Baldur's Gate: Tales of Sword Coast
Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
After installation, be prepared to go through that "Do you want to register?" stuff that Interplay puts you through. Figuring I'm already drowning in enough SPAM as it is, I decided to "forfeit" registration and just play. Other than that, I haven't heard too many people having trouble with installing the add-on, but if you do, swing on by to the Interplay website and I'm sure someone on the message board can help. Another thing you might want to consider is to copy your saved games to another location in case you want to go back to the original. Running TOSC on your saved games will convert it over.
Those gamers that claimed to have initially found out BG was real-time and was immediately turned off to the point of returning the game, I got one thing to say: Wake up and RTFM! Right there in the manual as well as the gameplay options, you can set the game to automatically pause at different points in combat. Add to that the fact that you can simply use the spacebar to pause the game anytime, and it's essentially turned into turn based. Still, some people don't like the inventory screen turning off the pause.
The way around that is to play the game in multi-player mode. As far as I can tell, the game remains paused this way. Now with TOSC, there's an additional feature of being able to automatically pause when an enemy is encountered.
That all adds up to what I think is the strongest technical aspect of BG. It would have been the perfect tactical engine if the spacebar were used to switch to pure turn based rather than just a pause. I strongly encourage Ray and the gang to consider this as an option for future sequels, because games like "Might and Magic 7" and "Sword and Sorcery" are said to be going in that direction, and I think it's a brilliant method. One thing that RPG gamers hate is a spoiler, so I'll try not to give too much away.
Tales of the Sword Coast is made up primarily of two big quests. One is to trace through the mystery behind what happened to Balduran, the guy the towne is named after (duh!). The other major quest is a deep exploration through "Durlag's Tower". What dangers and sinister delight might you behold in your coming adventurers (*I'm covering my mouth in playful glee*)? What you'll notice right away is, this add-on is hard. No really, it's plain difficult.
If you're the type to rush into battles to slice up the enemies with reckless abandon, you're in for a rude awakening. I found some battles nearly impossible to win without reloading a few times, which is a nice challenge, but brings into question the game balance. I had to change my tactics and really think in order to fight against some of the groups of bad-asses I encountered. Many of the creatures now are quick as hell and will dice through you in a matter of seconds, even with your 8th and 9th level characters. Don't think you can rampage through anymore with 6 characters holding ranged weapon.
Good solid tactics must be used like slowdown type spells, narrow corridors, and immunity spells coupled with an offensive spell of the same element. An example would be to stand behind a door with your melee fighters in the front, cast a web spell in the area in front of the door, cast immunity to fire on those fighters, and blast away with fireballs and exploding arrows. Then again, you'll still probably die a few times anyway.
That's when the cheating comes in and I do have to be critical of the game mechanics for this. Similar to BG, if you don't want to fight the entire group of your enemies simply lures one out at a time. This limitation in BG's fog of war system is painfully unrealistic, and it's unfortunate that we sometimes have to rely on it to win battles.
Another one is, enemies don't know how to use doors and stairs. If you find you need to get away from the battle for a moment, run out of the room. Besides the tougher battles, those who thought BG was a hack fest may want to see what's in store with TOSC.
There are some really difficult puzzles that you will have to face if you want to complete the quests. No, these aren't ridiculous Myst-like puzzles that make absolutely no sense and add nothing to the game. The puzzles in TOSC reward players, who are prepared, pay attention, are thorough, and do a little thinking. It's a nice change of pace from constant fighting.
Finally, there are a couple more things just in case you're wondering. When you're done with the quests in TOSC or even if you're not done, you can pick right up with the main plot of BG and go for the end. This time though, you'll be in for a little surprise even with your now beefier party.
Tales of the Sword Coast is an add-on to the famed Baldur's Gate, set in TSR's AD&D universe. It brings in four new areas, claims Bioware. Durlag's Tower, which is arguably the most intriguing area in the add-on, is humungous in size. It is not just big - it's literally huge.
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