Champions of the Dale

Together they could overcome anything.

No challenge proved insurmountable for the combined talents of Bruenor Battlehammer and Drizzt Do’Urden, whose campaign across the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of Icewind Dale ended in resounding success. Together they’ve felled colossal frost giants, fanatical cultists, ferocious gnolls, ravening verbeeg, a horrifying beholder, and even an ancient white dragon. Together they’ve done what neither could do alone. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an enjoyable (primarily) co-operative ARPG that loosely follows the exploits of the Companions of the Hall.

Unconventional as they may be.

I’d usually avoid co-operative experiences, but I’ve uncharacteristically completed the entirety of the content with a friend and it was surprisingly fun. It definitely feels more satisfying when exploring together. Which is exactly what a co-operative experience should feel like.

Knowing that my friend would always be there to resurrect me should I fall in battle. Knowing that I’d always find every treasure chest as their lust for loot is more insatiable than mine. And knowing that we’d share the disappointment of discovering nought but trash in the reward chest. But that didn’t dissuade us from returning to face challenges far beyond what our combined Combat Power suggested was possible. Not that we could ever make sense of the Combat Power mechanics, as they were clearly skewed towards wearing legendary equipment even if it was vastly inferior. Nor would we heed the advice of an algorithm. As evidenced by our innumerable attempts to defeat bosses on the highest difficulty levels and our countless successes during those attempts. Not only when adventuring together but when adventuring alone, too.

The intoxicating rhythm of battle.

We were, however, somewhat discouraged by the lack of high quality equipment found during these attempts, which is my only criticism of this experience. The higher difficulty levels aren’t as rewarding as they could be. They’re certainly challenging, but that doesn’t feel nearly as fulfilling when the rewards aren’t proportional to the effort. Especially when each new difficulty feels insuperable compared to the last. Acquiring a full set of equipment also seems exceedingly difficult despite information to the contrary, as it should be possible to reliably farm every set.

But the rewards never seem to reflect that.

These are concerns that could easily be addressed with the post-release DLC, though. And I’m hoping that they will be. As Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance has an incredibly solid foundation, which could be built upon to create a truly invigorating co-operative experience.

I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found it to be. Crawling through dungeons and slaughtering unholy hordes is nothing new to me. But I’ve found this experience to be an oddly compelling one, and one that was made better by having a friend along with me. Or maybe I was along with them. They were the one dealing ludicrously high amounts of damage while I stood unflinching against the relentless assault. But that’s why I’m looking forward to the aforementioned post-release DLC, as I’m sure that our misadventures will continue. And I’m sure that Drizzt will continue to carry the party with their damage output. Which is why I recommend this experience to those who love to crawl through dungeons with friends, as it has been immensely entertaining.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

King of the Valley

His axe has a thirst.

Whether it’s the savagery of the verbeeg or the persistence of the goblins, the dwarves of Clan Battlehammer have witnessed countless atrocities. Prior to the rule of Bruenor Battlehammer, their ancestral home, Mithral Hall, was overrun by hordes of duergar and it was decided that they relocate to Kelvin’s Cairn to escape their aggressors. Only to discover that Kelvin’s Cairn had equally unsettling hardships for them to endure. Bruenor isn’t about to stand idly by and watch his people be slaughtered, though. Nor will he allow them to be driven from their new home in the Dale.

Not that he’ll face these challenges alone.

He’ll be facing them with other Companions of the Hall. Of which, having attempted one run with each, I’m reasonably proficient with Bruenor and Drizzt, despite Wulfgar seeming like the obvious choice for me. He just feels too cumbersome in combat. As does Catti-brie.

I’m not particularly fond of ranged damage, as that requires me to fire from a safe distance, and I rarely keep a safe distance, but Catti-brie has an unusual fighting style that involves kicking creatures. Kicking creatures and occasionally firing arrows into them. However, her ultimate, Arcane Arrows, is ridiculously powerful and decimates elite or boss encounters. So I can definitely appreciate how powerful she could be. But, much like Wulfgar, whose hits land with staggering intensity, it’s the quirks of their respective fighting styles that elude me. Especially when I’m accustomed to the unflinching might of Bruenor or the exhilarating burst damage of Drizzt. I’m continually discovering new equipment sets, too. So it’s entirely possible (and very likely) that their equipment is affecting their respective capabilities (or lack thereof) in combat.

Two heroes are better than one.

While Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance can be experienced alone, it’s easily at its best when experienced with others. Not only does combat become immensely satisfying, as each party member confidently exhibits their own strengths during encounters, but there are innumerable conversations between characters relating to their histories or to past events, which serve to deepen your understanding of the world around you. This isn’t exactly unexpected of a (primarily) co-operative experience, but the subtle execution is what makes you pay attention to the dialogue.

It feels like a natural conversation.

One that helps you to understand their individual motivations and how the current journey is affecting them. Which, as I’ve not read any of the source material, is welcomed, as I don’t know of their personalities or the adversity that they’ve faced during their past adventures.

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance certainly isn’t for everyone, as you aren’t able to build your own unique character, and this isn’t an epic tale of heroism experienced through character sheets and dice rolling, but it
is an enjoyable adventure through the inhospitable and unforgiving wilds of Icewind Dale. One that can only get better. As the developers have acknowledged numerous issues from their (underwhelming) launch, and are currently implementing patches to fix the most egregious of them. And they’ve expressed their intentions to support this experience with post-release DLC. Of those currently announced, two are being delivered for free and one requires an additional purchase. But the idea of new locations to explore, treasures to plunder, and enemies to face makes me happier than anything else.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Dungeons & Moggies

Rolling dice and taking hits.

