Dungeons & Dragons: Princes of the Apocalypse

Moving right along with my summary of 5E Dungeons & Dragons releases, we have the third official adventure (and second campaign) released by WoTC: Princes of the Apocalypse.

This adventure is part of their “Elemental Evil” campaign. This might sound familiar to long time players… The “Temple of Elemental Evil” is a classic, heralded adventure from back in the 1E days. This release is a bit of a re-modernization of that classic adventure. But, rather than being a simple 1e-to-5e conversion, this release takes the basic premise of the original story and adapts it to Forgotten Realms setting. So, while the core concept is the same, the locations and situations are radically different. This makes for a new a refreshing experience, even for long time players are are familiar with the lore behind “elemental evil”.

This adventure is designed for players of level 3 and will take them all the way up to level 15. However, this book also contains a special section that includes a number of mini-adventures and sidequests, that can easily be adapted for level 1 players. These serve as the perfect buffer, allowing DMs to run their players through these scenarios – in order to toughen them up enough for the main quest. There’s even a hook provided in this book that ties in to the sample adventure included in the D&D Starter Set. So players who have cut their teeth on that adventure, will feel right at home with Princes of the Apocalypse.

In many ways, this release represents a step up from some of the errors and criticisms seen in the prior Tyranny of Dragons campaign. First, we have the entire storyline packed into one book, instead of being spread out between two separate releases. Also, it seems to dwell in the nice middle-ground between being an “on rails” campaign and a bit of a sandbox.  Something that is sort of a “best of both worlds” for all DMs.

This release also includes an appendix that features some new spells and a new optional playable race. However, it’s worthy to note that this is merely a condensed version of “Elemental Evil Player’s Companion” that was released online for free.

In a nutshell, Princes of the Apocalypse does a fantastic job of taking the modern version of D&D and giving it that classic old-school feel.  Personally, I’d have preferred to see this as the debut adventure for 5E. In my opinion, everything that’s great about D&D is represented right here.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

Dungeons & Dragons: The Rise of Tiamat

My next D&D post is here! My last entry was an overview of the introductory adventure for Fifth Edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This time, I’m taking a look at the sequel to that acclaimed adventure: The Rise of Tiamat.

As mentioned above, this adventure is actually the second (and final) part of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. It is designed for characters level 8 and above and should end with them around level 14 or 15.

This chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign is quite a bit different from the first half. First of all, the pacing of the adventure seems to be much more open. DMs will likely do a lot of flipping back and forth with this book. Being non-linear is a good thing, but it also means that rookie DMs will likely have a much tougher job than someone with a little more experience under their belt. Also, the scope of this adventure is epic. Regardless of the outcome, the consequences of this adventure will result in some MAJOR changes to the Forgotten Realms game world. So if you’re playing this with intentions of continuing your campaign beyond the 15th level, you’ll likely have to do some major customizing to whatever future adventure you’re likely to run.

Despite being a bit tough on the Dungeon Master, the contents of this book are a treasure trove. There are several excellent “dungeons” to be played within these pages. As well as some really great opportunities for entertaining role playing. I can already see a hundred different ways that this adventure could end up being something that players will talk about for years to come.

All in all, the module is very well written and really gives players a good look at much of the mythology of the Realms. Many famous locations and NPCs are present in this adventure. It seems Wizards of the Coast really wanted to start 5E off with a bang. This adventure manages to do just that.  – Just come prepared. This is especially true if you’re the DM. You will have your work cut out for you.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

Dungeons & Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen

As promised, I’m making my first post playing catch-up with the current line of D&D releases. So far, I’ve touched on all of the core rule books and even a couple of the supplements.  This will be my first post on an official “module” or adventure. Now, I want to state up front that this is not a review. But rather a summary of the product itself. In this case, I have actually played through this particular module. But I won’t be able to say that for many of the books I’ll be touching on in the near future.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the first adventure published for the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and it is the first chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. A few years ago, when I participated in an official sanctioned game, this was actually the storyline that we played through. This module takes place in the Forgotten Realms world (the official setting for 5th edition) and it is designed for players of first level. By the end of the adventure players are expected to reach 7th or 8th level. So it takes a character pretty far along in their career.

The module focuses on the Cult of the Dragon; an evil group working to summon the ancient demonic dragon Tiamat.  The main goal of the adventure focuses around the players uncovering and attempting to stop this evil plot.

