Swords With Friends: Baldur’s Gate’s Cross-Plat Co-op

By Nathan Grayson on July 31st, 2012 at 9:00 am.

Everyone, I think we should stop and take a moment to remember that companionship is the greatest magic of all. Unquenchable, all-consuming fire's a close second, though.

It’s not that difficult to “enhance” something. Recently, I “enhanced” my cereal experience by pouring milk into it. In the world of PC gaming, however, “enhanced” is a holy and sacred word. The Witcher 1 and 2’s Enhanced Editions, for instance, were the equivalent of sending my cereal bowl sailing into a nearby forest, flying in an Iron Chef, and telling him to make whatever his heart desired – so long as it included over 100 courses. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, meanwhile, appears to be taking a similar approach. And now, Beamdog’s announced a cherry for the proverbial cereal and ice cream and filet mignon sundae: cross-platform multiplayer.

Principal Baldur’s Gate franchise necromancer Trent Oster said as much in a tweet:

“[Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition] will have co-op multiplayer and will work across platforms. iPad can play with Android, Mac and PC. One happy gaming family.”

Baldur’s Gate 2, of course, had up-to-six-player co-op, so multiplayer is hardly unexplored territory for the franchise. Playing with people on other platforms, however, sounds like quite the enticing wrinkle. I mean, I know plenty of people who’d shudder in fear of the role-playing legend’s isometric viewpoint and associated old-school complexities, but if they could easily access it on an iPad while a friend showed them the ropes, well, they’d be a bit more open to the idea, at least.

And, lest you think I’m some sort of altruistic soul who just wants all of humanity to be happy, understand that this is entirely driven by the chance that Beamdog could re-calibrate its patented Dog Beams to fire copies of Baldur’s Gate 3 instead of dogs. And oh what a day that would be.

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75 Comments »

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  1. Koojav says:

    Beam-what-now? I suppose Steam support was too much to ask for. Also current price tag is … unjustified.

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      TheApologist says:

      Beamdog have made clear that this would be available from them as a download outside their beamdog client.

      Indeed, to quote from their site: ‘Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition for Windows will be available as a direct download from Beamdog, with no client install necessary’

      So fear ye not :)

      Edit: sorry – I was assuming no client > Steam > random Beamdog client. If you particularly want it in Steam, I think it’s true that other Beamdog stuff has hit Steam later on, so maybe worth waiting?

      Edit Edit: Apparently on twitter Trent Oster said it won’t be available outside Beamdog even though there will be a client free download version

    • Cruyelo says:

      I’m not sure how Steam would be better. The game has it’s own specific launcher making sure you have the latest patch and that everything is working fine.

      Taking that into account, having no client on top of the game is better than having a client (Steam). BG:EE doesn’t require their Beamdog client to run.
      (And as bonus, I’d rather see the developers get the 30% that would go to Valve. I like Valve, but I’d rather see the money go directly to the developers).

      It’s true the game cost a little bit more than it should. The original content is normally valued at 10$, so 15$ would be a better price for what they offer.
      20$ is overpricing their game a little bit.

      • Irria says:

        But what if I want all my digital downloads to be in one place instead of being spread across 10000 different websites, to which I will have to remember logins and passwords.

        Especially with this being just a slight remake as opposed to a new title, they are not getting my money while not on Steam.

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          AmateurScience says:

          But why deny yourself some of the great games you *can’t* get on steam? Like most of the GoG library (which ironically includes BG1 and 2), or the plethora of great indy games that haven’t made it through accreditation?

          It strikes me as odd to be a games enthusiast, but then wilfully filter your experience to only games that are available on steam. I understand that there’s a convenience issue, but it’s not *that* inconvenient to have to launch a game from the desktop instead of your steam list (you can even add a link into steam if you want, then pretend it was on steam all along!). As for logins, having to remember (lets be realistic here) 5 or 6 usernames and passwords is hardly the end of the world either. And for me (YMMV) is a small price to pay to have access to the full spectrum of gaming awesomeness out there.

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            PoulWrist says:

            Don’t try to argue with ‘no steam, no sale’ fanboys, you will only get a headache.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            He isn’t trying to start a flame war, Poul Wrist. YOU are. Get outta here.

