Kevin Trehan

Technology | Games | Design

Throwback Thursday – Baldur’s Gate II

November 1, 2014 Kevin Trehan 0 Comments

I think I might start doing a regular Throwback Thursday about games from my past that have had an impact on my life. Since I’m late for Throwback Thursday this week, looks like it’ll be Flashback Friday this time!

Baldur’s Gate 2. One of the best RPGs ever created.

I’m sure quite a few of you have heard me talking a lot about this game and my experiences with it. Other than Morrowind, Baldur’s Gate was my foray into the wonderful world of RPGs. In fact, I had never known about Dungeons and Dragons before playing this series. However, I think this was the perfect way to get introduced to the D&D ruleset because I didn’t have to worry about keeping track of all of the numbers right from the start. The game handled all of the math and dice rolls and made sure that I just focused on the questing and the smashing of heads.

One of the best things about this game is that it doesn’t take any steps to hold your hand, as was the MO for the majority of RPGs around that time period. The only limitations were the D&D 2e rules. I know that this style of game may turn some people away since it was really designed for the hardest of the hardcore RPG players. But it also brought new light to my life and changed my perspective on games, very much like Morrowind did.

Something that these older RPGs did that not many games do these days is written dialogue. Because there was no need for a budget for voice actors, the writers had nothing holding them back on the amount of dialogue available (again, something that I absolutely loved about Morrowind). The biggest benefit of this was that almost every character could be talked to. You could gather information from anyone and everyone, trade and barter with tons of people, and even avoid combat completely through clever tricks of Charisma. This is definitely something I miss with modern RPGs. With recorded dialogue, there is definitely an increase in realism and immersion since you can talk to people and hear their voices. However, because the budget for voice actors gets large very quickly, recording dialogue requires a DRASTIC decrease in the amount of dialogue there is. It’s easy to see this when you compare Morrowind and Skyrim.

Aside from dialogue, exploring and adventuring was one of the most engaging aspects of Baldur’s Gate. You could build your party the way you wanted to with the given companions and you weren’t limited to just having 2 or 3 people join you… You could pick 5 others to travel the world with you. The party really felt like an adventuring party. You could balance your party with a rogue to take care of traps and locked containers, a heavy warrior to tank, a mage to heal, and the remaining 3 could be full DPS for maximum murdering. The balance of your party was up to you and could affect the game in any number of way, depending on the situation at hand. This forced lots of planning, character building, and, yes, quite a bit of min-maxing. However, the rewards were always fruitful and always encouraged further progress.

The theme song for Baldur’s Gate 2 is one of my favorite video game songs of all time. It is actually my alarm tone, which means I wake up to this wonderful orchestration every morning! I have attached the song to the bottom of this post for those of you interested in hearing it. I only have one problem with it: The main chorus of the song is too damn short! Nonetheless, hearing this song always raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Every single time! It never fails to make me feel like I’m launching the game for the very first time.

I am really glad that enhanced versions were created for both Baldur’s Gate games. It has allowed many fans to revisit the game and has even brought newcomers to the series and genre. For the longest time, I had desperately hoped that a Baldur’s Gate 3 would be released… or at least something that had similar mechanics and depth but in a modern engine. Thankfully, Obsidian Entertainment decided to take the torch and start Project Eternity (now known as Pillars of Eternity). I backed the project the day it landed on Kickstarter. I didn’t even have to question it. I am definitely hoping that it will live up to the cRPGs of old, and by the looks of it, I don’t think it will disappoint. One of my biggest concerns with that game, though, is that they did decide to stick to 2D matte paintings for the environments. I was hoping that they would do a fully 3D game like Divinity: Original Sin. Regardless of the technical aspects, I am most definitely excited for Pillars of Eternity and am sure that it will bring back fond memories of my childhood.

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