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#706566 19/10/20 01:02 PM
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In defence of narrative or Larian's biggest oversight.

May contain spoilers for Divinity Original Sin 2, The Witcher 3, and of course Baldur's Gate 3.
It's very long, but if you want to read the gist read chapters 3 and 4. TL DR - Larian should take responsibility for the choices they provide us in the game. Even a good story on paper might not be enough to create a cohesive and full experience
Disclaimer -
TL:Dr - take everything I say in a grain of salt.
This game is in EA stages. Every criticism and complaints I have might be changed or fixed in the future. I can't know for sure even though I'm pretty sure most of it is likely to be true based on past experience with Larian games, the most relevant of which is divinity Original Sin 2.



Introduction - if we are fair, even at this stage the game worth the money I paid for it. I played for more than 80 hours and enjoyed my time with it. The combat is fun, the characters are interesting, and the little we got of the story is fine. I'm sure the combat will be improved immensely, since this is the main passion of Larian. More specifically, based on the EA and dos2 I can safely say that Larian's greatest strength lies in creative gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, what might be enough for dos may not be enough for Baldur's Gate.

Chapter 1- the feel of bg
Ever since the reveal of the game with the Sven infamous gameplay video, some fans of the original BG games started criticising the game claiming it doesn't "feel" like Baldur's Gate 3. Until very recently I was extremely dismissive about this criticism for two main reasons:
1. So far even the fans who make this claim can't seem to agree on what does it mean to "feel like a BG game".
2. I thought (and in some respects I still do) that it is too early to say whether it is a true successor or a dos game with BG skin.
I can't say it doesn't feel like bg, but I can safely say it does feel like Dos2 in many ways, some are really bad for a BG game.

Chapter 2 - what made BG great in my book

TL:DR - the most important thing about BG is the story and character.

People can keep talking about dnd systems and alignments all day long, but I think that if it were so easy we would get a Baldur's Gate successor every Tuesday. I'm sure the revolutionary (at the time) RTwP system was a big hook, and I think the settings and D&D stem on the game helped it reach a lot of people who wouldn't have bothered with it otherwise, but I think that more than everything the greatest thing about this games (same as with any other great Bioware game) was the story and characters. I'll acknowledge the subjectivity of this opinion right now since as I said, there is no consensus I saw that definitively answer this question, but I still think that most people, even those who played Baldur's Gate for other reasons, found this aspect of the game enjoyable at the very least. I never played Icewind Dale, but I think the fact these games were not even remotely as popular as Baldur's Gate is some indication I'm right.

I think that even I didn't gave enough credit to the first game's story, and that the way it builds up mystery and political intrigue is still great. And even if you found the first game's story lacking, you can't deny the brilliance which is Shadows of Amn's storyline.

To summarize, if there is one thing that could possibly elevate Baldur's Gate 3 for me from a nice fun game into a worthy successor level, is a good written story and characters.

Chapter 3 - how to write a good story for a CRPG video game


TL DR - if the game gives you an option to do something, the game's story should be able to acknowledge you did it.

An important aspect of writing a role playing video game story is the emphasis on choice. For a very long time, Biowere were the undisputed champions on that. The game's story needs to be good, no doubt about that, but it also needs to be very flexible and allow the player to make choices and face the consequences of these choices. If I killed an important NPC, there should be a response from the world. How extensive this response depends on many things and could be handled in many ways. Moreover, some games restricts the player in certain ways in order to prevent him from making choices the game can't accommodate. The most obvious example is essential characters in The Elder Scrolls games. If a character is essential in that game, you simply can't kill them.

Later Biowere games removes the option to kill every NPC you see altogether, and only some of them could be killed by selecting certain dialogue choices. It may restricted the player's possible actions, but made every choice more coherent within the narrative.

How to deal with player choice - most great rpg's writers and programmers try to both give player as many choices as possible while also acknowledging those choices. Example from the Witcher 3 - when you first arrive to Skelige, you can leave the main island and go kill the giant without talking to anyone. In a good game design (in the Witcher three), people will acknowledge the fact you completed this quest even before you received it, since if the developers give you an option to do something, they should take the option you would do it into consideration. If after you kill the giant people would act as though you didn't, there is a problem. Either the developers should place a restriction which will prevent you from killing the giant before receiving the quest, or add scripts and dialogue that triggers if you did. Otherwise you get an immersion breaking dialogue which tells you to go kill a giant which is already dead.

