Author Topic: Tactics (BG2)  (Read 3551 times)

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Tactics (BG2)
« on: August 12, 2010, 01:14:32 PM »
By: Beren
Tactics Modification Pack
Version: v17
Review First Posted On: April 8, 2004
Review Updated On:
Download the Mod here:

First, a basic explanation of what the Tactics Module is about is in order. When a player has made his or her way through Baldurâ??s Gate 2 enough times, the player may find that the game has become too easy. In all fairness, the designers can hardly be blamed for this. They had to make the game challenging, but not overwhelmingly so, for people new to the game. Be that as it may, once the right strategies are discovered, monsters that may once have been daunting became pushovers almost overnight. A veteran of the game may end up with the feeling that the A.I. (â??artificial intelligenceâ?) of some monsters leaves something to be desired, or that they arenâ??t being allowed their full potential power as described in the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual (2nd. Edition). In yet other instances, foes that were meant to be daunting for low-level parties would end up folding upon the discovery of cheesy tactics.

This at its core is the very problem that the Tactics Module seeks to redress. It is all about enhancing the playerâ??s enjoyment of the combat side of Baldurâ??s Gate 2. In its goal the mod by and large succeeds, and often fabulously so. The means by which it accomplishes this can be grouped together in certain categories, which are described below.

One method is the seeding of additional monster encounters, beyond what was included in the original game, throughout various locations. For example, strolling about Athkatla will no longer be an idle affair where you nonchalantly waste a few muggers with naught but plain shortswords and leather armor. Provided you install the right component, youâ??ll now get frequently ambushed by evil adventuring parties that are scaled to be about 2 to 3 levels higher than you. Theyâ??ll also have some pretty funky tactics ready to go against you. Also, travelling to a wilderness area from Athkatla can also lead to some very interesting encounters as well. Some of the additional encounters are also dependent upon particular events or storylines in the game. If youâ??re up to installing the Kuirosan component, aiming to obtain the Celestial Fury katana will now become an extremely dangerous proposition. Kuirosan is a high level Fighter and Wu-Jen (Kara-Turan mage) who takes a special interest in collecting unique katanas, including your newly acquired Celestial Fury or Malakar. He also boasts some incredibly enhanced powers. Grabbing Celestial Fury too early is likely to lead to your partyâ??s demise. Another example is the so-called â??Poison-based challengeâ? during the Throne of Bhaal expansion, where monsters from a para-elemental plane of poison will force a confrontation upon a certain point while exploring the Watcherâ??s Keep dungeon.

Another method is to increase the difficulty of existing monsters in the game, whether it is by providing them with additional powers or by tweaking their A.I. to make better tactical decisions. Several of the generic monsters are enhanced. For example, mages will now have long-lasting protections such as Stoneskin in place before combat begins. This will make taking down mages quickly, and thereby preventing their magical assaults, more difficult to accomplish. Mind Flayers had become rather easy with the right tactics. Now they come equipped with nearly the full gamut of powers described in the Psionicâ??s Handbook (2nd. ed.). Expect to get bombarded with things like Detonate, Ballistic Attack, and Disintegrate. Their Invisibility and Teleport powers will also make it more difficult to ensure that only immune or protected creatures or party members are exposed to their telepathic assaults.

Perhaps one of the finest features of the mod is that the challenge of certain key (boss) encounters is enhanced. For example, all the dragons in Shadows of Amn have their A.I. sharpened up. This should certainly present a bright spot for fans of Firkraag. Kangaxx the Demi-Lich is no longer a pushover for well-known exploits. Bodhi will come with a wide and varied assortment of powers that will make her worth the 91,000 XP you get for killing her. And perhaps best of all, the final battle with the ultimate of villain of Shadows of Amn, Jon Irenicus, will be totally revamped. Even veteran players (the writer included) should often find this battle a veritable challenge.

Finally, the Tactics Mod adds a whole new quest called The Ritual, which requires installation of the Throne of Bhaal expansion. Not to drop any spoilers, but even high-level parties would be well advised to manage their resources, and hit points, carefully.

For all its good points, the mod does come with flaws, though admittedly much of this will be in the eye of the beholder. For starters, some of the dialogue brought in by the mod might come across as cheesy to some. It is certainly true that a game void of humour should be a sterile one for anybody. Indeed, the presence of the Spectator Beholder in the Sahuagin City is a brilliant piece of humour to the credit of the original designers. The humour is all the better for fitting neatly and thematically within the fantasy world setting of Baldurâ??s Gate 2. On the other hand, having Duergar opponents, part of the Improved Ilyich component of the Tactics mod, make explicit reference to the use of â??suboptimal tacticsâ?? to compensate for being higher-level foes may be a little much for some players (this writer included).

