Baldur’s Gate Review: An Adventurer’s Tale
So it seems it has been a couple of weeks since I have last posted, and there are a couple of major reasons why. First reason being that school has been picking up for me lately. School began for me in mid-August, but the last couple weeks have been even busier with the increasing homework load and the start of my evening calculus class. I’ve been adjusting to my schedule and truth be told it probably isn’t as bad as my last school year, but my free time is still heavily reduced nonetheless. As for the other reason, well, that’s what this post is all about. For the last month, I’ve been playing an older RPG known as Baldur’s Gate. What? A Dungeons & Dragons RPG on an anime blog? Well, truth be told this isn’t something that I’m familiar with either, and I really didn’t know what to expect going into this at all. Only reason I played this in the first place was because a friend recommended it to me, and I have no idea if I would ever have even heard of it otherwise. Maybe one of you has actually played this as well, and if not this might just be a different type of game to try out. It’s certainly well worth it, but be warned: this game will take quite a long time, even more so if (like me) you plan to play the second game as well. I have yet to start that, as there are a few other things I plan to watch before I get to it, but the first Baldur’s Gate has enough to talk about anyway.
So Baldur’s Gate, as mentioned before, is a D&D type RPG. First thing you do is create your character, and it turns out there’s actually a lot of customization to do beforehand (skill class, alignment, stats, etc.), and since I’m personally not familiar with that sort of customization it was a lot to take in. After all the prerequisite stuff is taken care of, you begin in the village of Candlekeep, where you (probably, at least it’d be good to) go about doing a few random quests before your foster father, Gorion, tells you that you must escape from the village for yet untold reasons. One night, you and Gorion escape, although things don’t go as planned, to say the very least. You manage to escape, but Gorion is killed protecting you from a shady group of individuals. From this point, you’re left to go look into what is going on and get some assistance from a bunch of potential party members that you encounter throughout the game. As the game goes on, you learn more about a much larger conspiracy than you expected, and even the player character him/herself ends up becoming very important to everything that happens.
As far as the story goes, it’s relatively straightforward and there isn’t a whole lot to look into. You and your group of companions explore the world looking into a bunch of strange happenings affecting the region and go on epic adventuring and fighting in the process. There is a long journey to be expected and much to explore in the process of finding out why you’re being targeted and what is happening behind the scenes, but there isn’t much depth to the story itself. To put it simply, the story is basically you foiling the schemes of some evil individuals and having intense fights in the process. The plot is sufficient for a game of this sort, and in the first place the story probably isn’t the main thing you’ll want to be invested in to begin with. It’s far from the greatest story out there, but when you’ve got a game like this, it probably isn’t that necessary.
There is a bit more offered as far as characters go. Truth be told there isn’t a whole lot of development, as many of the NPCs have their lines of dialogue (some more interesting than others) and do make the experience more entertaining, but don’t necessarily affect the main storyline a great deal. Most of them simply fill the role of party members who help make your fights easier with a variety of abilities, and though they definitely have very distinct personalities, you probably won’t get extremely attached to them since most of them don’t express a whole lot of depth in this game. There are some interesting things to discover as far as the origins of the player character, but even then the player character’s personality is really decided by the choices you make in-game above all else. But what I can say about the characters is that there’s so much variety. There’s a huge selection of possible NPCs that can join your party, and that means replay value is quite high seeing as how there are a number of possibilities as far as not only what characters are with you but also some of the events that take place as a result of having different characters. While it might get to the point where you’ve replayed so much that having “new” characters might mean only having a different fighter/thief/mage/etc., it still must be said that playing through Baldur’s Gate one time will not possibly allow you to experience everything that the game offers.
Well, with a story that isn’t particularly strong and a grouping of characters that present great variety but little development, one might expect that I wouldn’t enjoy this so much. Luckily for me, this is no anime, but a game, and a full-fledged game as opposed to a visual novel. I can most certainly say that the gameplay makes up for any big faults that BG has, and the gameplay really is where this shines. Controls may be relatively simple seeing as how it’s a point and click type game (although there are quite a few keyboard shortcuts apparently, though I never used them), but this is not a simple game by any means. There are all types of enemies with a bunch of abilities, so to put it simply, sticking with one strategy throughout the whole game just isn’t gonna work. Want to charge in and bash the enemy all at once? Won’t be nice when a mountain bear is (literally) ripping your group apart. Arrow spam through the whole game? Works well on some enemies, but when you find an enemy with resistance to projectiles, you’ll quickly find that won’t help, especially if it’s a mage with missile resistance. This game really does require strategy to get through certain parts, and it feels rewarding when you’re all done with a tough battle after figuring out something that really does work. Granted, I’ll concede that I did use some cheap tactics (picking off one enemy at a time and then leaving the area to recuperate truly does wonders), but it was still a genuinely challenging run all the same. And while I’m at it, I must repeat that the game’s big hook really is variety. The replay value is insane because of this variety, as your second experience can be drastically different from your first. Events in-game and rewards for quests can be affected quite a bit depending on the choices you make (some of which can be good, and others……not so much), there are many possibilities for party members to acquire, even the dream sequences you have are affected by whether or not your character leans more toward good or evil. There’s a lot to do in this game, and I can say that for me I probably missed out on quite a few of the quests in this game in my efforts to finish the main story, and even if you do go through all the quests, you won’t really see “everything” with just one playthrough, and that might just be BG’s strongest merit.
With all that said, I can certainly say I had an enjoyable experience with Baldur’s Gate. Quite different, a tad difficult to adjust to, and extremely frustrating at times, but a game that I would easily say is worthwhile in the long run. If you want to play an RPG with great replay value and challenging gameplay, give Baldur’s Gate a try. I’d say that having finished it all, Baldur’s Gate would be a high 8/10 for me. Like I said previously, I do plan on playing Baldur’s Gate II pretty soon, but there are a few things I want to catch up on before I get around to that. After all, the world of anime needs some love after I put in so much time playing this game.