Developer: Larian Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Turn-based
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a long and relatively complicated CRPG. I think the last RPG with loads of skills and talents to adjust every level was The Witcher 3 in 2016. And if we’re talking party-based and isometric, I probably have to go all the way back to Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2014.
Suffice to say I’m a bit rusty when it comes to these RPG beasts.
Luckily, this game made it easy for me to grease those rusty RPG cogs. No doubt this game is a product of a developer who really cares about what they’re doing. Almost everything about it oozes of quality. Sensible windows with inventory, attributes and skills. Hotkeys and controls that for the most are easy to use and make sense, and tutorial tips that pops up right when we need their information.
You could even adjust number of auto- and quicksaves up to a whopping 25 files.
I can’t tell what the developer has tweaked since the original version from 2014, since I never played it, but I could hardly find anything to criticize regarding the user interface. If anything, it took a little getting used to WASD to move the world while clicking the ground to move the party, then rotate everything by holding down the middle mouse button, but it still worked well and was easy to get used to.
The fights were turn-based and thus based on action points. I liked how a line of portraits was shown in the top of the screen to show the order of control. Action points were clearly visible above the action bar, and area of effect attacks previewed a circle as expected. Spells on scrolls and thrown flasks (to create e.g. fire) could complement the sparse choice of skills in the beginning.
There was a subtle focus on environmental damage. For example, I could throw a flask of oil then have it set on fire, or I could cast lightning on a pool of water. This could damage a party of enemies.
Another thing that was unique about this RPG was how dialog was handled. Most of the time it was the standard fare like in e.g. Baldur’s Gate with numeric keys for choosing dialog options, but sometimes the party members could disagree. Of course, since I was playing single player only, I made sure they agreed most of the time, but there were a couple of quests where I was in doubt about what action to take.
That’s when I decided to let it be up to chance by forcing a disagreement.
When two party members disagree (or an NPC and us) a nifty game of rock, paper and scissors appear. Each take their turn winning dots, and the winner decides their choice of action to go with. I can imagine this mini game works really well in cooperation games.
If there’s one thing I’ve always adored about the RPG from Larian Studios, right from the beginning when the series had a really silly name, it’s the composer – Kirill Pokrovsky. So many game composers just make background music that doesn’t really stand out, but Pokrovsky often have memorable melodies with beautiful harmonies. This always made their games special to me.
Unfortunately, Pokrovsky died in 2015 at the age of only 53. This was his last game. 😢
Warning: All of the daily entries below will have spoilers!
April 29, 2023
I started the game in explorer mode and chose two preset characters – Roderick as a Knight and Scarlett as a Cleric. The appearance of Roderick was fine, but I did change Scarlett. No redheads for me this time.
One thing I immediately noticed that I thought was a damn nice touch was how clicking a container to open it up showed the graphics of that container around the grid of icons. Beautiful.
But there were so many cool things that felt really well thought out. For example, the party portraits in the left side were connected with a small chain, indicating that the party stuck together when running around. This could be changed by dragging a portrait far enough down to break the chain, thus severing the party member from the others. Good for e.g. staying on a floor button.
Just before reaching the first city Cyseal with my party of two – the Knight and the Cleric – there was a tutorial dungeon. It taught about traps, floor buttons, using a rain scroll to put out an oily area set on fire, using a lock pick to open a chest, fighting a mini boss with minions, and…
…sneaking around disguised as a big rock! 😄 Sam and Frodo would have been proud.
The turn-based fights taught me that action points sure are easy to use up fast. It had the typical problem of having to traverse some distance to the enemy. I read a tip online that it would be wise to acquire the teleport ability. I decided to do that for my Knight, since he was always up close and personal. I found a merchant that had a skill book for learning the ability, but my Knight had to put a point in a skill, so I had to wait until level-up. Unfortunately I couldn’t use it to teleport myself – only other party members.
Quite a blunder, but how could I have known in advance? I also want to discover things for myself.
Luckily, my party grew to three after acquiring Madora in an inn in the city. Since she was also a knight that wanted to get up close and personal too, I just let Roderick throw his teleport spell at her.
The main purpose of getting to Cyseal was to investigate the murder of Counselor Jake. His wife was under suspicion. I talked to a lot of NPC about this and also did some investigation in the rooms of the wife, but I didn’t get to any conclusions today.
While walking around in the town, I spotted fat round sheep in small paddocks. Sometimes one would do a quick sideways somersault. That gave me a big smile on my face.
In another place in the city, I came across a cow mooing. I sincerely doubt that was a real cow sound.
So far I’ve been gushing over this game, and while there really is a lot to like about it, there is one thing that often irritated me – the abundance of blather in most dialogs with NPC. It often felt like the NPC could have told me the all the necessary details in less than half those words. Add to that how many of them also had to use their most advanced Shakespearean language skills to spice it up, and it made for a lot of conversations that I couldn’t help but advance fast or even cut short.
Another detail I decided was a rare oversight in an ocean of clever user interface design choices, was how it was difficult to see which party portrait was currently the selected one. The border was only slightly brighter. Would it have hurt to add a different color here, Larian?
I met a talking mussel that yearned for the sea.