This adventure features many classic D&D elements. It’s filled with classic monsters and locations. It’s got a little bit of everything. There’s good opportunity for role playing, NPC interactions, dungeon crawling, etc. However, many have expressed that the adventure seems very “firewalled”. Meaning, it really pushes players to follow a pre-set expectation. There’s an encounter early in the story with an extremely powerful monster. One that most players will realize there’s no way to reasonably defeat. Therefore, most players will rightfully assume that they have “story immunity” and as a result don’t take the encounter seriously. These types of encounters can certainly occur in any Dungeons & Dragons game, but it often requires a very skilled DM to be able to make the scenario seem believable. Otherwise, it comes across as being cheesy.

All in all, Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a pretty good opener to the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Its very epic in scope. Some argue it is perhaps a little too ambitious for an introduction to the hobby. I say that all depends on the skills of the individual hosting the game.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

Update: Dungeons & Dragons Plans

As the new year quickly approaches, I wanted to share my plans regarding D&D. If you read my D&D posts, you’ll know that my son and I spent a large portion of this year attending D&D games at a local hobby store. However, a change in my work schedule put an end to those outings. So, instead, I’ve been in the planning stages of starting a home-based campaign. My current goal in regards to D&D is catch up on my book reviews before the end of the year. Then, when we start our home campaign in 2018, I’ll make regular posts and updates on our progress.

Despite have a little 5E experience under my belt at this point, I’m still very much a greenhorn. My decades away from the game really took their toll on me, so it’s like learning all over again. I’ll start making some D&D related posts next week. So if you’re a follower with an interest in this subject, stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons: Starter Set

As I promised a few months ago, I’m going to be making posts discussing each of the official Dungeons & Dragons supplements that are available. To date, I’ve only really discussed the core rule books and player supplements. But there’s a number of other products available. Today, I’ll be discussing the D&D Starter Set.

I want to start by discussing what this set actually is. If you’re someone who is interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons, most people will tell you that you’ll need to go out and buy a set of dice and a copy of the Player’s Handbook. That’s pretty accurate, but what if you’re still on the fence and you’re not sure if you want to sink a bunch of money into the hobby yet? Well, that’s where the Starter Set comes in.

The Starter Set is a great entry point into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find it at most hobby shops or book stores. The set actually comes in a big cardboard box. It contains the following items:

  • Starter Set Rulebook  (softcover)
  • Lost Mind of Phandelver adventure (softcover)
  • a pack of pre-generated character sheets
  • a set of polyhedral dice

The Starter Set Rulebook is essentially a compact version of the D&D game rules. It’s enough to teach you the basics, but if you decide to get serious you will eventually want to purchase a copy of the Player’s Handbook. For existing players, there’s not really much of value here.

The next main object of interest in the box is the “Lost Mine of Phandelver” adventure. This is included in the box so that consumers will have a sample adventure to play. Aside from containing the adventure module itself, the booklet also contains a small bestiary of the monsters used in the adventure. (This eliminates the need for a copy of the Monster Manual). If you’re an existing player/dungeon master, this adventure is likely the main reason you purchased the Starter Set – as it is quite a good sized adventure that is designed for level 1 players. It is set in the Forgotten Realms game world.

As I mentioned above, the D&D Starter Set is really marketed towards brand spanking new players. For the price of only $20.00 they can get everything they need to take their first step into Dungeons & Dragons. That being said, if it’s a hobby that you enjoy and end up sticking with your next purchase will want to be the Player’s Handbook. I glossed over that book in an older post, but I think I’ll actually be making an updated post in the coming days that goes a little more in depth.

If you’re a Dungeon Master (game referee) or even a player who likes to read up on “behind the scenes info”, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual  are probably going to be your next purchase.  Another great book to pick up is Volo’s Guide to Monsters – this books serves as both an add-on to the Monster Manual as well as some in-depth information that bother players and Dungeon Masters will find helpful.

In the future, I’ll be discussing some of the adventure books that have been publish since the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Once we’re all caught up, I’ll be discussing items as they are released.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

Dungeons & Dragons: Father and Son

One subject that I don’t discuss as frequently as I like is Dungeons & Dragons. I try to stay up to date regarding the latest supplemental material and core books, etc. But It’s been several years since I actually made a post about the current state of the game.

