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-   -   Baldur's Gate - Review @ Megascore (https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2861)

Dhruin October 8th, 2007 00:12

Baldur's Gate - Review @ Megascore
Time for a trip down memory lane with Morbus sending in this review of Baldur's Gate. The score is 3/5, with several criticisms:

Often acknowledged as one of the best Role-Playing Games ever (even if arguably worse than its sequel), Baldur’s Gate did broke some boundaries, but lacks some things other RPG’s have, released both earlier and later. However, it meant the practical start of BioWare as we know it today, and most of their RPG’s have been working upon that which Baldur’s Gate set (or not). For that reason, most of the traits and features we usually find in BioWare’s titles are also present in this game, for the good and for the bad. Let’s look at it in detail…
More information.

Morbus October 8th, 2007 00:12

Thanks for the cover Dhruin, but it's actually "megascore.biz" with no caps ;)

Once again, thanks for the cover. Strong criticism is encouraged.

aboyd October 8th, 2007 05:00

Strong criticism? OK. It sounds like it was written by a teenager who didn't pay attention to his grammar lessons.

Kudos for the review anyway, though. It's nice to read about BG these days.

JDR13 October 8th, 2007 06:11

Horrible review imo.

In the end, however, I always get the feeling that Baldur’s Gate would have gone much better with turn based mechanics,

Why? So a game that is already around 100 hours to finish would then take 200+?

Ultimately, we are left with an uninteresting and repetitive combat-centered game, with some bright moments and lots and lots of combat. Back in the day, it may have been a recreation of D&D worthy to look into. Now, the AD&D2 ruleset only serves as a limitation, and the uninteresting storyline doesn’t help at all.

An uninteresting storyline? What is he comparing it to? The story in BG was one of it's strong points.

I get the impression that this person never played BG back in the day, and that he 's comparing it to more recent games rather then considering the state of crpg's back then.

Dusk October 8th, 2007 06:37

I think BG is a fairly good presentation of AD&D to satisfy both AD&D gamers and computer RPG players. The realtime combat and the well-designed interface made it accessible, too. You may think the lack of originality is downer but it is quite a contrary in most of the cases. Otherwise, it would not be explicable why D&D became so dominant in PnP RPG while there were some unique and original RPG systems around. I think consensus on some formula is needed to share plots/worlds and this tendency descended to MMORPG world, where it is difficult to find originality. There should be considerable popular media, which let the people share the settings. While Bioware basically keep their winning formula unchanged, with Jade Empire, they made a relatively brave move by creating their own setting based on Chinese mythology. The designers tried to make the game-play more accessible but I think they couldn't cultivate the market of new audiences much. The majority is not interested in the settings including Asian audiences, who are satisfied with their own products. Also, they lost some RPGamers except some royal fans through "consolized" game-play. The game itself may not be that bad but I think their commercial success is rather limited. This comes to a question if the originality should be avoided or not. Most of publishers may think it should be and, in fact, Bioware seemingly went back to more conventional Sci-Fi setting. They may have toned down the originality of Dragon Age, too.

Unfortunately, at the moment, I see originalities come from other genres than so-called RPG. However, some works use RPG elements such as Bioshock. Personally, I think the key of the success of Bioshock is immersive feel which works well with the sandbox game-play. Some people says that it is too easy but not so many says it is dumbed down. The game-play requites some intelligence without forcing the players to read manuals since the sandbox game-play allows the players to learn the world around them by simply exploring it. Unlike Jade Empire, the art design direction is aimed to enhance the feel of being surrounded by them rather than beautiful scenes like a postcard, enhancing the immersion: Bishock designers tried to make full use of the first person view. RPG makers try to offer both first person view and third person view to let the players to make most of NPC conversations and tactical combat but the art direction cannot be as integrated as in the first person only games. Many Japanese RPGs are turn-based and seeing realtime simulation games alive and kicking, there may be places for Baldur's Gate style game. However, the audiences are drained to MMORPG and sandbox CRPG such as Oblivion. Even in narrativist sense, the aforementioned setting restrictions make the designers less creative even compared with their FPS competitors. I don't know how much can be amended by Mass Effect's Star Wars-like setting and cinematic presentations but personally, I don't expect much from Bioware since I don't feel creativity from them.