One quest that I’ve skipped – at least for the time being – is the one about doing a performance on a stage. It’s one of the forbidden RPG tropes that I refuse to do unless I absolutely have to.
After having done a few quests in town I felt like more adventuring. Only a gate to the west came with no warning from the legionnaires, so that’s where I went. It was raining and I fought undeads. Then I met one Wulfram that was lost and needed to be escorted back to town. It turned out to be the typically annoying escort quest where the NPC ran ahead and sometimes attracted undeads.
I sometimes wish they would do something to make escort quests lose their bad rap.
Back in town there was a small hospital where I had to decide the fate of two young men fallen ill. This used a blood stone that teleported me to the end of time, to the surprise of everyone. I talked to a imp and an old woman to learn about rift traveling to previously visited portals in the game.
April 30, 2023
After the second session today I’m past the 10 hour mark according to Steam.
I was late to the party regarding two things. The first one was examining the crime scene room in an inn. For some reason I missed that room the first time I visited the inn. Not that it revealed anything massive. A used up star stone and a romantic book. But it was good XP getting in there.
It also took way too long for me to discover the mayor’s house in town, where the wizard Jahan can be picked up as a party member. I always wanted to pick him up early. Luckily I wasn’t finished with the western undead area, and I got to try out a full party of four with Jahan onboard.
One thing constantly annoyed me regarding those turn-based battles. Enemies always spotted me from way afar, and I had to use a lot of action points running closer. So many spells and attacks out of range. Maybe I should have taken a party member with a bow instead of a second knight.
One fix to this was using teleport spells as mentioned yesterday.
But using teleport isn’t as awesome as it sounds as it always has to be cast by a different party member. That means the person being teleported doesn’t necessarily have the next turn. I could be teleporting someone right into a slap. But in most cases it was usually worth moving a hard-hitting fighter.
Even though I was never really close to my party dying, they still felt slightly underpowered. I was always missing one more spell, especially magical area of effects. I know, I know, I’m probably just being impatient. At least the CC spells for freezing and stunning minions is good stuff.
Apart from clearing out dilapidated houses in the undead area, I also got to the lighthouse. There was a ghoul and a few minions to kill, and a ghost called Samson in a cellar for a short chat.
One small thing I wasn’t keen on was that the game didn’t pause at all when escaping to the game menu with load, save and quit. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this before, outside an MMORPG. Maybe it’s necessary due to the cooperative features of the game.
May 2, 2023
I read a few tips on a web site, and one of them made me feel like a complete moron. It was one of those moments where I slapped my forehead and rolled my eyes.
I have been using teleport all wrong.
It’s not really designed to teleport party members, it’s designed to teleport an enemy right up to a few of my hard-hitting party members. Of course! I did wonder about the small damage from dropping down after teleporting. It makes a lot more sense when it happens to an enemy.
I went down to the beach today and fought orcs. The better teleport trick worked well. I didn’t have too much trouble killing the orcs, and inside the strange cave I also did okay against the first group of pirates. Then I got to that poison cloud and the Source Abomination monster.
Why force me to endure poison before fighting a monster that resistant and with that many hit points? It took forever to finish it and it managed to kill one of my knights in the process. My party was level 6 at the time. Maybe I should have waited a level or two?
May 3, 2023
The strange cave I referred to yesterday was called Black Coven and I completed it today. I was surprised that there wasn’t any fights after the Source Abomination monster. It was just all environmental puzzles and traps – and two ghosts to talk to. The one on a ship didn’t have much to say.
The other one was the ghost with the fire explosion trap in a small house. Move one inch and you’re all dead. I solved that one by only letting one party member inside, then teleporting her out again. Boom, and none of my party members were damaged. Take your hidden button and shove it, Billeh Gahr.
Maybe I should have teleported the Source Abomination monster in there.
There was one place where a gap prevented me from going any further. I tried using teleport here, but Madora didn’t like getting hurt from it and left my party in anger. Quickload. Luckily I then discovered that the two teleporter pyramids did the trick nicely.
May 4, 2023
Found a dungeon that led to two force fields and a pedestal. I placed a round pendant on it, but nothing happened. Unfortunately there are quite a few of those moments in this game where I just shrug and leave. I also didn’t know what to do with the four element buttons one floor above.
In the north-eastern corner of the first map, I found four element statues that barely had a few sentences to say each. One of them offered to show me the future of our party. I accepted, and the end credits rolled. Unfortunately I already knew about this joke from reviews, which was a shame. If it had been a surprise, I would probably have laughed out loud.
I killed the Arhu SparkMaster 5000. Back in town, Arhu didn’t have much to say about that.
I also got to the spot where Evelyn was supposed to be. She was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a wizard sunbathing. At this point, I’m not sure what I need to do in order to reveal where Evelyn is.
Finally, I went to the burning area in the north-eastern corner of the first map. Lots of charred skeletons to fight there. My party didn’t like the heat there and were sometimes asking for a cold drink.
We dinged to level 7 in the burning area, and I made sure that Scarlett got the “Pet Pal” talent. I can’t wait to talk to all the pets in town tomorrow. Better late than never.