If you look back on this site, you’ll see my very first entry regarding Dungeons & Dragons is when I discussed the upcoming release of what is now known as Fifth Edition. Dungeons & Dragons has has a tumultuous history. But I think it is safe to say that D&D 5E has ended up being a smashing success. In my opinion, Wizards of the Coast (D&D’s parent company), has finally hit on the right formula. No longer are the bookstore shelves packed will useless, poor quality supplements. Instead, every single release is filled with quality, well tested material. Any “up in the air” play-options are instead posted online in a series of articles called “Unearthed Arcana”. Players are encouraged to download these game options for free and try them out. This allows 5E players to customize the style of the game they are playing, without weighing down the core rules with countless, redundant options.

Recently, my 13-year old son expressed a serious interest in the game. So, I began a search to find a new group of players that are family-friendly. I’m happy to say, I found what I was looking for! For the last month or so, my son and I have been spending our Saturday Nights at a local game shop playing D&D.  It was a bit of a proud moment when I gifted him with his very own copy of the Player’s Handbook… I still remember my father buying mine for me. So far, he has really enjoyed the game. Plus, getting out and meeting new people has also help foster some valuable social skills.

When I started playing again a few years back, I found myself participating in some official, sanctioned games. These days, I no longer concern myself with that. Currently, our DM is running the “Out of the Abyss” adventure, which is an actual official D&D story, but we’re not actually participating the “Adventurer’s League”.  It’s a much more relaxed and laid back atmosphere.

I plan to begin posting a little more regularly about my D&D adventures. I’ll also be covering some of the books that I previously decided against reviewing on the site. Aside from the PHB, DMG and MM, there’s really only been two other “source books” released – the rest have all been hardback adventures. So I had originally planned not to really spend my time on those. But, to keep things chugging along, I have changed my mind about that.  So, sometime within the next month I’ll start discussing some of these. Stay tuned!

Review: Baldur’s Gate II (Enhanced Edition)

Finally, I bring you my review of the final chapter in the Baldur’s Gate series. For those that are interested, and might have missed it, I reviewed the enhanced edition of the Original Baldur’s Gate back in September. This was followed with a review of Beamdog’s official DLC: Siege of Dragonspear in January of this year. Now, after what seems like eons of time spent in the Forgotten Realms, I’m proud to share my thoughts on this remastered, classic CRPG.

First, a bit of a history lesson. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, is the sequel to the extremely popular PC game, Baldur’s Gate. It was released two years after the original and closely follows the formula that made Baldur’s Gate such a smashing success. The sequel used the same game engine, with some additional polish and refinements. Baldur’s Gate II continues the story of the original title. In fact, players of the first game are even able to carry over saved data to the sequel. A year after the original Baldur’s Gate II was released, an expansion pack; “Throne of Bhaal” was also made available. This expansion extended the storyline of the original game, and added a new optional area.   In 2013, Beamdog Studios gave Baldur’s Gate II the “Enhanced Edition” treatment as well.  This update combined both “Shadows of Amn” and “Throne of Bhaal” into one package. It also includes a new third scenario “The Black Pits II” (which itself is a sequel to the additional scenario found in the first Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition).  The Enhanced Edition also modernizes the game for today’s computer systems. It adds widescreen support, updated multiplayer functionality, and cross-platform compatibility. Also worthy of note, just like with the initial release, players can import saved data from both Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition and Siege of Dragonspear into Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition.  –  Being the most accessible version of the game, it is the enhanced edition that I’ve spent the last several months playing for this review.

While there many enhancements and differences between the original Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II,  the differences between the two Enhanced Edition are much less obvious. Both games actually run on a modified version of the BG2 engine. So the actual changes from one EE game to the other are mostly cosmetic.

The story of Baldur’s Gate II, starts shortly after the events of the first game. If you’ve played Siege of Dragonspear, the events of that game actually fill in the gap between BG1 and BG2. When the game starts, the main hero and his companions find themselves being held prisoner by a mysterious magician. The first goal in the game is to get your bearings and escape from captivity. Shortly after doing so, one of the lead characters is “arrested” by an order of powerful wizards. The focus of the game then turns to finding a way to rescue this individual. This thrusts the players into the middle of some major political intrigue. Naturally, things are not as simple as they seem at first. As you continue to play and explore the world of Baldur’s Gate II, you will find yourself immersed in the rich and vibrant world that is Forgotten Realms.