Ideally I’d be rolling dice and avoiding hits, but my saving throws never seem to be as effective as they should be. Not that I’m fully conversant with the differences between Fortitude, Reflex, and Will saving throws. And I’m reasonably certain that the majority of my builds have lower than average modifiers, due to the distribution of their attribute points. Because a -1 modifier never seems as bad as it actually is during character creation. But such is to be expected whenever I attempt to make sense of the different Dungeons & Dragons rules present in CRPGs.

Varied as they are.

Hence some of my confusion regarding different classes, creatures, saving throws, and other mechanics. I’m trying to make sense of three different iterations of Dungeons & Dragons rules, while also observing the alterations made to those rules for the different CRPGs that utilise them.

Of the attempts that I’ve made, and there have been a few, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is my lone success, as that features a d20 system derived from the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. I knew I made the right choice when I opted for a Scout instead of a Soldier. Following this, I had a reasonably successful campaign in Baldur’s Gate that abruptly ended when tragedy struck. Imoen, one of few capable companions, died and couldn’t be resurrected, as it would crash to desktop every time I entered a temple. I didn’t have an earlier save file, either. I’d assumed that I could easily resurrect her once I’d escaped the dungeon, but it wasn’t to be. I recovered her equipment, though. It burdens me to this day as I’ve not revisited that save file since. It’s not like I need to manage an inventory that I’m not actively using.

I’ve also had two unsuccessful campaigns in Icewind Dale, and most recently I’ve revisited Neverwinter Nights with a Rogue/Cleric build. An unorthodox- but promising- build that I wasn’t intending to see through the main campaign. But did help to highlight some of the mistakes that I was making. It didn’t, however, help me to understand spells per day. Or why she had so few of them. But, because of that build, and a greater understanding of the mechanics, I’ve devised a new Ranger/Rogue build to try and complete Neverwinter Nights in its entirety.

I had considered a Ranger/Druid build.

But I didn’t heed the neutral alignment requirement for Druids, and so settled on Rogue to be able to open locked chests (or doors) and disarm traps more reliably. I don’t suffer any experience penalty as a Halfling, either. So I’m able to invest in Rogue levels as and when I need to.

I doubt I’ll be taking this Ranger/Rogue build through the expansion packs, though. As those campaigns can be experienced with a fresh character. It’d be foolish to not even consider something different. Something like a Half-Orc Cleric. Misunderstood but righteous, with a two-handed axe for solving problems that spells can’t. Surprisingly, I’ve got a rather extensive- if not largely unsuccessful- history with Dungeons & Dragons. One formed entirely from my experiences with CRPGs, but one that has ignited a passion in me all the same. Neverwinter Nights will hopefully be the first of many successes, as I own numerous CRPGs, but things tend to go awry, and I tend to become discouraged as I often encounter more failures than successes. One can but try, though. And I’m very trying. Just ask anyone who works with me.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

“Magey, it’s cold outside.”

Of course it’s cold outside- we’re on the frozen plains while you have nowt but a loincloth to cover your loins.

Given the fact that the first town in Icewind Dale is surrounded by snow I’m surprised they haven’t frozen to death running around in little more than a suit of splint mail or leather armour. Though my Fighter and Paladin do have a helmet as well. But still- they should be frozen solid. Maybe they have incredibly high endurance? I know their Constitution scores are generally above 10-11 so maybe that’s it? They ate their greens, drank their milk, and done all the good things that we tell people to do but rarely do ourselves.

As you can probably tell I have started my adventures in the massive world of Icewind Dale. I was off to a rough start with my previous party (made to test that the game works more than anything else) but with my new and improved party things are much better. Even when we invaded a cave full of orcs by accident there were good results across the board.

I decided to tweet a few of my adventures from the first night.

If you’re looking for more Moggie-related gaming-inspired Tweets then be sure to check out my various stories from Legend of Grimrock. There were some silly ones like that time I fought many slimes, many crabs, solved many puzzles, and was joyously rewarded with a whole host of ice lizards. So I decided to take my rage out on their curtains for a laugh. Or that one light ball puzzle that had me stumped for a while as I was under the impression I was doing it wrong- when I wasn’t- and when I finally solved it I was full of joy and smug Tweet retaliation.

I never really use Twitter much for anything other than linking the sites together so I thought I’d tweet about games.

Some content is better than none, right? Right. Besides this is a pretty big part of what I do. I also post art related teaser tweets or random sketches that are kind of cool but more suited to the small size of images on Twitter cool. Rather than full blown pieces that when scaled up I just cringe endlessly at the quality. Or lack thereof.

When looking over the content I have posted on WordPress over the last six months I feel that the range of topics, quality, and general consistency is improving and diversifying. With that I want to bring the same to Twitter and Facebook to actually give those sites meaning. Twitter is pretty much done for the time being as I have a range of cat related, art related, gaming, random, and silly tweets which are posted regularly enough that I can consider it active. That and I feel like being more personable these days and being more social. Moggie is evolving into a social creature! Quick- press B- it cannot happen!

As for Facebook who knows? I don’t know what I’m doing with that. Maybe I should just bury it. I get the least interest and traffic there.

In any case here’s a mid-late November post that is trying desperately to make sure I don’t disappear until February next year like I have done for the last two years. I’m improving! Honest. I can do this. Or at least I think I can do this. We’ll see when there are either a consistent number of posts in December or if I go into hibernation over the winter months.

Have a nice Sunday, all!

Moggie.