Do You Remember Playing Baldur’s Gate?
Baldur’s Gate was a Bioware series that started up in December of 1998 and finished up in June of 2001. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, the games were isometric RPGs centered around the Bhaal-spawn, who were the children of a dead god named Bhaal. Unfortunately for the Bhaal-spawn, Bhaal was a god of murder who foresaw his own death, meaning that they were nothing more than tools meant to ensure his eventual resurrection.
Unfortunately for the rest of the setting, the Bhaal-spawn inherited something of their father’s destructive nature, with the player character being no exception to that particular rule.
In Baldur’s Gate I, the player character learned about their semi-divine heritage through their encounter with their half-brother Sarevok, who planned to become the new god of murder by feeding on the deaths from a war that he intended to start between rival powers. Meanwhile, Baldur’s Gate II saw the player character pursuing a powerful spell-caster named Irenicus, who experimented on them for the purpose of gaining sufficient power to get his revenge on his one-time home.
Finally, Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal brought the series to a close by setting up a series of fights against the most powerful of the Bhaal-spawn, culminating in a confrontation in hell to determine the final fate of the dead god of murder’s concentrated essence.
How Does Baldur’s Gate Hold Up in Modern Times?
Story-wise, the Baldur’s Gate series has managed to hold up well enough. It is far from being a contender for the position of the best-written game that can be found out there, but it is good enough that its narrative manages to be respectable even in modern times.
With that said, the storytelling of the Baldur’s Gate series suffers somewhat because it has been close to two decades since its initial release, but since isometric RPGs have not seen huge leaps and bounds, it is not so outdated that it has become unbearable.
Character-wise, the Baldur’s Gate series has managed to hold up well as well. In particular, there are still people out there who claim that Irenicus is the best video game villain of all time, which is no mean accomplishment. Partly, this is because Irenicus was an excellent mix of cold calculation and burning rage, and partly, this is because Irenicus made things very, very personal. Unfortunately, other characters have not fared as well.
Since Baldur’s Gate was a Bioware series, it should come as no surprise to learn that a lot of characters bear signs that are characteristic of that particular developer. However, those signs can be a negative rather than a positive for Bioware fans, seeing as how they are by no means as polished as their counterparts in later Bioware creations.
On top of this, it should be mentioned that Baldur’s Gate romances were rather terrible, though to be perfectly fair, most video game romances have managed to remain terrible in the time since anyways, thus making this something of a wash.
Game-play is where the Baldur’s Gate series starts to show its age. For starters, it is important to note that it runs on a digitized version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules, which came out in 1989. As a result, those rules can be rather convoluted for people who have become accustomed to their more streamlined successors from either 5th, 4th, or even 3rd Edition.
Combined with the fact that Baldur’s Gate I had the player character start at Level One, the result was that the game could be rather brutal in a very un-fun way. After all, Level One is when a low-HP player-character such as a Mage or a Priest could go down in a single hit from a single monster if the player was unlucky, thus resulting in a serious barrier of entry. Furthermore, it should be mentioned that the Baldur’s Gate series lack a lot of the little innovations that have made modern isometric RPGs much more convenient to play without sacrificing their challenge. One excellent example is the lack of tool-tips that provide useful setting information.
Meanwhile, another excellent example is the concept of a party inventory, which can be used to haul huge amounts of loot without encumbering the party members. The second is particularly irritating because Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal featured a number of fights that saw the party going up against entire armies, meaning that the lack of a party inventory made looting very unpleasant.
With that said, the Baldur’s Gate series should have one huge upside in that interested individuals should find it to be a simple and straightforward process to get it running on their computers in spite of its age. In part, this is because of its sizable fandom, which has come up with a great number of mods for it over the course of its existence.
However, it should also be noted that Beamdog has released what it calls Enhanced Editions for the entire series, which should run on a wide range of modern platforms with no problems whatsoever. Unfortunately, the Enhanced Editions have created their fair share of controversy within the Baldur’s Gate fandom because Beamdog added new content that has been met with hostility from a surprising number of fans out there, which seems a bit overblown considering how simple it is to avoid it.
On the whole, the Baldur’s Gate series has managed to hold up well. However, its story isn’t so good that it is worthwhile to put up with its game-play unless people are interested in isometric RPGs. Fortunately, if people are interested in seeing what Baldur’s Gate is like, it shouldn’t be that much of a challenge for them to get a copy of the games on their platform of choice. Moreover, if they find the Enhanced Editions to be well-suited for their personal preferences, they might want to check out Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, which was an expansion situated between Baldur’s Gate I and II that was released in recent times.