
II. Lightzon: Eth Titan's RevengeVI. Necro: Poisonmancer
III. Lightsorc: Lightning BoltVII. Throwbarb: Eth Lacerator + Immortal King
IV. Blizzsorc: Blizzard + Ice BlastVIII. Frenzy Barb + Double Swing Barb

When starting off, however, summonmancers are recommended for newbies. Then, move onto Lightsorc and Blizzsorc for efficient boss-farming. After that, we have the wealth to deck out expensive gear-dependent builds such as Frenzy barbs and Throwbarbs.













• In-depth playthrough commentary:

◦ [HardcoreDoubleswing Barb

◦ [HardcoreBowazon

◦ [Softcore] Twinking Low Level Characters

◦ [Softcore] Twinked BowazonPart I — Godly at First Level

◦ [Softcore] Twinked BowazonPart II — Normal mode

◦ [Softcore] Twinked BowazonPart III — Nightmare mode

◦ [Softcore] Twinked BowazonPart IV — Hell mode

◦ [Softcore] Epic BowazonMax Spawns ExtremePit running

◦ [Softcore] Epic BowazonMax Spawns ExtremeChaosing

◦ [Softcore] Epic BowazonMax Spawns ExtremeRevisedPit running

◦ [Softcore] Epic BowazonBowazon Crowd ControlDelirium (crowd control)

◦ [Softcore] Twinked SpearazonPart I — Normal mode

◦ [Softcore] Twinked SpearazonPart II — Nightmare mode

◦ [Softcore] Twinked SpearazonPart III — Hell mode (WiP)

 Legion of the Necromancer (100 simultaneous summons) [link] (self-modded)

Hardcore runs were conducted with v.1.14d. Those are 100% legitimate runs. Softcore runs were conducted with 1.13c and PlugY v.10.00 (stash-sharing). Epic write-ups also employ max MonDen, MaxMobpacks and maphack with custom cfg.

Diablo 2, Best Items, Resurrected



This is a list of the best items that I have found, bought, crafted, imbued, rolled or traded. Note that many of these items are extremely rare and expensive. Don't expect to ever acquire them through casual play, derping around and being clueless. Indeed, there are some items in this list that most veterans can expect never to acquire, even if they were to play for years on end. INDEED, good luck even finding screencaps on the internet of some of these items.

Remember that there is a massive difference in value between an imperfect item and a perfect item. Indeed, you can't have "godly" without perfection.

If you want to make a good build, you are going to need some of the items listed here.

• Best Runewords (for twinking):

◦ Stealth: armor (easily the best early armor)

◦ Spirit: crystal sword

◦ Spirit: monarch

◦ Leaf: war staff

◦ Strength: naga, zweihander, superior, perfect

◦ Honor: naga, zweihander, superior, perfect, lld

◦ King's Grace: zweihander, superior, perfect

• Bases:

◦ I. [Sword] Crystal Sword, perfect, superior

◦ II. [Mace] War Scepter, perfect superior

◦ III. [Helm] Mask, perfect, superior, vlld

◦ IV. [Armor] Ancient Armor, perfect, superior, vlld (269)

I-IV = socket with JoE with some -req mod.

◦ [Armor] Ornate Plate, perfect, superior, lld (518)

◦ [Armor] Sacred Armor, perfect, superior (691)

◦ [Armor] Sacred Armor: Stone, perfect, ethereal, ebugged (max 5265 def.)

◦ [Armor] Light Plate, perfect, superior, vlld [link] (124)

◦ [Armor] Mage Plate, perfect, superior, lld [link] (301)

◦ [Armor] Archon Plate, perfect, superior [link] (603)

◦ [Armor] Archon Plate, perfect, ethereal, ebugged [link] (796, 1179)

◦ [Shield] Monarch, perfect, superior [link] (171)

◦ [Shield] Monarch, perfect, ethereal, ebugged, Spirit [link] (222, 333)

◦ [Bow] Hydra bow, perfect, superior [link]

◦ [Axe] Robo naga, superior, perfect, lld [link]

◦ Ethereal Bugged, eth bugged, ebugged [link]

• Magic:

◦ [Armor] Jeweler's Archon Plate of the Whale [link]

◦ [Armor] Jeweler's Sacred Armor of the Whale [link]

◦ [Armor] Artisan's Light Plate of the Squid, perfect, lld [link]

◦ [Armor] Artisan's Mage Plate of the Squid, perfect, lld [link]

◦ [Shield] Jeweler's Monarch of Deflecting [link]

◦ [Shield] Artisan's Dragon Shield of Deflecting, perfect, lld [link]

◦ [Sword] Cruel Colossus Blade of Quickness, perfect [link]

◦ [Sword] Jeweler's Phase Blade of Quickness [link]

◦ [Javelin] Lancer's Matriarchal Javelin of Quickness, perfect [link]

◦ [Gloves] Lancer's Vampirebone Gloves of Alacrity, perfect [link]





◦ [Jewel] Carmine Jewel of Carnage, lld

◦ [Jewel] Rusty Jewel of Carnage, lld

◦ [Jewel] Jewel of Envy, lld, twinking

• Rare:

 [Jewel] The 30 60 9 9 (extremely rare and expensive; don't expect to ever find one)

◦ [Jewel] vll Rare Twinking Jewels [link]

• Unique:

◦ [Bow] Windforce [link] (best bow)

◦ [Helm] Arreat's Face, perfect, upped [link] (best barb helm)

◦ [Helm] Peasant Crown, perfect [link]

◦ [Armor] Twitchthroe [link]

◦ [Belt] String of Ears, perfect [link]

◦ [Ring] Raven Frost, perfect [link] (best ring)

◦ [Ring] Manald Heal, perfect [link]

◦ [Sword] Bloodletter, perfect, lld [link]

◦ [Mace] Bonesnap, perfect, upped [link]

◦ [Armor] Rattlecage, perfect [link]

◦ [Polearm] Stormspire [link] (rarest unique in Diablo 2)

◦ [Sword] The Grandfather, perfect [link]

◦ [Armor] Tyrael's Might, perfect [link

◦ [Javelin] Titan's Revenge, ethereal, upped [link]

◦ [Polearm] Reaper's Toll, ethereal [link]

◦ [Polearm, spear] Hone Sundan, ethereal, upped [link]

◦ [Phase Blade] Ginther's Rift, ethereal, upped [link]

◦ [Eldritch Orb] Eschuta's Temper, perfect [link]

◦ [Diadem] Griffon's Eye [link]

◦ [Gloves] Venom Grip, perfect, lld [link]

◦ [Belt] Lenymo [link]

• Set:

◦ [Mace] Griswold's Redemption [link] (rarest set item in Diablo 2)

◦ [Armor] Immortal King's Soul Cage [link] [build]

◦ [Gloves] Laying of Hands [link] (demonsbane)

◦ [Sword] Bul Kathos' Sacred Charge [link]

→ Epic:

◦ Infinity: thresher, ethereal

◦ Stone: sacred armor

◦ Breath of the Dying: berserker axe, ethereal

◦ Breath of the Dying: colossus blade, ethereal

◦ Breath of the Dying: hydra bow, superior

My biggest issue with Diablo 2 single-player mode (SP) is as follows. Once we reach Act III of Normal mode, all of the base weapons and armors offered by vendors (Normal, white) are "upgraded" to magical ones (blue). But no one wants magical items at that point. No one. What we want is a baseline selection of Normal items that have sockets for gems, jewels and runes, like the ones that are offered for sale by merchants in Acts I and II, but which don't cut the mustard anymore because they are low-tier base. Acts III, IV and V merchants ONLY offer magical items, which is useless garbage to us.

