Game Over Online ~ Baldur's Gate

GameOver Game Reviews - Baldur's Gate (c) Interplay, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim / Rebellion / Mud

Game & Publisher Baldur's Gate (c) Interplay
System Requirements Pentium 166, DirectX 5.0, 16 MB Ram, 2 MB Video
Overall Rating 91%
Date Published Friday, January 15th, 1999 at 10:10 PM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Great inventions always spice up life. They give it that extra something, that something that just makes everyday living a bit less of a chore. First there was the electric lamp; then the nuclear bomb, the phone, the TV, the VCR, computer games, and last, but not least, pen-and-paper role-playing games. Agreed, that is a slightly abridged list of items invented in the past couple of hundred years that make life more interesting (like the neat concept of digital watches, or cable descramblers) - but it outlines the most important ones. However, people who came too late to invent any of those things (or were radically dumber than the inventors, which sometimes isn't that different) came up with the idea of merging those items into other, more expensive items. They looked, and saw the light (from the previously marketed electrical lamp): computer games sell incredibly well, and pen-and-paper is fun, but doesn't sell too well anymore. So they merged the two, creating a PC-based RPG niche, rejoicing the gamers worldwide - even those who think digital watches are a neat idea. And thus we get to Baldur's Gate. (Maybe we don't - but introductory paragraphs are supposed to run only a sentence or two.)

The story of the game revolves around two major cities on Sword Coast, Baldur's Gate and Amn. The cities are plotting to destabilize Sword Coast, actions that will possibly result in war. As well, an unknown plague struck the iron mines, rendering most of the iron ore in circulation useless - it falls apart after but a few days of use. Traders carrying iron ore are also attacked, and routes are raided by well-organized bandits. The armies defending the cities fear for the quality of their weaponry, and it is a known fact that, lest something be done, a great evil will befall the population come winter, as not one artisan will be able to continue his work with his dilapidated tools. Not a soul knows why this happens, either - some suspect magical curses, some the city of Amn, others the trading cartels, others suspect others... the circle never ends, but no one knows for sure.

This is where the hero steps into the action. You play the role of a character that was raised by his foster father, Gorion. You know nothing of your past; you were told of your mother, who (you think) died giving birth to you, and of your father, you know nothing. With the way your foster father treated you, you think that you might be a bit more than another would-be adventurer... and some things you stumble upon in your travels make you wonder - and continue the search. But not only are you searching for clues on who you are - you are also attempting to dig deeper into the situation plaguing Sword Coast - with two possible agendas: if you're playing as a good character, then you're trying to, basically, save the world. If, however, you're playing as an evil character, your agenda is to gain as much power in this world as possible, and stop at nothing to do so.

The game environment is truly huge. High-resolution modes aren't supported, as all the areas in the game were pre-rendered at 640x480; however, to compensate for that, there are about 3500 unique and different areas the player can find himself in, broadening the experience beyond bounds of conventional imagination. There are also virtually no movies in the game, incredible as that might be - there's the intro animation, a few game animations and an outro - adding up to around 15 minutes of video. Amazing, since the game is 5 (five) CDs - I, for one, cannot recall a multi-CD game where movies wouldn't take up 60 - 80% of the space on the discs. The game allows for caching of the most recently-visited areas on the hard disk, as well, speeding up access to them; that involves a substantial free space penalty, however. The absolute minimum install, which is not recommended, is about 300 megabytes. The minimum recommended install is 570, not counting the cache per se, which can vary from 80 to 1024 megabytes. There's also a full install, which is about 2200 megabytes - so large, in fact, that InstallShield misreports the full install size as being 2047 megabytes.

