So it's fair to say that I've played enough of Temple of Elemental Evil to blog about it. Again. This most recent playthrough was obviously spurred on by the silly faux competition I started when I gifted Video_Game_King and Mento copies of ToEE because "It was dirt cheap and I wanted some entertainment". Obviously, that $5 that I spent on two copies of the game has already reaped dividends in that regard. Being that this isn't any sort of serious review blog (Icewind Dale II blog. Coming... soon-ish?), I figure we can all chillax and I'll just tell you about the weird stuff that stood out to me the second time around with the fan content version of the Circle of Eight mod. But first: A diatribe.
On D&D Paladins
Of all the classes in basic D&D, my least favorite would have to be the Monk. They're meant as some sort of hit-and-run DPS style class, except that they have lower HP, Lower AC, and generally lower damage output than just a fighter with a stupid big sword. Bards are also pretty lame, but the BG2 blade kit was cool so I will give them a pass. However, that being said, I think the weakest class in regular 3rd edition D&D is the Paladin, easily. While other non-fighter combat classes, such as the Ranger and the Barbarian, are known for their specialization (the Ranger becoming a much more interesting class in the transition from 3.0 to 3.5 and the Barbarian being the "Hit things really hard" class), the Paladin just feels like a concept of a character class that someone forgot to make powerful. Their abilities stink, to say the least, especially in the context of a video game. Detect Evil is generally pointless, and Lay on Hands is something that a low-level cleric can do better just by casting a spell. Thus, they are left with their Charisma based skills (Smite Evil basically being a milquetoast way to inflict like 3 extra damage per hit, although the bonus to saves is certainly nice). From a multiclassing perspective, they're not really allowed to do so, and from a Roleplaying standpoint they have a fairly strict, fairly lame code of morals to follow. Thus, you are left with a fighter type class that, while still competent at hitting things, doesn't have much else to offer besides some rather gimmicky abilities. They certainly pale in comparison to their Video Game counterparts, that's for sure. The Diablo II Paladin was the best.
"But how does this apply to CRPGs?" you might ask. Well, let me tell you. Generally speaking, the only reason to have a paladin in your party in any given D&D game is because the best weapon in the game (inadvertently a longsword), will always be of use only for paladins. So, while you may have to deal with leveling up slower (in the case of 2nd ed), or not having any of the extra feats or multiclassing abilities of a vanilla fighter (3rd ed), you can at least have a pretty cool sword that you find 3/4ths through the game that is like +7 or something (seriously. Pale Justice in IWD1 was a +7 sword). However, that said, in both of the 3rd edition D&D games I have played recently, the game decides to heap roleplaying restrictions on the player as a way to make choosing a paladin that much less appealing. Specifically, in Icewind Dale II, Paladins will refuse quest rewards (along with monks, so screw those guys too), and there is a sequence in the game that is apparently that much harder when you have a pally in your party. Similarly, in ToEE there are several ways to make your paladin "fall", which makes them lose all their abilities and literally just become a fighter without the cool feats. These include: participating in drinking contests, doing interesting sidequests for the various Temple factions, and recruiting morally dubious party members. So basically all the cool stuff. If you couldn't tell, I had a Paladin in my party this time around. I didn't make that mistake for IWD2 though.
On Fan Content and Item Creation Feats
I also played Temple of Elemental Evil with the New Content mod, which features several additional sidequests meant to be more exciting and varied than the game's general fare. Indeed, the first one of these actually has the virtue of bringing your party up to level 2 so you don't have to do as many dumb fetch quests in the initial town. However, this has one major, major, major drawback that I don't think the creators entirely intended: You get far more items and XP than should probably be allowed. This leaves your party at a higher level (my group being level 7 or 8 when entering the titular temple, when in the base game you'd be lucky to be level 5 ish), and when combined with generally broken Item Enchantment (You can enchant overpowered weapons and will totally have the spare cash and XP to do so), actually has the weird side effect of turning the endgame of a CRPG I previously deemed "Really, really, really hard" into something resembling a hilarious steamrolling massacre. Rest after every encounter? Poppycock! How about I just clear out the entire 4th floor of the temple without resting instead? My +3 Holy Flaming Freezing Keen *insert character weapon here* can murder a few more bugbears today. I admit, I have yet to finish it, but if I can deal with the high priest and a couple of giants, I can deal with that Balor in the fire node. I don't need to keep playing to tell you that.
The fan content itself is well made, for what that's worth. Obviously they're using modified versions of assets that are already in the game, but some of the things they have done are quite impressive. One of the later areas is the entire city of Verbobonc, which while an unfortunate amalgamation of fetch quests and "Not especially hard" battles against drow, is impressive enough in scale, at least for a game that has exactly two dungeons. It's a pity that this nerfed difficulty actually makes the game worse, since that was such an integral part of the base game in the first place. It's not even funny.
I'll keep this brief, but I do like what I've seen of the Persona 4 Anime. While the first episode was fairly, but understandably rushed, considering they're condensing 90 minutes of exposition into a 25 minute episode of TV. The second episode fares much better however, as
Charlie Yu actually talks more than 3 times and the pacing is notably less harried. I'm interested in seeing where this series goes, even if as a fan of the game, I can't really tell how it would be perceived by someone who doesn't have any understanding of the source material.
On a related note, I saw Evangelion 2.0 yesterday. Enjoyed it, and the way it goes off the rails in a potentially even more insane direction. Honestly, I don't even understand why I enjoy a franchise as self-indulgent (if not straight up pretentious) and oft incomprehensible as EVA, but there's something about the batshit insanity and strangely nuanced characters that appeals in a bizzare way. Whatever. This blog isn't about anime. If I wanted to talk in great detail about that, I would've made an account on AnimeVice.