The more freedom the game allows you, the more likely you are to "break" the game's narrative. This is one problem, but the other one is that options like this that breaks the game has no appeal for me whatsoever, since they don't really affect or change the story, but provides you with an illusion of choice. In reality, your only choice is to play the game the way the writers intended or have your actions ignored at best and not allowing you to move forward at worst.

Chapter 4 - What happens when developers care about freedom more than narrative.


Everything I described in chapter 3 is something I didn't even noticed until the first time I played Divinity Original Sin 2. These game design aspects are not noticeable when they are done well and extremely noticeable when they are absent.

It's been a while since my last dos2 playthrough, but it happened toe more than once that the choices I made were not reflected by the narrative. People who are supposed to be dead are talked about as if they are alive, things I did talked about as if I didn't do them and vice versa. At the time, I thought that this issues are probably related to the fact that Larian is a small studio that created a system with a lot of choice, and that it is really hard to account for all of them. All of this is true. The problem is that these issues plague the Baldur's Gate 3 EA as well. And not only in the cases of me trying deliberately to break the game.

Two examples - the first one might be a bug but it fits the MO- during my fourth or fifth playthrough (I love the character creator sue me) I failed (again) in the persuasion check when trying to convince Khaga not to kill the tiefling girl. This time I decided in a kind of psychotic fit to kill Khaga on the spot. As I expected, all the druids in the room turned hostile, and I killed them all. But surprisingly, everyone else wasn't hostile. Not only. The rest of the camp and the druids outside were not hostile, even Nettie who was in a nearby room talked to me as if nothing wrong. Same is true for everyone at camp. I had to look very hard for someone to acknowledge what I did and in the end I talked to Zavlor and found out that if you push him hard enough ( be aggressive in your dialogue choices) he will ask you to kill Khaga. Of course the problem was that she was already dead.

Example two, which is much worse - this time I didn't want to take shadowheart with me through the whole game, so shortly after recruiting Layzel I asked shadowheart to go back to camp. She was still a bit pissed I recruited Layzel and threatened me she won't wait in camp. To my surprise, when I went to camp she was indeed missing. I later encountered her in the druid grove. The problem is that during our conversation in the grove, half of the time she acted like she is still mad at me and in the other half she acted like we never met. This example is worse because there is nothing game breaking I did here, but still the game didn't acknowledged my choices even though it offered them to me. If I never played dos2 I would think this is simply a bug or unrefined dialogue, but now it's seems to like Larian just doesn't care for these things.

Other examples, some of the things I found, other from users around the web:

Me not trying to break the game but breaking it anyway:
Quote
More on the druid grove another choice that seems to be something the game might expect you to do - as I entered the grove the guard tries to stop me. I ignore them and then choose the attack option. This creates a lot of chaos. Initially, I thought I had to fight only several guards but then I noticed many of the NPC's are leaving the grove area towards the camp (among them, khaga, Nettie, the tiefling bard and others). After I finished off the guards I went to the tiefling camp to see what's going on. There was a big battle between the tieflings and the remaining druids, all the tieflings were at my side against the druids. For reasons unknown Rath, the druid fought at my side against the others. After the battle was over I went to Zavlor to try to figure out what the hell happened. Now this is the important part - Zevlor wasn't very clear, only said it had to be done and steered the conversation to the goblin threat. I went back to the grove to try to understand why Rath, with which I never talked before fought with me in the battle. Rath was standing and blocking the entrance to the grove. He also didn't have any explanations but curiously he said: "we won". How did you win if all the druids but you are dead? Wtf.
Then I came back to my camp and gale is complaining to me about something that happened with the druids.
Now, what the hell happened here other than standard Larian's mess? I think at some stage, I don't if it happened when I chose to attack in the dialogue or at a later stage, the quest to kill Khaga triggered. But no context, no proper resolution, no nothing. And it all started from me choosing a dialogue line, so again, I didn't even try to break the game but it broke so easily.


