Hello all! Last week I replayed a terrible N64 shooter that’s still fun despite being a general mess.
This week, I check out a classic PC RPG that’s not so classic to me. Not because I hate it (far from it), but rather because I didn’t get into it until just a couple of years ago.
Baldur’s Gate is one of the earliest titles developed by BioWare, a developer perhaps best known for the Nintendo DS hit Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. In Baldur’s Gate (set in the Dungeons & Dragons world and using the 2nd Edition ruleset), you play as an orphan, the ward of Gorion. Escaping a perceived danger in the middle of the night, Gorion is killed, leaving you to...well, figure things out. I don’t want to spoil too much, because Baldur’s Gate is known as a terrifically written game—and it is, even today.
My first experience with Baldur’s Gate was briefly watching it being played by a friend, way back in junior high school. I didn’t really “get” it, at the time. See, I didn’t grow up with Dungeons & Dragons. I was aware of it, but I didn’t have the group of friends that played it, so D&D is something I missed. This, combined with Baldur’s Gate being the type of game that may not have appealed to me at that age, is why I didn’t play it until years after release.
I didn’t play it at all until I got the Enhanced Edition a couple of years ago. Said Enhanced Edition has its detractors (they changed this or that!) but keep in mind I have basically no experience with the original to compare it to. It actually wasn’t until the Enhanced Edition released that I decided to give it a shot and see what I missed. My only experience so far, again, was watching a friend play the game, whatever I could watch on YouTube, and playing Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance on PS2. Which doesn’t really count; that’s a whole different (but still awesome) game.
Baldur’s Gate immediately struck me as a game I wouldn’t have liked had I played it at launch; I was twelve years old at the time and my PC probably couldn’t handle it (it was not a good PC). I most definitely would not have had any patience with the battle system; 2nd Edition D&D is a pain and I’d have gotten fed up with dice rolls. At the time, I suppose I needed a little more...immediacy in my gaming. In 1998 my game time was spent mostly shooting or punching things, although I liked JRPG’s. Baldur’s Gate is simply the kind of game I wouldn’t have grasped.
So I think it’s pretty cool that the game would be remade (kind of) at a time when I could better appreciate it. Having played (and become a fan of) games like Dragon Age helped me better understand Baldur’s Gate when I bought it to see what the decade and a half fuss was all about. And the game holds up pretty great; the combat is still hard to grasp for a newcomer like I was, but I’m talking more about the world, and characterization. Although set in what could be called a “typical” fantasy setting, there’s something believable and real in the characters and their interactions. Party members of conflicting alignments (Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil and everything in between) argue while you’re traveling, and they may even force you to choose a side, turning on you and such.
That’s amazing, even today. Maybe you don’t think it is, but I do. That’s the kind of feature you don’t really see in games even today. This is all made possible by the game’s excellent writing and dialogue. Voice acting, as well, is great in that sometimes over-the-top kind of way. And it’s an intriguing enough world to make me want to find out what the hell is going on. It’s also the reason I’m addicted to Pillars of Eternity.
Baldur’s Gate, Enhanced Edition or not, is still quite old-fashioned, and it’s not for everyone, although the new version adds a Story Mode which lets you see the story without dying. That’s pretty cool. It’s worth experiencing, either way, and I’m pretty glad I eventually got around to it. It’s never too late to catch up on anything.
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Next week’s game is another game I didn’t appreciate until years later, although this one I liked when I first rented it. The entire plot is: you smash stuff so nobody dies.