Since the mod centres around increasing the challenge of the game, it can be expected that most of its flaws stem from issues of game balance, which is to say whether the game is too easy or too hard for the player. Certain components may in fact make the game too difficult in places. One example may be the Improved Maeâ??Var component. Maeâ??Var now becomes a powerful mage/thief whoâ??s no longer hampered by leather armor. His minions are also bolstered considerably, with the assassins capable of very lethal backstab attacks. Not only that, but once you enter the bottom level to confront Maeâ??Var, youâ??re stuck on that level. You canâ??t use the stairs to utilize â??one at a timeâ?? tactics. This wonâ??t be a big deal for a high-level party. In contrast, a low level party that wants to earn the Thief Stronghold right away for a thief player-character will probably find themselves set to an insurmountable task. Likewise, the Improved Small Teeth Pass obliges the party to land right in the teeth of a dragon, with absolutely no chance to prepare beforehand. Another example may be the Improved Ilyich component. While the idea of increasing the challenge of the first dungeon in the game is a meritorious one, many gamers may find the Tactics Mod taking it to overkill.

Another complaint I had with the mod was not necessarily excessive difficulty, but excessive frequency. At the risk of sounding too general, it may be fairly said that gamers appreciate taking a breather after a challenging encounter. The most difficult encounter possible in the Improved City Encounters component should provide a veritable challenge for parties of approximately 14th to 15th level. Should you survive the battle, your first instinct of course will be to rest up at the local inn. But guess what? No sooner have you stepped out the door then you have to do it all over again. The alternative then becomes travelling around the city bloodied and battered, with the accompanying risk of another encounter when you least want it. It can make travelling about Athkatla a very frustrating ordeal, especially when your urban travels are part of another quest.

Ironically, a few features of the mod can upset the game balance towards the opposite extreme. Assume you manage to defeat Kuirosan. Now loot his body. Youâ??ll find the Sanchadooku +4 Katana, which does the following; lowers the targetâ??s resistance to acid damage with each hit, inflicts a Melfâ??s Acid Arrow type effect on any creature that targets the wielder with any action regardless of whether or not it causes damage to the wielder (e.g. the Breach spell), and regenerates the wielder at a rate well beyond what other items in the game provide for. Does it sound powerful? Too powerful perhaps? It probably is. If you choose to accept and use this katana, chances are youâ??ll end up wrecking the very purpose for which you downloaded the mod to begin with, to increase the challenge of the game. The latest release of the mod has toned down the regeneration rate of Sanchadooku, but I personally find it to be still overpowered. Some gamers might feel the same way about the Bloodbane Spear obtained from the Poison-based challenge, but I wasnâ??t one of them. While it is powerful, it is not as nearly as obscenely powerful as Sanchadooku. Another feeling that might stem from the mod is that once the right tactics are found for the enhanced encounters, then they might also become rather easy. In other words, youâ??re right back to square one.

Whatever flaws I or anyone else find with the Tactics mod cannot be ascribed to a lack of effort on the part of the developers. The Tactics mod has seen the release of many editions. It is always a work in progress. What this reflects is a genuinely sincere and serious effort on the part of the developers to strike the appropriate balance for fans of Baldurâ??s Gate 2. For example, the Shadow Thieves that regularly ambushed the party in previous editions of Improved Ilyich were capable of backstabs that caused poisoning at the same time, carried several Potions of Invisibility, and often wielded wands with powers like Cone of Cold or Hold Person that could be unleashed almost instantly. The latest edition of Improved Ilyich has replaced the Shadow Thieves with Duergar war parties. The war parties will include wizards, but those wizards use standard casting times so as to allow you a chance of interrupting the casting. I found this to be an improvement, because making your way through Irenicus Dungeon, while still challenging, was now a less frustrating and time-consuming affair (i.e. less reloading of the game).

But herein is where a playerâ??s dissatisfaction(s) with the mod may stem from. The ideal balance between the game being too hard or being too easy is, in my opinion, ultimately a red herring. What may be too easy for one gamer may be too daunting for another. For example, an older version of Improved Firkraag had him on top of the party from the word go. I preferred it this way because it presented a greater challenge. Subsequent releases had him retreating to the back of his cavern, allowing the party to set up an ideal strategic placement at leisure. My understanding was that this change was in response to the older version being too hard for some. In the end, you canâ??t please everybody. Nonetheless, the developers deserve naught but praise for making such dedicated efforts in the endeavour.

Unfortunately, another problem also stems from the mod being a constant work in progress. If you read the notes for whatâ??s new with each release, youâ??ll also notice that many of those notes address bug fixes. The constant editing of the mod inevitably means that some, or all, players will experience occasional bugs in the programming. To their credit, the bugs usually arenâ??t enough to dampen the overall playing experience, but thereâ??s often no avoiding at least one or two of them. As I speak, the Ulitharids (Illithid nobles) still canâ??t use their Improved Invisibility power.

To end on a positive note, the mod presents a redeeming feature that makes the whole thing worthwhile for just about any gamer. The WeiDU-Installer that comes with the mod, which is very user-friendly, allows you to select each individual component of the mod that you want, and leave out each one that you donâ??t want. This is a vast improvement over previous releases that forced you to install a whole set of components, or leave them out. In essence, the gamer is allowed to customize the mod to his or her exact specifications and tastes.

On the whole, Iâ??ll give the mod an 8 out of 10. For the most part, it succeeds in its goal. While there may be flaws, they can for the most part be negated by the extreme flexibility in installation that is afforded to the gamer.