Fans of Dungeons & Dragons will feel right at home. This game, just like the original Baldur’s Gate is based on the core Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. Also, the Forgotten Realms setting is a D&D mainstay. Just like with the first game, players can create and will encounter characters based on classic D&D races and classes. Also, much like a real game of D&D, players are able to explore and do as they please. The main scenario of the game is ever present in the background, but there are endless quests and side-stories for players to pursue and enjoy.

The game is filled with classic D&D tropes and cameos. From things as mundane as talking swords to legendary magical items, fans of D&D will be sure to finds references to some of their favorite places and characters

Like the first Enhanced Edition game, this one features a number of difficulty levels. All of the original options are included, as well as the new Story Mode (super easy) and Legacy of Bhaal (insanely difficult). Being nearly identical to BG:EE,  this modern version of Baldur’s Gate II also suffers from some of the same strange issues. In the 70+ hours I sunk into this game, I observed a number of odd glitches and behavior. For example, the party AI is often troublesome. Characters do not stay in the selected formation, they wander off in odd directions, and sometimes during battle, even when selected, they just stand there doing nothing instead of executing the actions requested of them. I even encountered one serious game-breaking issue towards the end of the title that caused me to have to reload a saved game and redo over an hour of play. To be specific, upon a defeat, an NPC did not yield an item needed to progress in the game… serious glitch. Also, the Steam version of the game seems to have some issues activating achievements correctly all of the time. But, when considering the absolute vast scope of the title, it would be nearly impossible to squash every potential bug. Despite encountering a few glitches, the game is overall very stable and enjoyable.

For my playthrough, I enjoyed the game in a single-player setting. But, it is important to note there is a multiplayer option. This is certainly welcome and in fact, can be a very rewarding way to play. The only downside is that a game of this size would require some serious organization and commitment between friends in order to really make the most out of this option.

In a nutshell, fans of the original game will certainly find themselves right at home with Baldur’s Gate II. As will fans of D&D and other CRPGs of the era. For younger and modern gamers, a title such as this can seem rather daunting and perhaps even a bit overwhelming.  As with many older games, there’s little to no handholding. And, with a game of this size and complexity, that can only make things seem even more challenging.

That being said, if you like western-style RPGS, and open-world games like Fallout, Skyrim, etc – this might be a series that you should consider. Baldur’s Gate II not only continues the story of the original title, but the Throne of Bhaal chapters even put a final end to story as a whole. Playing these games through to completion is very challenging, but also extremely satisfying.  Having only dabbled with the original game back during it’s release, I am proud to have finally played both entries to their completion. Both games are simply works of art. Now, with the Enhanced Editions available, these gems can once again be enjoyed by retro gamers like myself, as well as new players who may be unearthing them for the first time.

Difficulty: Variable–  Baldur’s Gate 2 features a number of options when it comes to difficulty.  Easy, Normal, Core Rules, Hard, and Insane. The Enhanced Edition also adds options for “Story Mode” and “Legacy of Bhaal”. The latter options making you either invincible or cranking up the difficulty to a point that makes the game nearly impossible.  I’m proud of being able to have completed the original game on this new insane difficulty, but I must admit that I was unable to even get through the first half of BG2 on “Legacy of Bhaal”. With the increased characters levels, seemed to come even more challenging opponents. “Core Rules” was my go to on this title.

Story: As one might expect with a Dungeons & Dragons title, the storyline is everything here. BG 2 extends the lore and storyline of the original game and brings it to it’s ultimate conclusion. Main scenario aside, this game is filled with side quests, background lore, and even character romances.

Originality: Being both a remake and a direct sequel to another game, certainly costs any title a little bit in the “originality” department. But BG manages to keep a fresh feel by presenting the player with totally new areas and cultures to explore. The storyline is also engaging enough to keep things from getting stale.

Soundtrack: Just like with the original Baldur’s Gate, the music in the game is overall very well done. It has a classic western RPG feel to it. It does lack a bit in diversity. The voice acting is also a mixed bag. Some of the characters are spot on, while others just sound silly and out of place. Again, this game suffers a bit from when I call Repetitive Sound Syndrome. NPCS and party members have a habit to repeating the same phrases over and over to the point of being annoying.