May 5, 2023
So I ran around town interviewing bulls, cows, sheep, cats and rats. Most of them merely had an amusing comment. A cat had a quest about finding its collar. One rat in a cellar actually mentioned it didn’t see Esmeralda on the night of Jake’s murder.
I must confess I’m not fond of the log and rarely read it. It’s just showing the conversations, without any kind of quest mechanics tied to it. I’m not necessarily asking for quest icons on the map, but a bullet point with a task in the log could have been nice. Much too bare bones for my liking.
I got to the ancient church, killed the bad guys in there, and moved four paintings to reveal buttons. These revealed stairs to a dungeon below the church, but there were force fields blocking my way, and I didn’t have the hexagonal key yet. I’m hoping it comes naturally later.
Near the Withered Gardens there was a big poison lake. I unchained Scarlett, gave her poison resistance, ran across the lake, then used the pyramid teleporter stones to bring the rest of the party across.
Back at the End of Time, ZixZax told me there was another portal open. This brought me to the Inner Chamber where I found a mirror with a big green eye on it. This could change the appearance of Roderick and Scarlett. Finally – I had been looking forward to this! I’ve wanted to fix those ugly profile images I forgot to change ever since I started the game. It felt good finally getting that fixed.
I had to read a small tip about what I was doing wrong regarding Evelyn. Turns out I had forgotten about a reveal scroll I found in her house in town. I even had it right there at the ready, in my inventory.
Tomorrow I’m going to confront Evelyn as the first thing I do.
May 6, 2023
After Evelyn and her four colorful minions were down, Jake popped up as a zombie (and with a silly hat no less) and told us that one Icara were actually the one that killed him.
Next up was the fight against Braccus Rex and a few minions in the small dungeon below the desecrated church. One of the minions was the ghoul that used to guard the lighthouse. The fight was somewhat harder than the fight against Evelyn, as it probably should be.
Nevertheless, I was happy that neither of those fights were ridiculously difficult. I know I’m playing on the easiest difficulty level, but my decades of experience with computer games tells me that developers rarely respect that and it could still have been frustrating. One thing I always make sure to use is a lot of it crowd control. Lots of freezing, stunning and slowing. It seems to work out quite well.
Killing Braccus Rex concluded the first map and I ventured into Luculla Forest. I quickly found Silverglen and acquired new quests. Weird that many of the merchants were just sitting down in the inn.
Hey, I recognize one of the background tunes in Luculla Forest! You developers used that in one of your previous games. It’s a great tune – but really? You needed to reuse music from your previous games?
Walking around in the southern part of the map, I first fought a few living plants and elementals. I found a witch house with a big magenta force field around it. It was lifted after killing two groups of living fungus. The cellar of the house led into a dungeon with a lot of animals recently killed. After killing the perpetrators, I talked to a living lake. That’s about as far as I got today.
I really liked the new right-click option in the inventory for sending an item to the homestead. I assume the items pop up in the chests next to the beds in the Inner Chamber?
I have been trying out crafting here and there with Roderick, meticulously gathering crafting materials of every kind. I’m not impressed. It seems to be one of those crafting features where I have to level up a lot to get to the juicy stuff, and it just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble.
May 7, 2023
Everywhere I went in Luculla Forest now was level 12-13, and my party was just level 10. I knew there had to be somewhere else I needed to be instead. Turns out I had done the same mistake I did with Evelyn. There was a cultist spell I needed to use by the dungeon lake. Oh, well – back down I go again.
The spell brought me to Hiberheim, where one Almina talked to me through crumbling statues, guiding me to her deathbed. Slightly annoying area, actually. I had to use teleport to circumvent a locked gate, I was attacked twice by mechanical rodents spawning out of nothing, and there were gas clouds with no barrel in sight to put on the vents. And there were a lot of traps.
Eventually I also managed to open a gate to the northern part of Hiberheim. Unlike the southern part I was leaving, this area was engulfed in a really nasty blizzard. This was so convincingly made. The snow blasting sideways, the way my party froze – I could almost feel the cold on my side too. Brrrrr!
May 9, 2023
I found a hatch to a dungeon with a ton of explosive traps. This led up to a prison with surveillance statues, that could kill my party instantly on detection. I had to use invisibility and the pyramid teleporter stones to get past those. I didn’t get much out of the prison yet, however. At the end the White Witch was encased in a block of ice that couldn’t be melted down.
Outside in the blizzard, I melted a few ice blocks with allied elementals. Each time three snowmen spawned for a short fight. Yes, really. Common snowmen, complete with carrot noses and all.
And then closer to the north east corner, I stumbled upon an epic level 12 elemental named The Guardian. He had an ocean of hit points and was immune to most magical attacks. Each melee attack only cut down a pixel or two of his health bar each time. It took forever to whittle him down. Fortunately the easy difficulty level meant he never did much damage to my party.
And best of all, I had made sure my entire party was immune to fear.
In a chest nearby, I found an amazing sword – Sword of Holy Flame. Roderick needs two levels and one more point in strength before he can use it. Behind the elemental were two rooms with a lever and a chest, but I decided the burning lava and the surveillance statue was too much trouble to bother with it.