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            TheApologist says:

            I personally feel the Steam / convenience tension quite a bit as well, particularly since I moved to SSD and don’t have so much room to keep a tonne of installed games going. So I tend to only use Steam and my GoG game shelf. I guess I should just be organised and keep track of install files on a separate hard-drive, but…it does make me wish it was coming to one of those services.

            However, you are right – this isn’t a rule for life! If there’s a game I really want that isn’t on one of those, I’ll not deny myself :)

        • Cruyelo says:

          You only have to download a launcher from their website. You can back it up *anywhere* and it won’t take space. You could send it to yourself by email, keep it there and still be able to download the entire game through the launcher. It would always be within your reach without making you dependent on any service.

          You don’t want to spread your games everywhere? In this particular case, you don’t even have to spread your game at all.

          Is Steam really making us so lazy that we’ll skip games simply because we have to look at a different seller?

          • mondomau says:

            Apparently. And in some cases, entitled and obnoxious to boot.

          • dE says:

            And in some cases, using services like GMG or GoG is no option because they can’t be arsed to support anything but credit cards and paypal.

          • Grygus says:

            @mondomau It is entitlement to pass on something now? Also, insults are not intellectual arguments.

        • monkeybars says:

          You can add games to Steam so they they’re there, and some will use the Steam overlay. Doesn’t let you download the game from Steam, obviously, but at least then when you launch Steam, all your games are still in there, just as a library of what’s on your computer.

        • squareking says:

          What did you guys do before Steam? u_u

          • Slurpy says:

            We bought games on disc.

          • Grygus says:

            I can answer that. We downloaded patches whenever we became aware of them, which was sometimes well after the patch was released, and often we simply went without patches altogether, putting up with game-breaking bugs, or sometimes giving up on games that had been patched, if only we’d known. We relied on physical magazines arriving in the mail to tell us about them, and a few patch clearinghouse sites, because companies sometimes kept old patches up and sometimes did not, and some companies didn’t even have their own websites. Then we hoped that the patch site was more-or-less complete. Some companies only released their patches via diskette, and physically mailed them to registered game owners. Then we had to remember where we found patches, and what the latest patch was, and it was all workable but quite the pain in the ass, and often patches were simply missed.

            Then, in 1999, EverQuest came with its own launcher and automatically patched itself. I am not claiming that Verant invented the patcher, but it was the first one I saw, and I think that was a lot of people’s first experience with one. That was a lot better, but it only helped with that one game. As other games adopted them (and not all of them online-only affairs) it was better than before but still a little inconvenient because we were still dependent on a lot of companies in various states of commitment to a particular launcher/game, not to mention various states of solvency. Patch sites got better, company presences on the Internet got better, but it was all diffuse and sometimes things just went away. Again, it worked, just like it works today, but it wasn’t ideal.

            When Steam came out, it was pretty much terrible. Over time they have resolved the most glaring problems, though. It still isn’t ideal, because as people here note, not all games are on Steam, but it seems unlikely that all games will ever be on a single platform, unless Amazon develops something amazing and neutral, and while I think they are capable of doing this, I do not see what would be in it for them. So Steam isn’t a panacea. But just like before, it’s a steady step out of the original wilderness, when you could go literally years without even knowing a patch was released.

            And that’s what we did before Steam, and why Steam is so popular.

          • MikoSquiz says:

            Beautiful. This deserves to be a guest post.

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          Big Murray says:

          Ok, enough. We’ve gone from not wanting to have other digital download clients other than Steam … to rejecting DRM-free things in favour of Steam.

          This is nothing less than retarded.

    • Werthead says:

      I use Steam a lot and find it highly convenient. However, it is undeniably a monopoly, although a benign one. Whilst convenience is nice, I don’t see any reason why more competition in the field is a bad thing.

  2. mlaskus says:

    Baldur’s Gate 3? The story got wrapped up in ToB. There is really no sense to creating a sequel – though I admit, it would mean a lot of free publicity for the developer.

    • Lukasz says:

      It can be a spinoff cant it. Different bunch of characters, different storyline.

