Written by  :  Entorphane (375)
Written on  :  Jan 30, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars

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Despite a few irritating flaws, a fun adaptation of pen and paper AD&D

The Good

'Baldur's Gate' does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the pen and paper AD&D roleplaying game. In my younger days, when I had more time and more geeky friends like me, I used to play AD&D on paper. This game brings back a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

The real time combat system does a fantastic job of taking the turn based combat of the pen and paper game, and actually making it fun for the PC crowd. The ability to pause and reissue orders in mid-combat is a great idea, and allows one to retain the feel of a turn-based system, but with the sense of urgency you get from a real-time system.

'Baldur's Gate' offers a great variety of monsters, spells, and magic items from the AD&D world. You'll encounter everything from oozes and slimes, to skeletons and gnolls, and AD&D fans will delight in being able cast magic missiles and fireballs at them all. Thief abilities are also well implemented in the game. You'll find that without a skilled thief, you'll be setting off a lot of lightning and fireball traps in the various dungeons.

The game's story is good, and AD&D veterans will be familiar with the references to various deities and well known NPCs (Drizz't makes a brief cameo). The story progresses through several chapters, each advancement triggered by a certain event or location reached by the players party. The battles are usually challenging, but don't generally wear on or get tedious.

The Bad

It must be mentioned that this game has a few serious bugs that no patch seems to fix. There are random crashes and lock-ups from time to time, and there are more severe flaws as well. After defeating the final boss and completing the game, the game makes a final save for you to load after installing the expansion pack, 'Tales from the Sword Coast'. Well, in my case, after defeating the final boss, the so-called 'final save' put me back at the beginning of that final battle. No matter how many times I win, I am never able to save my progress after that point. Essentially, I went through the entire game, only to never be allowed credit for finishing it. This is important because you can export your main character into the sequel, and the experience points from the final battle are never awarded to you if you encounter this bug.

Another problem I had with 'Baldur's Gate' is the character creation process. The means by which you create a character is fine (for the most part), but you only get to create the main character. The rest of your party is filled out by NPCs along the way. While I hated this idea at the outset of the game, I did understand the decision better by the games end. Having a large number of NPCs to choose from to fill out your party is intended to add replay value to the game. But how many people are going to play a 40 hour RPG with a fairly linear story a second time? I would rather have been able to create my entire party from scratch. Having created all of your characters (like in the original 'Pool of Radiance') gives you a greater sense of attachment to them. I always felt like my NPCs may be leaving at any moment, or I may need to switch them out for someone else. Who wants to spend half a game leveling up your ranger and equipping him with nifty magic weapons and armor, only to trade him away for some random new NPC?

There are also minor gameplay issues that bother me. Where is the rule in AD&D that says you can't wear magic armor AND a ring/cloak of protection? There is no such rule, and I don't like that it applies to this game. Also, the NPC mages that you encounter that will join your party are almost always specialist wizards, and almost always lack access to one or more very important group of spells. Again I ask, why can't I create my whole party? Illusionists are useless, and I would never create one, but I sure got stuck with one in my party for a while.

Also, there seem to be too many magic items out there in the world. It takes away from the special feeling of finding a Wand of Fire when I am already trying to make room for the four that I have. Rings and Cloaks of Protection seem to pop up everywhere too, especially late in the game. Of course, as I said, if you have magic or ankheg armor, you won't be able to wear them anyway. (Argh!)

The Bottom Line

Because so many RPGs are so very bad, and this one is mostly good, I would have to recommend it to any RPG fan, even with its flaws. I would make it a double recommendation to fans of pen and paper AD&D, if you can bring yourself to look past some annoying rules inconsistencies. Uptight AD&D purists will probably not be able to accept those problems. Overall 'Baldur's Gate' makes for a pretty enjoyable roleplaying experience, but not a perfect one.