Baldur's Gate: Slogging, Life, and finding the HOLY GRAIL of Videogaming!

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Rowdy Rob's picture

Although a previous post in another thread made it sound like I hated "Baldur's Gate," let me make this clear: Baldur's Gate is a GREAT game! It just took a lot of time for me to realize it. In fact, it achieved the HOLY GRAIL of what I seek in a game: it gave me a NEW gaming experience! I had to make a TERRIFYING choice, and it felt REAL! I can't recall ever feeling that in a game before, and it was exhilarating! This is role playing!

I don't like to get too personal in these forums, but bieng the first real game I've played in months, "Baldur's Gate" initially had me questioning whether I like to play "deep," solitary games anymore. In the beginning, "Baldur's Gate" was rough going. Instead of "rescue the princess," "kill the evil wizard," or "save the world," the plot seemed to be basically... an iron shortage. Ho hum. So there I was, slogging around the map, getting massacred in every battle, not knowing what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to be going, not feeling any excitement or joy.

"This is supposed to be a great game, and I'm not enjoying it," I thought to myself. "I don't have time for this, I've got other things to do. Am I even a gamer anymore? Perhaps there's a point where you're too old to enjoy videogames?'"

Seriously, these sad (and stupid) thoughts haunted me in the beginning as I played the game. But I refused to give in, thanks to my participation in "Armchair Arcade." Although I don't know Matt Barton personally, what I've gathered about him through his writings is that he's not some nerd who derives pleasure just from "bean counting." "Hey, my elf got a +2 battle axe and a 'charm monster' scroll! Woo hoo, this is a great game!" I need more than that, and so (I assume) does Mr. Barton, and he highly recommended the "Baldur's Gate" series. I needed plot, I needed a sense of adventure, I needed to "role play." That's what RPG's are supposed to be all about!

So I slogged on and thought to myself, "There's something to this game that I'm not getting yet. There's got to be! I'm not giving up! Matt wouldn't let me down!"

....And he didn't!!! Slowly but surely, I began to understand the fairly deep battle system and win battles, became immersed in the fantasy, and became attached to the members of my party, who up until that point were mere "icons." Even the "ho hum" iron shortage plot became an intriguing mystery. What started out as a life-questioning slog started to become a gaming addiction!

It all came to an emotional head as my party arrived in the town of Nashkel. These are good people who inhabit the town, and now they're starving, they're dying in the mines to provide for their families, their children are now fatherless, and the outlook of the people is bleak and hopeless. I really felt real sorrow and compassion for them; I felt their pain! And the rumors and mysteries were starting to add up - of monsters, insanity, and DEMONS! What's going on in the Nashkel Mines? What's behind the "cursed iron" mystery?

The misery of the Nashkel people made it clear that I had to do something about it. I had to save them. But was I ready? My party is still relatively weak, and may not be able to handle what's down there in the mines. Should I slog across the countryside and "level up" my party before taking on the Nashkel Mines? Considering the fact that some of the countryside monsters are too dangerous for my level-2 party to tackle, how dangerous are the monsters in the mines?

The Nashkel people were suffering, and I could feel it. Therefore, I had to make a TERRIFYING choice: do I take my weak, ill-equipped party into mines now? Considering the danger (and only four save-game slots), it's a good bet that some members of my party are going to DIE in the mines and be lost forever, and I've become quite attached to them. What would "Paladin Rob" do?

I made my choice: the people of Nashkel are suffering; WE'RE GOING INTO THE MINES! Not for gold, experience points, or +2 battle axes, but because it seemed like the right thing to do!

Never before do I recall making a decision in a videogame that felt so personal, so REAL! I finally began to see the beauty of a good CRPG, particularly "Baldur's Gate!" Did I make the right choice? Those of you who've already completed the game know the answer already, but I don't! (Please don't tell me! Let me find out for myself!)

So, "Paladin Rob" and his rag-tag, weak, ill-equipped companions are hurling themselves into the abyss to take on DEMONS and save the people of Nashkel! NOW THAT'S ADVENTURE!!! THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! THAT'S WHY I PLAY VIDEO GAMES!

So, "Rowdy Rob" is still a videogamer. :-) Not only that, he's now a certified CRPG enthusiast!

Comments

Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
"Beware evildoers, wherever you are!"

Wow! You really make it sound like an old radio drama!

I like BG for several reasons and bringing up a working game world, believable fantasy NPCs and an involving story with its limited technical means is no small feat!

take care,
Calibrator

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Bill Loguidice
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Limited technical means
Calibrator wrote:

I like BG for several reasons and bringing up a working game world, believable fantasy NPCs and an involving story with its limited technical means is no small feat!

take care,
Calibrator

"Limited technical means" I think is a good point. It's probably why I like 2D views in many cases over 3D views. I think the best example of this was the Archon-inspired "Wrath Unleashed", which had a 3D board that was all but impossible to make out. In that case a 2D board view would have been far superior. Developers sometimes need to realize that they don't need every whiz bang feature or technique to make something work - sometimes it just makes thing worst and introduces needless complexity.

In the case of the aforementioned Baldur's Gate over a more modern 3D game, I think one advantage of BG is the greater accessibility without any drop in relative complexity.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Paladin Rob, reading your

Paladin Rob, reading your posts makes me want to dig this one and play through it for a third time!