Fun: If you’re a fan of CRPGS and/or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to have a blast with this game. However, many players many simply not have the patience for the old-school style found here.

Graphics: At time it was released, Baldur’s Gate was top of the line. Today, even though a lot of work was put into modernizing the Enhanced Edition it looks quite dated. Yes, the new textures are beautiful, but the character sprites suffer a bit.

Playcontrol:  While most point-and-click games are pretty simple to control, Baldur’s Gate suffers from terrible AI. It is not uncommon for NPCs to get stuck on terrain, walk the wrong way, etc. I also frequently struggled with being unable to enter buildings due to all of my characters crowding around the entry way. Also, the new edition  of the game is not without it’s share of bugs that can interfere with your progress. These are largely the same complaints I had with the original Baldur’s Gate EE.

Downloadable Content:  No – At the time of this writing, no DLC has been announced for BG2 EE. The game comes complete with both BG2 and it’s original expansion.  It also contains a new third-scenario “The Black Pits 2”.  Which, is really a continuation of the “The Black Pits” chapter found in the first BG:EE.  Overall it’s a pointless little add-on, but still worthy of a look.

Mature Content: Fantasy Violence, Mature Themes

Value:  This game currently sells for $20. Considering the amount of content packed into the title, it’s a steal at that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition is a must-have for both fans of the original game and for fans of CRPGs as a whole. It’s a classic game packed with tons of content. Even with some of the glitches and faults of the remake, the redeeming qualities of the game outshine any faults it might have. For some of the reasons outlined above, I can’t claim to give it a perfect score, but it comes damn close.

Available on: PC (Steam and GOG)

Dungeons & Dragons: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Wow! It’s been a while since I made a Dungeons & Dragons post. Almost two years. But, it’s also been that long since Wizard’s  released a core supplement. Everything they’ve put out in the meantime has either been adventure modules or campaign source material. But finally we have something of interest to talk about;  Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

What we have here is an interesting combination of both a reference book and a monster manual, all rolled into one. The first half of this book deals strictly with monster lore. This is mainly of interest to Dungeon masters who may wish to know more “scientific” details behind some of the more iconic monsters in the game. It’s written much like a research paper. For example, there’s a section on Beholders that includes everything you could ever want to know: life cycle information, physical details, diet, etc.

Second, there’s small area that introduces a handful of optional playable races to the 5th edition game. That’s always interesting, albeit controversial.

Finally, we have the real gem. The Bestiary. And it is filled with tons of classic, forgotten 1e monsters! (Including some of my old favorites; Darklings, Flail Snails, Red Caps…. classic stuff!)

Sadly, I haven’t been playing much D&D lately. But, I’m still relentlessly collecting every official 5E supplement. I know the time will come sooner or later when I will be able to pick up one of my favorite hobbies again.  So, if you’re just getting back into the game, or even if you’ve been trucking along the whole time, Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a quality release. No 5E DM should be without it, in my opinion.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal

Review: Baldur’s Gate (Enhanced Edition)

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Getting back to my late 90’s game reviews, I step away from the PS and N64 consoles for a moment to talk about a classic PC title. Baldur’s Gate is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest western RPGs of all time. Originally released in 1998, Baldur’s Gate is a birds-eye-view role playing game based on Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. The game takes place in the ever popular Forgotten Realms campaign setting and takes on the mammoth task of incorporating as many aspect of the D&D ruleset as possible and applying them to a real-time video game setting.

The original Baldur’s Gate proved to be extremely popular with fans. A year after it’s release, an expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast was made available. This add-on integrates seamlessly into the main game, adding new areas to explore, quests and storyline. The legacy left behind by Baldur’s Gate was so great that it was inevitable that someone would one day want to resurrect it. This occurred in 2012 when Beamdog Studios announced Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

I owned both the original game and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, but admittedly never completed them. Recently, I saw the Enhanced Edition on sale and decided there was no better time to revisit this classic.

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For the record, let me state that for the most part – the Enhanced Edition is a faithful remake of the original Baldur’s Gate. It features the original story, original score and voice acting, but many of the textures and graphics are replaced or highly modernized.  One thing I noticed right away, is that the original opening video has been replaced with hand-painted still images. I’m not sure why the new developers chose to do this. Granted, the original video is very dated by today’s standards. But why replace it with still images and not a new video? Regardless, the new into movie is fitting and  admittedly beautiful. Plus, it doesn’t detract from the experience at all in my opinion. Also important to mention; the new version includes both the original game and its expansion, out of the box. It also features a new arena-based add-on called The Black Pits. (More on this later). As far as additional content, the remake adds a handful of new playable NPCs and a few additional quests that provide backstories to these characters.

