Stepping Foot Into Baldur’s Gate

Baldur's Gate, Friendly Arm Inn

Last year I found I was severely lacking on my backlog attack. Out of all the games I own, and of all the ones I purchased over the past year, I only completed 5 games. That’s it. Bioshock 2, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, Skyrim, and Ultima 1 are now crossed off my list. Technically also Wing Commander: Privateer, but I’m still working my way through the expansion, so it’s not done yet. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t still play. Of course I did, I just primarily spent my time in MMOs. Namely Elder Scrolls Online, Secret World Legends, and Lord of the Rings Online. I get around. So with completing 8 games in 2017, and 5 in 2018, I’m aiming to increase my average of 6.5 for 2019. Starting with: Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.

Baldur’s Gate, though, is not a small game. They didn’t make them small back then. The 90’s were still a time when the concept of games that took a long time to complete meant a better value. That’s changed. Nowadays we’re more apt to find value in the overall experience instead of just the time expended, as live services become more and more commonplace (and with it an infinite amount of money we can spend, instead of the static value of the past). The Enhanced Edition adds new resolution support, some more classes, and some minor tweaks, but absolutely keeps the spirit of the original, which you can’t really ask more of for a re-release. As of this writing I’ve already spent 7 nights playing, and have only just reached the city of Nashkel.

Baldur's Gate, caravan

The art styling in this game never gets old, it’s literally playing on a painting. What they were able to achieve using painted environments is mind-blowing.

Nashkel is the location of the first major plot point. Aside from the overarcing plot of “what is going on and why do I have a bounty on my head”, the characters are hinted that there’s a problem with the iron mines and weapons being produced from the iron coming out, and just to keep you on the right path the game will periodically break your weapons (as well as having your companions start complaining that you’re not staying focused).

Speaking of companions, I found myself surprised that I was only to create one character at the start of the game. Usually, from the SSI Gold Box games, to numerous others games, you created your entire party from the start. However, this approach of creating a single character and then mixing and matching your companions as you go is refreshing, albeit a little overwhelming.

The Nashkel Mines… a little dark due to the fog of war, but it’s there.

Having quickly deduced that you could either play the game “good” or play the game “evil”, I decided on “good” (since playing “evil” is a little too edgelordy for me these days). “Neutral” characters, in an odd design choice, are essentially just “good” characters that put up with a lot more. They get angry when you do too many evil things, but yet are totally fine with doing good deeds. Doesn’t really sound neutral, but whatever. Right out of the gate the game gives you either two evil characters to join, or two “good” characters, cementing early your intended playstyle. By the time I’ve reached Nashkel, though, I’ve already met and rejected many different companions, and it makes me wonder if I will even stick it out with the companions that I’ve currently chosen.

First things first, since I was going to play as “good”, I opted for “Neutral Good”, the alignment I think closely resembles my own philosophy. This choice immediately removed about 14 classes I could play as. But seeing it still left 29 to choose from, I wasn’t hurting. That’s right, last I counted, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition let’s you play as 43 different classes. 43! In the end, I opted for a Longbow-wielding Archer, a kit class of Ranger that specializes in distance. So far, so good. So, since I had distance damage covered personally, gaming experiences has taught that I would then need healing, tanking, a mage, more damage, and thieving to round out the party.

Ocho, Baldur's Gate, Secret World

My character, Ocho the Archer. Yes, that is my Secret World character’s image. The stock photos were lackluster, so I went with what I know. 😛

My party currently consists of Khalid, a fighter; Jaheira, a druid; Imoen, a thief; Neera, a wild mage (interesting class, like a regular mage but chaotic); and Rasaad, a Sun Soul monk. I ran across one of the more famous characters in the game already, Minsc (and Boo), but with Minsc being a ranger and my own character a ranger, I’ve so far opted for the monk instead. Minsc and Boo are quite the characters, though.

Who knows if any of these are bad ideas, or even if I will stick with my current group makeup, but so far having all the character choices as well as the way the world is being built have totally immersed me. I love that all my companions have personalities and motives, that they’re given agency depending on your choices. They can straight up leave the group or start attacking each other, depending on how they converse with each other. I realize that Baldur’s Gate is a classic, and I’m super late to the party on playing it, but it’s been fun discovering exactly why it has earned that distinction, and I’m only level 2… almost 3.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – You can catch me streaming Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and many other games when I can on my Twitch channel. Debating starting up an Instagram for my many, many screenshots, too. Who knows.