Wyll's drive to hunt the goblins -
Quote
When you meet Wyll he is In the middle of a quest to hunt the goblins. there is a particular goblin he is looking for that can be found in the windmill. but if you remove him from the party after he tells you about it and before you meet said goblin, suddenly he doesn't care about him anymore.


A comment by the Reddit user Plumppotato (link)-
Quote
Anyone else think the first interaction with Astarion feels, off? I think it's because by the time I meet him, I've usually already recruited Shadowheart and on my second playthrough, Gale. Which means they're both standing there while I rassle him on the ground with a knife to my neck, doing nothing. This could be fixed with either a simple move or a line of dialogue. Maybe having him be the first possible companion you meet, just after waking up on the beach, even sooner than Shadowheart. That way you're alone when he attempts to attack you. Or, by including a line where he says something along the lines of "stay back or I'll slit his/her/their throat!" If the game detects party members with you.

Comment by Larian user cgexile titled "Karlach quest line":
Quote
So I said I'd help her. I went to the group on the hill and they told me that she did all these horrible things. I went back to her and there is no option to basically have her explain her side of the story after what they told me. I only have the option to basically kill her or go back and kill them.

Feels weird like she needs to explain wtf they are talking about because their story was pretty wild and she said nothing about her mass murdering ways.

Edit: also I don't exactly want to wipe them out since they have a Trader there and I'd like to keep her around.



Chapter 5 - stop comprising on the story in order to make "cool game mechanics
"

This is one problem I didn't see being addressed, but it is a symptom of a bigger problem in Larian's games - Larian seems to care about gameplay more than the story. Both this game and dos2 are filled with mechanics that actively sabotage the narrative.
The origin characters - many noted the problems with those. Some highlights - super unique main character material companions, the fact that they are origin characters means you know much about them before you even started the game, etc.

Stupid game mechanics like knock out - all that this mechanic really does is delaying the killing of the character. If you knock out someone band return later they're still hostile (it doesn't matter if there are cases in which it does change the outcome. It either needs to always work or not exist in the first place).

Consequences - I'm a bit hesitant to talk about this right now, but I still think like you can do much without much of the game changes.


epilogue
"

As I said in the start, even at its current state, bg3 is a lot of fun and at least for me well worth its price. But I feel like the biggest obstacle standing in Larian's way to make this game into a legend is Larian itself. Sometimes I feel like Larian treats it's game like GTA, and to be fair it's not a bad thing, just not for me.

Last edited by Abits; 20/10/20 02:02 PM.

Larian's Biggest Oversight, what to do about it, and My personal review of BG3 EA
"74.85% of you stood with the Tieflings, and 25.15% of you sided with Minthara. Good outweighs evil, it seems."
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Excellent points!

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Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.

Last edited by Emrikol; 19/10/20 02:08 PM.
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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.

According to you. I disagree. I think story is more important, especially in a video game of this kind where the story and gameplay are intertwined


Larian's Biggest Oversight, what to do about it, and My personal review of BG3 EA
"74.85% of you stood with the Tieflings, and 25.15% of you sided with Minthara. Good outweighs evil, it seems."
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Originally Posted by Abits
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.

According to you. I disagree. I think story is more important, especially in a video game of this kind where the story and gameplay are intertwined

Well, yeah it is certainly a matter of opinion. Sincerely curious, though ... do you read novels?

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There's nothing inherently wrong in the points you move, but I have just the impression some of them are simply... premature?

All the complaints about knock-out mechanics for instance are based on the fact that currently it barely works on a nominal level; you are taking from granted it won't be refined over time, which sounds unlikely.

Last edited by Tuco; 19/10/20 02:17 PM.

Party control in Baldur's Gate 3 is a complete mess that begs to be addressed. SAY NO TO THE TOILET CHAIN
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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

Last edited by Maximuuus; 19/10/20 02:25 PM.
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I have the exact same worries. I agree that the BG series has always been carried by a focus on characters and storytelling, and I'd much rather sacrifice some player freedom than the cohesiveness of the narrative.