May 11, 2023
Not much today. Killed a lot of elementals and met Leandra at the end of a fiery temple.
May 13, 2023
Luckily I was way more in the mood today.
Because I was fighting so many frost resistant enemies in Hiberheim, I decided to give Jahan a new magic line – pyrokinetic. This meant access to fireballs and related skills, including a nifty haste ability.
I dinged level 12 – finally, time for Roderick to wield the Sword of Holy Flame! But where was it? I searched all inventories again and again. Then I had a grim suspicion. I went back to Silverglen and checked all the merchants in the inn. I was right – one of them had it for sale. So I had mistakenly sold the damn thing as I was selling a lot of other useless loot earlier. Good thing the merchants keep what I sell to them.
I went back to the first city of Cyseal to check on the guy that was always so overwhelmingly pleased to see us. Upstairs was Arhu’s laboratory, but he was of course absent now because story. For the first time I had access to his stuff and immediately started sniffing around. That’s when I found a scroll for magically opening any locked door. I immediately rifted to the big locked door in Black Coven and opened it.
Behind the big door in Black Coven were a few smaller dragon skeletons. What could have killed those? Then an enormous spider as big as a house lowered down. That could have done the job. Unfortunately for it and the three smaller spiders it spawned, my party was now level 12 and they were level 7, so they were no match for us. After that I chatted with a ghost about Samson in the lighthouse cellar.
I also found the cat collar down there. Sam back at the inn was pleased.
Back in Hiberheim, I fought King Boreas in his castle. It was a big elemental construct with an elemental statue in each corner of the hall. This boss was immune to all elemental magic, and my guess is that I probably had to destroy one or more of the statues to change that. However, the easy difficulty level meant that I could easily whittle him down with simple melee attacks, so I didn’t bother with that.
Whether I regret the easy difficulty level? No, not really – I’m here for the experience.
King Boreas dropped a staff with a few talking elementals locked up inside of it. I went back to the grand elemental forge and used it there to free them. The big fiery one agreed to help me thaw the block of ice in the prison with the white witch inside of it. Icara appeared and told the story of how she killed Counselor Jake after he had stabbed Zandalor. She then revived Zandalor.
Of course – Zandalor is the Gandalf of the Divinity universe. Can’t have him dying!
Back in the end of time realm, Arhu earlier sat down on one of the four important chairs, together with the old lady and ZixZax. Now that Icara was freed from the block of ice, she used the last seat and answered a ton of questions. My next story goal was the Luculla mines.
But before going there, I decided to check two pathways behind the castle hall. One led to a pathway filled with lava. Funny how lava doesn’t respect any kind of spell protections. It’s always unconditionally insta-kill. Luckily it went away after destroying a surveillance statue. The led to a small cellar part where I used teleport to bring a chest out of a barred lava room.
I almost didn’t get that idea – but then I remembered the last puzzle in The Turing Test.
The other pathway had a force field. It was removed by clicking a hidden statue in the wall and then answering a question. It was another insta-kill situation. Getting the answer wrong meant quickload. More surveillance statues awaited with insta-kill stuff. Here I discovered that it was possible to teleport those statues behind pillars, so they couldn’t see us and thus overflow an area with e.g. lava.
At the end of the trials, I found a serious competitor for Uncle Scrooge’s money bin. The unreachable exterior had mountains of gold coins. In the area inside that I could access, there were a few golden cups and scrolls. Nothing that really knocked my socks off. Why am I not surprised that none of all that money was mine to take? Not that I really needed it – I had collected plenty of gold on my own.
May 14, 2023
I went to the Luculla mines today. Lots of paths and wooden bridges with goblins on the way. Slightly annoying that they always had the initiative and thus hit my party first, but I get that they were designed for sneaking up for a surprise attack. Sometimes I did start an explosion first too.
Finally what I had feared since the beginning happened – my PC rebooted in the beginning of a fight. Why did my PC behave for 40 hours before this happened? It must be something that hangs in the balance.
I was not fond of the Luculla mines. All the group fights were fine, it wasn’t that. It was the death knights. Larian had made them 100% invulnerable and there were no immediate loop holes. I hate stuff like that. It’s just like when you’re ruling with a lot of cool weapons in an FPS, and all of a sudden you’re knocked out and you wake up in prison. No weapons, no nothing.
Sneaking didn’t work – of course – and the invisibility spell on Jahan didn’t last long enough. I was forced to go back to Silverglen and buy the only invisibility potion I could find. It had a slightly longer duration and I managed to reach another rift portal. Nearby I mined some tenebrium.
I tried reaching a temple gate with more invisibility, and I did succeed with Jahan – but since the teleporter stones conveniently didn’t work inside the mine, I couldn’t bring the rest of the party over.
May 18, 2023
Came to the northern part of Luculla with sandstorms today. This introduced two annoying things – a slowing effect on all party members that cut out a lot of action points, and the howling wind as a constant background sound. Both could have been tuned down for the better.
Only being able to do one or two actions – why would the developers think that would be fun?