Plus, there is no Horadric cube recipe that allows us to up-tier baseline weapons and armors. This only exists for rares and uniques, which means we have to farm for a baseline item, but that's like looking for a needle in a haystack when we consider the breadth of itemization pools. And not only that, but at that point we are looking for exactly the right amount of sockets for the runeword. Suffice it to say that our chances are slim.

The restrictions on baseline availability ultimately means that, relative to the enemy, we are stagnating equipment-wise.

We can, of course, push on and succeed in Normal mode (our build improves regardless of itemization) but in Nightmare mode it's going to get hard for physical-based, equipment-dependent builds (such as Barbarians). In SP Hardcore mode, Nightmare is like hitting a brickwall and Hell is like hitting a titanium wall. We need our up-tiered arms and armor. Not want, need. We don't want those war axes in Nightmare, we want Nagas. And we don't want those Nagas in Hell, we want Berserker Axes.

Let me give an example: straight-up axe-wielding Barbarian. As I proved in my Double Swing Hardcore run, he couldn't even upgrade his axe into a war axe. And in Nightmare, he wasn't going to find baseline Nagas without engaging in mind-numbing repetition. StrengthHonor and King's Grace runewords in Nagas and Zweihanders are a distant dream.

This is why many of us forego Hardcore mode, turn into wimps, and twink with PlugY in Softcore mode, but that is too easy (though very fun to experiment with). This is also why Median XL exists: to make Diablo 2 more SP-friendly, to focus more on skill and knowledge rather than luck and grind.

Because ultimately, luck and grind = BULLSHIT.


As it pertains to perfection in equipping characters, there are theoretical optimums but mere mortals won't get within a galaxy's proximity of them. We can have perfect base item rollsperfect unique item rolls and even the odd perfect magic item roll, but it's the RARES that make for the truly god-tier builds. And getting ethereal, self-repairing Rares with god-tier mods that outstrip uniques, bejeweled bases and runewords... well, good luck with that. It basically isn't ever going to happen. It is the exclusive province of the most dedicated players only -- years and years of farming, trading, crafting  and imbuing.

In the end, it is the clever combination of all kinds of items on a build that impresses, but godly rares stand out more than anything else.



WinUAE, Best Games, Best Amiga Game Developers


Hi guys, my name's Lilura1 and welcome to my write-up on the best games for WinUAE / Amiga, and the best developers for the Amiga. This article is also published on Medium.

In the tradition of 16 bit gaming the Amiga was most famous for its shoot 'em ups and platformers that pushed its custom chipset to the limit and allowed it to contend with the Genesis and SNES consoles - even towards the end of its lifetime. It was its copper and its blitter, its parallax hardware-scrolling and its sampled sounds that enabled it to stand the test of time in the highly competitive arena of 16 bit gaming. Many of its games ran at 50 FPS, too.



What constitutes an Amiga game, and what constitutes an Amiga developer?

Strictly speaking, I venture to state that an Amiga game is a game that was coded and designed FOR the Amiga, and developers whose code and design targeted the chipset were AMIGA developers. The Amiga must be first and foremost in the mind. Ideally, the advantages of Amiga hardware are tapped into on a custom chipset level, not just the Motorola 68k which the Amiga shared with several other platforms (though at differing clock-rates). 

Sadly, this was not done as often as one would have liked: it always disappointed me that so many Amiga games were ports of ST and MS-DOS games: inferior 2D gaming platforms in the Amiga's heyday, to be sure, since they lacked a custom chipset. For example, where were the hardware sprites, where was the second playfield, where was the multi-directional hardware scrolling?

The Bitmap Bros. -- the rockstars of the day -- mostly buffed Atari ST ports, so how can their games properly be called Amiga games? Xenon and Speedball are their best games and the rest are somewhat overrated, but still great (Cadaver, Chaos Engine, Gods, Xenon II, Speedball 2). 

If a few colors are added or the music and sound is better (sampled), is it an actual Amiga game or a glorified ST version on the Amiga? Don't get me wrong, I love the Bitmaps. Their games are great even though they don't run at full frames. Also, the non-AGA pixel art of Mark Coleman and Dan Malone is masterwork. But I don't consider the Bitmaps focused Amiga developers.

In addition, I would argue that it was not worth paying the extra five to play an ST port on the Amiga.

Next, the reader is going to have to convince me that LucasFilm's The Secret of Monkey Island -- which veteran Amiga communities hold in high or even highest regard -- is an Amiga game; it's an MS-DOS game on the Amiga. Moreover, it is built on the cross-platform SCUMM engine which has its origins on the Commodore 64 and Apple II. Music aside, where is the Amiga in this game?

Also, remember the smooth scrolling in SoMI? Yeah, neither do I.

In addition, if I'm not mistaken, Delphine's Flashback didn't belong properly to any platform at any time (its genesis on the Sega Genesis); even √Čric Chahi's Another World didn't (though both were 68000 assembly-coded games). For those who don't know, both of these games were cinematic platformers with rotoscoped, vector-based visuals, though Flashback's gameplay is far superior to the trial-and-error of AW.

I believe Archer Maclean's Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker is an ST game. Certainly it is 68k assembly-coded, and is an apex masterpiece that should never be forgotten.



David Braben's Frontier: Elite II also does not strictly fit my criteria, but I can't ignore its existence anymore than Archer Maclean's game:

With its god-tier procedural generation within a 400k executable, Frontier is one of the greatest games of all-time. Being 3D flat-shaded, we wanted an Amiga with revs. And that's the thing: 286es were superior polygon-pushers than even A1200s.

Frontier was coded in 68k assembly from the outset and later ported to 80286 assembly. It took Braben five and one-half years to code, he made history, and thus he is immortal as a programmer. As if Elite and Virus/Zarch weren't enough to cement his legacy as such.