It's of course a bit early to judge whether this will actually be an issue going forward, but it's definitely something I hope the Larian developers keep in mind.

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Originally Posted by Maximuuus
I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.


That's the main problem with your entire statement. The only way for a story to feel like a book is, well, to be a book! Developers can try as much as they want, games and books are different mediums, for different purposes. Therefore the expectations for one can not be the same for the other.

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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Originally Posted by Abits
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.

According to you. I disagree. I think story is more important, especially in a video game of this kind where the story and gameplay are intertwined

Well, yeah it is certainly a matter of opinion. Sincerely curious, though ... do you read novels?

It's a very good question, although I think my answer will help my point more than to yours.

Yes I read novel, not as extensively as I wish these days, but I do.
Bg is not a novel and it provides something a novel can't, a direct intervention. I talked about it at length above, but the greatest thing about this kinds of game to me is the option to make choice that will shift the direction of the narrative to accommodate this choice.

Originally Posted by Tuco
There's nothing inherently wrong in the points you move, but I have just the impression some of them are simply... premature?

All the complaints about knock-out mechanics for instance are based on the fact that currently it barely works on a nominal level; you are taking from granted it won't be refined over time, which sounds unlikely.

I addressed this both in the disclaimer and in the epilogue, but perhaps I wasn't convincing enough. I think that another playthrough of DOs2 will provide me with many examples of the issues I'm talking about here in BG3 context.
Originally Posted by Maximuuus
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

agreed. I think that people who generally care more about the gameplay will be satisfied even if they aren't right now

Last edited by Abits; 19/10/20 02:30 PM.

Larian's Biggest Oversight, what to do about it, and My personal review of BG3 EA
"74.85% of you stood with the Tieflings, and 25.15% of you sided with Minthara. Good outweighs evil, it seems."
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Originally Posted by Maximuuus
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

A videogame is a vastly inferior medium for storytelling. No videogame I have ever played even sniffed at the story of a decent novel. Tell me what you think is the best story ever told through a videogame that you think is the equal of Lord of the Rings (or any highly regarded novel/series).

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Originally Posted by Abits

Bg is not a novel and it provides something a novel can't, a direct intervention. I talked about it at length above, but the greatest thing about this kinds of game to me is the option to make choice that will shift the direction of the narrative to accommodate this choice.

A Which-way or Choose-your-own-adventure book does that better. I'm not saying there is no merit to wanting some orchestration in the direction of the story; but placing it above the gameplay is misguided.

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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Originally Posted by Maximuuus
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

A videogame is a vastly inferior medium for storytelling. No videogame I have ever played even sniffed at the story of a decent novel. Tell me what you think is the best story ever told through a videogame that you think is the equal of Lord of the Rings (or any highly regarded novel/series).

really? this is the same criticism cinema received after its creation. short answer - different mediums have different advantages and disadvantages. and a novel is not automatically better than a movie or a video game.

The rpg Gnere has many great stories. Kotor is better written than any star wars, kotor 2 is even better. Planescape: Torment is rightfully highly regarded.


Larian's Biggest Oversight, what to do about it, and My personal review of BG3 EA
"74.85% of you stood with the Tieflings, and 25.15% of you sided with Minthara. Good outweighs evil, it seems."
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Originally Posted by Abits
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Originally Posted by Maximuuus
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

A videogame is a vastly inferior medium for storytelling. No videogame I have ever played even sniffed at the story of a decent novel. Tell me what you think is the best story ever told through a videogame that you think is the equal of Lord of the Rings (or any highly regarded novel/series).

really? this is the same criticism cinema received after its creation. short answer - different mediums have different advantages and disadvantages. and a novel is not automatically better than a movie or a video game.

The rpg Gnere has many great stories. Kotor is better written than any star wars, kotor 2 is even better. Planescape: Torment is rightfully highly regarded.

Fair enough. I should be more specific. It is an inferior medium as far as it's capacity for depth (just as a movie is also inferior to books). The advantages to stories in games (and movies)? Accessibility. That is, you are likely to reach many more people than you would with a book. But that accessibility comes with a price (depth).