To make matters worse, I also stumbled upon Spider Queen – another spider as big as a building. It was more difficult than earlier boss fights because of the nerf I mentioned before. The spider occasionally spew spider eggs that hatched minions, but luckily those were pushovers. What wasn’t so fun was that the first attempt ended in a mysterious explosion that wiped my entire party. Did I just witness a bug?
The sandstorm had medium sized spiders, sometimes hatching out of eggs if I wasn’t fast enough breaking those. A common attack was digging through the dirt, then emerging right next to a party member.
I also did the The Immaculates trial dungeon. It was split up into a few sections each sporting a challenge. The first had green smog and I just had to pick the lock of the door fast to avoid getting rot. In the second, I had to place things on four buttons to match a 100% weight allowance. On some of the buttons I had to place two candle clusters to balance this. The third was a fight for not using a few levers correctly.
I found another inert stone and had a fight with Loic and his gang for not sacrificing a talking chicken like I was supposed to. I’m all for fun and tomfoolery in games like these, but sometimes I really wonder if Larian should have held back a little? There’s a lot of it and sometimes it breaks the immersion.
I also found a bridge with another toll troll. This time he had a son behind him. Of course I didn’t want to pay up, so I killed daddy. The son came over and begged for dad to get up and pummel the humans.
He just kept asking. They should have made him cry – that would have been a nice touch.
I’m going to have to talk about the inventory in this game. As mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, the user interface is really slick and everything works the way it’s supposed to. Icons are well drawn and it’s easy to find what I’m looking for. However, I still think it was a bad idea to have separate inventories for each party member. There’s a lot of loot to constantly pick up, especially after most fights, which is a little confusing to do because of how the tooltip expands as I hover the mouse on it. Then as the loot gets into the inventory, I always have to use sort options to find the loot I just picked up. Some I have to transfer to other party members so I can compare tool tips there – maybe it’s an upgrade? One gets all the crap for crafting and thus has an enormous inventory that scrolls for several pages.
All of this makes for a lot of micro management, and it’s tiresome. A lot of time is spent with this.
I wish there had been an option for a big shared inventory, at least when playing in single player mode only. In addition to tabs, they could also have had an option for adding a space divider between different types of loot, yet still keep it in one big page. I’m sure I could come up with many more ideas like that.
One thing that constantly impresses me is the pathfinding. I can literally scroll to the other end of the entire map and click the ground, yet my party still finds their logical way in spite of the great distance. Having played a lot of games with sometimes questionable pathfinding, I must tip my hat to that. I imagine it must have been difficult to reach that level of perfection.
May 19, 2023
I went back to Silverglen and gave one Brandon the tenebrium I had mined earlier in exchange for a secret about how to handle this volatile matter. I also revealed the scam run by the mine boss Lawrence. He was accused by a small mob in town and eventually killed. Justice had been served.
I tried venturing into a fiery Immaculates temple to the north of the sandstorm area, but alas the demons in there had some sort of void aura that made them completely invulnerable. Yes, the same crap again as with the death knights. It made the trip inside feel completely worthless.
Can’t you developers just lock out the area until it’s time? Making enemies invulnerable ticks me off.
Instead I went into a small goblin town where a tall totem was being worshiped. I had seen in an internet comment that destroying the totem was extremely dangerous since it would turn the entire town on my party, and there were a lot of them – so of course I did exactly that. Yep, there certainly were a lot of them, including a boss. It’s was a bit hairy to begin with, but the easy difficulty level and a lot of CC kept my party on their toes to the end. Well, almost. Jahan was pummeled down.
One of the goblins spent time putting down traps in the other end of town. His time to waste.
Since I was running out of things to do in Luculla Forest – two areas infeasible because of invulnerability – I started in the Phantom Forest, which was an entirely new map to explore. I was level 15 and the enemies were level 16, so I was a wee bit behind. Maybe it was because I had skipped the stage performance in Cyseal and a couple of escort quests here and there. I really don’t like that sort of stuff anymore.
A couple of mud spiders were kind enough to remind me that I was one level behind them.
I soon found the town of this map – Hunter’s Edge. It had been invaded by a mix of orcs and strong humans, and a few dialogs with Arhu and Madora made it clear that I somehow have to ignite some sort of disagreement between them. I’ll have a look at that later.
A secret cellar behind a house revealed a family hiding from the invaders. I had to rift back to Icara to get a ring for convincing the mother that we were indeed the good guys. In return she gave me a crystal for activating a portal inside Zandalor’s house. The wizard was not there, but he had built an impressive array of traps all over the place. Vents with lava, spewing fireballs, stun clouds – you name it, he probably had it somewhere. I tiptoed my way to the first floor and teleported my party inside a safe room, then threw a fireball out of it to ignite a billion explosive traps. This finally gave me peace for exploring the floor.
The safe room had an inactive teleporter mirror while a neighbor room had an active one. Alas, that room also had a force field as a door. I spent a lot of time meticulously exploring all corners of the floor, but there were no secret buttons. As a candle caught my eye, I suddenly remembered another comment I had heard in a YouTube critique video. I had to turn on all candles to activate the teleporter in the safe room. The guy in the video thought this was quite stupid, and I absolutely have to agree with him.
That puzzle solution felt really unfair.
