Every once in a while, a
game comes along that becomes a blockbuster. It could be any kind of
game, any genre or type. Their only common denominator is that they
somehow catch the greater audience's interest and manages to hold it
long after newer games are released, so people can look back at it,
and think of the times when you played it for the first time with
fondness. It could be the brand new kind of graphics, a new
experimental idea that turned out to be incredibly successful, or
maybe just the atmosphere of the game. Whatever it is, it was
something that managed to hold gamers up til 4 at night, even though
you had to work or go to school the day after.
One such game is Baldur's Gate, which many refer to as a "rebirth"
for role-playing-games, as the genre was stagnant for a long time in
the 90's, until this came along. There were other games too, yes,
such as Diablo, but even if they might have been fun, they were
nothing more than action-games with some RPG-elements.
When Baldur's Gate was released in 1998, though, it was just what
was needed for the genre to make a huge leap, and suddenly we were
surrounded by RPG's, of varying quality, many of them clones of each
It would be very interesting to to look at the game that started
this revival, though, and that is exactly what will happen. Prepare
to enter the Forgotten Realms, the Sword Coast, and ultimately also
the city in which all the events in the game come to a climax,
The installation process of the game goes smooth, where you can
choose what things of the game you wish to install. I always chose
the maximum option, though (1,5 GB), since I did not want to have to
change CD's between the areas in the game.
Entering the game, you are presented with an intriguing and ominous
intro-scene, giving you the impression that something dark is
looming by the horizon, and whatever it is, you will surely be
involved in it, in some way (wouldn't be much of a game otherwise,
Before starting the game, you can create your own character, or use
one of the pre-configured ones - although I doubt anyone uses those.
You can choose between a number of classes, his/her weapon
proficiencies and distribute their attribute points in whatever way
you feel like, creating a unique character. You can also choose more
physical properties, such as your character's face and his/her
soundset, and also import your own of these, although I never did.
When you're satisfied with your PC (as it will be called hereafter,
from Player Character), you're off into the game, to a not so
You start in the secluded Candlekeep, where you have lived all your
years, and are on the brink of man/womanhood. Here, you have lived
and studied as you have grown by your foster father Gorion. This is
all told in the "narrator"-sequence (more about those later). When
the game starts, you get to know that your foster father has sent
word to meet you. You can, however, take some time to familiarize
yourself with the game first, by talking to the different sages
around you, who will provide help on some topics about for example
Except for this, there are also some errands to run, where you can
learn how to keep track of quests in your journal, and how to gain
Last, you can also practice the combat system in a number of places.
This is done in a good way, so it feels as if it is a normal thing
to do, instead of having it forced upon you.
The familiarizing part of the game is very non-intruding and you can
always skip whatever you don't feel like doing. It is not something
you have to go through every time you play the game, such as the
case was with for example Black and White.
After you after a lot of petty tasks and deflecting an attempt on
your life you finally meet up with Gorion, and you leave Candlekeep
together. To make a long story short, he is murdered in an ambush by
a huge imposing figure, who was only intent on having your life. For
what reason, you don't know. You wake up the day after the ambush,
which you managed to escape, and this is where the game begins.
The first thing that happens is that you meet a friend of yours (who
you also met earlier in Candlekeep), and she becomes your trusty
companion throughout the whole ordeal. Later, you will pick up more
NPC's, and some are even story-related, although others are not.
These NPC's doesn't feel much like the normal braindead soulless
characters we usually see, and even if they are not of the quality
of Planescape: Torment or the game's own sequel, they still feel as
if they are not simply a soundset, a portrait, and a character class
packed together. They have a few conversations of their own, and
will reflect on your reputation in the game (how "good" or "evil"
The world in which the game is played is a part of the Forgotten
Realms, namely the Sword Coast. The game consists of probably over a
hundred game areas, ranging from forests to stinking slums in
cities. These surroundings are not rendered, but painted, and it
makes it very nice to look at. Sometimes, this in combination with
the occasional thunderstorm makes you put your headphones on and
turn the volume up real loud so you can just sit and enjoy the
atmosphere, wondering where the nearest cave might be for you to
take shelter in.