However, all the install woes pay off. This is definitely one of the best RPGs I've played in a while (except, perhaps, Fallout and Fallout 2 - but that's an entirely different environment and gameplay style, so I can't compare much.) The storyline is detailed, and nonlinear - to a degree. To a degree? Well, some parts of the story require you to fight a character, say to collect a letter from his cold, dead body. The problem is twofold: firstly, he won't want to die easily, and secondly, he has the firepower (or rather the cold steel) to back his case. There's not much you can do about it, either - you'll have to run around collecting experience points for a while longer, even if you want to proceed with your quest. But don't think you can run around collecting XPs for a good part of the game and then easily vanquish anyone around, either - there's an experience cap for the overly eager collectors. Well... considering just how low it is, it's not for the eager - it's about for everyone. The limit is about 89,000 points, which amounts to a level 7 character. That also means mages won't be able to use Level 7 spells. I'm unsure as to why Bioware decided to put in an ExpCap, but, according to the word "out on the street," it will most likely be lifted in the upcoming sequels and add-ons. According to the "word on the street," as well, there has been a patch released recently by Razor, which does precisely the same thing - note, however, that since this is an unauthorized tweak of the game, Interplay will never support its use. It could, however, mean the difference between life and death for someone. Either way, great job.

It was quite hard for me to find gameplay-related defects in Baldur's Gate. So I went to #baldursgate on Efnet IRC, and spoke to some hardcore RPGers out there. The following is a quote, and my comments follow. (credit goes to Woo^2 for his creative input).

[12:03] 1) Story is way too linear, 2) Encounters are not random, but fixed; 3) Impossible to play solo, parties must be formed. 4) Too much talk, reminds me of adventure games, gets in the way of RPGing, 5) Exp caps truly sucks 6) Graphics not up to par with Diablo - a game released 2-3 years ago. 7) What's the point of solo or multi ?

As to the linearity of the story, I spoke of it briefly above. Encounter-wise, I must admit, Fallout 2 had a whole lot more random encounters than BG. In this game, most encounters are fairly fixed, for example, if you know that there's ten Hobgoblins in a certain place, if you load a previous game and head over to that place, they'll be within a fairly small radius of it. There are real random encounters - they are much too rare, however, and are usually of the easier kind. Sure, exceptions exist - but, like I said, they are exceptions.

In regards to solo play, it's true - I don't think anyone can play the whole game alone, without party backup. Sure, once you're at level 6 - 7, you could probably play alone (emphasis on probably) - but on the lower levels, it's plain impossible. So you have to drag along a bunch of slackers all the time... and something else I found very annoying about the experience point system, since I'm at it: experience gets equally divided among your party members. By that I mean that say you have five party members and kill a critter worth 1,000XP. Each character's experience will then increase by 200 points, and not 1000 points like some may expect. I suppose it follows true to the AD&D rules... but it sure is annoying and disappointing in a way.

There's really a lot of talking in the game. But that, in a way, is expected - after all, you're not adventuring to kill some Lord of the Land - you're also looking for your own past, and there's no real way to do that save for talking to individuals. Matter of personal preference, I suppose.

The graphics, I'd say, are very good. I'm not sure if I could compare them to Diablo, though - Diablo's environments weren't nearly as detailed as BG's; however, Diablo ran fine on my machine, while BG frame rates make me want to get a high-end Pentium this very moment. It's definitely playable - but it leaves ample room for improvement.

And last, but not least, a very important (and controversial) feature of the game, namely, multiplayer. This is the first RPG to have multiplayer in the last fairly long while, and, I must say, it does a great job implementing it. And, unlike in Diablo, you don't join up with a friend to kill Diablo one more time on Hell difficulty - not only can you save games, but you can go through the entire game with a friend in multiplayer mode, rather than in single player with an AI-controlled party. There are a few caveats one should be aware of, however. For one, when I said 'friend,' I meant precisely that - friend. Playing with strangers, like our mothers tried to teach us, isn't necessarily a good thing in this case. When you join a game controlled by someone else, he has complete control over your character's inventory. That is, he can remove items from it and drop items into it at will. What that means is that if you have a great character with incredible weapons, take care who you play with - they might rob you of your weapons and inventory, if not the actual character - the host has control over that, too. There's a lot of cheating possible, as well - for example, take a character, load it with expensive weaponry, export it to a file, then switch to Character Arbitration mode, import the character five times, then sell all of those weapons - voila 30,000 gold pieces out of thin air. You can also import characters into a single-player game (although, blessedly, only at start). I'm not sure how much I like that idea, either - since one would be tempted to steal a level 7 mage from someone in multiplayer and play the game with it - but where's the fun, I ask - where's the fun? I understand the standard argument in this case, that if one doesn't want to cheat, one won't - but I disagree. Some people don't cheat - until they see the possibility right in front of their eyes. They'll play Quake fairly, doing well in it - until someone shows them the cheat codes, and they won't be able to resist ("... the Power of the ..." uhh.). importing and exporting characters is a good idea... but I think, perhaps, it should've been slightly more refined. Maybe they should be password-protected, as well. Also, when AI-controlled characters are encountered in a multiplayer game, they always try to get on you party - and you have to manually refuse them. Not to mention mixing a good character with an evil one - when the host tries to help some poor old woman, the guest whips out a Crossbow of Speed, and sends her to a better dimension - not to mention that the Reputation drops.

