Baldur's Gate

Bill Dungsroman 05/18/2003 

Why Anyone Should Care About This Game

If you’ve never swung a stick around in your backyard and pretended it was a sword or magic wand and you were valiantly defeating a mighty beast of legend, then you are sadly not gay enough to occupy bandwidth on the internet. Would you please kindly leave? Those of us old enough can still dimly recall the days when nobody owned a PC, and if they did, were lucky to play a thrilling round of Zork or Oregon Trail. Nothing against those trailblazing games, but you could only type >HIT TROLL WITH SWORD or >BANG as fast as you could for so long before the thrill wore off a bit. So then you pulled out your Dungeons & Dragons pen and paper 18th level Paladin and hashed it out with a horde of trolls using the only slightly-less annoying interface of your pal Mikey, because he had all the fucking overpriced books and modules. In time, the preordained gay synergy that was destined to happen between computer games and D&D would come to pass, to the unmitigated joy of every idiot who has cut his hand trying to carve eyeholes in a paint bucket to make a helmet, or ruined his mother’s sheets decorating his “mage robes” with little stars and shit. SSI’s games made using the coveted license from TSR were as good as a computer RPG was likely to get at the time, i.e. rolling up a party of fruity characters and exploring dungeons, with the gold ring here being that you did it ALL BY YOURSELF without the pesky interference of other human beings. And the Next Big Step was accomplished with Interplay/Bioware/Black Isle Studio’s effort, Baldur’s Gate (BG1). And the point of this long-winded introduction to this review is to give this game its proper place in gaming history, to make official note of the void it filled when it was released, before going into chapter and verse of how it’s ultimately pretty stupid and poorly-constructed, despite that it sold millions of copies, won dozens of awards, set up a franchise, and put all three companies involved with its creation on the map. So if you play it, you can be a part of gaming history! Or something.

Candlekeep: The Gayest-Named Keep Ever

Candlekeep’s library must be like a weird mirror image of a real one: the majority of the place is stocked with D&D books, with only a small section of other stuff. In a corner are some dorks playing a popular RPG of the Realms, Cubicles & Car Payments. My mom says that game is evil.
Your epic story begins in the famous Candlekeep, which is apparently the nerdiest keep along the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms. Instead of boasting a large, impressive garrison, it has the biggest library. I’m sure it turns out mythical heroes BY THE PLATOON with credentials like that. Regardless, Candlekeep is a good enough starting point for your Level One loser to get his bearings and for you to get comfortable with the interface. Robed fruity “wizards” pop up to help as a kind of lame in-game tutorial (yes, “Help Wizards,” this game oozes clever), to advise you how to do practically everything in the game. One hint: even though your adopted father Gorion tells you to meet him at the library immediately, make that the absolute last thing you do. There are several little quests you can do in Candlekeep to get you cash and supplies, but they aren’t all that evident without some poking around. I made that mistake and wound up outside in the forest at the start of Chapter 2 with about 25 gold and a fucking stick. Don’t be that guy. For that matter, always keep in mind throughout the game that nothing at all is urgent.

Hey, Why Does the Inside of this Dungeon Look Like My Desktop? I Cast Magic Missile on the AOL Icon!

A surprise mini-quest often appears in the game, testing your ability to reload your last saved game without putting your fist through the monitor. Fewer tests of will have been so arduous.
Before attempting to play this game, make sure it’s patched. By now there’s a fully patched version with Tales of the Sword Coast (TotSC) expansion bundled in, so you should be okay as much as you can be. How much is that? Not much, since the game will still crash often. Maybe a newer version is more stable than the one I ran on my old P2 300, because that one crashed literally every half hour. Every tenth crash or so, it locked. Anyway, the take-home point is to save often, often, often. I haven’t run this game on a newer rig, so probably the annoying memory drain that slows saves and loads to a near-standstill later in the game isn’t a problem anymore. The good news is, this game is so old and was so popular, all other issues have mostly been resolved by now. ought to have whatever you might need, plus a still-active forum to ask your dumb n00b questions in.

Our Crack Team of Four Has Four Levels of Experience Combined!

The lamest monsters of D&D lore will kill you with ease. God forbid you accidentally stumble upon something tougher.
After some story progression (a story that will become less prescient and more boring as the game goes on), what to do next is pretty obvious, minus some fruit in a little wizard robe actually spelling it out for you. You should get used to checking your journal after any conversation that tells you your journal has been updated, since I somehow rarely got the point of a conversation with someone. After getting your first NPCs, for a total of four of you, the game proper kicks in. Your first real quest is to not get your weak ass killed trying to get to the next fucking town. A hint: don’t travel at night. A handful of hobgoblins or kobolds will smoke you if they have archers, and they will have archers. Don’t even think about exploring a dungeon yet, Conan.

Following the game proper will get you into contact with a decent range of NPCs, so there will be plenty of complementary party members for your main character. However, I suggest being a mage, since the mage choices among NPCs are pretty lame. For whatever reason, NPC mages in this game can only learn certain spells and not others, including esoteric ones like, say, Magic Missile and Identify. Which spells are disallowed vary from mage to mage, and you won’t know until you’ve tried to write a particular spell to your stupid little book and you keep failing to, no matter how many times you reload and retry. As a side note, you might fail anyway, so in addition to saving so you won’t lose a game due to a crash, you need to save before every single attempt to memorize a spell. Also, some NPCs come as a “team,” so that you “can’t” get one without the other. I say “can’t” because you can just unequip the guy and knife him, or let him charge into battle to die, and then PRESTO you have the one NPC you want.

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