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        AmateurScience says:

        What you mean like Neverwinter Nights?

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Probably means a game actually like Baldur’s Gate but with just different characters.

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            AmateurScience says:

            So Icewind Dale then?

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Yes, although I would suspect something more story based rather since IWD was much more dungeon crawly than BG if I remember correctly.

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            AmateurScience says:

            Ok ok :) I’ll stop playing devils advocaat.

            I’m all for more infinity engine-based RPG shenanigans, I just worry that it might be a bit naff/tacked on.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Yeah, I can understand that. My concern is that they either try to emulate BG too much or they try something too different.

            I’d like to see a brand new story – genuinely new (not just the same old cliche in a new skin) with some innovation perhaps on the role playing front – such as using the full range of skills and spells etc within non combat situations and conversation.

            But retaining the simple, slick and to my mind unrivalled Infinity engine charm and mix in some fantastic new artwork.

            It’s a fine line to tread between recreating what the previous games got right and what made them special and creating something new.

            Icewind Dale was actually a great example which I hope I conveyed because it was similar it lots of the right ways but carved its own path. That path was more fighty than I was necessarily looking for but it was still fun.

            Edit: Neverwinter, on the other hand, although great for its own reasons, to me held very little in common with BG and wasn’t really the successor. I found the new 3D engine to be strangely less engaging and it obviously focussed on a single character rather than a party. And it was just… different in a lot of ways. That’s fine, it was a whole new approach. But i thought it was a shame the IE games didn’t really carry on their legacy anywhere until much later.

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            AmateurScience says:

            I agree, the original neverwinter felt more like a showcase for the mod tools and DM mode sort of ‘look at what we did, now go forth and create some awesome stuff’ (and did they!).

            NWN2 was (unsurprisingly considering who made it) a lot closer to the BGs, and was great as a result. I really must go back and play that some more now that I think about it.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            Neverwinter Nights still remains to this day the most disappointing game by BioWare I’ve ever played. At least DA2, simple and barely stitched together as it was, was somewhat fun and I managed to finish it. I couldn’t bring myself to get to NWN’s end. It was just so… tedious.

          • TimEatsApples says:

            This discussion reminds me: I wonder if Beamdog’s BG2 will still have the loading screen messages that say, “You will be able to continue your adventure by importing your character into Neverwinter Nights,” or words to that effect. I don’t know why, but I’d feel a little bit sad if they took those out.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Yeah, NWN was initially a big disappointment for me too. That’s because I had been expecting the spiritual successor to BG of course, which it wasn’t. Once I gave it a chance on its own term though, it did draw me in and I had a blast.

            AmSci I agree with you that NWN2 was closer to BG as it was far more story focussed and had a pretty interesting cast of characters so approached it in that regard. But besides that, and the use of DnD of course, it still felt a far cry from the IE games.

            Partly it’s the use of 3D graphics in general, partly it’s the engine specifically (always clunky and kack handed), partly it’s the artwork, partly it’s the way the story is actually told, partly it’s the way combat is handled and more. I think there’s a myriad of reasons why it isn’t the same. I still loved it but I would also love new IE shenanigans as you say.

          • NathanH says:

            One obstacle towards a Baldur’s Gate 3 would be that they presumably wouldn’t be able to use the BG2 ruleset any more. I have no idea how well the current version of D&D would translate to video games. 3rd edition never worked particularly well, at least after a few levels. From about level 7 onwards it would always start going wrong.

          • InternetBatman says:

            If anything, NWN should have been closer to BG than NWN 2. BG was all Bioware, with Black Isle merely in an advisory role if anything. I did like NWN 2 much more than NWN 1, and the expansion more than that.

          • Supahewok says:

            @ NathanH It’s called WoW, more or less. I personally can’t stand it. Although let’s not bring that flamewar into it…

          • dysphemism says:

            @NathanH: Fourth edition D&D actually takes the majority of its cues from video games, MMOs in particular. It’d presumably be a cinch to send it back the other way.
            Which reminds me, totally off-topic but does anybody remember the arcade game for “Street Fighter: The Movie”? Even as a kid, the contortions involved in that just blew my mind.

