First of all, it’s the obligatory “why did it take so long for you to get around to play it”?
I’d got pissed off with PC gaming & all its little hassles a little bit before & simply hadn’t kept my PC up to date. So I let this game slide…. and slide…. and oh look, it’s getting sequels so it’d be silly to play those without playing the original, wouldn’t it? etc.
By the time I got back into PC gaming properly a few years into the era of Xbox & PS2, well… getting older games to run was always a bit of a dark art, and the Baldur’s Gate engine games were locked to 4×3 screens & relatively low resolutions, not to mention that it was a bit of a pain to find them in the shops. This is before digital distribution really came into it. You had to find budget or pre-owned copies on disks in stores.
You’ve played many BioWare games before now. How well do you feel they’ve developed since Baldur’s Gate?
More confident in their own systems, I think. BG, Icewind Dale etc used AD&D rule books and you can tell by the way they’re presented. Even down to having to read a magic scroll & then rest so the character could memorise it & use it later.
Baldur’s Gate has always been quite iconic. How do you feel it stands up against similar games of the period?
It has a character of its own & is a pretty good evolution of computer-as-a-rulebook which I’d played / dabbled with all the way from series like Bard’s Tale, Ultima & Pool of Radiance on Commodore C64 floppy disk. It has a very good feeling for the world it presents.
It was released in 1998. How well does it date?
There’s not a polygon in sight, everything is done with 3D bitmaps. In some ways this looks great, especially in comparison to early 3D engines of the time. In others…. not so much. Looks great in screenshots, a little stilted in motion. The viewpoint actually reminds me more of playing Command & Conquer than other party-based RPGs.
Do the levels feel different to one another, or do they have similar aesthetics?
They take good care to have each location look as it should; you start off within the walls of a small town with inns, stables etc. scattered around and in the first few hours encounter autumnal countryside & large cathedral-type buildings. Which you’re usually lynched in front of, but such is the nature of being a ‘wanted man’
The story sounds like it starts out quite rich. Does it remain rich?
I’ve only played the first few hours – and I know these games are BIG – and it seems to have done so far. No spoilers.
Do you have a favourite companion?
Boo. The miniature giant space hamster. OBVIOUSLY.
OK, technically Boo belongs to Minsc the human ranger. Who appears to be a little bit mad, as demonstrated by his pet.
There’s meant to be a way of somewhat scripting how your companions behave in battle. How fleshed out is that feature?
I’ll be honest and say I’m still grappling with that. There are quite a few options for formations, behaviour and the like and I’ve barely scratched the surface of this.
As with a lot of RPGs, there’s a range of character creation options, such as class, race, etc… What did you go for, and is it typical of the characters you usually play?
I’m not the kind of person who spends their first evening playing an RPG to sculpting their character’s stats & appearance. I’ll fiddle with them a *little*, but generally if they’re good enough & not obviously crap in one stat or another then I’ll leave them be. I just chose a human (male) fighter, safe in the knowledge that there’ll be characters with other skill sets joining my party (and leaving) as I progress.
There’s a lot of side quests. How rewarding are they?
I haven’t actually done any (so far).
Do the XP and levelling systems compel you to play as much as the story?
The abilities they unlock – spells, etc – do. Everyone likes their characters to get a bit kick-arse as they play.
I’ve not touched BG2 yet, but I’d say it’s like any series – lessons are learnt from the work on the first, they can see what works and what doesn’t, what people enjoy and what annoys the hell out of them. I’m looking forward to finding out myself. Years after most of the fans have. Which isn’t too unusual for me.
Would you consider playing through the rest of the series, or continue on with this one?
I’ll continue with this one. And then the others!