The orchestral score in the game is very good. However, music cycles, i.e. the music tracks are of a limited length and they loop, thereby engraving them in one's mind so deeply one ends up dreaming about them at night. The sounds are quite good, too - though I sort of miss Fallout's skull-crushing sounds, as they're slightly (to say the least) tamed in BG. There's plenty of gore otherwise, though... well, blood notwithstanding. Guess living things don't bleed much over at Sword Coast.

A few complaints about the character statistics (devout AD&D fans, please feel free to skip this section). I'm somewhat unhappy with the Intelligence stat, for example. Why is it, that a low (or high) Intelligence setting affects things like the amount of spells one can memorize, but, on the other hand, makes virtually no difference relative to dialogue choices? I know that in real AD&D, the higher it is, the more languages the character knows, for one, thus communicating more easily and fluently with the population of the world. The thing is, there's only one language in Baldur's Gate, so how come that if the IN is set to 3 or 17, I have the same dialogue possibilities? I mean, the wording of the queries and responses is so obscure sometimes, that a character of INT 3, even in medieval times, would very possibly be unable to pronounce the words, let alone come up with them. In Fallout, the amount of words like "uhh", "umm", "like", and the like increased as uhh, your Inteeligenc umm, dropped to uhh, low number. Heh heh. Intelligence. Cool. Anyway... I do realize Bioware had to adhere to AD&D rules, so there's nothing they could have done about this - but nothing prevents me from grudging about it.

Nonetheless, Baldur's Gate represents innovation and style as well as possible. With true AD&D rules, emmersive gameplay, incredible depth of the story and graphics to beat, this is definitely one RPG worth playing. This is, I'd say, "as RPG as it gets" - so if you're not keen on the whole "do a damage roll: roll 1D6" thing, you might need to read the 160 page manual that comes with it. It's worth it at the end, though... and while Fallout is still the best RPG I've ever played (please, no flame mail about what is defined as an "RPG" and how Ultima VII is the best RPG of all time), Baldur's Gate is most definitely a game worth playing.


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

Bioware's much anticipated and most talked about RPG has finally hit shelves and caused a mad Christmas scramble to the local EB to snag a copy. Most stores were sold out within hours with not only the first shipment, but some cases the second and third shipments. The hype is definitely there, so lets see how well BioWare, the creators of the one of the few other big RPG's of 1998, Fallout 2, did with Baldur's Gate.

Baldur's Gate is yet another game set in TSR's AD&D world of the Forgotten Realms. SSi used to crank out AD&D games with a frenzy and I've played most of them, so I was looking forward to returning gaming system I fiddled with over the past eight or so years. The plot is very vague at the beginning. Your foster father, Gorion, tells you to pack up and get out of Candlekeep. Shortly after leaving the city, Gorion is struck down by a powerful enemy and you must flee. With no real knowledge of who is after you, you must explore and dig up clues.

Since this is a new adventure, you will start off with no experience and very little equipment. Like most RPGs, combat and quests will allow you to gain both in order to better equip your characters. The quantity of magical items are rather few in BG, mainly since the game limits character development to level six. This may seem somewhat low, but it will take you quite some time to reach this. In addition, an expansion pack is already underway and should allow you to proceed further.

Anyone who's played Diablo, will find the graphics very familiar. The view is taken from the isometric perspective. BioWare has put a lot of effort in to detailing the game, so just like Diablo, expect well drawn buildings and animations. Graphically, it doesn't go much beyond what we've already seen from Diablo, although the world is MUCH bigger then Diablo. The game also features some FMV cutscenes, but they're not overly inspiring. BG does feature different color depths from 16bit to 32bit, although it doesn't benefit a great deal in 32bit. The character portraits were some of the nicest artwork I've seen in awhile. They're stills, but they've definitely appear to have been done by some of the excellent artists that TSR has used for book covers and interior art.

