Games I Own: Baldur's Gate 1
Posted on 2nd Feb 2009 at 10:38 by Joe Martin with 9 comments
Before we go any further though, a clarification is in order; I don't actually own Baldur's Gate 1 (and its packaged expansion Tales of the Sword Coast) - they belong to my brother. I nabbed them from him when he stopped playing games as much as I did.
In fact, let's move from clarification to confession: I never really liked Baldur's Gate.
A good part of that dislike is simply because I played the second game in the series first - even then only at the insistence of my brother. After years of Fallout I just couldn't get used to the real-time combat. Compared to the second game, Baldur's Gate 1 is cumbersome and quite ugly.
More than that though, it's difficult. In the second game your characters all start at Level 7 or so, while the first instalment boots you into the wilderness with but one companion and no experience. I swear I can actually hear the game sneering at me; "Welcome to Level 1. HAHAHA!"
Because I had played the second game first though, this meant I knew my way around the mechanics, so I was able to persevere with Baldur's Gate 1 and, while I didn't like it as much, it's still an OK game.
One of the things I like most about BG1 is the fact that it'll simply throw the occasional assassin or competing Bhaalspawn at you. It's such a little, throw-away thing, but knowing that there are other Bhaalspawn out there and getting to meet them does a lot to flesh out the fiction. The fact that assassins come at you keeps things feeling tense too, so you actually feel hunted. Why do evil, far-away bosses in other games leave you to plot your attack instead of sending assassins after you? That's how I'd do it.
If I'm being honest though then I'll have to admit that I still consider BG1 to be by far one of the most poorly balanced games from BioWare - characters can die so quickly that it feels totally unfair. Dumping players so far from help at the start of the game and forcing them to make their way through the woods with no clear sense of direction seem particularly devious if you ask me, especially since they're constantly teased with the desire to explore.
Most importantly though, the one thing I was looking for in BG1 that had been in BG2, wasn't there - the character conversations. Your allies still spoke amongst themselves, but the system wasn't nearly as well developed and the conversations were done more in audio than text, which made them easy to miss.
A few weeks ago I was tempted to sit down and play some more Baldur's Gate 1 with the aid of a tool that lets you play it in the enhanced version of the Infinity Engine that was used in the second game though. I figured it would be good research for this, but the game was still frustratingly difficult to get started with and the shortcuts sat on my desktop for two weeks, merely mocking me. In the end I had to uninstall them - an act that probably says a lot about my character.
Random Fact: As I found out by accident once, you can get your allies in BG1 to say some pretty funny things if you click on their character portraits 12 times in a row.
Number of Times I've Completed It: Once, though I never finished the expansion.