In Baldur’s Gate, the player creates a hero from scratch. Character creation follows standard AD&D 2nd edition rules.  Players can choose to create a character of any of the following races:  Human, Elf, Half-Elf. Gnome, Halfling, Dwarf, and Half-Orc. (The Half-Orc is a new addition to the original game). The following classes are available to players: Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Mage, Illusionist, Sorcerer, Thief, Bard, and Shaman. These classes can be specialized even further using “class kits”. (Barbarian, Wild Mage, etc). Just like in real D&D2E, players also have the option to dual-class and multiclass.

The game story revolves around your custom character. In a nutshell, you are the foster child of a wise sage named Gorion. The two of you live in a quiet sanctuary of Candlekeep, a place best known as a center of learning and home to one of the best libraries in the realm. One day, a frantic Gorion requests you to pack your belongs and purchase supplies for an impromptu journey. The game begins here, amidst the confusion of his sudden request. As you make your way through town, you encounter more than one nefarious character that seem to be hell-bent on seeing you dead. Eventually, as the game presses on, Gorion meets a terrible fate that leaves you alone in the wilderness, confused, and with little go on besides a handful of cryptic clues and request from Gorion to meet some trusted friends at a nearby tavern. You are hunted and alone, with no real explanation.

From this point forward, the entire game is open-ended and you can do as you please. You can elect to follow the path you were set on, or you can explore as you see fit. Throughout your journey, you will encounter characters that wish to join you on your quest. Each have their own motives and values. As you travel together, your actions will either enhance the bond you have with your companions or drive them away.

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Baldur’s Gate is played from a birds-eye-view. You click on objects or points of interest to interact with them. To move, you click on the characters you wish to advance, then click on their destination and they will walk to it. Clicking on individual character portraits provides with some additional options. For example, let’s say you click on a door to open it, only to find the door is locked. Well, if you have a thief in your party, you can click on that character to bring up a list of skills, then click on Pick Locks, finally you can click on the door again to apply that skill. The same is true for combat. During the melee action, you can choose individual actions for each character. This includes simple physical attacks, using items, casting spells, etc.

All of this may seem like a lot to take in, and to be honest, the game is very daunting at first. My first experience with Baldur’s Gate was back in ’98 when it was first released. At the time, I was admittedly overwhelmed. I suppose I played about a quarter of the way through it before shelving it. Now, playing through the Enhanced Edition many  years later, I find that had I stuck with just a bit longer, it would have started to fall into place. A little patience and a quick read through the manual help tremendously. Plus, the new edition of the game also comes with a tutorial mode. (Which I highly recommend for new players).

Interestingly enough, there is a multiplayer option. But in reality, it is rarely used. In multiplayer, one person is the host. This means they control the lead character. Any additional players control party-member characters. The sheer length of the game makes it difficult for this type of multiplayer to be viable option.

Finally, I want to mention the additional scenarios. Included for free with the Enhanced Edition is a short, arena-combat prologue to the game called The Black Pits. This scenario is aimed a veterans to the game and features a party of characters that fight battle after battle in a gladiator-type setting. With each victory they earn riches that can be used in-between fights to purchase new armor and weapons. Each battles get progressively more difficult. The final few battles require some serious preparation and commitment. In truth, this whole add-on seems to serve as nothing more than an introduction for one the new NPCs add to the Enhanced Edition. But it is included free, so no complaints there.

This new version of the game does also offer a brand new paid-DLC scenario called Siege of Dragonspear. This chapter serves as a bridge between the events of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. However, due to the sheer size of this expansion – I have decided to review it separately.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Baldur’s Gate features a number of options when it comes to difficulty.  Easy, Normal, Core Rules, Hard, and Insane. The Enhanced Edition also adds options for “Story Mode” and Legacy of Bhaal”. The latter options making you either invincible or cranking up the difficulty to a point that makes the game nearly impossible.  (I gloat in being able to claim I completed the game on Bhaal difficulty…   not that I’m bragging or anything.)

