I've been thinking about how the BG games handle continuity between NPCs and about how the advent of SoD is the ideal opportunity to shake things around. I hope some of you will join me in my musings.
Continuity in these games can be seen as two aspects: the alive/dead status of NPCs and the statistics of NPCs who have once joined your group. So first, let's look at the different ways the games handle that:RECRUITING AN NPC
In BG1, an NPC's level (and every stat that relies on that, such as HPs, weapon proficiencies, spells, thief skill points, etc.) upon joining is determined according to the average level of your party. Once the game determines which level they should be, it spawns one of 3 or 4 possible incarnations (at either Level 1, 2, 4 or 6). These are not dynamically generated - they're static creature files.
In SoA, things work the same way, except that in BG2:EE the level of an NPC is now determined solely by the level of the protagonist. In ToB, things get a bit different and what you get is an NPC's highest-level incarnation from SoA with a bunch of XP points stacked on top of it.IN-GAME NPC CONTINUITY
Once a NPC has joined you, they're stuck on that "incarnation" so there are no continuity issues. If they are kicked out of the party and recruited back later, their statistics and inventory will be untouched. If they're killed and then kicked out of the party, they're dead forever. If they're killed while not in the party, they're also dead forever. And in SoA, certain circumstances may lead them to leave the party and be gone forever, carrying their inventory with them.
Of course, this continuity behavior is contained to each game. Let's see how the different transitions handle things:BG1-BG2 NPC CONTINUITY
I think it's safe to say that continuity between BG1 and BG2 is non-existent. Nothing you do in BG1 regarding NPCs will affect your BG2 game in any way. Who was alive or dead, who was in your party and what their current stats and skills were by the end of BG1, all that gets thrown out the window.
Bioware's not only established a certain canon of what companions you've seen and traveled with, but also revised their abilities. Returning NPCs are essentially the same, with a few tweaks here and there, making them more suited to face the challenges of SoA and ToB.
Transition between SoA and ToB is a bit smoother. NPCs currently in your party transition with you and are untouched. Dead NPCs stay dead and permanently unavailable. NPCs who were kicked out of the party will be "refreshed" and treated by the game as if you've never met them (although in terms of story, they will treat you as if you know each other even if you've never met. Confusing, I know).
Until now, that was probably for the best. BG1 and BG2 used to be way more different from each other than they are now. BG2 introduced kits, tons of new spells and reworked the thief skill and weapon proficiency systems, making it impossible to have seamless continuity.
It was also a different time. Tight continuity between a game and its sequels wasn't the norm and BG's version of the Infinity Engine wasn't exactly built to hold the amount of variables needed to be set by a game in order to ensure perfect story/inventory continuity. So you went along with it and that was that.ENTER THE ENHANCED EDITIONS AND SIEGE OF DRAGONSPEAR
In the EEs, both games are built upon the same revamped version of the Infinity Engine, which was built upon BG2's more modern engine. This has changed BG1 dramatically, making it and BG2 much more consistent with each other than their original counterparts. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, this consistency still does not extend to NPCs.
While one may argue that this is still for the best, I'm of the opinion that as the Baldur's Gate series feel more and more like just one big continuous game, addressing continuity issues can and should be viewed as part of the process of further improving the games and bringing them closer to the expectations of new players, as it seems to be one of the main design goals of SoD.
Of course, it's a fact that SoD's not going to alter any story aspects of BG2 but rather explain them. Returning NPCs will be where they've always been, but now you're going to get an explanation of how exactly they ended up there.
So I'm not advocating for changes in that regard. On the contrary, I very much appreciate Beamdog's respect of Bioware's team decisions in that regard. I do believe, however, that there's still a lot of room for improvement, at least when it comes to NPCs and their statistics.So here's my question to the community: what would you like to see in that regard? Would you like BG2 NPCs to remember their stats, weapon proficiency points, spells known, etc. from BG1/SoD? Do you think that NPCs who die in BG1 should stay dead in later stages of the campaign?
And here's my question to the devs: can we expect SoD to bring any changes to the way the games handle NPC continuity?FINAL NOTE: EVEN MORE QUESTIONS FOR THE DEVS
We know by now that one of SoD's story goals is to make the beginning of BG2 consistent with any party combination a player might have had by the end of BG1. This means we'll get to see charname being reunited with Imoen, Jaheira, Khalid, Minsc and Dynaheir while parting ways with any other companions.
This is great. But as you know, among those NPCs, we have two pairs. What happens if a player forcefully breaks one or more of these pairs before or during SoD? More specifically, how does the expansion account for one of them being dead? Do we an opportunity to reunite them? And what if one or more of them dies during the expansion? Is there going to be any special dialogue addressing those potential story issues?