The reason I joined this forum just over a year ago was to see if we could get action on the missing Mac patch, without which the game help too much risk to be playable for me (save game corruption bugs).
So finally, after a 15 month wait, 1.3 is out and I am finally playing. Just want to say a big thank you to the team for persevering through the Mac App store process and finally getting this to us - I know you are probably as frustrated as we customers that it took this long to get the working game in our hands, so I'm happy for all of us that it is out!
So this is a post for anyone who has been following along with me these long months, to see how I am getting on now the game is available.
The sad news is that after 15 months of anticipation, I was finally worn out a week or two before it finally shipped - I am really happy to have this in my hands, but you can only hold the excitement for so long. However, I feel a sense of duty to at least finish a play through after investing so much time into the game, and it is slowly dragging me back into the mood, kicking and screaming. At the end of the day, SoA is a great game, and even a jaded curmudgeon like myself is going to enjoy themselves if they give it only a fraction of a chance.
And a fraction is what I gave it. After so long playing many characters through BG, the 'current' play through when SoA landed for me was one of the sillier power-plays. This is one of two characters I decided to go all out godly on and enabled the console (briefly) to Ctrl-8 in character creation. A second red flag is that I played him through the first Black Pits before starting BG, hearing that he will keep xp over max, but not get to spend it until SoA. Given I am shooting for a Cleric->Mage dual, this should have landed me in SoA with just enough XP to dual at 11th, leaving Irenicus dungeon. 11th is a magical level for a cleric of helm - not only do you get your first 6th level spell, but you also get a second use of the funky sword ability. That will be critical to my plans, as it gives me 3 attacks/round, which doubles to 6 with improved haste, which I should be able to cast myself. 6 APR is not bad for a non-fighter, with a 19 str (almost certainly 25 with cleric boosts) and +3 weapon that should hit most things. Note the 'should' have that xp leaving chateau Irenicus. In fact, on starting SoA I had just over 180k xp, a far cry from where I expected to be, and less than leaving the Black Pits. That raised red flag 3 - having planned to leave this chapter dualed and starting over as a mage, I enabled console again to give my character enough xp for 11th at the start of the dungeon, before disabling the console again. 3 red flags kills a lot of satisfaction with my play through, and is mostly a sign of the fatigue of waiting so long, building and dashing hopes for so many PCs...
So griping aside, how am I getting on with the game? Dualing at 11th has given an interesting game to be sure. Taking down the lightning imps at the start of the game with just a first level mage and Imoen was surprisingly difficult. My intent is always to solo/duo the first level with Imoen to max out xp, and then recruit everyone when Yoshimo comes aboard. While I had plenty of xp, I had no kit, THAC0 or AC so the early levels were hard, despite frequent leveling. 4th level spells were also hard to come by, so those slots sat empty when I finally rested. OTOH, using DUHM as a bhaalspawn power, starting from 19 con (all stats 19, except 21 Wis) means a total heal when I rest, and I have 2 cure light's spare for Imoen.
NPC levels is where life gets interesting. Imoen and Yoshi start with 161k xp, while Misc comes with 800k xp! IIRC, Jaheira had around 400k, more than Imoen but a lot less than Minsc. Given my character is playing a CN (trying to be LG, Guy Gardner wannabe, if you know the comics) then Minsc is actually the only member of this initial party in my long term plans, that finally fill the party with Minsc, Anomen, Jan, Neera (continuing romance from BG) and Haer'Dalis. The early game is frustrating as I want to gain as much xp as possible by doing every characters quest line, so I figure that Haer'Dalis will be last to join, and I will try to do everything by swapping an 'active' orcharacter in his slot till each quest is done. The first issue is that it takes forever to complete enough of Jaheira's quest line to drop her - defined as besting Galvarey to win a particularly useful ring. By the time I am dropping Jaheira, my rep is getting dangerously high for recruiting evil NPCs for their quests. Luckily my original plans were to use Korgan alongside Minsc in the front line, but he was just too fractious so ultimately has been replaced with Anomen - but his quest line completed early. Likewise, we grab Hexxat early as her recruitment mission has a nice container for the party to keep. But keeping rep low enough to recruit Hexxat for her next couple of quests skewed the missions I might take, and likewise it took forever before I was ready to look into Edwin, so he has been dismissed with his nether scroll, which is still 'his' as he has not yet read it. Naturally, Keldorn was reunited with his family and will not be seen again, much like Jaheira who was not best pleased to make way for another after standing up to the Harpers.
But now I finally have my final party together, having done all NPC content that I expect to other than Mazzy (and maybe a quick trip with Nalia) and the fun is really starting to come back. That said, the party is just topping out the fun zone levels - Neera just hit level 15, and is 300k xp away from level 8 spells. The Gardner himself (my PC) is just 20k or so away from level 7 spells as I write this. Minsc just scored 2.1M xp for level 15, and is looking to see if he can reach his first HLA before we sail for spell hold. I have just completed the planar sphere, now my stronghold, and still have 3 major quests to go, plus Bodhi to confront, so we'll see (the Unseeing Eye, and both dragons). I can also look forward to the Twisted Rune, several liches (including Kangaxx) and a deep plunge into Watcher's keep. The plan for the godly play through was to make it to the stat boosts of Lum the Mad before spell hold, but I have never been below the second level before (and that was over 10 years ago!)
The oddest thing I have had to come to terms with is NPC xp. As I said, Minsc arrived with 800k, as did Neera, Hexxat and Rasaad. Nalia I recruited much later, but has only 400k, as did Haer'Dalis despite being almost the last recruited. I have had to painstakingly play Jan up from 161k xp, despite others joining with 800k at essentially the same time. Having deferred on Valygar till taking on the planar sphere, he came with 1.2M xp, but that was appropriate for the party by that point (replacing Haer'Dalis with 1.08M at the time). So NPC xp seems highly variable, and waiting a while before recruiting your long-term NPCs might make a positive difference. I suspect some of the NPCs picked a starting level from my dualed (inactive) cleric level, while others were acting on my active Mage level, or some kind of party average.
Anyway, that is 2-3 weeks progress playing since the patch shipped, and it looks like I will be at least another month on this play through, especially as I will finally hit the parts I have never played (lower Watcher's Keep, and ToB). I suspect I will be quiet around here until I have completed said play through - and if you are still reading at this point, what one earth are you doing spending so long in this forum when Faerun is out there, waiting for you, just one more time...