Saturday, 30 August 2014

How I learned to disregard the canon and enjoy the game; Neverwinter edition (III)

[copy-paste intro]
It is no secret that I am not that into Dungeons and Dragons. So much so, that I considered it quite an achievement when I was able to let go some of my biases and thoroughly enjoy a game set in  D&D-verse. (Watching some webseries that feature paper-and-pen-folk in action has also somewhat softened my cold, joyless heart. Notable culprits include "Tales from The Table" and "Dorkness Rising".) And now, Neverwinter Nights 2. 

The whole load of playthrough notes turned out too voluminous to wrestle all at once, so I'm dividing it into a series of shorter posts instead. This was Part Two.

Now, shall we?

(Clicking the images should display them in full glory.)

Part Three. How to persuade NPC-s and impact outcome.

One of my ever-over-arching goals when I play a game is to maximize access to ingame information, to "unfold the game all the way", utilizing strictly ingame means. (Once I've discovered and figured out as much as I can on my own, though, there comes the point of "that'll do," past which I'll permit myself to look stuff up.) Sometimes that pursuit means taking trips to older saves just to try out alternate solutions & paths I don't intend to stick to; often enough it means digging into the dialogues with extra attention, probing for the limits.

I know he isn't referring to me; I shall thake that compliment regardless.

In a delicious contradiction to that underlying theme, NPC communication often takes me to the point where the in-character choice ("in-character" as myself, that is) would be just to leave some things be for the time, respecting the NPC-s boundaries and allowing them to ease into sharing in their own good time. Likewise, there are times when some emotionally-attached chatter from companion characters feels insincere and just plain unearned. The latter mostly applies to my bonding with Shandra: I treated her right on my own terms anyway - but wasn't too keen on the attempted bosom buddy thing. Eventually, to unlock more influence options, I delivered the "personal intel" because apparently you don't win her trust by trudging through muck & fighting side-by-side, nu-uh, some magical girl talk is required. (And then we changed into skimpy nighties and had a fluffy pillow fight! With pink swords!)

Sometimes I found it borderline-creepy how easy it was for me to gain influence over companions (that was especially noticeable during "Mask" campaign).

Before we do witty banter, shouldn't I at least buy you a coffee or something?
I merely acted on an instinct, you know.

On the other hand, that made a pleasant surprise when they swooned over my competence instead. (In return, I quietly swooned over developers' decision to include such moments.)

Can we go back to discussing that camping trip now?
Observe & adapt, bitches!

Segue to the part where I mostly bitch about alignment systems and their discord with applied communication skills (IRL, not ingame skills).

I tend to take issue with clear-cut ingame alignments and neatly stacked factions in general. (When I catch people applying the alignment-and-faction-heavy thinking to other gameworlds, or worse even, real world and real people, my itch ascends to proud pet-peevery.) For one, I might not necessarily agree with the game's overall definition of "good". (In New Vegas, for example, I intentionally go around stealing plungers and other random objects - only to drop them right away - for the sole purpose of offsetting the brownie points from a system I don't agree with.)

A more specific frustration arises when my "I! Want! Information!" attitude stumbles on the "evil equals nasty" dialogue branches. I mean, there's this funny phenomenon that people and critters alike tend to part with information more easily if you don't threaten to snap their neck at hello. I'm not complaining that it's there; but I tend to sneer at equating non-threatening and reassuring phrase choice (the one basically saying "bring all your intel to my willing ears") to automatically being praised as the good guys. To quote fragments from my mid-game lamenting:
" I have already caught myself making choices based on alignment-worry. This is bullshit." 

"Like, if i'm being truly evil and trying to extend my influence as far as possible, i won't go around yelling "fuck you peasants, i eat your babies, mwahahahaha," i tell folks what they like to hear and gain influence over them so that i'd be able to roam free and act in my own interest."

In short, there was plenty of nominal vs. functional dissonance going on in my game. At some point I learned to live with it and to not let that interfere with my choices.

To eat my cake, hold on to it, and lie about it, too!
It seems I get more thug life options with a badg...uh, cloak.

At some point I couldn't help but wonder, how my possibly odd alliances & transactions would compare to the "properly aligned" gameplay by someone who "plays it correctly".

Mutual interests keep the community going.
I mean,who *wouldn't* work against critter cruelty?
Welcome aboard! (Just ignore those looks from HR.)
It takes so little to make a few gargoyles happy!

The tendency to at least *attempt* teaming up with whomever is listening eventually proved very useful when I went out talent-hunting for allies and returned with a very solid lizard alliance.

We did a pinky-swear, basically.

Stay tuned for Part Four

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