The first name in paper-and-dice RPGs finally makes a worthy splash into video gaming with Baldur's Gate, a shrewd mixture of Diablo and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. However, AD&D is a highly complicated world, and with such a wealth of games in the role-playing genre, it remains to be seen if BG can stand on its own.
Everybody Was Real-Time Fighting
Set in the Forgotten Realms world of AD&D, BG lets you build characters and take them into a fantasy setting to battle monsters and scavenge the land for all-important experience points and gold pieces. Staying true to both the Diablo and AD&D formulas, BG blends a unique system of real-time fighting with turn-based strategy. You can also alter your attacks during battle by pausing the game at any time (just like calling a time-out). Unfortunately, you must constantly pause when you have more than two characters in your party, and before long you'll wish for an option to take care of this automatically. Other downsides include the archaic practice of rolling dice to pace the action (if you don't know what "ID6" means, you're out of luck), the lack of a tutorial campaign, and little guidance throughout the adventure.
Surprisingly, BG's best feature is its strong multiplayer game, which enables you and your friends to create a party of up to six characters and play as a cooperative group through the games main story line. Aside from the chaos that many human players bring to the battle system, its excellent.
BG's graphics mimic Diablos, but give you a slightly closer character view for greater detail. The highly immersive environments feature superb lighting and weather effects such as the transition from day to night and lightning that temporarily illuminates dangerously dark areas.
Although the cinematic soundtrack nicely complements the game's fantastic world, BG's crisp sound design is poorly implemented. Each character says only one or two lines of vigorously repeated dialogue, and the orchestral score doesn't dynamically shift into danger mode when beasties are near.
Dungeons & Polygons
Baldur's Gate beautifully infuses the AD&D experience into its virtual world, but the dice-based action will prove too excessive for newbies. Hardcore role-playing enthusiasts, fans of AD&D, and those desperate for Diablo II will consider BG as the answer to their prayers. However, casual gamers looking for a story-based RPG won't be swayed by this complicated behemoth.
- Pick up all the weapons you find-even if you can't equip them. You can sell them later.
- Journey to two areas South of Friendly Arms to reach Nashkel, where a mysterious iron shortage keeps the folk struggling.
- Candlekeep is littered with people who will teach you the ways of the land. Make sure to cover the entire map and enter the battle training area in the south.
- Thoroughly search Gorion and the Ogres after finishing your battle-there's gold in them thar corpses.
- Always identify mysterious items before you equip them. Otherwise, you may fall under a diabolical curse.
- You can't return to Candlekeep until later in the game, so complete all the assignments in your journal before leaving with Gorion.
- When you're ready to take on Tarnesh, lead him down into the courtyard to gain assistance from the guards during your battle.
Baldur's Gate presents a crisper, cleaner version of Diablos isometric gothfest Realistic lighting and weather effects support the well-detailed characters and haunting interior designs--this is what RPG fans have always dreamed AD&D worlds would look like. Its a pity the cut-scenes are so bland.
Swirling spell sounds and compelling character voices immerse you in the action. Unfortunately, the characters say very little and most conversations take place through subtext Why go halfway? Luckily, the cinematic score picks up the slack.
Learning BGs controls takes time, but its well worth the effort when you realize how much power they give you over your characters' inventory, appearance, fighting style, and positioning. The fighting interface offers gamers the best of both worlds by nicely blending real-time and turn-based strategy.
The game's steep learning curve and lack of a tutorial may steer away newbies, but fans of AD&D will embrace Baldur's Gate wholeheartedly. In either case, give it a chance--underneath all its complexity, Baldur's Gate is a fun adventure that deserves a look from the RPG faithful.
Download Baldur's Gate
Not since the Dark Sun series from SSI has there been such a complete translation of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game to the silicon screen. From the intricate character generation to the lavish 32-bit palette used for all the graphics, the attention to detail in Baldur's Gate will draw you deeper into the fantasy than ever before. You control up to six characters through seven chapters covering almost 10.000 screens of pre-rendered terrain. The well-done sound effects include solid voice acting and atmospheric effects. Although many bugs plagued our beta version, none were so great that they couldn't be fixed in short order. For all PC RPG fans, this game is shaping up to be a must-see.