      • mlaskus says:

        Sure, and as others have mentioned already, there are plenty of games in the Forgotten Realms universe. No need to tack a 3 to the title if you are going to create a new story following new characters. Baldur’s Gate and Amn were both great but I would prefer to visit other places too, like Rashemen in Mask of the Betrayer.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      I’ve heard that ToB was going to be much bigger and BG3. If they were going to pull out the Lost Content train, I’d be well up for that. A dodgy fanfic appendage… less so.

  3. scorcher24 says:

    But, but I don’t want to play with iPhone snobs…

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      I`d just like to point out the hideous irony of that statement.

      • Vorphalack says:

        Nothing ironic to see here unless he IS an iPhone snob. He might just want to play with normal, regular, mentally grounded iPhone users.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          The irony lies in the fact that not wanting to play with a certain kind of person is pretty snobby in itself.

          /never as funny when you have to explain it

  4. Grim_22 says:

    For someone who never played co-op in the original BG2, could someone explain exactly how it works? I mean, take dialogue for example. Is one player responsible for it, or is it just a matter of who pressed an answer first, as was the (horrible) case in NWN2? Do the other player take control of a party member, or do they create their own “main character”? Ugh, I hope that isn’t the case. The whole “there are two of you, but we can’t really explain why” that’s so common in co-op games is… just a terrible idea.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      You divvy up the party members between the players, e.g. three each. You can create new nondescript PCs or use proper NPCs, and there is still only one Bhaalspawn (who has to be the host, I think). I seem to remember dialogue being controlled by whichever character initiated the conversation, so only one player gets to choose options at a time.

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      AmateurScience says:

      In conversations whichever character initiates the dialogue has control over the dialogue choices. Playing BG1 co-op recently, we had our ‘charismatic’ character do most of the talking while us gruff adventuring types grunted and scratched ourselves in the background.

      Each player can control any number of characters in game, so for example if you’re 2-player co-op, you could take three each, or 5 and 1 etc, this can be switched about at will. One of the six characters is the protagonist/child of Bhaal – so if they die it’s game over a la single player.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        I never actually played BG in co-op either but this sounds great :)

      • Luke says:

        There was always the odd occasion where one of the npcs marched up to your party and initiated the conversation with whoever they ran into first, that did lead to some slight annoyance if they happened to hit the idiot with no charisma in your party. But this happened even in singleplayer.

        If you see someone marching up to your party you can usually react fast enough to nudge them out of the way, and try and get someone better suited into the gap.

        As an aside, I originally had the game in a German version which I installed an English language patch over the top of – this had the effect of changing all the dialogue in the game to English, but only for Male characters. If any Female party member initiated the conversation (or was initiated upon), it was all in German.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          I think that’s pretty wonderful to be honest. What’s the point in having a party made of people with flaws as well as skills? Just like in combat, where things can go awry and it is exciting it’s quite fun to run up against sticky situations outside of combat because Minsc happens to be a dope. It would be quite something if those sort of happenstances led to a spiral of events.

        • NathanH says:

          I can’t remember how it worked in Baldur’s Gate, or in multiplayer, but in Baldur’s Gate 2 single player it was definitely the case that your entire party acquired the charisma bonus of the party leader. Perhaps this is a little disappointing, but very convenient: you always want your tank in front, but you don’t want his charisma penalty applying to the on-sight conversations.

          But to be honest charisma was fairly useless in these games anyway.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Which is a great shame. To my mind, a role playing game shouldn’t just cover combat. In fact I take to controversial view that combat should be a small part of an RPG. I always think RPGs should concentrate on all sort of things, be free and imaginative. Any situation you can dream up, not just fighting.

            Oh also! What about if the PC had a low score? Would the best party member take the lead or at least their score be used?

          • NathanH says:

            Whoever you place at the top of your party order is the leader, and their charisma is used. Since there are formations where the party leader is not at the front of the group, there’s no good reason not to set the best charisma character as party leader.