But while wondering how may players would stumble upon this solution by themselves, I also had an idea as to how they could have made it easier to try it out. Simply make the rooms and areas around the unlit candles a lot darker. Also, turning on a candle should have made a hint. A small sound, perhaps?
After teleporting to the neighbor room, I finally disengaged all traps in the house. I told the family and they fled through the rift teleporter inside Zandalor’s house. That gave me quite the XP bomb.
May 20, 2023
Regarding the criticism of the inventory interface the other day, I decided to make maximum use of the backpacks. It’s an inventory-in an-inventory for hiding stuff I don’t need to see. At first I thought it had very limited space, but it seems the rows in it expands the more I put into it. So I took the plunge and dumped a lot of potions, scrolls and food into them. It helped making the inventories much simpler to handle.
I scrutinized Hunter’s Edge today, talking to everybody – including the orc boss Grutilda. I killed the orc/human lovers and freed the villagers in the prison cellar. I still didn’t manage to sow discord between the two invading factions, however. I know about a few pointers – but how do I ignite the fuse?
Sod that for now then. Instead, I found the underground entrance to a temple nearby.
May 21, 2023
That temple was small. I merely found an inert stone. The only really tricky party was that I had to let one secluded party member follow a trail of footsteps. Stepping away meant sudden death.
After a few deviations, I found the eastern part of Luculla. There was a cave leading to a cave of portals. The many portals inside had to be used in the proper order to reach a library. The library was another letdown. There were three magic spell books on pedestals that looked really powerful. However, only one of them was useful, and when I let Madora learn it, I discovered that a shield was needed.
Madora doesn’t use a shield. Never did and never will. 🙄
I was starting to get stuck, so I took a few perfunctory glances in a walkthrough. It’s a little sad that I had to do this – a video game veteran such as I? This only underscores that getting to the end of the game is a little too tight at times. And it’s not the first time I’ve had the feeling of being stuck.
There was a hint about using invisibility to reach a big blood stone inside the fiery Immaculates temple. Fortunately, I had let Jahan learn how to give his fellow party members a long lasting invisibility effect. I used that to reach the blood stone and hack it to pieces. This immediately killed all the void aura demons in the temple. Oh man, that felt so good. Suck my invulnerable ass, demons.
Destroying that blood stone also got rid of the fireballs that had started crashing into the end of time area. I got access to another teleporter where the demon Moloch was waiting for us. Moloch could boost ability points, primary attributes, reputation, or even respec everything. I only wanted more primary attributes or ability points, but Moloch kept claiming I was “missing a mark” to get those.
I guess it’s thanks for nothing, Moloch.
May 27, 2023
I completed the Immaculates Cathedral and the Luculla Mines today.
The first had a couple of fights against the powerful mage Mangoth. The second fight was even a bit tough as he summoned quite an army of elementals to help him out. But ironically, fighting was not the hardest part. First, I had to open a central chamber that had a blocked door.
Four buttons had to be found – all placed in inconspicuous places – and then I had to run around and click them in a certain order. They were placed far apart from each other thereby contributing to the absurdness of this puzzle. Just finding the buttons, not knowing how many I needed to find, and then clicking them in a certain order, not knowing whether I actually had to do that, made for a poorly designed puzzle.
A signal pointing out I was going in the right direction would have made a world of difference.
After finding a vial of Leandra’s blood, I needed a spell for combining it into something I absolutely wanted to have. But where was the spell? I was afraid I had put it in one of the homestead chests. I spent a lot of minutes trying to combine a ton of papers. No dice. Internet, give me a hint please.
Turns out I had to go back the invisibility madness in the Luculla Mines again. Good thing Jahan had the stronger spell with a longer duration. I applied it to Roderick and let him run up to the large gate, entering a laboratory where death knights were being assembled. Leandra popped up, summoned the rest of my party, and let lose three of the invulnerable death knights. Luckily they were slow and thus we had no trouble outrunning them towards a teleporting mirror.
There were a chain of mirrors across erupting lava and fireballs crashing down from above.
Finally I found a safe haven, encapsulated in a big blue sphere acting as a force field that we could cross into. The spell could be found here. I combined it with Leandra’s blood, and that finally gave me that thing I had desired so much. So, what was that precisely?
Death Knight Bane – a spell that can make death knights vulnerable!
Now comes the ludicrous part. I was somehow hoping I had to go back through the mines all the way to the entrance, so I could kill those pesky death knights while laughing out very loud for all my neighbors to hear. But the only way out was through the chain of mirrors, and that eventually just dumped me somewhere in the Phantom Forest. The mines were now closed off forever.
I sure hope I’ll meet other death knights later or this spell was a complete waste of time.
I ventured through a big hollow tree bridge with only Scarlett, the only one immune to the rotting smoke that was in the area just behind it. I then teleported the rest of the gang as soon as I had reached fresh air. I also did one fight against a group of ghosts. There were quite a lot of them and I actually thought that fight was harder than the second one against Mangoth.
By the way, as of this session I’ve decided to not loot vases and crates anymore – only chests and the like. There are typically a lot of those containers in almost all the places I visit in this game. It takes a lot of time looting them, and 99% are either empty or only contain crap.
