SummaryA dense, masterful fantasy world, but not for everybody
The GoodQuite simply, Baldur's Gate is one of the greatest electronic role-playing games ever crafted. Set in the Tolkien-esque high fantasy world of the Forgotten Realms, BG provides an open world with open-ended possibilities.
The game allows you to create an alter-ego and fine-hone every detail down to the hair color, armor, and even the voice of the on-screen avatar. You lead your character and up to five other NPCs up and down a beautiful isometric interpretation of the Sword Coast as you investigate a story filled with political intrigue and divine prophecy. The non-linear structure of the game allows you to take the story at your own pace, and the developers rarely nudge you one way or the other.
BG's endless character arrangements and vast array of equipment and spells add unparalleled depth to the real-time strategic combat system, which transitions seamlessly from normal gameplay.
One playthrough of the game can't possibly provide the full experience. The game virtually endlessly replayable. Ethical choices are made in conversation ranging from goody-goody to horrifically evil and everything in between, and these choices have drastic impacts on the gameplay. It's possible to play through with a vast combination of interacting party-members, each with their own dynamic and relationship with one another.
The interface and graphics were gorgeous for the time, and are still wildly appreciable today. The epic soundtrack is reminiscent of a Hans Zimmer score in its scope and beauty.
The BadThe open-endedness comes with a huge price. The game has an overly-steep learning curve, especially if you wish to get the full experience. While the basics of gameplay are inherently simple, it can take literally years to fully grasp the intricacies of successful approaches to battles, certain dialogs, and party mechanics.
Although events can by-and-large be experienced in any order, the game is optimized and designed to be played one particular way. Straying outside of the very specific sequence of scripting triggers, including talking to people in the wrong order or picking up quest items before being given a quest, can lead to incredibly confusing snafus with story chronology. Novice players can expect to be very confused at certain points in the game.
Combat can be insanely hard, even on the least difficult setting (which actually just rebalances the monster difficulty/experience reward ratio). Players can expect to be frustrated at many key points, and those who don't save very often may find themselves too frustrated to continue.
Creating your own character means that the story never truly centers on your alter-ego. Rather than experiencing the story first-hand, things more-or-less happen around the main character while others interact with one another. Because your party is so customizable, interpersonal banter is more of a gimmick. Each character's background is never really expounded upon apart from a blurb on their rap sheet, which remains a springboard for a sidequest at best and superfluous at worst.
The Bottom LineAn epic and gorgeous role-playing adventure, Baldur's Gate is one of the most rewarding experiences for the seasoned gaming veteran. With unparalleled depth and abundant customizability and choice, this strategic RPG provides not just hours, but potentially years of gameplay, and remains a perennial favorite for classic gaming enthusiasts. It's biggest flaws are inherent side-effects of its greatest attribute -- it's open-endedness. One of the greatest computer games ever made, if you make the easy choice to submit your full attention to it.