• Best Amiga Game Developers, ranked in no particular order.



◦ Reflections: Shadow of the Beast I-III, Ballistix, Awesome, Brian the Lion etc.
ICONIC.

It doesn't get any more Amiga than BEAST.

Paul Howarth's coding, Martin Edmondson's visuals, David Whittaker and Wright Bros. music = win.


◦ Sensible Software: Cannon Fodder, Mega-Lo-Mania, Sensible World of Soccer
CUTE GRAFIX BUT SRS BUSINESS.

How can the inclusion of SS be argued against? SWOS runs at 50 FPS and is the best English football game ever. A competitive genre market, that alone demands respect.

When you throw in Cannon Fodder and Mega-Lo-Mania on top of that, you've got something special.


◦ Graftgold, Andrew Braybrook: Paradroid 90, Uridium 2, Fire & Ice
FAST-SCROLLER.

AB is an absolute legend in Amiga coding circles. Even his ports are masterpieces and all of his games have a high degree of playability; they're not just technically impressive.


◦ Bloodhouse: Stardust, Super Stardust AGA
ASTEROIDS & TUNNELS.

King-tier Asteroids clones with light-sourced, rotating asteroids and high-speed tunnel segments reminiscent of Space Harrier. Pure gaming and extremely difficult to play without a quality input device.


◦ DMA Design: Blood Money, Lemmings, Walker, Hired Guns
RISING WATER.

DMA were top-tier designers, coders and artists. Lemmings alone demands that they be ranked at the forefront of Amiga developers.


◦ Factor 5: Turrican I-III, BC Kid
BIG-ASS ROTATING GUN.

50 FPS, arcade-quality run-n-gun games bolstered by a perfectly-polished platform game means that Factor 5 rank highly. Turrican was designed by Manfred Trenz, and the composer was Chris Huelsbeck. These guys knew how to tap into Amiga Alienware.


◦ Kaiko: Apidya
ALMOST PERFECT.

The best horizontally-scrolling SHMUP on the Amiga. The music is absolutely awesome and the graphics aren't too shabby either. Even current gen gamers would find Apidya playable.


◦ Team 17. Numerous.
QUANTITY & QUALITY.

At times, Team 17 seemed to be generic and unambitious in respect to design (ATR, Assassin, Project-X, Super Frog etc.), but their games were polished, targeted the Amiga's chipset and ran at full frames (or at least appeared to).

Worms came at the tail-end of the Amiga's lifespan; the horse had bolted. However, Team 17 should be commended for their endurance and professionalism. They didn't cop out or turn tail and run. 

Team 17 had the quantity of output with the quality (a rare thing), but only Alien Breed is king-tier.


◦ Ordilogic Systems: Unreal
JAW-DROPPER IN 1990.

Aptly-named since its production values were indeed unreal. The game is part-platformer, part-railshooter. It has Amiga written ALL OVER IT.


◦ Art & Magic: Agony
OWL.

Art & Magic are aptly-named as well. Games with haunting visuals and instrumentals on this level are rare. Agony is stamped with an Amiga seal, too. One could never mistake Agony for a lowly ST or artless MS-DOS game. It is impossible.


◦ Cope-Com: Hybris & Battle Squadron
PREDATOR CLOAKING.

Difficult but highly-playable vertically-scrolling SHMUPs. The best on the Amiga. 

Hybris runs at 50 FPS; Battle Squadron at only 25 FPS but the scrolling is still smooth. I could never choose which of these two is best.


◦ Cinemaware: Defender of the Crown, Wings, TV Sports
NINETEEN EIGHTY SIX.

When Crown came out there was nothing like it. If Crown and Wings were your introduction to Amiga gaming, you were truly blessed. While none of Cinemaware's games are my cup of tea these days, it would be foolish to ignore their historical significance.


◦ Thalion: Lionheart, Ambermoon
PRIME PIXEL ART.

Lionheart has some of the most gorgeous 2D backdrops on the Amiga. The pixel art is also A1 but the animations were not "Barbarian" enough for my taste. Still, it's an elite game.


◦ Random Access: Silkworm, SWIV
EXPLOSIONS.

Both SHUMPs are raw and gritty, and run at full frames. Both are also underrated by the greater gaming community.

***

In my humble opinion, those are the games and developers that really mattered on the Amiga; those are the games with Amiga soul. Even if its gameplay isn't great, Shadow of the Beast, especially, brought a degree of production value and artistry to 68k games that didn't exist beforehand, and Beast III does have great gameplay.

I don't see how Amigans would disagree fundamentally with that list, but let me know what you think in the comments section. This list was made from memory; there are bound to be notable omissions.

One other thing: It is a joke to watch or listen to Amiga games online. WinUAE is fine and emulators have numerous advantages, but there is nothing like original hardware for that authentic experience. Don't kid yourself. PCs are soulless shit compared to Amigas.


Thanks for reading, commenting and following, and have a lovely day.

5 mil



Hi, guys! This post is just to announce the 5 millionth view for Lilura1. Most of the views were garnered in 2020-21. For the previous month of July alone, this blog garnered 260k views.

In 2020, my viewership graph was inclining at about 30 degrees; in 2021, it's steepened to about 45.

Note that, in the past, cRPG commentators have considered 10k views per month "great" -- it's a niche genre, afterall!

Thank you to the regular readers and commenters, especially Rogueknight 333 and Tuth.

The Comment Stream and Followers gadget are back up due to the layout change. You can find them on the sidebar.

I hope you guys find the new layout better than the old one! Let me know what you think in the comments section. If you can be assed, please let me know of any serious usability issues.

You can also find me on lilura1.medium.com. Note that Medium articles of mine ported from Blogspot are non-canonical. That is, the Blogspot article remains the authoritative original for the purposes of Google indexing.

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.




Baldur's Gate 1 vs Baldur's Gate 2: BG1 vs BG2



Hi guys. My name's Lilura1 and welcome to my Baldur's Gate vs. Baldur's Gate 2 write-up.

Let's begin with a conclusion: BG1 is better than BG2. Low level AD&D campaigns are eo ipso superior to mid-point and epic ones. BG1 is about open-world exploration, scouting and survival whereas BG2 is about bulldozing the opposition, from the Chateau to the Throne. What I mean is, in BG1 we only have a few spells, items and abilities and that means we have to use them wisely if we want to survive whereas in BG2 -- even at the beginning -- we have too much at our disposal; there are just too many ways to easily win. Each level-up in BG1 is meaningful. That THAC0 gain, that HD gain, that spell slot, those thief skill points. Not so in BG2.

BG1 did everything better than BG2. Everything. Moreover, the campaign was developed in parallel with the engine, making it by far the greater creative, technical and organizational achievement by then-fledgling developer, BioWare. It is a complete joke to cite BG2 as a greater achievement than BG1.

