Monday, February 15, 2016

Game Daze #4: "Baldur's Gate" Day 4

I haven't played for a few days, having been feeling a bit under the weather.  But I did make some progress since the last time I have written one of these gaming entries, or logs, or whatever you want to call these things I am writing.  As far as Baldur's Gate is concerned, I have travelled to Nashkel where apparently something or someone is tainting all of the iron ore, thus making all metal instruments such as weapons, shields, armor, etc. brittle and completely useless.  Also, miners are being killed by dog headed creatures who are called kobolds.  These are the easiest creatures to kill and give out hardly any XP.  They are really only a threat in large groups, and usually when they attack you, it is in large groups.

I remember Nashkel mines from the last time I played, which would honestly be over a decade ago.  I made it down through the maze of tunnels and tracks to the lowest level, where I found a mage just standing there, waiting for me to have him join my party.  My party was full, at 6 characters, and I had to ask one of my fighter characters to leave in order to allow the mage to join.  Then I proceeded to the next lair or tunnel and was attacked by whoever it is who is bringing kobolds into the mines and he apparently has something to do with the contaminated iron ore.  In the process of fighting him, the mage whom I had just recruited was killed, and I was attacked by skeletons, kobolds, and possibly other kinds of monsters.

A lot of my characters were heavily wounded, but except for the mage, all very much still alive.  I was somewhat glad the mage had died, because I really wanted my other character back.  He is named Minsk I think, and he has a pet gerbil or something named Boo.  I think he had an accident with a brain injury somewhere, and he talks to his pet gerbil.  But I like the character.  He is a good fighter.

My party is full at 6 characters, and leveling up is going to be more difficult, tedious, and long drawn out.  In order to level up any of my characters, I have to earn double the experience points that each of my characters already has.  So I basically have to do what I have already done with each character.  I am going to have to find ways to gain more experience more rapidly if I am going to progress in the game further.  But my characters are pretty strong and experienced.  Hopefully random encounters with enemies will have more experience for me when I defeat the monsters that try to attack me.

As far as the story goes, I am on Chapter 3, and am not sure what I am supposed to do next.  The mayor of Nashkel has provided me with a reward for clearing out the mines, but I don't know what is next.  I have never gotten this far in the game before, and will have to look through my game journal or quest log or whatever to figure out what I need to do next.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Game Daze #3: "Baldur's Gate" Day 3

I have finally been making some progress beyond just level grinding in Baldur's Gate.  I decided to dismiss Garrick the bard from my party because he just was getting killed too many times, because he has so few hitpoints.  My party was down to three, my character named Ragnarok, Imoen the thief, and Kivan the Elf Ranger.  After leveling up to about level 5 for each of my characters, I decided to try going to the Friendly Arm Inn to see if I could defeat the mage who tries to kill me when I approach the inn.  Usually he kills me in less than 3 seconds.  This time the tables were turned.  I had equipped a Long Sword +1 for Ragnarok, and Imoen and Kivan fired arrows rapidly at the enemy and he was killed in a couple of seconds.

The reason for going to the Friendly Arm Inn is because Gorion, the person who was my characters guardian, told me to go their to meet two of his friend, Khalid and Jaheira.  I guess I should describe some of the story from here.  In the beginning of the game, my guardian, Gorion, tells me to get equipped because we must leave Candlekeep, where my character has lived since youth.  Apparently, there is someone intent on killing myself and others for some reason, which I do not know as of yet.  As Gorion and I leave, we are ambushed by a man and his cohort.  They kill Gorion but I escape.  I do not know the reason why I have been targeted, but apparently there is a reward for anyone who can kill me.

Now that I have recruited Khalid and Jaheira to my party, I am going south to Nashkel, where something is wrong with the mines.  Apparently all the iron produced in the region is tainted and most metal weapons and other items break very easily.  So that is where I will be headed next time I play Baldur's Gate.  I might do some more leveling in areas where the monsters are more difficult and provide more experience points, but we will see when I actually play.  I will let you know in my next entry.  If anyone has experience playing Baldur's Gate, don't hesitate to let me know.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Game Daze #2: "Baldur's Gate" Day 2

Gamer's Log: Stardate who the hell knows...

I am into my second day of trying to get through the entire Baldur's Gate series.  I really don't know any easy way to gain lots of experience real quick.  I have found that the more member of my party there are, the more enemies attack me when I am ambushed or run into monsters.  I have basically been going to a nearby forest and resting over and over until I get ambushed by bandits.  When I had 2 members of my party, I would get ambushed by one bandit.  Then I ended up letting another character join my party, and I noticed I would get ambushed by 3 bandits.  Being asked by another character if they could join my party in order to gain revenge against bandits who killed one of his friends or something, I found that I would now be ambushed by exactly 5 bandits each time I rested.  Each bandit gives my party 65 experience points when I kill them.  They also drop arrows, some gold, and I can also take their scalps, which I have discovered I can sell at a nearby tavern and inn for 10 gold pieces each.  The bandits are easy to kill, but 65 xp is not very much.

