Ho there wanderer, stay a while and listen.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? And the way you compared every experience to that one until you found “the one?” What do you do when that first love wanders back into your life? And what are you supposed to do when your wife, of all people, brings this old flame back into your life?

I found myself in this very challenging position when my wife gave me Baldur’s Gate, The Enhanced Edition on Switch for Christmas. A mere couple weeks after she gave me Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for our dating anniversary. Comparing these games is the nerdy equivalent to comparing your high school flame to a hot young secretary.

Baldur’s Gate was the first video game that I truly loved. In it’s day it was probably a 9. Now 20 years later, Baldur’s Gate is no longer the same hot little number. You put it on a 70-inch 4K TV, and you’ll see how far technology has come. And you will go Fahrenheit 451 on all your retro games. But looks aren’t everything, right? Has time diminished my passion for this classic PC title?

Not in the least. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Having Baldur’s Gate on the go with the Switch is amazing. The game design shows it’s age – the early levels are devastatingly brutal, with characters frequently getting one-hit killed. Magic users can contribute in one fight, and then you have to rest. Each Kobold has the potential to make you reload your last save. But the magic is still there.

If you are new to the franchise, the Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate I and II have been remastered on one cartridge. For a purist, it is jarring to see all the character options when you load up the game. I had already decided to play as a druid, and I was amazed and appalled to see multiple sub-classes.

PC games can be difficult to port because it’s hard to emulate a mouse and a full keyboard for inputs. The Switch does an admirable job. First off, load times are minimal. In a game where I frequently reload saves, they pop up quickly. It’s a big upgrade from the old days.

Alone in the woods
In the early levels of Baldur’s Gate, the world is a dangerous place.

The biggest thing I missed in the transition from the PC was the ability to quickly select different characters. You can hold down the left trigger, and use the left stick to select all. Or you can use that menu to assign groups. Or you can cycle through characters with the bumper buttons. It was not quite as easy as clicking whoever you needed.

Movement felt a bit wonky, too. I was never quite sure if moving the left stick would move a cursor for me to click where I wanted to go, or if it would just automatically move the entire party in that direction. Maybe I’m dumb, but it seemed to arbitrarily decide which mode would be active.

I have already happily poured hours into it. It’s the classic Baldur’s Gate experience, except now I can play it in bed without having a laptop on my crotch. I highly recommend it for anyone with nostalgia for the original. If you never played the old title, you are probably best advised to stay away. Keep your hands off my Baldur’s Gate. It’s my precioussssssssss.

What’s New at OiO

Episode 19 of Outside is Overrated – The Best Games of 2019

In the latest edition of the podcast, Tom and Joey reflect on 31 games from the last year. They talk about their favorites and the biggest disappointments, and highlight their favorite indie titles.

Rogue Hippo Breaks Down the Top Five Aliens Novels

Hobby Box Shares Everything You Need to Know About Frosthaven – The Sequel to Gloomhaven

First Impressions on a Couple Board Games

The Captain is Dead

In The Captain is Dead you take on the roles of various crew members aboard a starship in the middle of a crisis. The ship has been damaged, the captain has been killed and it’s up to you and your peers to thwart your alien attackers, repair your ship and flee to safety.

Quick to set up and relatively easy to grasp, The Captain is Dead is a very challenging sci-fi board game. We struggled with prioritizing our tasks and maximizing our turns. We never made much progress, and wound up with a ship full of hostile aliens slowing our progress.

We played with two players, and you can have up to seven. A catastrophe of sorts happens at the end of every player’s turn, so I look forward to seeing how this affects a seven player game. Is it an advantage to have seven different special abilities, or is it more difficult to have so long in between turns?

Pandemic Rapid Response
Pandemic Rapid Response adds an intense timed twist to the classic Pandemic formula. Not recommended for one-and-a-half-year-olds.

Pandemic Rapid Response

In Pandemic: Rapid Response you take the role of health care professionals racing around the world to deliver supplies to disease-ridden regions. You roll dice to generate supplies or remove waste based on the room you are standing in. The dice also give you the ability to fly to adjacent regions. Each character has a special ability.

As fun as it is to introduce dice to Pandemic, the biggest change to the formula comes from a strict time limit. The timer is always running. If it runs out of time, and you don’t have a time token, the game is over. You start with a handful of time tokens, and you earn additional tokens by successfully dropping supplies to different regions. You end up flying through turns, frantically rolling and re-rolling dice while your teammates shout directions at you.

We played two games and won both, but we kind of cheated the first time through. You are not supposed to strategize when the timer runs out. You are supposed to immediately flip it again, with no break in the action. We played it right the second time and won with plenty of time left. My wife and I both enjoy Pandemic, and agree that this is a fun new way to tackle the series.

FFXV
You occasionally stop to grab a picture in front of a landmark in FFXV

The Final Fantasy – Closing the FF Challenge with Final Fantasy XV

Over the last 12 months, I have dabbled with a dozen different Final Fantasy games. We went from one to 10, then tackled 12 and 15 over the last two months. Prior to this challenge, I had fallen off the series due to a fiery hatred of Final Fantasy XIII.

For years, I had worried that XV would disappoint me as much as the most recent prime-numbered entry in the series. What a relief to dive into the game and learn that it was really, really good.

The basic synopsis of the story is that young prince Noctis is off on a road trip to pick up his betrothed. After leaving the capital, his homeland is attacked and the king is killed. Noctis and his boy band….erm….friends…(guards?) embark on a quest to gather relics from past kings to give Noctis the strength to fight his foes. A major part of the adventure is an upgradeable royal sedan – the Regalia.

Along the way, you will meet a handful of characters that will send you on approximately a billion side quests, you bro out with your homies and hunt wild beasts. I played about 16 hours and reached level 26.

Throughout the Final Fantasy Challenge, I was amazed at the franchise’s ability to switch out mechanics and make each entry feel fresh and different. In XV, the series moved away from it’s turn-based roots and into action-RPG territory. I felt trepidation about the change, but I had a lot of fun warping around the battlefield as Noctis. You can map four weapons to the face buttons on the d-pad and switch between them on the fly. With mobility on the battlefield, you were rewarded for attacking the blindside of foes with extra damage.

Magic was also wildly different from any previous entry. Noctis could draw three elements from the earth – fire, ice and thunder – and he used elemency to craft spells. Basically, you can draw 99 units of each element from the earth, and then combine those units and/or a catalyst to get your spells to do different things. Like Thundara that could poison. Or Blizzard that could heal. It was a neat system, but I never figured out how to maximize it.

I think that XV is a fantastic game, but it also feels like it could have been an all-new intellectual property. Overall, I think these games are arguably one of the top two or three franchises in all of gaming. I look forward to revisiting them on a future edition of OiO.

With that, OiO will bring 2019 to a close. Thank you so much for visiting the site, listening to the podcast and following along with Tom’s Triumphs. From the entire OiO team, happy holidays!

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays from the OiO Crew

Until next year – stay inside kids!