BG2 is what happens when developers listen to fans: the reason BioWare threw in romances and long-winded banter. I'd say BG2 fans are even worse than Morrowind ones because TES had no height to fall from; it was already rock-bottom, low-brow, dragging-of-the-knuckles gaming.

BG1 was seminal: it sparked the RPG Renaissance. It is the 2nd greatest D&D-based RPG ever and the 4th greatest RPG ever whereas BG2 is a monstrous distortion of the gold standard in classic AD&D adventuring set by BG1. In comparison to the original, the sequel is a ludicrous grotesquery.

BG2 recycled so much from BG1 (as sequels often do), but it didn't add much substance on its own. It didn't invent anything, it didn't innovate a damn thing [1]. It is bigger and more feature-packed, but worse off for it. BG1 proves that less is more.

For those coming off the original, the sequel was a major disappointment. It whisked us away to prison, took almost all of our gear from us as a result, arbitrarily enforced a "canon party", and killed off some companions and wrote immersion-breaking dialogue for others, such as "I remember you; aren't you dead?" Well, no. That companion didn't die or leave the party in my game. They survived a sweeping adventure that spanned the length, breadth and depth of an entire region. 80 hours of gaming doesn't lie.

Did you spend the three Wisdom Tomes on Jaheira? Well, they're wiped. Because Jaheira is now a different character. All the companions are. It doesn't feel like a proper continuation because our BG1 adventuring party is not available to us. They have been modified, removed or simply killed off in order to furnish an arbitrary narrative -- one whose basis and build-up pales in comparison to the original's.

[1] Some rando forum scrub once cited the wall trap in Spellhold as being a great feature of BG2. Unknown to this rando forum scrub, is that the wall trap was first added in Durlag's Tower of Tales of the Sword Coast for the original BG. I've seen this a lot in the past few years: newbies and other ignorant people crediting BG2 for things the original BG invented. That is because they haven't played the original BG, but that doesn't stop them opening their stinking pie holes, does it?

BioWare didn't respect the choices made by the player in the original. Instead, their preference was to wipe the slate clean and funnel the player down a linear path of cutscene after cutscene and intrusive banter after intrusive banter in order to appeal to a casual new audience over the one that got them to where they were in the first place.

The only people that think BG2 > BG1 are the ones who began with BG2, which is akin to:

• Watching Empire Strikes Back before the first Star Wars,

• Reading Dune Messiah before Dune,

• Reading Two Towers before the Fellowship of the Ring

These clueless specimens -- who constitute a wretched horde in 2021 -- don't realize that the Bhaalspawn Saga is officially a trilogy, with ToB being its third installment.

This horde recommends that newbies skip BG1 and go straight to BG2. Only ignorant people would make such a recommendation to newbies. They spoiled the trilogy for themselves by rushing their way through it and now they want to spoil it for everyone else, too.

To be sure, a matter for zoology.

***

I would have rewritten the main plot of the BG2 campaign. BG2 would have started in the Cloud Peaks mountain range south of Nashkel, and had the party journeying to Athkatla in Amn. Let's not pretend that it would have been difficult to make a grand campaign wherein the player was never kidnapped by Irenicus (an inferior villain to Sarevok, to be sure; take away his VO and he's nothing). The SoA plot is little more than a marathon-length diversion from the real story: that of the Bhaalspawn, Bhaal-lore and the Prophecy of Alaundo. And as a result of SoA's incompetent narrative, ToB is an epic banality, a rush-job.

People go on about Mage duels in BG2; well, BG1 invented them, not BG2. The duel with Davaeorn is still my fave Mage duel in the Saga, not only due to the limitations imposed by low level parties, but also because he employs pre-buffing to avoid being backstabbed and Dimension Door to teleport about. Most BG2 Mages are just standing around unbuffed, waiting for a chunking, and BG2 cut out Dimension Door due to its sequence-breaking potential. So now -- if they survive the backstab opener (which they won't unless they're Stoneskinned, which is rare) -- Mages just stand there like fools casting spells; they have almost no mobility of their own; they go invisible with Shadow Door and reappear in the exact same spot because they want us to give them that chunking. Sad. Even Dark Side did more for spellcaster mobility. Oh, and The Grey Clan proved that we can employ contingencies in BG1, too.

I'll end this intro with a specific item, but it's important to me. The sound effects are far superior in BG1 as well. The sound of steel-on-steel, warhammer on fullplate or dagger into flesh. The chunking sounds. All are much more impacting to the ear. It sounds like a battle.

A flail is a ball and chain, right? So when you swing it, you can hear the chain. Not in BG2, though. In BG1, you can hear the drawing back of a bow. Not in BG2, though. In BG1, you can hear the chain links of your armor rustling as you move around. Not in BG2, though. BG2 couldn't even get its soundscape right.

***

Ok, let's go through some other stuff:

• Fundamental Campaign Design. BioWare's representation of the city of Athkatla, the country of Amn, and the exotic locales that stretch out beyond the bounds of civilization (and beneath it), is impressive:


An undeniable highlight -- indeed, one of the few virtues -- of the BG2 campaign is how its second and third chapters offer non-linear exploration of a quest-dense urban hub, Athkatla, but the Prologue aka "Chateau Irenicus", Chapter One, and Chapters Four to Seven are linear affairs, as is the Throne of Bhaal expansion campaign.

There's that word: linear. Both BG1 and BG2 have linear stories but the former's world is much more open for exploration purposes. The world map is realistic in its layout (contiguous), in that we move from one area to another, in the required direction, in order to get to our destination, all the while under the threat of waylay and fatigue. It feels more like a journey, an adventure. It feels like the Fellowship; like AD&D. The player unlocks areas through natural exploration.

But in BG2, the whining NPC that runs up to us for help -- THEY unlock outskirt areas by marking our map. Then, we just click the map marker and get dropped off to our destination like paratroopers; rare scripted waylay aside, we don't work to get there. In fact, it's exactly like Oblivion's fast travel and that's not an exaggeration in the slightest.

In comparison to Athkatla, Baldur's Gate city was more impactful, more impressive (as anyone who played it when it came out knows), and once we finally reached the city after all the exploration in the wilderness, the campaign shifted into an entirely new, urban phase of political intrigue, yet still let us explore the wilderness whenever we wanted to.

We had to find the side quests in BG1 by ourselves (sometimes through rumors at the inn, sometimes there was no lead at all) but in BG2 sidequests found us. Our party is the center of the universe. The player must feel special at all times. The designer wouldn't want us to miss anything they spent time crapping out, so they shove it in our face to make sure we know it's there. Not that BG1 didn't have its fair share of force-talking and hand-holding, but in BG2 we couldn't walk around Athkatla for 10 seconds without being spoon-fed by quest-givers and irrelevant assholes. It was intrusive and tiresome. Sidequests were even forced upon us by way of scripted waylays. The design rarely leaves the player alone. It is nagging. The design of BG2 is NAGGING.