I think my strategy is just going to be grinding through as many battles with these relativiely easy to kill bandits, until I level up each of my characters to where they won't be killed by everyone else so easily.  I have tried going to other places where there are more powerful monsters, who give more xp for killing, but I find I die to frequently for this to save me more time.  I need to level up enough that I can more easily survive and kill more powerful enemies. But right now, my characters are way too inexperienced to face more dangerous creatures.  My goal is to try to gain at least one level for all my characters every day I play.  And then I will get sick and tired of grinding out these levels, and wait until next day.

Yesterday, I was almost going to quit playing, because leveling up is so tedious and repetitive.  I just want to be able to continue on in the game, which has a great plot and characters, without dying.  In order to continue on the quest, I will need to kill a magician in the entrance to the Friendly Arm Inn.  This one magician can kill my entire party easily.  I need characters with more hitpoints (hp meaning how much damage I can take before I die) and who can deal more damage to enemies.  Magic is also involved in this game, but I am horrible with magic.  Hopefully, I will be able to learn to use it effectively.

Every time i get attacked by bandits they say "So i kicked him in the head until he was dead,  hahaha!"  I've heard that repeated over and over and over .   But again my strategy is to basically just go in a forest area and rest, and hope to get ambushed by bandits so i can kill them, take their gold and jewelry, as well as their arrows and also their scalps to sell for money.  Right now I am going to start playing again, my goal for the day to at least gain one more level up for each of my 4 characters.  My main character, named Ragnarok, is a level 4 fighter.  Imoen, a thief, is also level 4.  Garrick, a bard, and Kivan, a Ranger, are also level 4.  Pray for me that the randomly generated dice rolls treat me well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Game Daze #1: "Baldur's Gate" Day 1

I am starting a new blog column discussing my time playing various games, whether computer, video, board or other kind of games.  I will be giving reviews of games as I play them, and will try to write a blog entry for every time I attempt to play a game, describing the challenge level, difficulties, fun part, frustations, and tactics or strategies I use to attempt to get the most out of the games.

The first game I have begun playing in preparation for writing about it, is the original "Baldur's Gate" for PC.  This is the original version, which I bought as a 4 in 1 DVD set containing all the Baldur's Gate I & II and their expansions as well.  I remember buying the game when it first came out a long time ago, back when the latest Windows was Windows 95.  It spanned 5 CD-Roms.  The edition I have is not the Enhanced Edition available on Steam, but that original version, just put onto one DVD instead of 5 CDS.

I started playing yesterday.  I have given up on this game so many times, because it is a pain to level up.  It is a roleplaying game, based on the rules of pencil and paper RPG Dungeons & Dragons, and set in the Forgotten Realms world.  There is so much to do in this game, and while that is one of its blessings, it is also a curse.  In order to advance, you need to do quests and fight monsters and enemies to get your characters experience points, which makes them stronger, better fighters, gives more abilities and magic spells, and otherwise improve your characters statistics and abilities, in order to make them more powerful and deadly against enemies.  Unlike japanese style RPGs where you can just walk back and forth until a random fight occurs, in Baldur's Gate there is no real easy way to find enemies to fight.  And it doesn't take too long for the enemies you encounter to be too powerful to survive.  My strategy for leveling up has been to rest in an area containing enemies I know my characters can handle and get woken up by Bandits and kill them for 65 experience points each.   This is just extremely tedious and I have not leveled up very much.  Both my character, my main character and my NPC nonplayer character, have gotten up to level 3.   I am trying to level up enough that I can defeat a powerful magician in the first place I am supposed to travel to, the Friendly Arm Inn.  But I am just going to keep grinding through these battles until I get to at least level 5 for each character.  This is going to take forever.  I will update you on whether I have figured out any other ways to gain more experience this early in the game.

This game is great, except for the difficulty level.  Everything is based on random dice rolls, or random number generators, which determine the success or failure of attacks and the amount of damage or other effect done.  The enemies are just too powerful early on, and until I can level up more, I am going to have to just keep fighting weaker enemies one at a time, until I am strong enough to fight the more deadly enemies in the game, who give more experience points on being killed.  Maybe I can find some better armor and weaponry as well.

I was going to try using a cheat that would allow me to heal any character just by right clicking on their portrait, but for some reason I can't get the cheats or the console where I enter them to work.  So I will be playing without cheats, and I will make updates on my progress in the game until I beat the game, or give up in frustration.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Stories in Focus: "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown

Dan Brown's very controversial mystery thriller novel "The Da Vinci Code" is one which at points in my life I refused to read.  Having watched the movie version, I had a general idea of what it was about, and felt no need to read the book itself to decide whether it had any merit or not.  Essentially, the story follows the action of protaganist Robert Langdon, a symbologist who studies religious symbols and their meanings, as he is framed for the murder of the curator at the Louvre museum in France, where many famous works of art, including the "Mona Lise" of Leonardo da Vinci, are on display.  The murdered man leaves clues as to who the murderer is, and his granddaughter, a very intelligent cryptographer and code breaker, is brought in to assist in solving the mystery.