In addition to the detail put into graphics, BG features some excellent music and sound effects. The environmental noises are great and are even better if you've got a sound card with EAX support. The background music isn't overly interesting, but it's perfect for the game and helps enrich the gameplaying environment. There's speech in the game, but it's limited to greetings and party comments. This tends to create a feeling of repetition and takes a little away from the game. I also noticed, when talking to commoners, sometimes I'd get a male greeting when talking to a female commoner.

In Diablo, it was mainly a click click action rpg, Baldur's Gate expands this idea. There will be many quests and NPC's to deal with. How you deal with these situations affects your reputation and also how you must handle problems. BG intends for you to play as a good character, though you don't always have to do what's best. Unfortunately, I wouldn't advise you play as an evildoer. It seems that the game would make you too weak to protect yourself as an evil character with a low reputation.

Combat is real-time and you don't have real good control over characters. It does allow you to pause it during combat to assign orders and even provides setup for auto-pause (you will definitely want to set up auto-pause). You don't physically control the characters like in Diablo, it's more of a real-time version of the turn system used in the old AD&D games.

What makes BG stand out the most, is its interaction with other people in the game. Since you only start out with one character, the only way to gain help is to talk other characters into joining. Some of these may be evil characters and some are good or some are right in the middle. If you have a party with both evil and good characters, they'll argue with each other and they can even end up fighting each other. Evil characters complain if your reputation is too high while the good ones will congradulate and vice versa. This makes your party much more interesting than the old AD&D games where you created your entire party yourself.

Following in the footsteps of Diablo and other isometric viewed games, pathfinding is somewhat a problem. Baldur's Gate however does offer a waypoint system to alleviate these issues somewhat. I'm not one for waypointing so I often found two of my party members at my desired position while others were stuck or had taken the long way. Another item I have a gripe with, is the view in general. It uses a fog of war and line of sight view system, which in itself isn't bad. My problem is that the area of sight is bigger than the game screen. I found myself wandering by things(especially people), that were visible to my characters, but not visible to me. You, as the player, should be able to see all that your characters can, without having to scroll around the gameboard. I suppose that if BioWare would have done video options higher than 640x480, this problem could have been averted.

I found BG to be a frustrating game for the most part. My main reasons early on for coming back to play were for revenge instead of for entertainment. You will die in BG, and you will die a lot. Make sure you're saving frequently and are always on top of your personal character. If he dies, it's game over. The rest of your party can go to hell in handbasket. After playing more and more, you will accomplish more quests and it makes the game a little less frustrating. Some people may like the less focused plot, since it allows you a lot more freedom in where you want to go. I found this a little to my disliking, since I more frequently ended up somewhere I wasn't suitably skilled to handle yet.

It does a decent job of staying with the AD&D world rules. It expands what influence the rules have over the game from the old AD&D games. BioWare, apparently, worked closely with TSR to make sure it stuck to same rules, the real world version of AD&D does. It does have a few minor qualms, like not being able to use two weapons. I also seem to remember that there was a state in between life and death called unconsciousness, but I didn't see this used like in past AD&D games. (Hence you die a lot)

Multiplayer supports all the normal types of connectivity for up to six players. It also includes a version of Gamespy for Baldur's Gate which allows you to easily find multiplayer games. I played a little multiplayer and I must say, if you're looking for a Diablo substitute, this sadly is not it. One player manages almost all of the game, so unless you're the party leader, you don't have very much control. This will make it more suitable for playing with friends than going to a random game on the Internet. I hoped for more here, but will have to wait some more for Diablo II or Everquest for some good online RPGing.

Baldur's Gate shows the possible future of more true RPG's. It gives the isometric view, which makes the game feel more realistic when compared to games like Might and Magic. It adds a lot more to where Diablo left us. I'm a bigger fan of games that have strong storylines, like Return to Krondor, but the weaker focus in Baldur's Gate allows for more exploration and more free choice. BG will make you keep playing, it's a long, time-consuming game, so if you're not one to sit around and play, then you'd best be looking elsewhere. However, if you want a long and pretty fulfilling RPG, Baldur's Gate should reign as the new king.