Later, I was reading a forum thread at Quarter to Three about the upcoming Baldur’s Gate III. This game is also being developed by Larian, and it uses many of the exact same mechanics as in their Divinity: Original Sin games. It seems it also uses the same loot system, and there was a great quote about it that I have decided to show below – courtesy of Scrax at the Quarter to Three forums.
Larian loves to litter their world with little items all over the place to clutter up the screen. Good luck trying to select the pouch on the table amongst all the plates and silverware. Almost every barrel, box, and bookcase is searchable – and yet the alt key doesn’t highlight every item that is searchable. I hate it. You have to hunt and search with your cursor and you really do have to search every container in the game, because Larian will drop a magical item in a barrel by the side of the road. They will have a basement larder with 50 containers – 30 of which will be empty, 29 will have food stuffs, but the 50th will be full of jewelry or spell items. They will have a special book on a random bookcase, in a random burnt down house, in a particular burnt out village in which if you have a certain companion in your group they will have a special cutscene/reaction in which (after a roll) you may be able to discover more of their history. You can walk into rooms filled with bookshelves and have to search each one – many of which have those filler 1 or 2 page books that you’ve seen 100 times – but you have to cursor over each one (and to be truly safe you should go ahead and open each one) to make sure it doesn’t trigger an event now.
May 28, 2023
I walked through the rest of the Phantom Forest map today.
I found a few groups of each three death knights while exploring the area past the rot bridge. So getting that bane spell was not a waste of time. It felt so good making them vulnerable and then kicking their ass. They were not the only ones that could hit hard.
Going north, I found a boar that had lost its voice. It was standing right next to a rift portal.
Soon after, I met Imal the Squealer in the north west corner of the map – not far from where I found the boar. He had stolen the voice of the animal and was now also trying to steal the voice of a rabbit.
As always when meeting just one foe, he had the initiative and first summoned a lot of minions to even out the odds – a very typical thing in this game that always happens when meeting a solitary named enemy. I was actually a little bit too early for this fight. He was level 19 and my party was only level 17. I had to be careful, even in spite of the lowest difficulty level. Luckily, I still managed it in one attempt.
And then when I went back to find the boar that lost its voice, it was just gone!?
In the south east part of the area past the rot bridge, there was a sickly looking swamp. A few monitoring eye monsters were having their patrols here and there, and I had to make sure Jahan killed them from afar each time we saw one. If one managed to draw first blood, it would insta-kill my entire party.
At least Larian didn’t make them invulnerable, forcing me to stealth around them.
In the cellar beneath an abandoned hut, I found the elemental Shearah imprisoned with the evil Balberith walking around as a solitary and fragile looking human guarding the cage. Gee, I wonder if he might have the initiative in a fight, change shape and summon a lot of minions to even out the odds?
Oh, he did! I almost couldn’t contain my astonishment.
Luckily the cage was in the way for Balberith and his minions to fight me properly. That was to my advantage. The boss also summoned four frightened ghosts for tapping their health, but the low difficulty level meant he never really got a chance to exploit that.
Traversing further north, I found a set of pressure plates laid out kind of like a chess board around a wooden totem. All magic spells were turned off to avoid destroying the totem from a distance. Walking on a pressure plate would of course insta-kill that person.
However, I think the developer actually forgot to test this sequence properly. Scarlett, my cleric, had a ring in her possession that had a fireball spell on it, and for some reason this one spell was not disabled in my action bar. Boom, boom, and the totem was gone. I still had to use teleport to the other side to reach a lever and turn off the insta-kill effect on the pressure plates.
Back in the north west corner of the map, close to where I found Imal the Squealer, I found the key boss of the entire area – Cassandra. She was sitting on a throne among piles of dead bodies. Arhu was imprisoned in a small cage as a cat, and Cassandra didn’t have the sweetest of intentions for him. Cassandra didn’t attack, but she had a void aura that made her invulnerable. I could do nothing but leave for now.
May 29, 2023
The elemental Shearah had an herb that I could give Arhu in his cage to permanently turn him into a cat. He then confronted Cassandra and a fight began. I opened the door to Arhu’s cage and was hoping that he could do something to Cassandra that we could not, since she was invulnerable due to the void aura. But it turned out he couldn’t and the fight was as unfun as you can imagine. Quickload.
Turns out I had to enter the Temple of Death using a trick with my pyramid teleporter stones, since they were by definition dead material. The temple was another dungeon, and quite a bit larger than I thought it would be. There were a couple of fights – the first was a trap, being zerged by zombies, and the second on a bridge, against four suddenly summoned mage wolves that were no pushovers.
Everyone and his
dog wolf have magical spells these days.
Finally I found Cassandra’s grave at the end of a dungeon path. I dug it up and destroyed it with a couple of fireballs. That should make Cassandra mortal again and I couldn’t wait to get back and try it out.
The fight against Cassandra was almost pedestrian this time. I was a little surprised that Arhu wasn’t much stronger than my party. Same spells and attacks. If anything, at least his melee attacks did quite a lot of damage. When she died, all of her summoned minions also died too.
