Reviews: Baldurs Gate

Baldur's Gate: A meager experience stretched thin and a prologue to a better game.

When people say they love Baldur's Gate they actually mean Baldur's Gate 2. Baldur's Gate 2 is an RPG masterpiece that is still fun to play 15 years on. Baldur's Gate, on the other hand, is an unfocused learning exercise that straddles the line between engaging and boring, a 3 out of 5 if you will.

The plot of Baldur's Gate is that you're a hapless ward who's cast into a fantasy wilderness, and you must uncover a political conspiracy that unleashes assassins on your arse at every turn. The inner workings of the story are quite interesting although most of it is relayed through letters and books and towards the end, huge clumsy info-dumps. You can choose from a huge number of allies to join you, but beneath their skin-deep personalities they're intended as little more than expendable meat-shields

The combat is based on the 2e D&D ruleset, a self-contradictory and needlessly obtuse system that'll you just have to live with but it's not that complicated. It's easy to get burnt out playing the game as the enemies aren't too diverse, the only real challenge are Mages, and it can be really fucking annoying getting ambushed while resting. You're best weapon is the Quicksave key.

The underlying problem with Baldur's Gate is that its world is too big for the sparse content it has. It's all chaff and little wheat. You can traverse every square-inch of the Sword Coast, and all you'll find is some useless knob who tells a corny joke. Every wilderness area looks the same and there are too many maze dungeons which are a bitch to navigate. There are over a hundred sidequests and they're all bare-bones Fedex jobs which seldom feel rewarding.

If you're going to play this game then get the Enhanced Edition or install mods to remove many of the initial annoyances. Also use a save editor if a quest breaks or your stats suck. Consult a walkthrough if you don't feel like hiking blindly through the woods in search of a lost pair of boots.

Baldur's Gate is only worth finishing once but playing it gave me a greater appreciation for the sequel. Bioware learned from the first game's faults and this guided them into making Baldur's Gate 2 the memorable, hand-crafted RPG epic oozing with charm and filled with adventure that it is today.