Highs: a good RPG in an isometric view, good audio, detailed, long
Lows: storyline lacks, combat is a little complex, easily frustrating, bland multiplayer


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Divider Left By: Mud Divider Right

I have been anxiously awaiting this title for the past year or so (however long ago it was first announced). Everyone that previewed the game talked very highly of the depth of immersion and size of the world of Baldur’s Gate so needless to say I was expecting a lot out of this title. So far some 60 or 70 hours into the game I am not in the least bit disappointed with what I have seen.

Graphics: 18/20
The graphics are a 45 degree isometric view of the world. The characters are rendered to show exactly what equipment they are wearing and equipment found on the ground looks like what it really is. For instance, if I kill a bandit and he has a necklace on him then I can move my mouse over the equipment he dropped and a necklace is highlighted. This is much better than the games that use the generic treasure icon for anything no matter what it is. The trees blow in the wind, the rain looks real, and the birds flying overhead are a nice touch. The one reason this game doesn't get a 20/20 in the graphics department is the fact that you cannot change the resolution beyond 640X480 which I find a bit discouraging. 640x480 is just a little too low res for me nowadays. I have also heard that people are having problems with trails being left by the mouse on the screen. The official answer coming from BioWare to go out and download the newest video drivers available for your particular video card. Also try 24 bit color mode.

Gameplay: 28/30
The gameplay is pretty extensive. The game starts out in the town of CandleKeep where you are allowed to wander around from store to inn to a practice arena where you can fight monsters and learn the ways of combat. You can also use a thief if you have one to do a little stealing or pickpocketing from some of the local population. The game doesn't really begin until you go and talk to Gorion and accompany him to the Friendly Arms Inn. Of course he never makes it there with you. The rest is up to you to discover.

This game is full of options from thieving, backstabbing, spells, scrolls, magic items, and plain old warrior bludgeoning. Just the magic classes alone are staggering. The manual that comes with the game is very thorough and an absolute must-read if you plan on putting any serious amount of time into this game. Combat is handled in real time with an auto-pause menu that you can setup so that the game pauses after certain combat events. This will make the turn based combat people happy I am sure. There are some faults however such as the experience cap limit and the ridiculous difficulty of some of the respawn monsters that you face later on in the game when your character is at a higher level. Overall though, this game is an absolute joy to play and all I can say is that I cannot wait for the expansion packs to start showing up in early 1999.

Story: 5/5
I am not the biggest story freak in the world. Therefore this section will be lacking compared to some of the fantasy story lovers out there. Gorion dies and you must then solve the iron-ore problem that is plaguing the countryside. I get lost in the shuffle to be honest although this game seems to have a pretty deep story based on all the people and scrolls you get to tell you what is happening.

Fun Factor: 18/20
Man I loved this game. Walking around and killing monsters and finding magical items is my cup of tea. I found the walking in a new map area to be slightly tedious because of the size of the map itself. I am not a huge fan of paper AD&D, but I hear that Baldur’s Gate does a very good job of implementing the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules. Whatever the case, it will be a very addictive addition to your collection.

Sound: 15/15
The soundtrack in this game is phenomenal. It absolutely sets the atmosphere for a fantasy romp through an abandoned bridge or a cave. Not only is the music outstanding but the characters voices are portrayed with perfection. I have been notified that sometimes if you are using a female character the person will talk with a male voice, but I have yet to see this happen. It was probably set up with a male voice in the beginning of the game. While some of the games nowadays have so-so music that really doesn't add to the gaming experience, this title boasts a soundtrack that makes you enjoy the game much more.

Overall Impression: 9/10
Please give this game a try. Even if you have never played a true RPG before this is well worth your time. I started playing this game on Thursday the day before Christmas at about 10 p.m. that night and the next thing I noticed was that it was somewhere around 4 a.m. Baldur’s Gate is completely addictive, and has lived up to almost all of the hype that came its way. This one is definitely going to be remembered for a long time.


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Screen Shots
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot

Copyright (c) 1998-2009 ~ Game Over Online Incorporated ~ All Rights Reserved
Game Over Online Privacy Policy