Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

A Trip Back to Baldur’s Gate

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 20, 2012

BGEE1I started a new game of Baldur’s Gate earlier this year, after finally purchasing a new copy of the game from GOG.COM (I still have it on CD-ROM, plus the expansion, but there was too good of a sale one day at GOG.COM with a convenient digital download and extras). I didn’t get far before the Enhanced Edition was announced, so I quit playing and waited.

Sadly, the Enhanced Edition came out while I was knee-deep in Day Job stuff, so I haven’t been able to play it much. On the plus side, Beamdog seems really busy with the patches, so I may be missing out on some of the less amusing new “changes” that people have been reporting.

Baldur’s Gate was, in my mind, the weakest of the Infinity Engine games – which includes the Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment. And of course Baldur’s Gate II, which was to me something of a magnum opus for D&D-based games, one of my all-time favorites and a game of such scope and detail (a rare combo) that it’s what I think of when I think “epic.” All of the games were pretty dang awesome, but Baldur’s Gate was the one that established the engine & style.  It in many ways defined the course that Bioware would take as it evolved a particular “style” of RPGs.

One of the very cool things about the original Baldur’s Gate is that while it has plenty of polish appropriate to a high-end RPG of its era, and its fundamental mechanics are derived from a time-tested game system, the game still feels pretty “raw” design-wise, particularly in the early stages after leaving Candlekeep through about mid-game.  Surviving long enough to hit the more survivable third level or so is a chore that requires more luck (and reloads) than skill. The quest design, such as it is, is rough. It feels a lot like a grab-bag of a ton of ideas of what an RPG should be like, thrown together in a stone-soup of a game that only barely ties all this random stuff together in some semblance of an actual storyline.

And to be honest, I love the game for just that reason.

Not that I have anything against tight, focused RPGs. But for many of the same reasons I love indie RPGs, there’s a vibrancy in this game – a raw enthusiasm and passion that hasn’t been too heavily tempered yet by experience – that is missing in many of Bioware’s later titles. More particularly, things haven’t had a chance to get reduced to (far easier to develop and maintain) formulas yet. It’s rough and crazy and somewhat unpredictable (and even confusing) at times.  And sometimes downright annoying (frickin’ kobolds…). But they hadn’t developed the “rules” for presenting quests or how to handle certain situations yet, and it left things feeling rough, but open. I really enjoy that.

Maybe I’m just weird this way because of my background – playing dice-and-paper D&D with gamers of varying levels of skill and experience. I played in a couple of games that were sheer disasters from the get-go. Others were really pretty fantastic. But I love the anything-goes mentality, and have a preference for those games that embrace that same mentality. In some cases, they did so just because they were the first of a series and system and were still making up the rules as they went.


Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Samir said,

    Baldur’s Gate 2 – still my favorite CRPG of the century so far.

  • Captain Kal said,

    I am playing the EasyTuTu version (BG1 in the BG2 engine), with the widescreen patch (1280×720, although sometimes I use my native resolution 1920×1080). I created an elf archer with high dexterity, and it was easy to get to higher levels. But it’s a game that requires tactics. I always send a fast character to explore, and the other characters, stay behind to create an ambush. If the first character finds enemies, he retreats. The enemy units usually follow him but most of the time, and then are easily dispatched with bows and slings.

  • Anon said,

    “But they hadn’t developed the “rules” for presenting quests or how to handle certain situations yet, and it left things feeling rough, but open. I really enjoy that.”


  • Michael Brough said,

    Yeah, I’ve ranted before about how I feel like this kind of raw/immature work is undervalued. It’s so exciting to dive into the mad froth of barely-formed ideas, rather than the slick polished productions of sequels to sequels to sequels.