Also, Athkatla's areas don't even line up structurally. Try to picture Athkatla -- as a whole -- in your mind. You can't, because it's just a haphazard mish-mash with no thought gone into it. The map reflects that:


That is such a trashy map.

Athkatla's areas are compartmentalized and completely separate, with no link to or visual suggestion of the others, just like the whole campaign.

Nothing is gradual in BG2. It's just, you're here now and now you're suddenly here instead. From city to forest, just like that. You didn't get tired, you didn't get waylaid, you couldn't walk off the beaten track and get side-tracked or lost in old ruins. Almost everything is announced and forecast beforehand. Again, no sense of landscape, journeying or adventuring. Rare is a sense of remoteness and mystery as well. This decadent design appeals to people with short attention spans, limited gaming aptitude and no gaming pedigree to speak of. They want to be led by the nose, they want to be spoon-fed and they want their hand held every step of the way. Woe betide anyone who gives them freedom to explore or discover something for themselves. YOU MUST SPELL EVERYTHING OUT.

Oh look, it's an actual city-representation with full contiguity and logic:



Oh look, an overworld that is almost wholly contiguous, free to explore and logical in layout:


• Prologue comparison: BG2 has a lengthy, unskippable and tiresomely over-wrought Chateau Irenicus whereas BG1 has the almost entirely skippable Candlekeep. In Candlekeep, nothing is stopping players foregoing introductory quests and tutorial dialogue and just bee-lining to Gorion's death and non-linear exploration of the Sword Coast. Perfect. 

But in BG2, we've got cutscenes, lots of crap to kill (it's a freakshow) and many poorly-written and long-winded interjections to sift through that try hard to tap into our emotions, but never succeed in doing so. And Imoen. Suddenly she's got a lot to say, she wants to comment on everything in a morbid manner, and it's so damn boring that it sucks the life out of the game before it's even begun.

Then, once we finally reach the surface and the city, we have to watch another long cutscene followed by interjections from three companions in succession before we gain control of our party. And we don't get to choose what to do until we've been forced to accept the offer of the thief in the Slums. 

Can I start playing now? No, there is another cutscene...

• Wilderness Area Design. BG2 area design lacks variety. It is bereft of barren wilderness areas: 8 of the 11 Amnish outskirts areas are forests; 11 of the 11 are situated in woodland areas. On the other hand, BG1 hosts one dozen barren areas, not just forests. Also, many of BG1's areas feature height-mapped terrain which not only adds visual variety but can also be employed for tactical purposes, such as avenue of approach. There are almost no examples of height-mapped terrain in the Amnish wilderness; mostly, it's dead-flat.

Examples of barren areas in BG1. Note the height-mapping on the left and right.


More examples of height-mapped terrain:


Look at that gnoll fortress on the right. There isn't a single map in BG2 that comes close to that!

 Reactivity. The sequel added a bit more in the way of reactivity, though it's still disappointing how little of it exists in the Bhaalspawn Saga. For example, evil Charnames will get the choice of poisoning the Druid Grove or not, which won't be an option for Good or Neutral Charnames. And another example: Charname Thieves won't be able to join Bodhi against the Shadow Thieves in respect to the Guild War. And that's about it. Whoop-dee-doo. There are almost no stat-checks in dialogue and most of the Charisma-based ones were devalued by gifting the player a ring that sets their Charisma to 18 in Chapter One, which is just stupid.

Original BG reactivity has been covered in multiple posts, beginning here.

• Races, Classes & Kits. Here is what BG2 added:

• One new RaceHalf-orc. [races]

• Three new base ClassesSorcererBarbarian & Monk. [classes]

• One new Specialist Mage: Wild Mage

• 21 Kits aka Prestige Classes

For Fighter we have BerserkerWizard Slayer, Kensai
for Ranger ArcherStalkerBeastmaster
for Paladin CavalierInquisitorUndead Hunter
for Cleric Priest of Talosof Helmof Lathander
for Druid Totemic DruidShapeshifterAvenger
for Thief Assassin, Bounty HunterSwashbuckler
and for Bard BladeJester, Skald.

The question is: Does this or does this not constitute a good addition to the Bhaalspawn Saga

No, it doesn't. With the possible exception of Monk and Barbarian (traditional classes), we could omit all of the above and nothing of value would be lost. What do Wild Mages and Sorcerers add that Mages and base Specialists don't already cover, for example? There are not enough differences between them to warrant their inclusion. The fun is in casting arcane spells, fullstop. 

Wild Mages are downright stupid.

Barbarian is more interesting than Berserker. There is no need for Berserkers or Battleragers. Who ever thought Dwarven Fighter wasn't tough enough?

What on earth are Wizard Slayer and Inquisitor doing in BG, lmao? They are useless and OP magebane garbage, respectively -- and boring as hell to play. As it pertains to game balance, the Inquisitor is quite possibly the dumbest and most thoughtless class in the history of RPGs, since its super-dispel completely bypasses the only strength BG2 CED can boast of: spellcasting duels. Which is why it's such a popular class choice for the above-mentioned casuals lacking in gaming aptitude, and bereft of pedigree. The Inquisitor sits one step up from story mode.

The Druid and Cleric kits are almost wholly dross, too. Just useless feature bloat.

That is what kits are, though -- feature bloat. It's an easy way for developers to say, "Look at all the features we added!" It is much easier to add kits than it is to balance a game. It is much easier to keep adding to something, to hang bell after bell on it, than it is to refine and improve the core experience by sending the garbage to the chopping block. It's like everyone in the studio had a stupid idea and no one had the heart to reign them in.

Of course, in most cases, adding kits to BG1 completely imbalances a campaign whose combat encounters were not designed with such additions in mind, so kits are not only feature bloat but also power-creep (even in the AD&D supplements they were lifted from, kits are power-creep). But that's a problem for tasteless Enhanced Edition, Tutu, BGT and EET scrubs to wallow in, and original game balance will forever elude them until they play the original as it was intended by BioWare.

Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that those who have only played BG1 in the BG2 engine have not actually experienced BG1 as per dev intent. They have played a ridiculous abomination.

Note that BG1 and IWD1 were brazenly shoved into the BG2 engine by the Enhanced Edition. Not only that, but EE adds NINE more classes ON TOP OF the above-mentioned. BECAUSE MORE IS BETTER. Also, LOOK AT ALL THE FEATURES WE ADDED.