The story turns into a search for the missing Holy Grail, which has supposedly been kept hidden by the Catholic Church, for fear it would overturn all that the Church teaches as true.  The secret is supposedly that instead of having been crucified a bachelor, Jesus Christ had actually married Mary Magdalene, and had children, leaving a bloodline that lives on to this day.  The Church, it is claimed, has slandered Magdalene as a prostitute, and has done everything it can to hide this secret that she was really the wife of Jesus and mother to His children.  There is a lot of dialogue regarding this, and talk of the Gnostic gospels and other literature proposed for the Bible but rejected by the Church as having been inauthentic and essentially not written by the authors they are claimed to be written by.  There is also the claim that it wasn't until the 3rd or 4th century, I believe around the time of the rule of Constantine and the Nicene Council (I might have this wrong), that Jesus was only believed to be divine many centuries after His death, and before then, all His followers believed He was merely a mortal man, and not an immortal incarnation of God.  There are also claims by the characters that the Bible had been altered, mistranslated, and ultimately tampered with over time to obscure and falsify the "truth" about Jesus, and especially about His relationship to Mary Magdalene.

While these ideas are interesting and make for an intriguing story, I find them unconvincing, and having studied the Bible and Church teaching, can assert that the author has not really studied Catholic theology very much.  He is trying to promote an idea of "the sacred feminine" and claims the Church regards females and sexuality as dirty and inferior.  He tries to turn Jesus into a mere mortal man, and Mary Magdalene into a divine God.  He does not pay attention to the reverence given to women by the uplifting of Mary as Mother of God.  The book talks about Eve bringing humanity into its downfall but not of the ascension brought to humanity through the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cooperation with the salvific plan of God.  Having studied a lot of the issues that are touched on in "The Da Vinci Code", the alternate theory of Jesus and His supposed descendants, the novel did nothing to alter my beliefs in the orthodox teachings of Christianity.  The release of this book spurned a huge reaction from Christians of all denominations, leading to all kind of books debunking the claims made in Brown's novel, such as "The Da Vinci Hoax", "Debunking the Da Vinci Code", "The Da Vinci Fraud", etc.  I think the dialogue is a good one, and I will suggest that you do take the time to read Dan Brown's novel, you also look into some of the opposing claims made in books that criticize and argue against the main premise of the Code.

At the very least, reading books like this can demonstrate how wild alternate versions of history can be concocted and developed, and can convince lots of people of something that just isn't true or never happened.  Brown says Jesus was married to Magdalene and had children.  I say someone made it up.  Even in the study of history, it is important to know that lies or fabrications can be made up, either to tear down ideas one does not like, or to promote and build up ideas that one wants to become fact.

Although you can probably find a used copy at almost any thrift store, "The Da Vinci Code"  can be purchased at Amazon here:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stories in Focus: "Angels & Demons" by Dan Brown

It has taken me a while to get to actually reading any of Dan Brown's widely read novels.  Tonight I just finished reading "Angels & Demons", which I will follow up with the more well known "The Da Vinci Code".

Angels and Demons is a book I find myself having difficulty reviewing.  The story is very compelling, interesting and exciting in the action and fast paced puzzle solving required of the main character, religious symbologist, Robert Langdon.  The story is laid on a backdrop of a debate about the supposed harmony, or incompatibility, of religion and faith with science and reason.  Basically, the story is about a scientist, who is also a Catholic priest, who discovers a way to create antimatter, and supposedly proving that the act of creation of something out of nothing is possible, therefore proving the existence of a Creator God.  But apparently someone has taken this antimatter and hidden it somewhere in the Vatican, where all of the world's Catholic cardinals have congregated to elect a new Pope, the most recent Pope having died of a sudden stroke 15 days previously.  Robert Langdon is called in to help solve the murder of the priest scientist who created the antimatter and he must solve the riddles left behind by members of the secret society and enemy of the Catholic Church, the Illuminati.

A lot of the characters in the story represent different views on the relationship of religion with science, of faith with reason.  Some characters believe they are harmonious and complementary, while others belief they are contradictory and at odds, the worst of enemies to each other, with one being better than the other.  The novel contains a lot of interesting historical information and interpretation.  I don't know how much of it it true, and how much either concocted or embellished to create a more compelling and dramatic story, but I think the historical tidbits make it more interesting, regardless of how historically accurate they are.  The action of the novel is fast paced and exciting.  The dialogue is usually interesting.  I found the book to be hard to put down.

Overall, and interesting and fun book to read.  Being Catholic myself, some of the jabs to my Church were a little annoying, but I can take a punch, and so can the Church.  I probably don't agree with a lot of the author's own opinions and beliefs, but that is ok.  I still think I could get something out of this book.  I plan to read "The Da Vinci Code" next, which, having seen the film version, I know there will be a lot which I will find inaccurate and untrue.  But I will read it, so that I have a better idea of what I am critical of.

While you can probably find an inexpensive copy of this book in your local thrift store, if you want to buy it online, you can find it at Amazon here: