I’ve been playing the port of Baldur’s Gate on the iPad of late. It’s great if you’ve already played through it on the PC. I just assumed it would be for everyone, but a friend of mine pointed out a jillion things about it that are completely unexplained, both in the realms of UI and the Dungeons and Dragons mechanics. Spell descriptions are especially mystifying if you read them from the perspective of someone that has not played D&D.
Even if you have played the original on the PC, the conversion has rough edges. They did not enlarge tap targets, so they are still mouse-click size. Picking up dropped loot can be quite the chore, as can finding the tiny hit box that lets you pass through a doorway or go up the stairs. Getting to spell descriptions is trouble (it seems you have to fill all of your spell slots before being able to launch the descriptions window). Invoking the window for separating grouped items (e.g. splitting 80 arrows into two groups of 40) involves pressing on a group for some amount of time. What that amount of time is, I still don’t know.
The game’s successor, Baldur’s Gate II, is one of my favorite games of all time, and is certainly my favorite PC game of all time, if that subcategorization has any meaning for you. So, I was willing to push past onerosities like that. And thus, I found that the magic is still there in this port.
I became immersed until morning a few times, not in a Skinner box “oh, man, if I keep going I can level up” kind of way, but in a “this feels great, and I want to keep playing” way. The line between those kinds of compulsion are blurry, I know. Regardless, it had to banished to the weekend.
There’s a lot of elements that loosely pull together to make these games great. One of them is the vast field of tactical possibilities. Quite a bit can happen in a battle, given the varied settings, items, spells, and weapons. I remember reloading major battles in BG 2 3-5 times — even if I had won the first time — to see how this or that would play out.
Among these possibilities are some exploits that make you feel like you’re getting away with something, when in fact its quite likely that they occurred to the designers or were even intended. They are delightful, whether emergent or by-design.
Here’s one I hadn’t noticed in my previous playthroughs.
- A cleric that has the Sanctuary spell, a thief, or a mage with the Invisibility spell. The cleric will usually be more durable in case the caper goes awry.
- Boots of Speed.
- A Potion of Fire Breath or Aganazzar’s Scorcher. (I think the Potion of Fire Breath is implemented as a maxed-out Aganazzar’s Scorcher.)
- A room full of enemies.
0. Optional: If you’ve got anything that boosts your defense, this is not a bad place to use it.
1. After enabling either Sanctuary, stealth, or Invisibility, send your character to a corner of the room, either unnoticed or ignored. Stand them right next to the enemy guy closest to the corner.
2. Use the potion or Aganazzar’s Scorcher on that closest guy. The fire stream will anchor itself to that spot and to your guy.
3. Immediately start doing a lap around the room. The fire stream will sweep across the room as you do so. Each guy the stream hits will take (I think) 6-48 points of damage. Thanks to the Boots of Speed, you’ll cross the room fairly quickly, depending on whether your enemies move in a way that blocks your path. You will probably take some hits, but hopefully not enough to kill you. You might even have time to do a little backtracking to do some extra scorching to some of the guys.
You can then bring in your other guys to mop up whoever is left alive.
In this way, you can achieve Fireball-like effects (perhaps even double the damage of a low-level Fireball if you’re lucky) even if you are not high enough level for it or have not been able to find it or have already used it. And it looks hilarious.