I now turned my attention to a temple entrance area in the middle of the map. All kinds of gates and traps were surrounding an area enclosed by stone doors with four elemental symbols at their feet. I had to find out how to enter various small enclosures to step on one red elemental button for turning it green.
Reached two of them today – two more still awaiting.
June 3, 2023
After clicking the last two elemental buttons, I killed the big fire elemental monster in the middle area and entered the final temple. I didn’t get very far at first, though. A stone face door claimed I had failed to collect enough star stones and thus couldn’t allow us to continue.
After a big sigh – I really wanted to complete this game that I honestly thought was too long – I visited the Teller of Secrets lady in my homestead, bought a few treasure maps, and went hunting for more stones. I did find one or two more – one in a big dungeon I had overlooked with the boss Maradino at the end.
But the stone face door was never satisfied, so I decided to cheat a little.
I read in a Steam discussion forum that it was possible to throw a pyramid teleporter stone through the stone face door. I was almost giving up on that after a dozen meticulous alignment attempts, but suddenly I hit the exact right pixel. And so my level 19 party managed to get inside.
The Source Temple started with a series of overly elaborate puzzles that really tried my patience.
The first was a lot of stone face doors that had to be opened with a mixture of using floor buttons, throwing pyramid teleporter stones, moving surveillance statues to circumvent deadly traps, and finally destroying one of two pillars with hieroglyphs on them.
This was followed by an area with a lot of very small rooms, each visited by using a chain of fire covers on floors, one in each of these rooms. However, I kept circling around the same set of rooms over and over, so once again I cheated by throwing my pyramid teleporter stone up on a higher level on the other side. Again, I had to align the teleporter stone perfectly to get it right.
After destroying the correct three pillars out of three pairs for a total of six pillars, three books told me how to light a set of candles in the correct pattern on a floor pentagram. This opened a door to a room burning with lava, and I found Zandalor unconscious. Icara also appeared and managed to revive him.
After a few chats we could finally get to the end game.
The game was still quite amazing and the variation was indeed commendable, but I was really burned out at this point. I just wanted to get to the end and complete a game that had taken me more than a month of playing. After having spent years playing significantly smaller games and also cutting a lot of them short, I could feel that I had a lot of trouble enduring games of this length anymore.
But before I could reach the end game, Leandra was playing around with my party. I entered a ghostly version of the inn from Cyseal, floating on big rocks in space. All object descriptions were backwards here. There was more circling around rooms until I destroyed a dead backwards Astarte. This led to a big fight with The Trife, a blue elemental that had sometimes teased us at the homestead.
Then came a big fight against Leandra. Two of her elemental minions and herself had that void aura for long periods of time that gave them invulnerability. It was a nuisance outwaiting it or destroying protection crystals. When Leandra was finally down, I allowed Icara to merge with her. This created The Soul-Forged Sisters, a bright and tall lady with crazy hair – and supposedly double the power.
The final garden area started with a fight against no less than six death knights. I had been given a wand that could send a death knight right into the void. Scarlett managed to dismiss two in one turn, but I got unlucky and Scarlett was petrified for the majority of the fight. This meant that I had to use the normal ban spell to deal with the others. It took too long and a new group of death knights spawned and joined in.
I quickloaded and made Scarlett invisible in the second attempt to avoid the same fate.
Zandalor and The Soul-Forged Sisters had joined me against the death knights, and they were also with me against the big void dragon at the end of the garden. It landed from the void and spawned a lot of minions. I had saved a lot of blood stones, and whenever my party was down on their luck, I used one of them to remove all debuffs and heal everyone up. The goddess Astarte was also with us, but she only buffed and never attacked directly. She was often pummeled by minions and I had to regularly heal her.
The void dragon had a gazillion hit points and the fight felt a lot like a raid boss in an MMORPG. The dragon had various types of damaging breaths, and sometimes it flew to different spot in the arena. But it wasn’t a difficult fight, actually. It just took a long time. At one point the dragon got lucky and killed The Soul-Forged Sisters. The tall lady screamed her final sentence and was gone.
I decided to roleplay her/their death as part of my story.
The game had a small epilogue where my two Source Hunters were walking around in an nice academy. I found Zandalor, Madora and Jahan by themselves and exchanged a few words.
I truly understand the praise this game received. It really was skillfully done, and it was also commendable that the set pieces and story elements held up all the way to the end instead of thinning out like in other lengthy games, as the developers themselves ran out of steam.
I myself got a bit burned out in the last quarter of the game. This made me wonder if I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t really want to complete games of this size anymore. In fact, I was actually pondering quitting the game after Cyseal, just as I was entering Luculla Forest. It would have been a good spot. I had seen most of what the game was about. In hindsight, I probably should have done it.
Perhaps I might actually do that if I decide to give the sequel a try one day.
But although the game was excellent in so many ways, I still decided to deduct one point from the 9 I would otherwise have given it. The reason for this is that I think the developers overdid both some of the puzzles and the use of invulnerability. There were dungeons where the complexity of the puzzles should have been eased up a little. Too many hidden buttons or forcing the use of throwing a pyramid teleporter stone. I also wasn’t fond of the invulnerable death knights, nor how void aura was used to prolong certain fights.
My party just about reached level 20 after 71½ hours of gameplay.