• The experience point cap (XP cap) has been increased from the humble 89,000 (BG1) and 161,000 (TotSC) to the epic 2,950,000 for Shadows of Amn, taking the party to 17th-23rd level depending on their class. Then, the Throne of Bhaal expansion further increases the XP cap to a whopping 8,000,000, meaning that characters reach levels 31-40, aka Godhood.

A lot of people are against epic-level campaigns because they get pretty crazy (I prefer low level ones, too), but let's face it: the plot takes Charname to Godhood so the XP cap must as well. The prime issue with the XP cap is that SoA characters may end up over-leveled due to ToB increasing the XP cap for SoA in addition. As is the case with almost every expansion ever made for an RPG, the devs forget about game balance for the original campaign itself.

• The companion pool has been reduced from 25 to 17; however, the companions are more fleshed out and offer more in the way of banters, interjections and personal quests. In a few cases romance is an option, too, but constantly being interrupted by the petty concerns of companions grows tiresome for people who just want to play the game. About to face off against a red dragon in its lair? Put that on hold: Aerie wants to cry on your shoulder about the loss of her wings; this currently takes priority over dodging dragonsbreath. The banter is annoying. BG1 and JA2 hit the right balance as it pertains to banter.

Note that the deeper companion pool of BG facilitates themed parties. There are far more party composition options in BG. Veterans can also accept the "chunking" of a couple of companions, knowing that there will be other companions to fill in for them later on (self-imposed Ironman). +8 companions makes a big difference in this mode of play.

I prefer more companions with less waffle. I wouldn't care if romances were never a thing: in the first place, it was the sad fanbase writing their own that "inspired" BioWare to include them officially for the sequel -- and RPGs were never the same again, as can clearly be seen by anyone who has eyes that can see, with the proliferation of what are essentially relationship sims that have little in common with the likes of classic Baldur's Gate and Fallout, let alone AD&D.

This crew is chirpy enough. There is no need for walls of text:


• The spell ranges have been increased from 46 divine and 72 arcane spells to 126 divine and 200 arcane spells. To top it off, we now have access to Contingencies, Triggers & Sequencers.

Arcane spells already scribed to the spellbook are also eraseable; that is, if you have reached your "spells scribable per circle limit" (modified by the Intelligence score) you may erase one of your (less useful) spells and memorize another, more useful one, in its place. I've never found the feature to be a life-saver.

Additionally, scribing spell scrolls to the spellbook now results in utility experience point rewards based on the level of the scroll. Along with the erase feature and the fact that there are some merchants who sell scrolls in infinite quantities, this opens up potential for abuse (though it is mindlessly repetitive so I doubt many players are going to engage in it).

Despite the amount of deadweight in the circles and the OP nature of spells in general, I'm all for more spells that facilitate experimentation and mix up encounter outcomes. I mean, an argument could be made that BG2 offers some of the most interesting spellcasting duels in the genre, and a lot of that has to do with its expanded arcane and divine repertoire. But again, BG2 didn't invent spellcasting duelsBG1 did.

Some BG2 enemies can instantly fire spell triggers/contingencies of their own such as the Mage-only "Tattoo of Power". These are unavailable to the player, and are triggered by scripts. Demons, Beholders and certain epic enemies also instantly fire abilities from scripts, and can do so infinitely (Death gaze, Beholder rays, and even conventional spells). None of these are limited to casting times oVancian spell slots. This was pioneered by BG1 through Basilisks and Aec-Letic.

• Summoning Cap. Remember how in BG1 we could summon armies of skeletons, animals & monsters [pic]? Well, with the notable exception of Wild Surges and obvious exploits, summons are now capped at just five units. To make up for that a couple of summon spells scale with caster level such as Animate Dead & Spider Spawn. Plus, we can gate in demonic and celestial juggernauts such as pit fiends and planetars as well as summon powerful minions such as mord swords, invisible stalkers and elemental princes.

While a lot less fun it's a good idea to limit the number of summons, especially when we have the likes of a Planetar at our disposal flaunting a Silver Sword that inflicts on-hit vorpal at 6 ApR. 


Of course, Wild Mages and exploits allow us to break through the BG2 cap, anyway.

• Find Familiar. This first circle arcane spell allows Charname-only Mages, Sorcerers and Bards to summon an alignment-flavored familiar with a few tricks up its sleeve such as scouting and utility skills. In addition its master receives a one-off and permanent HP bonus equal to 50% of the familiar's HPs. A Pseudo Dragon, for example, grants us +12 HPs if summoned in SoA and +24 HPs if summoned in ToB. I advise keeping the familiar tucked away in the backpack because our spellcaster incurs a permanent one-point penalty to Constitution if it dies. Sorcerers should cast Find Familiar from a scroll rather than wasting a choice on it.

A pretty token addition to the Saga, aren't they? Most people just summon their familiar for the one-off HP boost, keep it tucked away in their backpack so that it doesn't die, and then forget about it. This is just feature-bloat. Neverwinter Nights at least made familiars useful; we could also possess them. Go and play NWN if you want familiars.

I wonder how much time BioWare wasted coding familiars...

• Rest Until Healed (optional). In BG2, we can rest in order to have our HP pool fully replenished AND be cured of poison and disease (which is absurd).

A degenerate newbie feature that reduces the need for clerics and consumable use. As such I'm totally against it, optional or not.

• Max HPs on level up & 100% spell-scribing success (optional). 

In BG2, we can simply reduce the difficulty to below Core in order to force Max HPs and spell-scribing success. Here we have two more degenerate options that should not be options. 

You're basically writing off the main function of Potions of Genius in respect to the latter. Learn to buff and learn to deal with failure; it's part of the game and its balance.

Many people pretend they are too hardcore to take advantage of the above two options, but secretly do anyway.

• Dual-classing to and from Specialists is banned. Remember how we could dual-class Imoen to Conjurer or Xzar to Cleric assuming you gave him a Tome of Understanding? Well, we can't do that in BG2. Flavorless Generalists, only.

A side-effect of adding kits is that now players are deprived of a Core AD&D rule that they got used to in BG. That is lazy coding.

• Inventory management has been reduced with the addition of containers; namely, Scroll Cases, Gem Bags, quivers, and even a Bag of Holding. Calling up Inventory mode pauses the game by default though this may be toggled in baldur.ini.

I don't like Bags of Holding because they trivialize the encumbrance mechanic and inventory management. If we can't carry it with the additional inventory slots of six party members then we don't deserve to have it. Either sell some stuff off or do without. Plus, items placed in a Bag of Holding are largely forgotten and who can find anything in them, anyway?

• Archery is not all-powerful. Elemental arrows have been nerfed; most notably, the Acid Arrows are down to 1d3 from 2d6. Detonation Arrows and Arrows of Dispelling are rare, too. Quivers for arrows and bolts are double-capacity.

