Review by Crusader80
"A very good, but very difficult, game."
You are a young adult in the city of Candlekeep. The xenophobic city is a center of magic research, and wizards from all over the world come to study from Candlekeep's massive library. One day, your foster father Gorion tells you to prepare for travel as soon as possible. Early in your journey, however, the two of you are attacked by a strangely armored foe who seeks to kidnap you. You are able to escape, but at the cost of Gorion's life. Why were you attacked? As you search for the answers, you will find yourself also feeling the tension of two lands on the brink of war.
Baldur's Gate takes the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system and places it in a real-time strategy engine. This allows for extremely detailed and unique characters, but the AD&D system is designed to kill characters quickly and easily, and adding the real-time element to battle makes normal survival very, very difficult. It is fun to play, but it tends to get frustrating often, relying on cheats and AI exploitation to get through tough battles. Under the AD&D system, it is also extremely hard to make characters stronger, and the experience point cap was placed far too low to win the game without removing the cap (and since it is so difficult to advance, I often was forced to cheat to give my characters extra experience points to continue without having to waste literally hours actually earning them). Make sure you save often, and understand ahead of time that the button you push most often will be the pause button so you can set up your attack plan before your entire party is destroyed.
This is what kept me playing this game. I found myself always wanted to know what was going to happen next in the story. What nefarious scheme will I have to foil next to find some answers? What clue will I find next to the puzzle? During your journey, you find you are only one part of a far larger plan, and I wanted to know what that plan was. In addition, each character who can join your party has his/her own unique quirks to add to the atmosphere, such as Minsc's quixotic heroism or Xan's never-failing pessimism. The large number of such characters helps the replay value as well; though the storyline changes little with each playing, you can at least have different faces helping you through it.
Graphics & Sound: 8
Graphics in the game are sharp. Each character model is unique to its race, skin color, and class (fighters are tall and strong; mages and thieves are thin and lithe), and its own (changeable) clothing color. In addition, each individual piece of armor and weaponry has its own graphic as well, so you can easily distinguish between characters whether you know exactly what they are equipped with or not. Spell effects are fun to watch too, as fireballs roar through the area and magic missiles flash in the sky. The sound is nicely done as well -- monsters growl menacingly and weapons slice through the air and strike, all while birds chirp in the treetops and thunderclaps sound in the distance. Many characters feature voice acting as well, and such acting is well done. The game even includes the vocal talent of Frank Welker of Transformers fame. The one major problem concerning the sound is the variety. It becomes very tedious listening to your characters say the same things over and over again, even if it is well acted.
It's a quality hybrid, combining the customizability of the AD&D character system with the action of a real-time strategy game, tied together by an involving tale of one person's struggle to discover his/her identity amidst political tension and ever-increasing danger. The variety of characters you can take along on the journey help the replay value by putting new faces to your allies with every play. However, due to the enormous difficulty of this game, you might not be ambitious enough to play it more than once or twice.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/00, Updated 06/26/00
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