Story: As one might expect with a Dungeons & Dragons title, the storyline is everything here. The game features a massive, rich main storyline. Not to mention it is peppered with a number of sideplots and quests. All of these are very well done.

Originality: Baldur’s Gate was a breath of life into what was a fading genre in the late 90s. It was fresh and new upon it’s original release. Now, with the new edition, it still manages to feel new by taking an old classic, polishing it up and releasing it into a sea of games that began to grow stagnant with unoriginal ideas. It’s the new black, as they say.

Soundtrack: The music in the game is well done. It has a classic western RPG feel to it. Sadly, there’s not much diversity in it. The voice acting is also a mixed bag. Some of the characters are very well done, while others just sound silly and out of place. The voice acting for the new characters added to the game also don’t seem to fit in well with the original cast. Also worthy of mentioning, this game suffers a bit from when I call Repetitive Sound Syndrome. Simply giving orders to your character usually results in some type of feedback statement. Usually it’s one of three, and you get tired of hearing them really quick. Thankfully, there is a setting that allows you to control the frequency at which you hear these. Finally, this game seems to have an issue with volume management. Often times during the game, NPC will be speaking only to be drowned out by a swelling background score. Adjusting individual volume levels did not seem to help alleviate the problem.

Fun: If you’re a fan of CRPGS and/or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to have a blast with this game. However, many players many simply not have the patience for the old-school style found here.

Graphics: At time it was released, Baldur’s Gate was top of the line. Today, even though a lot of work was put into modernizing the Enhanced Edition it looks quite dated. Yes, the new textures are beautiful, but the character sprites suffer a bit.

Playcontrol: Here we come to my biggest gripe. While most point-and-click games are pretty simple to control, Baldur’s Gate suffers from terrible AI. It is not uncommon for NPCs to get stuck on terrain, walk the wrong way, etc. I also frequently struggled with being unable to enter buildings due to all of my characters crowding around the entry way. Also, the new edition  of the game is not without it’s share of bugs that can interfere with your progress.

Downloadable Content: YES – A paid DLC Scenario called Siege of Dragonspear is available for purchase. This is a completely new original adventure available for the Enhanced Edition only. This currently sells for $20, so it’s a little on the steep side, but it claims to provide about 30 hours of content. So, that’s not really a bad price. I plan to make a separate review of it in the coming days.

–      ***UPDATE: Review here:  Siege of Dragonspear

Mature Content: Fantasy Violence, Mature Themes

Value:  This game currently sells for $20. Considering the amount of content packed into the title, it’s a steal at that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is a must-have for fans of the fantasy genre. It’s a classic game packed with tons of content. Even with some of the glitches and faults of the remake, the redeeming qualities of the game outshine any faults it might have. For some of the reasons outlined above, I can’t claim to give it a perfect score, but it comes damn close.

Available on: PC (Steam and GOG)

Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide 5E

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Confession time! Even though I was thoroughly enjoying my weekly D&D game, I missed a week back in the fall due to family vacation and I have not played since. The thought of missing a week’s worth of content discouraged me a bit. I guess that’s the drawback to playing a sanctioned game; it goes on with or without you. Despite my lack of playing, I still maintain an interest and I’m still buying the new releases so that when I decide to play again, I’ll have a whole library at my disposal.

So that brings me to my latest acquisition, the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book was actually released back in December, so I’m a little late with this post. But that’s given ample time to flip through and look over this product and I have to say, I’m very impressed. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose in various DMGs over the years and I was delightfully surprised to see that the 5E DMG is packed with more content than I’ve seen yet. All the staples that a Dungeon Master would expect from a DMG is here: treasure tables, optional rules, game lore, etc. But while previous manuals have often provided barebones information on many topics, this book really expands on them.

For example, in the older 1e and 2e guides that I’m used to, the section describing Planes of Existence is usually relegated to a paragraph or two with a simple rudimentary diagram, this book gives the planes their own chapter. Which I personally found to be fantastic, as the Outer Planes are one of my favorite aspects of D&D.

So again, this new version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is just another example of what Wizard’s of the Coast is doing right in the his new edition of the game. Now that the big three core books are out, I’m very curious to see what types of products they are going to offer us next (aside from playable adventures).

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Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set    –   Character Sheets   –  Dungeon Master’s Screens

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss  –   Storm King’s Thunder  – Curse of Strahd   –  Tales from the Yawning Portal