Lets go back in 1998 so we can play Baldur’s Gate: Tale of the Sword Coast together. A Dungeon and Dragons Role-Playing Game developed by BioWare Corp and published by Black Isle Studio and Interplay Entertainment. BG for the intimate, still stands to this day as the RPG that changed the face of genre in the Western world. Well loved DnD settings of Forgotten Realms, an intriguing storyline, memorable characters and solid gameplay has kept me playing and replaying this game over the last 12 years (at least once a year, actually).
Being a DnD Advanced 2nd game, most of the gameplay reflects the pen & paper rule set with a few modifications, but unlike most DnD adaptations, BioWare went for a phased combat over a turn based one. The characters’ turns are all phased and the player can pause manually to give orders to his party when needed. It is still possible, using the game option, to set the game into true turn based mode. Throughout the game, players find magical items, scrolls and potions to help their party in their adventurers.
The rules might seems a bit complicated for people who aren’t used to this type of games, but the manual explain everything you need to know about the system. I spent hours reading that manual, something I rarely do with recent games, mostly because 15 pages can’t compare to 200+ pages. In terms of gameplay, the party is the backbone of the game. Players created one character and in the game world could fill the party’s free slot with non-playable characters (NPC) especially designed to advance the story or offer playful banter. They are not just combat units, they have personalities and story attached to them that you can learn while playing, if you desire to do so.
The is the part were BG shines, the story and characters present through out the game. Jaheira, Minsc, Viconia and “friends” were so memorable that I still remember their names and their battle cries to this day: “Go for the eyes, Boo, Go for the eyes!” . OK, the frequent replaying helps as well. The overarching story is also well done and the world is vibrant with life and filled with interesting side quests. The minimal voice acting is also well done and help in setting the moods and personalities of the various NPCs. The world to explore is also very large and quite a few hours are required to see it all. The encounters are entertaining and the game isn’t without it own type of humor as well.
Overall, Baldur’s Gate mixed the older dungeon crawler RPG with the Japanese RPG storytelling strength. Despite being an older game, Baldur’s Gate still plays really well on modern PCs, as long as you find the right mods to fix a few problems with modern hardware. The game was recently re-released, after years in licensing limbo, on www.GoG.com not long ago and it includes the fixes to make it run correctly on recent operating systems. For 10 bucks, it is well worth the price and download.