Refer to the Archery section in my in-depth retrospective for the many reasons why archery was OP in Baldur's Gate.

I don't see a need for nerfing arrows, but I'm not overly fussed by it because archery is still fun and effective in BG2. 

• Class-based Strongholds. In BG2, each base class has access to a stronghold upon completion of a certain quest, each of which offer a series of trivial quests that are unrelated to the main quest. These are ok for shits n gigs and a bit of extra cash flow, but not much else. 

Yep, these are basically mini-games that are not integrated meaningfully into the plot, and so I wouldn't care if they never existed, just like everything else in BG2 that is tacked-on (familiars, kits, romances, strongholds, HLAs).

To do strongholds right in AD&D takes a lot of planning. You need strong strategy and economy mechanics or it just comes off as half-assed, as in BG2. It would have been better to simply have one well-designed, plot-integrated stronghold for all Charnames, regardless of class.

• Expanded Crafting. Most players are on the lookout for components that may be forged into powerful items by Cromwell in SoA and Cespenar in ToB. BG1 offered crafting in the form of Taerom Thunderhammer being able to forge Ankheg Armor from an Ankheg Shell. That was it, and that was enough.

Does Crom/Cesp crafting really add anything of substance? Might as well just appropriately itemize the artifact in question instead of making the player hang on to bits and bobs and jump through annoying dialogue hoops during a magical forging process. 

Crafted items are better rewarded through quests that add lore and context to their components, as opposed to just randomly littering the campaign with them. For example, no reason is given as to why an enemy is holding one half of a mythical relic, other than he, she or it is epic.

lmao.

The crafting of FoA +3 in de'Arnise was well done, to be fair. But that did not rely on Crom/Cesp, which is what I'm criticizing.

• Utility Experience Points. As if quest and kill experience point rewards were not enough, experience points are now also dished out for opening locks, disarming traps and scribing spell scrolls to your spellbook. The last one can really add up and tilt the balance in our favor in the early going. Spell-scribing is also open to abuse: find stacks of spell scrolls and Memorize, Erase, Rinse repeat. (Some merchants sell infinite quantities of high-level spell scrolls.)

uXP is ok, though I would have significantly increased the XP for disarming traps and picking locks in order to add more value to having a Thief in the party; BG2 devalued Thieves in a variety of ways. How? By not making enemy traps deadly enough, by not flagging them as persistent until disarmed, by allowing the arcane repertoire to replace thief skills to a large degree, and by making almost every lock physically breakable (every plot-critical lock is definitely bash-able with solid Strength scores which all warriors will have).

• Weapon Proficiencies, Styles & Nerfed GM. General proficiencies have been removed and replaced with specific entries; f.e, there is no longer a Large Sword proficiency. Instead, Large Sword is broken up into specific weapons such as Longsword, Bastard Sword, Katana, Scimitar & Two-handed Sword.

This is a completely unnecessary ruleset "balance" change that could easily have been addressed by not going full fire retardant on epic itemization for munchkins.

Weapon Styles have also been added, the most powerful of which is the Two Weapon Style aka dual-wielding, which when combined with +ApR weapons and Improved Haste bestows an epic attack rate straight out of the blocks [ApR].

Also, thproficiency table was nerfed in BG2. I didn't like how the proficiency table was nerfed: Fighters are "cheated" out of Grandmastery in BG (due to the XP cap) and when they finally reach GM in BG2, it's nerfed? This caused me to become butthurt. I would much rather a campaign balanced for True Grandmastery rather than fail with all this +ApR nonsense.

The exclusion of TGM is an arbitrary and unneccessary choice that flies in the face of AD&D rules. Note that BG2 is the only IE game brazen enough to exclude TGM: even PS:T employs it properly [link]. Embarrassing.

Let's think about it: there is no reason for 10 ApR. The BG1 max of 5 ApR is impressive enough. The animations look correct at 5 ApR and their accompanying weapon sounds are not lost (the sound of drawing a bowstring, the sound of the chain and ball on a flail). 10 ApR is just munchkinism.

• High Level Abilities: At epic levels (usually around 3,000,000 total XP) each base class gains their own HLA pool to make selections from during the level-up process.

There are 43 HLAs in total. Some of them are obscenely OP, others are of questionable utility, and others yet are utterly uninspiring and indeed useless. HLAs feel tacked on because they are. What rubbish game design! There are far superior ways to grant epic powers. For example, by expanding Bhaalspawn-power modals and/or awarding permanent build-based benefits offset by penalties -- through quest resolutions and dialogue choices.

HLAs are just another example of feature-bloat.

• Extra Thief Skills. Stealth has been separated into Hide in Shadows & Move Silently skills. In addition, two very powerful skills have been added: Detect Illusion & Set Traps.

I'm not against the added skills though DI and ST are too powerful. For a rundown on the basics please refer to the Stealth & Theft in my in-depth retrospective.

• Epic foes. Tired of gibberlings, xvarts, tasloi and kobolds? Well, you will be excited to learn that the sequel introduces goblins and orcs from Icewind Dale! Hah! But you will also be pitted against dragons, demons, devils, giants, golems, illithid, beholders, drow, vamps, high level mages and liches, some of which were borrowed from Black Isle. 

Indeed, the city of Athkatla suffers from illithid-spam and lich-spam. Hilariously, BG2 liches don't even have phylacteries.

Since there are several illithid encounters in and around Athkatla (Windspear + The Hidden + Alhoon), how the city's population hasn't been enslaved and devoured is anyone's guess. It makes no sense, and none of it was explained. Maybe BioWare should have scrapped romances and strongholds and allocated those precious dev-cycle resources to explain how the illithid and liches haven't taken over Amn? 

Moreover, generic liches can also spawn in several areas as a result of combat encounter scaling. That's how common liches are in BioWare's grotesque distortion of Realmslore... there really shouldn't be generic liches in any RPG whatsoever, fullstop.

Lich-lore receives zero respect in BG2. Even BG1 modders did a better job before BG2 came out.

Anyway, I guess we should be thankful that BioWare didn't include tarrasques...

• Powerful items. (My recent weapon write-up is here). Keep an eye out for items that confer blanket immunities; that is, when equipped they bestow (f.e) mind shield or freedom status. Also be on the lookout for weapons with on-hit elemental damage (to bypass Stoneskin) and on-hit negative status effects. The Flail of Ages & Celestial Fury are prime examples: their respective Slow & Stun effects are devastating and bypass MR. The flail is also no-save meaning there is no way for the enemy to resist its crippling Slowing effect.

Demi-gods need to wield godly weapons and have access to godly items, but BG2 still went way overboard. The Robe of Vecna being available in Chapter One is a prime example in that its casting time buff gives us an unfair advantage over every rival spellcaster in the campaign, one that we didn't even have to work for beyond getting some cash-flow going, which is dead easy to do thanks to loot that is thrown about like confetti. 