Talking about such things, the sound effects are very well done,
especially the ambient and background ones. You can hear birds
chirping and rickets playing at night when in a forest, and the busy
sounds of city and street life when you are in a city.
In caves, there is always the faint sound of dripping, and the
muffled sounds of wings, probably from small bats, but maybe you.
You can never be sure what awaits you in the darkness ahead.
It is in this world you experience the game, and it is a very long
journey. There are many quests to undertake, and some are found at a
total random in the wilderness, and other ones are of significance
to the story itself, but there are many, many sub-and non-related
quests as well.
Unfortunately, many of these are merely errand-quests, without
anything exciting that way, but the exploration which you will
experience as part of it makes up for it. It does become tedious,
however, when you have to run through endless woods, only to deliver
something to another person. Kind of like the Bloodmoon-expansion to
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, in the forest there.
The game is played with a party (or solo) of up to 6 people, each
with their own characteristics and attributes. You can change
everyone's armor, spells and even the AI-script, so no longer is it
just your character who is the "most important" one, where the
other's only help you, but you actually control the entire group as
much as you control your own PC.
There is a big problem with this party-oriented gameplay though, and
it is small spaces. People will get stuck, the pathfinding is kind
of bad to be honest (even though a patch was released to fix it),
and you will get frustrated many, many times when battling in small
spaces. It is a good thing, then, that not much of the game takes
place in cramped areas.
The interface takes some time to learn, but once learned, it is very
logical. Magic spells is handled well by either using quick-spell
slots or a special spell-button where you then choose between your
The most useful feature, and what was very new at the time, is the
ability to pause the entire game so you get a chance to think things
through and give your orders then, before letting it resume, and
everyone do what you told them to when the game was paused.
The inventory system is well enough handled, but it gets a bit messy
at times, as there is no way to divide it into different sections or
such, but feels as if it all lies in one big heap. One thing about
the inventory system is that if you enter it during battle, the game
can not be paused, and you can not change armor. Some have
complained about this, but personally I liked it, since it made you
think things through and prepare before rushing into battle.
The sound is, as already mentioned, of very good quality. Besides
the background sounds, the sound effects of fighting are pretty
good. People grunt or scream when they are hit by something and they
cry battlecries before and during battle. The magic effects feels
just right, with the typical chanting before, and then the release,
with the burning effects of a fireball or sizzling of lightning
The voices in the game are also top-notch, and especially the
narrator (who also plays the mail villain). This narrator is the one
who between chapters and sometimes in chapters during a sequence
tells you about the story, as if reading it from a book written in
first person, present time. He adds a lot to the atmosphere, with
his slightly hoarse, very intriguing voice acting.
The music is, however, the strongest part of the audio in the game.
It is composed by Michael Hoenig, a German composer, and in the same
style as majestic films, like Lord of the Rings. Ranging from the
medieval-style market music in small cities and villages to the
oppressing and snow tunes when trudging through forests or
mountains, it is really a work of art. I would also give him an
award for managing to create the music with most atmosphere in,
namely the "Fort" one. You who have played the game and been at the
Gnoll Stronghold, among other places, know which one I'm talking
about. It's almost so thick that you can touch it.
As for the graphics, they are dated, yes, but they still serve their
purpose, and does nothing to decrease the fun-factor of the game. It
may not be as detailed as newer games, or with the same kind of
effects, but it is smooth, and combined with the beautiful
backgrounds and weather effects, it has the ability to still capture
As for bugs, I did not notice many. The infinity-engine has a
peculiar ability to mess up quests and other things by suddenly
removing people, making them unable to talk to and the likes that
deals with characters and their connections to quest. It is very
instable, but I can not think of a single one that occurred while I
was playing BG. I did experience a crash-bug, but it was a few times
in a matter of months, so it does not count for much.
The stable gameplay and a very intriguing story combined with good
graphical atmospheric features and involving sounds make for an
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