Friday, April 28, 2017

Kid's Stuff, Part XXX: Legends of Baldur's Gate – Tyranny of Dragons #1





Butt-kicking for goodness!


"Part 1"
Writer – Jim Zub
Art – Max Dunbar
Letters – Neil Uyetake
Colors – John-Paul Bove
Edits – John Barber
October 2014

I know I didn't buy it until after the sequel was out. And by that I don't mean "Tales of the Sword Coast" expansion, either. I mean the actual real deal with the Roman numeral after its title and everything.

So, yeah. I was an extreme latecomer to the game.



And by "game" I mean Baldur's Gate, BioWare and Black Isle Studio's darling. A top-down isometric role-playing puzzle and fighting game that became 40+ hours of my life (and I would gladly give it 40 more if the thrills were the same). It was AD&D without the hassle of inviting people over or cleaning up afterwards.

It was fun. Immense fun.



Combat was amazing. The game used a newly developed software called the Infinity Engine to conduct battles. Fights took place in real time, with the player being allowed to pause them at any moment and issue orders to individual party members. Spell casting, ranged weapons, hand-to-hand melee…everything true to the AD&D 2nd edition rule set running under an understandable interface that made gameplay fantastically enjoyable.

And since BioWare was the developer, the storyline of the game was hugely involving. Set in TSR's Forgotten Realms campaign world, you traveled up and down the Sword Coast around Baldur's gate, discovering the source of magic that is making iron rot. In pursuing the solution to this Iron Crisis, you meet up with up to 25 non-player characters from whom you can choose five to accompany you.

Of all those companions, none will catch your attention more than Minsc. Vaguely Russian and obviously off his rocker, you meet Minsc early in Baldur's Gate. He's a decent level Ranger who provides good muscle, a healthy tank for close up fighting, handy with arrows as a ranged weapon, and LOTS of humorous commentary.

Most of that last item is due to "Boo," Minsc's familiar who happens to be a hamster. Minsc carries Boo around and he addresses the rodent more than the converses with his party members. He classifies Boo as a "miniature giant space hamster," although that really just makes him normal hamster-sized. Boo has all the attributes and attacks of a regular hamster, which is to say…none.

In a 2001 interview, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka stated that among the titles the company had completed, Minsc was his favorite character.

I'm sure you'll agree with him shortly.

Because you see, Legends of Baldur's Gate stars Minsc as it kicks off a new series of adventures along the environs of the Sword Coast. And it all begins like this…



In the better part of town, a young lady is being pursued by two demonish gargoyles. We are just introduced to her, so what they seek from the girl is unknown.



After a few moments of struggle in their first encounter, we note a few things. Firstly that the girl is actually not human, but is instead a moon-elf. Next, she has spunk and cunning, using her wits to get out of her pack and avoid being captured. Third, the creatures do intend to capture her, as they appear more interested in carrying her off than in slaying her on the spot. And lastly that these are true gargoyles whose stone-like skin aren't easily penetrated.

We also see that the book is fine with throwing levity our way, even in the middle of the deadliest of confrontations. Good, because that is the only real way to write a book with Minsc in it.



Luckily for Delina she happens upon two members of the Watch, the guards who patrol Baldur's Gate's streets at night. Luckily for Delina…




…but not so luckily for the members of the Watch.

Her flight backs her into the tents of the town market, located in the middle of an immense square several blocks wide. And at the center of that square is a statue of Minsc, the hero of Baldur's Gate.



A statue soon to be covered in the blood of innocent merchants, by the looks of things.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Delina falls back on her weapon of last restort: wild magic. She looses her spell only to have it curve back on her and hit the statue of Minsc.



And this is where the fun REALLY starts!



That bit of wild magic…




…brings the statue to life.

Along with Boo! (Go for the eyes!)

Heck! Minsc gets better as a comic character than as a game NPC. Check this out:



With a cry of "Evils prepare for the Losing!" Minsc is off like a shot, swinging his sword (and missing), but still showing the amazing durability we all loved him for in the game. He apparently doesn't realize that isn't Neera behind him or else he wouldn't have so casually handed off Boo to just any old moon elf.



Just like the "tank" we remember him as in Baldur's Gate the game, Minsc wades right in and handles all the damage meted out. Of course it's only their turn in the round because when Minsc gets his…



…that's one down….


…and none to go!

Unfortunately their troubles don't end with evil stone demons this night. The Watch appears and mistakes the blood on Delina's outfit from the guards as her doing. Minsc is no help, but very entertaining as his dizzying perspective on all this is highly amusing.



Delina is forced to Color Spray the guards and make off with Minsc, who has mistaken her for Neera from the game. 



Scenes like this one prove how well they've captured the goofy goodness of Minsc from the game. He's the same addled person you would quest all over with for hours on end while he threw out humorous quips. He is also the PERFECT character to use in this storyline.



And speaking of that, what IS this storyline, anyway?


Ah! A missing person's case. Those can be fun. Especially with the buddy cop pairing we have in these two as our main characters. The only thing is, they can't find Delina's brother from the inside of a Baldur's Gate jail cell. And since they've lead themselves down this dead-end alleyway, it appears that's highly likely.

If only someone would rescue them…



Yay! The Calvary arrives in the form of these hooded guys who backstab the guards from the shadows with their small daggers and short swords doing quadruple damage and ….waaaaait just a minute. Those guys are…



Unfortunately that is where we leave off at the end of issue one. It is brief, but oh so worth the admission price.

Sadly I want more. More of the story. More of that good old-school gameplay. More AD&D. More Minsc.

I can state that as a credit to what BioWare created and what IDW, Zub, and Dunbar brought back to life. For those of you like me, HERE is the link to purchase the NEW ENHANCED EDITION Baldur's Gate game, for Windows, Mac, Linux,Android or iOS devices.

Yeah, I'm getting my copy too.

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