            I guess the reason most cRPGs will focus on combat is because it’s the easiest thing to model in a desirable way: you want something that allows near-infinite possibilities in which the designer doesn’t have to think up the outcome of every, or indeed any, possibility (they just come up with the rules and set their encounters loose), but also where the model looks quite sensible. For instance, imagine trying to create a conversation-based game with near infinite possibilities. Either you have to plan for millions of possibilities, which is obviously riduculous, or you’re going to end up with a system that is just abstract and looks weird. Combat is something that lends itself very well to gaming.

            You can usually see in pen and paper RPGs that the combat and magic rules tend to be by far the most detailed and allow many mechanics-based possibilities, while rules for other things tend to be more straightforward and with more DM discretion involved. You don’t have to worry about this in standard roleplaying because the DM doesn’t need to think of every eventuality, she just needs to think about a few likely ones, and then respond to anything unexpected. Therefore there is plenty of opportunity for non-combat gameplay in which the player is able to use their imagination to overcome challenges. Computer cannot respond to the unexpected without rules, so it makes sense to focus more on the sorts of challenges that the computer can deal with best.

      • -Norbert- says:

        Since it’s been a whole while since I played BG2 in multiplayer, I can’t be completely sure, but let’s see what I can dredge up from my memory.
        The host sets up, which player controll which character. That means the host can give controll of any char, including the Bhaalspawn to other people.
        The host could also set rights to do certain things to each player. So he could allow on a player-by-player bases, who may start conversations or buy items. I remember that there were more permissions to give/take than those two, but I can’t remember which ones.
        Once one of the players with the necessary rights started a conversation, the other players could only watch, what the “talking” person did, without being able to interfere (not even the Host could)

        • NathanH says:

          There was always the restriction that the host had to be the protagonist.

          Other permissions I can remember were pausing, admin rights, ability to see character details and inventories for other characters, and the ability to manipulate other characters’ inventories.

    • Grim_22 says:

      Thanks for all the info, guys. It actually sounds nice!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    Wasn’t “up-to-six-player co-op” already possible in the first Baldur’s Gate? I vaguely remember this being the case. Then again, it was enough of a pain in the ass with two players alone, so I shudder on the thought of how difficult it must be playing it with six players.

    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth.

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      AmateurScience says:

      It was, but it’s a bit tricky to get it running these days unless it’s over LAN. We’ve been using a VLAN service (Tuungle) for co-op and it’s mostly been ok, but it’s not perfect. Proper, well-implemented multiplayer would be a really big draw for me.

  6. magnus says:

    Cherry? More like a pickled walnut.

  7. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    My concern is that most of the screen shots are from the new bits they’re doing, there haven’t been many from the old content (any at all?) so it’s difficult to get an idea of exactly how ‘enhanced’ this is. From the screenies there are it seems that the character models haven’t been updated, obviously can’t speak for animations as there are no videos.

    Basically I’m concerned that this is going to be BG1 as it appears in BGTuTu or BGT (i.e. the same but running at a more modern resolution) with some extra content tacked on.

    Mind you, decent multiplayer implementation with cross platform may be worth the price of entry alone. Baldur’s Gate is *fantastic* in multiplayer with friends.

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      PoulWrist says:

      Because they are not doing much upgrading at all.

      I also disagree, mp in BG ruins the experience.

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        AmateurScience says:

        What I liked about playing MP was the slight edge of chaos/unpredictability that’s introduced in the combat, having 4 people independently control PCs (we deliberately left a space for one or two beloved NPCs [basically Minsc]), meant that your average engagement, that may have been ‘ho hum another bandit group’ in SP was an edge of the seat exercise in adapting to the tactics of your buddies. Particularly as our mage was a bit of loony. It was all rather Magicka-esque. It helped that we were all trying to role play too.

        • NathanH says:

          My friend and I played Throne of Bhaal with newly created (so no good SoA equipment) characters: an Avenger and a Jester. We had to come up with so many cheap plays to get through that.

          Favourite play: One character goes invisible, sneaks up close to an enemy, drops an item on the ground. Then we fire lightning bolts at the item, which pass through to the enemy, but because we weren’t targetting an enemy it doesn’t react as if we’d hit it.

      • neolith says:

        I have to agree – mp in BG was no fun for me at all, it ruined much of the experience. :\

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      “Basically I’m concerned that this is going to be BG1 as it appears in BGTuTu or BGT (i.e. the same but running at a more modern resolution) with some extra content tacked on.”