BG1 had far superior itemization balance, overall; for example, it felt rewarding to find that Large Shield +2 deep down in Durlag's Tower. It felt rewarding to find a magical weapon of any kind because the iron taint was causing weapons to break in our hands.

 Overworld waylaysYOU HAVE BEEN WAYLAID BY ENEMIES AND MUST DEFEND YOURSELF. 

Unlike BG1 which drew randomly from preset pools of potentially lethal monster arrangements, area-transition ambushes are entirely scripted, and largely benign, in BG2. Waylays in both Athkatla and its outskirts are not so much about offering up a challenge as they are about giving the player gold, several arcane scrolls and magical weapons. And even a highly rewarding quest in one case.

On the other hand, the reward for overcoming a waylay in BG1 was that we didn't get killed.

BG1 waylays included Ogre Mages, Basilisks and Wyverns. Repeat after me: Basilisks. Indeed, there are even Greater Basilisk waylays. Also, between the The Lion's Way and Friendly Arm Inn, it is possible for our low-level scrubs to be waylaid by several archer-bandits sporting 2 ApR each. BG2 waylays are a joke compared to all this.

• Improved Pathing Routine. This is one thing BG2 got right. But it's just a logical engine enhancement that is par for the course when you don't need to build an engine in parallel with a campaign. All units benefit from a movement speed increase, too.

The movement speed increases makes it easier for us to close in on archers and mages. How is making ranged attackers weaker an improvement to general CED?

• Mega-Dungeons. The differences between Durlag's Tower and Watcher's Keep have already been highlighted by me in The Tower vs. the Keep. In short, the Tower shits on the Keep.

• Lore Descriptions. Compare a +3 weapon lore description (BG) with a +5 weapon lore description (BG2).

◦ World's Edge (SW2H07, two-handed sword, BG: TotSC): THAC0 +3, 1d10 +3 slashing.

This is a legendary weapon of heroic proportions, especially among the far-northern tribes of barbarians. Champion after champion has wielded this blade against countless enemies, and the blood it has spilled could fill a small sea. History will not admit that such a blade could be forged and each consecutive owner seems to tie its origin to whatever creation myth they believe. The most grandiose of these tales is that of a great chieftain who sailed to the cliffs that supposedly bordered the world. There he reached into the void, and his will shaped the blade from nothing. Whatever the truth, in the right hands this sword is a fearsome thing.

◦ Gram the Sword of Grief (SW2H17 [basic], SW2H18, [upgraded], two-handed sword [craft], BG2: ToB).

This is one of the many weapons of the great hero Siegfried. The blade is particularly sharp and well balanced, and in a certain light one can see the faint image of a serpent within the hilt.

◦ THAC0 +5, 1d10 +5 slashing, on-hit 10% chance of 2d12 poison, on-hit Level Drain save vs. death at -5, 5% MR.

Siegfried's fearsome blade is even more powerful with the Heart of the Damned set into its pommel.

Literally any twaddler, any hack, could churn out that Gram "lore" (if you want to call it that) while drunk. Foebane, Blackrazor, Angurvadal and Usuno's Blade have two-sentence lore descriptions. Two-sentence lore decriptions for epic ToB wields. 

Now, compare Varscona (a +2 longsword from BG):

Blades of this type were long used by Sharran priests during the sacrificial rites of "Feast of the Moon" ceremonies. Legends say that, when she passed on, the remains of this sword's wielder were mummified and the blade was placed within her chest as a symbol of power. In the first stage of a long forgotten ritual, she was to have been exhumed in a season, born again in some new form. Unfortunately, cult wars killed the few that knew of her existence; her tomb became a prison where she was forgotten, and there she developed a rage that bordered on insanity. Her grave was eventually found, but it was deserted and gave no indication of her whereabouts. Some venture to say that her anger was so concentrated, she became one with the very blade of her weapon. Regardless, after hundreds of years surrounded by constant hate, the sword harvested a power of its own. It is now exceedingly deadly in combat.

BG2 even gives Celestial Fury — the best longblade in the IE games — NO LORE! The weapon has... no lore, no history and no reason for being. It's just THERE with a generic item description.

• User Interface. The numerous changes and additions to the UI have been already been covered in Part I of my User Interface Evolution series of posts. Basically, BG2 added to UI functionality but its UI is aesthetically inferior to the original. Here's an excerpt:

Paperdoll comparison: If you think the one on the right looks better than the one on the left then you have appalling aesthetic taste. For the sequel BioWare actually reduced the paperdoll's size and made it blurry. The Helm of Balduran looks pathetic and the large shield looks just awful. 


You know, there's a reason why people prefer the BG1 artwork: it's because the sequel's paperdolls and character sprites suck ass.

• SpriteworkBG1 and IWD1 spritework is far superior to BG2 and IWD2 spritework. As with the paperdolls, if you want BG2 and IWD2 sprites reverted to their superior BG1 form, you need to mod your game. The only thing BG2 added was increased size of sprites. Oh, and those cool smoketrails? BG2 omitted them.


• Icons. BG1 icons are far superior to BG2 icons because they are cleaner, sharper and better designed. The screencaps posted below prove this without a doubt.

BG1:


BG2:


Wow, what am I even looking at? Those are some ugly-ass BG2 icons; the worst on the Infinity Engine by far.

Quick recap on what I perceive to be wasted dev-cycle resources:

• Kits, romances, strongholds, familiars, crafting, HLAs 
• Too-frequent interjections, long-winded banter and companion quests
• Redoing the UI panels (original stoneskin remains superior)
• Redoing the icons, spritework and paperdolls (originals remain superior)
• Redoing incantation sounds and other sounds (originals remain superior)
• Breaking up weapon grouping proficiencies into specific weapon profs 
• Hand-crafted, scripted waylays instead of random ones drawn from preset pools
• 800*600 resolution: Since FoW is locked to 640x480 and the UI wasn't refactored for 800x600 like it was in IWD2, it's useless.
• Dual-wielding (too many animation frames need to be drawn; going the route of IWD1 would have sufficed)
• Too many unique-looking areas that would have taken ages to model and render (that provide no sense of consistent landscape or journeying, and make all areas special, such that none are)
• Way too much dialogue
• Way too many cutscenes
• Overdone VOs
• Unnecessarily large and sweeping campaign

In order to gain an appreciation for the original Baldur's Gate that is sadly lacking among ignorant forum-goers in 2021, I kindly refer the reader to my retrospective, which is also published on Medium.

Diablo 2, Best Builds, Resurrected

In Diablo 2 , a build is a number of levels achieved in a class along with the stats and skills chosen, as well the items that are found, bo...