Baldur's Gate Is a Ripoff of the Original Star Wars Trilogy

Bill Dungsroman 03/18/2003 

You Don't Believe Me, Do You?

That's okay, you will. As I will explain, the themes, the characters, and the major plot points of the Baldur's Gate games are all incredibly similar to or downright shameless plagiarisms of the original Star Wars trilogy. Even the name "Baldur's Gate" is a possessive pronoun-noun doublet, just like "Star Wars!" Not proof enough? Well, listen to this:

Star Wars / Baldur's Gate

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? Maybe; how about "Along an artificial timeline in a Realm since Forgotten?" Baldur's Gate (BG1) opens with a movie where the evil Sarevok (a dark, foreboding figure with a helmet and a deep voice) chases down and kills one of his half-brother Bhaalspawn, some wimpy faggot, in order to single himself out as the only child of Bhaal. The opening scene in Star Wars (SW) has the evil Darth Vader chasing a Rebel spaceship, some forgettable clunky thing, to secure the plans to the Death Star and regain absolute control of the galaxy. Note that Vader wants to be the last remaining Jedi as well.

Quick: Which one said "We were made to suffer; it's our lot in life" and which one said "If there is no better?"
Although the sequential introduction of several of the main characters at this point differs between the two, the characters in question have obvious parallels. We have the main character in BG1 (referred to hereafter as BGMC) and Luke Skywalker living a peaceful if stifling existence in the idyllic yet rough Candlekeep and Tatooine, respectively. Then, evil appears and disrupts them from their lives in a manner that is both horrifying yet strangely appellate to their innermost desires for adventure and excitement. As Luke's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are slain, so is BGMC's adoptive father Gorion, forcing a nervous exodus from home. This journey is assisted by two wacky sidekicks: a Nervous Nellie who constantly complains yet is capable of feats of unwitting bravery (C3PO / Khalid, whose voices are nearly identical) and his stoic mate who is only useful in very specific circumstances (R2D2 / Jaheira and her Druidic skills).

Into the garbage chute, flyboy!
Along the way, a wise old "wizard" (a term used in both the game and the film) provides guidance (Obi Wan / Elminster). They prepare for their journey in a bar (Mos Eisley's Cantina / The Friendly Arm Inn) where they have a sudden and violent struggle (Walrus Man / Tarnesh the bounty hunter) before leaving. Note that bounty hunters play a significant role in both BG1 and The Empire Strikes Back (TESB). The Luke Skywalker / Han Solo dichotomy of personality types is accounted for in BGMC's persona as a whole, as a player of BG may adopt any sort of character, whether it be a swordsmith, mage, or both (Jedi), or a more unconventional rogue type (Corellian Smuggler). The focus of Luke as the more main character in the films is apparent in that most players of BG1 choose the Paladin or Fighter/Mage, and many players of BG2 choose Kensai/Mage (as they have proven to be the more powerful character types in the games), all of which are quite similar to the martial-and-magic credos and abilities of a Jedi. Another popular BG2 character type is the Swashbuckler/Mage, which magnificently combines the Luke and Han characters. Imoen helps to provide the rogue character type as well. Along the way a large, barely intelligible yet fiercely loyal sidekick is acquired (Chewbacca / Minsc). Although there is a major timeline discrepancy here comparing halfway between SW and Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (BG2) instead of BG1, it cannot be overlooked that a major plot point is the rescue of the major female character (Princess Leia / Imoen). There's even a closing wall trap in Spellhold, just like the trash compactor from SW.

Come on. Who didn't think ‘Luke, I am your father' during this bit?
All of this culminates in a final siege of a large, overbearing structure (Death Star / City of Baldur's Gate) where the good guys – a cadre of the main characters and some random comrades (Rebels / Palace Guards) – fight the main evil character and some random henchmen (Storm Troopers / doppelgangers). Evil is defeated, and although it's actually a comparison between the finale of BG1 and the finale of TESB, the parallel is ridiculously apparent: Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke's father as Sarevok reveals that he is BGMC's brother, and thus are their destinies intertwined by blood. Finally, the overall theme between the two is strikingly similar: plucky young hero unwittingly follows his destiny to defeat, with the help of some oddball sidekicks, an antagonist who (most importantly) turns out to be closely related to him.

The Empire Strikes Back / Baldur's Gate 2

After some intermittent period of time passes (as explained in TESB's opening crawl and BG2's opening movie), Luke gets captured by the Wompa beast and BGMC is captured by Jon Irenicus (who becomes the surrogate antagonist for Darth Vader). Freedom is secured by Han Solo and Imoen (as rogue types operating outside normal rules and constraints) as a battle begins to reach a fever pitch (the Imperial assault on Hoth / the Shadow Thieves' assault on Irenicus' Dungeon in Athkatla). Khalid is found torn apart on a rack as C3PO is found blown apart later in TESB. The heroes barely escape.