I remember that I resisted playing BG for quite awhile when it came out, mostly because I was very skeptical of the single-character type games. I preferred the old school party-based games, and I was also unsure about the way combat would be handled. My girlfriend at the time, however, was obsessed with it, and kept on and kept on and finally I tried it. I must say, she was right!

I have to warn you, though, as good as BG is, it is stomped by BG II. I recommend them both, of course, but let's just say it just gets better and better. I really can't think of any RPG released after BG II that came close to that level of excitement and involvement.

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
BG2 always casts a shadow
Matt Barton wrote:

I have to warn you, though, as good as BG is, it is stomped by BG II. I recommend them both, of course, but let's just say it just gets better and better. I really can't think of any RPG released after BG II that came close to that level of excitement and involvement.

I haven't played BG2 much myself, only about two hours and I must say it has one problem: The player must stay unbelievably focused to stay on path, decline quest offers regularly (and lose parts of the game) or have the mind of an elephant to keep all these quests separate.
A good example is that it's very easy to get a nasty curse on one of the party members in the very first town which has to be cared for immediately - disrupting the game flow.

In other words: BG2 is so massive that it takes the dedication of an experienced BG1 player to really enjoy it to the fullest! And lots of time...
So let the good man finish first and if we wants to tackle it he will.

take care,
Calibrator

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Love Baldur's Gate series!

Played it quite a bit on the DS/GBA - isometric 2d/3d graphics - and loved every minute of it. Didn't finish it, but brought it with me to France this trip and I am going to try to finish it.

http://www.nintendo-difference.com/test5761-baldur-s-gate-dark-alliance.htm
it's on the GBA to be exact, but it plays great on my DS.

I also have it for my other consoles, just the right amount of battle grinding and story combined. I also brought Jade Cocoon for the PSX, which I am going to give a spin on the ePSXe 1.7.1 emulator on my laptop. I even brought a Logitech Wired Rumblepad 2 with me to be able to do a little Gaming on the side.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc. | www.markvergeer.nl

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GeneralDebacle (not verified)
Bg on DS? say what? I

Bg on DS? say what? I haven't seen it anywhere. That sounds very intriguing.

I am currently attempting to get C64 Goldbox games working on the DS through an R4 card. I will get there eventually.

Back on the proper topic; I actually wasn't interested in BG at first either. I thought DnD was dead on the computer after all the abysmal crap that had come before it (AFTER the goldbox games...) and went to the games shop rabidly looking for Fallout 2. I made my purchase and my Girlfriend at the time (Funny eh?) started saying that she wanted BG. I took a look, thought it might impress her...so I bought her a copy.

Needless to say I soon started a game of it myself, and have enjoyed it to this day. As for the BG vs BG2 debate, the one thing BG2 falls down a bit with is the lack of open areas like BG1. I loved the many sidequests and adventures available in them.

Bill Loguidice
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Dark Alliance versus the CRPG games
GeneralDebacle wrote:

Bg on DS? say what? I haven't seen it anywhere. That sounds very intriguing.

I believe Mark is referring to the action RPG Baldur's Gate games over the CRPG Baldur's Gate games. In fact, as I mentioned in the other thread, I'm playing through Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II on my PS3 in PS2 emulation mode with my wife. The only console Baldur's Gates were Dark Alliance I and II, among the best action RPGs (a la Diablo) made in my opinion, and I've played quite a few with the wife. There was a GBA version of the original Dark Alliance.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
"BGDA1"

I played Dark Alliance I on the GameCube and apart from the slightly jerky framerate on this platform the game was an enjoyable, albeit very linear romp through all the classic fantasy settings. Less Diablo, more Dungeon Siege in my opinion.
Good graphics for its time (especially the water and the animations) but strictly formulaic in its design.

take care,
Calibrator

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Action RPGs
Calibrator wrote:

I played Dark Alliance I on the GameCube and apart from the slightly jerky framerate on this platform the game was an enjoyable, albeit very linear romp through all the classic fantasy settings. Less Diablo, more Dungeon Siege in my opinion.
Good graphics for its time (especially the water and the animations) but strictly formulaic in its design.

take care,
Calibrator

True, I should have been a bit more specific, but the basic analog is the same. Unlike Diablo, most action RPGs give you more direct control over your character, though still with some of the clickfest aspects of Blizzard's game.

We played Dark Alliance 1 on the Xbox, by the way.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Clemenstation
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Joined: 11/04/2008
Boo!

The thing that I very much enjoyed about BG was the way that the technical glitches worked themselves into the role-playing somehow. The pathfinding was just awful, and for some reason Minsc would often decide that the best way to any given point was to truck through uncharted territory, setting off traps and training monsters after him. Usually I would micromanage and bring him back, but with BG I just let him go - curiously. He would eventually arrive at the rest of the group with some sort of cheery comment about his hamster, and the rest of my party would set to work killing off the horde he had brought along. Once he found a badass crew of ghouls that destroyed us all. In any other game this would infuriate me: in BG I just chalked it up to Minsc's sub-10 intelligence. Haven't found many games that possess this particular quality, where (for me) an annoyance is 'just life' rather than something to get frustrated by and hung up on.

I seem to remember being lvl. 4 by the time I hit Nashkel and the mines, but I think my guys decided to spend some time backstabbing bears and wolves in the forest. "Wildlife Management": good for XP.

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