      Yeah, that’s pretty much their design document as far as I can see.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Which is exactly why I just don’t see myself buying this game. For 20 bucks I am getting the exact same game I have already bought twice. BG is arguably a game that would profit immensely from a technological update, THIS is not it. SO far I feel rather disappointed.

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    maicus says:

    Can someone explain how multiplayer co-op worked in the first two games? I’ve had mixed experiences with it in Neverwinter Nights, especially when it comes to dialogue heavy sections had to be activated by each character independently .

    • Choca says:

      Honestly, Icewind Dale and its sequel are the better coop infinity engine games because they don’t have as much dialog as Baldur’s Gate.

      Going through Athkatla in Baldur’s Gate II multiplayer is frankly a pain for anyone not in charge of the party spokeperson, especially if you’re playing a good aligned party which will try to avoid public disturbance.

      Sure, reading the dialog can be fun at first, but it gets boring fast when you’re not making the decisions. It will also make you feel uninvolved in the story and the interactions with the NPCs in your party. The more players you have in your party, the worse it gets.

      If the pause system is not entirely disabled, then it starts to get completely frustrating to play.

      That ‘s why I don’t get their constant boasting about cross platform multiplayer, I guess it’s a nice feature to have but Baldur’s Gate I & II were mainly single player games for a reason.

    • JFS says:

      In my opinion, not very well. You could create additional NPCs (à la Icewind Dale), or take existing ones and distribute control. There were several options as to who could do what (for example, buying things or initiating leaving an area), but all in all it just didn’t feel good (to me). There was a lot of downtime when somebody was buying stuff or talking, and it just doesn’t fit the story and atmosphere of a single player game.

      If they were to introduce special content geared toward multiplayer (apart from that Arena mode), now that would be quite a thing. The multiplayer mode isn’t actually bad in itself, it just doesn’t mesh with the existing content. In my opinion. There are quite some BG multiplayer fans.

    • NathanH says:

      If you have played the game already and you are playing with friends who have played the game already then multiplayer co-op is good fun. Otherwise it isn’t very much fun.

      PvP on the other hand is amazingly fun, particularly since it’s totally unintended and so loads of stuff works in very odd ways that are exciting to find out. We had tonnes of fun trying to find out how everything worked. Favourite moment: I am a cleric/mage, I cast Limited Wish, my fighter opponent talks to the genie before me, with Wisdom 3, selects the option that makes everyone in the party un-memorize all spells.

  9. J_C says:

    I’m sorry but if played right, BG’s battles can be quite fast (using hotkeys) which can’t be said about the Ipad version. Why would I want to play with someone using a touch device?

    • NathanH says:

      I guess you could also script some hotkeys that allow you to control their character as well :-P

    • Unaco says:

      “Why would I want to play with someone using a touch device?”

      Because you like them (or love them), get on well with them, enjoy playing coop video games with them, and they happen to have an iPad, and you’ve decided to play BG Coop with them. I play InfEng games with all of the autopause options checked though, so the speed at which my Coop partner can clickity-click doesn’t really matter.

    • Lemming says:

      Er, if played ‘right’ you are pausing combat fairly regularly between commands. Whatever device people are using it is fine as the combat is about tactical consideration, not a Diablo click-fest.

  10. Laythe_AD says:

    Does anyone really -want- BG3? The story ended. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love more Infinity Engine games. But not BG3.

  11. Quarex says:

    Is no-one pointing out that Baldur’s Gate 1 also had multiplayer, not just 2? I cannot see anything, but surely someone else actually remembers it as fondly as I do?

  12. Thiefsie says:

    Well being that I have just set up Baldurs Tutu on all 3 of my computers including netbook and laptop and desktop with a fancy junction point to set my save game into a shared dropbox folder between them – I barely see the point of this version – especially at that much coin! Who really enjoyed BG in multiplayer anyway??

    Haven’t replayed these for ages so this is surprisingly fun – next up Planescape, then Arcanum… then I should really play Skyrim. Hmmmm

  13. Laythe_AD says:

    Just imagine if Arcanum’s characters had the depth of those in Planescape.