These days, the best thing that can be said of the original Baldur’s Gate is that you’re able to import your character into Baldur’s Gate 2. Apart from that, however, the game has aged so poorly that it’s barely relevant, an outdated and clumsy attempt to do something that has since been done far better. Once upon a time, this game apparently revitalized people’s interest in computer RPGs. How such a boring and tedious game could ever accomplish such a feat is beyond me.
It’s the lesser of the two
Baldur’s Gate can’t hold a candle to Baldur’s Gate 2; most of the original’s many flaws were either corrected or downplayed in the sequel, and the addition of an actual story (which is more a cheap excuse to spur you forward in the first game than a real story) made the sequel the undeniably superior Baldur’s Gate experience. The original, meanwhile, has been ravaged by time, its reliance on long treks through nothing in particular ensuring that it’s absolutely agonizing to play through without nostalgia goggles.
“Nothing in particular” sums it up
This is basically a game that revolves around aimless wandering. For hours and hours and hours toward the beginning of the game, you’ll do nothing but aimlessly wander around trees, looking for something to give you an idea of where to go in order to progress. Granted, the very beginning is very clear that you need to investigate some mines. Unfortunately, those mines are easily my worst game memory ever; while the aimless wandering remains the same inside the mine, you can easily be overpowered by the enemies within so early in the game. This ensures that you have to go through them slowly while constantly saving, making the mine section one of the most tedious, frustrating sections of any game I’ve ever played. After that, however, you’re forced to wander aimlessly, hoping to magically stumble on something that lets you move forward with the main quest. This aimless wandering, searching without direction for something without knowing what it is you’re looking for, sums up most of the game.
The characters are basically worthless
Yes, there are several characters who can join your party. They have virtually no role after that, however. It’s obvious that the game was designed to be roughly the same regardless of who you have in your party, so your choice of companions comes down to who works best for you in combat. They really don’t have a role outside of that, unlike the vastly superior sequel, where characters actually have personalities and stories of their own.
And they say Planescape’s combat is bad
It always annoys me when people complain about Planescape: Torment’s combat, because Baldur’s Gate’s combat is so much worse that it’s mind-boggling. It’s difficult to explain why the one’s so much worse than the other since they both use the Infinity Engine (which, if you weren’t aware, was originally designed to be an engine for a real-time strategy game), but I suppose what it comes down to is that Planescape never fully relies on its combat. If you want to avoid a lot of the game’s fighting, there are ways of doing so. Even when you’re forced to fight in that game, however, your characters are strong enough to survive a few mistakes. Baldur’s Gate, on the other hand, forces you into a huge amount of clunky combat, its combat being so fickle that a single stupid mistake can kill off one of your characters, often for good. This makes the game feel incredibly tedious and frustrating compared to something like Planescape.
Baby got back-heavy
While the first several hours of gameplay consist of wandering around same-looking wilderness areas, later on you finally find your way into the city of Baldur’s Gate. While you’d think that a huge city full of people with quests is a good thing after so much meaningless wandering, this quickly turns into frustration. Here’s something that happens frequently in the city: someone gives you a quest that involves going somewhere (and you’re never given directions to that place), then tells you to meet them at a different place in the city, such as an inn. Finding the first place you have to go can be incredibly tedious, because the city of Baldur’s Gate is split into something like 6 or 7 different giant sections, all filled with buildings (and most of these buildings are unlabeled). If the quest is time-sensitive, it not only means having to immediately wander around each of these areas in order to get rid of the fog of war, but actually mandates walking into random buildings in the hope that you’ll stumble onto the right one. Of course, doing this means talking to people, so you’ll inevitably pick up anywhere from 2 to 5 new quests while trying to complete the one.
Once you’ve managed to accidentally find the right location and do whatever you were asked to do, you then have to find the meeting place that the quest-giver mentioned. Of course, there are a bunch of different inns and shops scattered all around, so you have to aimlessly wander even more and scan each building individually to try to find a sign that’ll give you an idea of which inn (or other building) is the right one. Once you meet up with the quest-giver, you’ll end up getting a little experience and maybe an item if you’re lucky. Rinse and repeat.
The game looks kind of same-y
While the city of Baldur’s Gate is at least visually distinctive, most of the game involves wandering around empty, similar-looking forest areas. To say that it gets old fast is to seriously understate just how visually fatiguing these areas can be. The character sprites are at least distinctive, but there’s really nothing else that pops out at you graphically.
The music is good, though
Maybe “good” isn’t the best way to put it so much as “well-made,” because that’s definitely true; many of the game’s themes better this otherwise worthless game. However, despite being interesting and helping create atmosphere, Baldur’s Gate’s music still can’t hold a candle to its sequel. The best way to put it is to say that the music in the first game is appropriate but forgettable, whereas the second game sports a number of memorable themes that are equally appropriate.
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