"Build you a special magic item I will. Improve your sword I can."
Luke's story in the first half of TESB is paralleled in BG2 by the fairly quick (for the AD&D rules set) leveling up of BGMC. Interestingly enough, part of Luke's training is to defeat an apparition of Vader, while in the beginning of the BG2 expansion Throne of Bhaal (ToB), BGMC must defeat an apparition of Irenicus. This is done in a comfortable yet threatening place in the middle of nowhere (Dagobah / The Pocket Plane) where an annoying yet powerful little beast makes comments in a stupid voice (Yoda / Cespenar the Imp) and has a penchant for noodling around in other's belongings.

As for Han, Leia, and the rest, their flight from the Empire leads them on various side adventures, much like the optional side quests in BG2. Eventually they take flight to a strange place (Cloud City above Bespin / Spellhold above Brynnlaw) and suffer a betrayal by a supposed ally who didn't seem all that trustworthy to begin with (Lando Calrissian / Saemon Havarian).

"There is…another."
In a climactic confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist, a battle takes place and something very personal is lost (Vader cuts off Luke's hand / Irenicus steals BGMC's soul). The capture of Han Solo parallels the loss of that wild, young, carefree spirit that BGMC loses when his soul is stolen, and he realizes how serious and dire his life and the consequences of his actions have become. Notice at this point in the game BGMC gains the ability to become the Slayer, an ability to embrace his "dark side" if you will, which makes him exponentially more powerful but is far from consequence in doing so. And, although another timeline discrepancy exists – in this case between the halfway point of BG2 and the finale of Return of the Jedi (RotJ) – it cannot be overlooked that the main male and female characters are revealed to be brother and sister. The betraying character, realizing the implications of his treachery, tries to help out of contrition (Lando helps Leia and Co. escape Cloud City / Saemon helps BGMC and Co. escape Spellhold). It should be noted at this point that the events in BG2 overlap into RotJ. Regardless, notice how the overall theme of TESB and the first half of BG2 share striking similarity: the heroes face their most difficult challenges and do not emerge unscathed, and a final confrontation is pending.

Return of the Jedi / Baldur's Gate 2

In the beginning of RotJ, the heroes go in disguise to free Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt and his bounty hunter ilk. In the second half of BG2, the heroes go in disguise to free Adalon the silver dragon's eggs from the clutches of Ust Natha's Matron Mother and her Drow ilk. After some dangerous trials (Leia as a bounty hunter, Luke and the Rancor beast / the Kuo Toa/Beholder/Illithid dungeons, Jarlaxle the lich), the heroes are brought to a confrontation with a large scary monster (Sarlacc / a summoned demon). All hell breaks loose thanks to a supposedly non-threatening supporting character's assistance with an important item (Soulafein and the fake dragon eggs / R2D2 and Luke's light saber – both of whom were masquerading as unwilling allies of the enemy) at a critical point, which results in the doom and downfall of the entire collection of antagonists (Jabba and his skiff / the Matron Mother and Ust Natha), and the heroes escape.

Small, annoying woodland creatures help move both plots along.
After some fiddling around, the heroes decide an assault is needed on the major antagonist's base (Death Star II / Suldanesslar) to defeat him once and for all. A venerable military leader is introduced to the story to fill in the heroes of the present circumstances (General Nadine / Elven Commander Elhan) as a more powerful but nonmilitary female leader presides over the affairs (Mon Mothma / Queen Ellisime). The heroes must figure out a secret way of lowering the base's defenses (or just plain finding it) somehow. Luke and Co. infiltrate Endor's forest moon with the help of some Ewoks and shut off the Death Star's shield after battling a contingent of Imperial troops so that the Rebels may attack. Similarly, BGMC and his party infiltrate Bodhi's secret vampire lair with the help of Drizz't and his band to secure the Rynn Lanthorn after battling her and her vampires so that the Elves may attack (themselves in the forest of Tethyr). Note that Vader's #1 henchman, Boba Fett, is killed earlier in RotJ, whereas Irenicus' #1 henchperson, Bodhi, is killed at this point. But, regardless of any battling the Ewoks and Elves do, naturally it's up to Luke and BGMC to ultimately defeat the evil first-hand. Here, some bizarre BG2/ToB parallels appear in the same RotJ scene, the final confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor. Luke is tempted to join the dark side (such as BGMC is tempted to accept his role as the new God of Murder), and is nearly killed by an even more powerful evil (the Emperor / Amelyssan), one that appeared benevolent earlier on in the story (Senator Palpatine in the second SW trilogy / Melissa at Saradush) before revealing its true nature later. Lots of force power (magic) is used in the ensuing battle. Vader regains his humanity and helps Luke (like Sarevok's resurrection at the beginning of ToB) beat the Emperor. Defeating the greater evil assists the rest of the heroes in defeating the remaining evil forces, and the good guys win.

Now, Lucas has admitted to borrowing from Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth and The Hero With a Thousand Faces to draw up the classic tale of heroism that both Star Wars (and, arguably, Baldur's Gate as well) are. As such, one may be willing to forgive the similarity in general thematic elements. However, the specifics are hard to overlook. And the biggest subversive coup is that Black Isle Studios is going to make a Star Wars RPG!

But they already did, didn't they?

Bill Dungsroman