15 September 2011

Baldurs Gate, Tales of the Sword Coast, Baldurs Gate II

The game that really started the Forgotten Realms RPG trend  in the late 90's was Baldurs Gate 1. Released back in 1998. That was a great time for RPG's. Fallout 1 had just been released the previous year and gamers were in for a lot of really damn good games over the couple of years to come.

These were games that you could spend 50+ hours on to beat them, and a few dozen more hours to finish most of the side quests. So really good value for money. Baldurs Gate 1 being the oldest looks the most dated, the technique of painted backdrops had not been fully developed yet making it the hardest on the eye out of the whole bunch. But if you are able to play games like Fallout 1 and 2 even today, based upon their superior gameplay, you will be able to play Baldurs Gate 1 as well.

The difference between Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale as I wrote yesterday, is that in Icewind Dale you create a party while in Baldurs Gate you only create a single protagonist. This character will then bump into NPC's which can join you on your adventures. Both series are really good, but they are different games in what they want to achieve. What makes the Baldurs Gate series shine is the rich and at times completely overwhelming RPG experience where you get bombarded with characters, quests, locations and stuff to do.

Where the story is linear in Icewind Dale, making it easier for beginners of these type of game, Baldurs Gate pretty much throws a new quest at you with every single character interaction. Or at least that is how you will feel during the first couple of hours. Characters will join your party based upon your alignment, evil characters won't stand if you are too good, and good characters will leave when you make evil deeds. This makes it impossible to keep all characters happy, and it is also another difference from the Icewind Dale series in that all NPC's interact with you and with each other as real persons. Characters of different class or alignment will banter or seek your favor through dialogue that either initiates on its own or is initiated by you.

This of course makes it possible for the game to have a bunch of memorable characters whereas in Icewind Dale it was you as the leader of a mercenary band and only you had any impact on the choices made. In Baldurs Gate you have the constantly nagging Imoen and the deranged ranger Minsc and his pet hamster which he talks to all the time. The main quest is about finding the killer of your father and clearing your name as you have been accused of murder. It is also a story about finding out details about your true past and origin which is not entirely human.

The main attraction of the game was the huge multi district city of Baldurs Gate, the game also features numerous locations in the countryside such as land marks and smaller villages that could be visited and played an important part in the main quest.

The Tales of the Sword Coast, is very similar to the Heart of Winter expansion for Icewind Dale. TotSC added additional areas and features to the main game. It didn't change the main plot and the quests from the expansion could be finished as you were playing the core game. It added a really great secluded location with a village where something is horribly wrong and I just loved how that "weirded out" feeling turned into a real threat.

Baldurs Gate II is the sequel, and considered the "masterpiece" of all these games. It had heavily refined graphics and backgrounds. Effects looked prettier and the story was even grander in scope. It continued directly upon the BG:1 idea of the origin of the main  character, and you soon run into some old friends from the first game such as Imoen and Minsc but also a few other characters from the previous title that area spread out all over the game. There is also a bunch of completely new characters. The story takes place in a new geographic location around the city of Athkatla and much of the main story is centered around trying to figure out who and why Imoen has been captured and who the hell Jon Irenicus is and what he wants with you.

In terms of intrigues, scheming, characters, quests and RPG elements I can agree that Baldurs Gate II really is a superior game. There are so many locations here, Athkatla is just like Baldurs Gate divided into districts but each district is larger and has more locations in it than you can imagine. Add to that the sewers, hidden rooms and you will be spending a LOT Of time just exploring and doing side quests which is the best part of the game. There are numerous really good quests such as you trying to catch a serial killer who skins his victims, trying to pick sides in a war between vampires and the city Thieves Guild, looking into the dark shadow which has befallen the countryside and lots more. I can safely say that games like this are no longer being made.

I never got around to play the Baldurs Gate II expansion "Throne of Baal" but I did obtain it last month and plan to replay the game with the expansion soon enough.

There is no modern game that I can think of that is half as deep as Baldurs Gate II.
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is probably the closest (Bethesda’s best RPG game , and much better than Oblivion or "Fallout" 3). Sure, we do get good RPG games Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher 1 & 2, Dragon Age 1 and such. But it is not only nostalgia speaking when I say that the new breed of modern RPG games is much less intricate and detailed than those late 90's early 2000 RPG titles. Luckily most of those good old games still work on a modern PC with a bit of patching or running in "compatibility mode".

5 comments:

  1. Brings back memories, I played all these games right through and loved every minute, great games.

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  2. And they still hold up really well today, I pretty much play through them all once per year :-)

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  3. Top tip if your going to play Baldurs gate 1 or 2, if you want to have more than one character in game which you have created, just play the game in Multiplayer Lan, lets you add as many user created characters as you like. Also lets you "boost" new characters buy bringing decent kit from an old save into a new game. Despite the naff graphics I still love Baldurs gate, I can never face playing the first section of Baldurs gate 2 though.

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  4. Agree on the first section of BG2 being a pain in the ass. But after that, it is a great game :D

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  5. How nice to read a review about Baldur's Gate. I played this game to pieces back when it first came out and still remember those times fondly...

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