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Originally Posted by Abits
Kotor is better written than any star wars, kotor 2 is even better.


You should read more Star Wars novels. Some were written by KoTOR lead writer (Drew Karpashyn) actually.

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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Originally Posted by Maximuuus
Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.


Now I understand why I nearly always disagree with you^^
I'm not looking for an explosive gameplay with special effetcs everywhere, fire and blood, jumping characters and shove etc... when I'm playing a BG game.

I am looking for a story to follow but also to write... A story that feels like the stories in the books that took place in the FR.
Not saying gameplay isn't important but you'll never find so many surfaces effetcs and jump and arcady fast travel and rest and...... in a consistent story.

Larian's gameplay is great and they already created a good game with it.
I hope they'll change their mind a little bit more about BG3 to improve the consistency and the immersion of their stories. Combats should also be a part of the story instead of being only gameplay elements.

A videogame is a vastly inferior medium for storytelling. No videogame I have ever played even sniffed at the story of a decent novel. Tell me what you think is the best story ever told through a videogame that you think is the equal of Lord of the Rings (or any highly regarded novel/series).


As you said this is different medium, so obviously the story telling is not the same. It's not about depth... It's about the feeling you experience as a player.

The Baldur's gate games give the general feelings you're in a story someone could have written (and guess what... someone written it...now it's a canon of the F.R.)
No one would ever write a story in which, i.e there are 36 jumps at each combats + fire/acid everywhere + dipping sword in fire to create a fire sword + unlimited ammo + surfaces ammo/containers/potions + safe rest in a dungeon, companions unconscious 5 times in the same combats,...etc... and this is only about combats...

They actually failed to create both an interresting gameplay and consistency in regards of D&D/FR.

Last edited by Maximuuus; 19/10/20 02:55 PM.
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Originally Posted by Emrikol


Fair enough. I should be more specific. It is an inferior medium as far as it's capacity for depth (just as a movie is also inferior to books). The advantages to stories in games (and movies)? Accessibility. That is, you are likely to reach many more people than you would with a book. But that accessibility comes with a price (depth).


well that is an opinion. like I said, agree to disagree.


Larian's Biggest Oversight, what to do about it, and My personal review of BG3 EA
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I do think the story is important in a game like this, at least on par with gameplay in terms of importance. Personally I highly care about character developments, interactions and relationships. For the most part I really enjoy it, but there are moments where dialog and events go out of sequence or don't properly correspond with what is happening. Too much freedom and not enough developing for each possible scenario leads to this and it is disappointing when you think that you can do things differently than the direction the game offers and the game ends up not making sense or just gets bugged.

Although it is early to say, I am a little afraid that stuff like knock unconcious will be very hit or miss in terms of when the game will actually have a reasonable response to it or not because there are simply so many possible scenarios. Maybe they should just not allow KO unless the scenario has been programmed to allow it, so you know what your real options are rather than having a "fake choice" which doesn't really do anything. Maybe you sympathize with some character but end up fighting them and want to spare them. In those situations the player should know if that's a real option or they'll end up with a false promise and disappointment.

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Originally Posted by Abits
Originally Posted by Emrikol


Fair enough. I should be more specific. It is an inferior medium as far as it's capacity for depth (just as a movie is also inferior to books). The advantages to stories in games (and movies)? Accessibility. That is, you are likely to reach many more people than you would with a book. But that accessibility comes with a price (depth).


well that is an opinion. like I said, agree to disagree.

I cannot argue what is or is not your opinion. I can argue as to the soundness of it. But we can leave off.


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Originally Posted by Emrikol
Story and characters are secondary to gameplay and mechanics. It's a videogame, not a novel (or even a movie).

That being said, I don't think Larian are the best story tellers.

It is a role playing video game. How can story and characters come secondary to mechanics?
The inferiority / superiority dynamic you are talking about is irrelevant as videogames are the closest thing we have to a simulation thereby being objectively superior in every way except one. Personal interpretation.


I am here to discuss a video game. Please do not try to rope me into anything other than that. Thank you.
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