Video Game Thoughts: Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate was a 1998 role-playing game by Bioware for the PC. One of my friends in elementary school picked this game up. He was reading the manual all day at school and telling me all about it. I remember I wasn’t all that interested. I played it mostly at his house at first. After some pestering, I got him to burn a copy of the game for me. This was wrong, but I didn’t care back then.

I was completely absorbed by all the lore and worldbuilding they had put into it. The world was from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons. This meant most of the background lore was already set in stone. The game developers just had to write it into the game. The story itself was original (written by Bioware), engrossing, and epic. The music was amazing too. I would listen to the soundtrack for hours and remember what happened in the story during each song.

Part of what absorbed me into the game was the difficulty level. This was a hard game. The player had a lot of freedom in the game to explore wherever they wanted. This made it very easy to go into dangerous areas that my party was not high enough level for. I could get stuck in unwinnable situations requiring me to reload a save file from an earlier point in the game or worse, requiring a restart from the very beginning to make better choices. These days this kind of difficulty would turn me away from a game, but back then it only made the game feel more realistic. This was not some fantasy where the hero always wins. This was real. The hero could die at any time. It was so hard, I cheated by using game guides to tell me what to do.

When I finally beat this game, I eagerly looked for other similar games. Luckily, the sequel, Baldur’s Gate II, had just come out. I’ll write about Baldur’s Gate II in a later entry. After this I was hooked on Bioware role-playing games. They never made better role-playing games than the Baldur’s Gate series in my eyes, but I still always loved the detailed worlds and stories in their later games.

Looking back, Baldur’s Gate was a tedious game. It doesn’t really stand the test of time. If I had never played it, I would have a hard time playing it now. I am just too spoiled by modern game design. I’m not willing to repeat the same content when I make a mistake, squint at the tiny fonts on my high resolution monitor, or even, learn this complicated rule system. I don’t care enough about any game these days to ignore that kind of tedium.

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