JDR13 October 8th, 2007 06:59

I agree with a lot of what you said with the exception of Bioshock having "sandbox" gameplay.

Bioshock is a fairly linear experience that is anything but sandbox.

wynams October 8th, 2007 07:28

I would have much preferred the BG engine support true turn-based combat … 200, 400, 600 hours, its cool .. I got more time than quality RPGs

Badesumofu October 8th, 2007 08:27

[very minor Bioshock spoiler]

Dusk, I don't want to be rude; but did you actually play Bioshock? Not only was it 100% linear and railroaded, but it went so far as to rub that fact in your face. The game is completely story driven- you do one thing, and then it tells you what to do next. Apart from one instance in an early level (where the game is making sure you have the key plasmids) it doesn't even leave you to figure things out for yourself. You can go back to completed levels and just run around fighting the respawned enemies, but that doesn't-a-sandbox-make.

[spoliers over]

It's certainly a very immersive game, but not an RPG in any way. You have no ownership of the character. You get a choice of a few different special powers, but even then, you can 'respec' your character at any time. I think the only reason that any of us are even comparing it with an RPG is, apart from the fact that's a 'Shock Game', is because we're so starved of good RPGs, that we're stretching.

Your point seemed to be that Bioshock did a lot of things that RPGs 'should' be doing, and I'll agree inasmuch as Bioshock did give me a lot of the things that I usually get from a solid RPG. Unfortunately it didn't give them to me in an RPG package. If it had, it would almost surely be my favorite game ever. I'm nt especially sad about what might have been though, because it was still a great game in its own right.

Moriendor October 8th, 2007 10:41

3/5 is pretty generous. Actually, Baldur's Gate sucked a bucket of golf balls through a very tight garden hose… 'nuff said :biggrin: ;)

Dusk October 8th, 2007 12:21

Off Topic

JDR13 and Badesumofu, probably this is not the usual usage of the term but, in Bioshock's case, I mean that the players are given an eco-system filled with AI-driven creatures like a sandbox. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. did the similar thing. However, due to the current technological restrictions, both games restrain AI creatures from having gone too wild. ;) While more ambitious S.T.A.L.K.E.R took enormous time and is still filled with bugs, Bioshock's "safeguard" seems to have influenced the game difficulty. The same thing happened with Oblivion's "Radiant AI" such as invincible quest-NPCs. In an early interview on Bioshock, Levine explained that the current computers were not good enough to make a believable city filled with human-beings and that the team made a setting filled with creatures who used to be human beings.

That said, I can understand what you mean: Bioshock is a very story-focused game, too. I think the decision comes from Levines' pride as a writer, too. The same thing can explain the linearity. By sandbox, I only meant the game-play. In Bioshock, the experience of story is more controlled than that of game-play. This is one of the reasons why I am interested in what the Witcher team is doing. However, considering the nature of the narrative device, I think it is probably difficult to judge the game. Personally, I don't like to be in the shoes of Dhruin. Take your time, RPGwatch team. ;)

Maylander October 8th, 2007 12:43

Nice review, although I don't agree on the story or that turn-based would make it better. The turn-based VS real-time is a matter of a preference; I prefer real-based-with-pause over turn-based, others do not. Simple as that.

As to the story? I find it quite solid actually. It doesn't match PS:T, but it beats most RPGs by miles and miles, especially the way it's told (through your dreams, through Elminster, through the motivation to find the killer of your foster father, etc). When we look back at the game, the story might be predictable, but noone is going to tell me that they knew why there was an iron shortage, what Sarevoks motivation was, or that the main character was the son of Bhaal. There is simply no way to know that, because it's not written anywhere or mentioned till revealed later on. The first time Bhaal is even mentioned, as far as I know, is when you return to Candlekeep and find a letter written by Gorion to the main character. This is roughly 75% through the game, and I wouldn't call a plot "predictable" if you go through 3/4 of the game blindfolded.

Leisure Suit Larry is predictable - he's going to get laid at the end of the game.

Other than that, I agree, the game certainly has its flaws. I feel BG2, overall, is a better game, even though Imoen doesn't serve as a strong motivation compared to finding Gorions killer.

I'd give BG1 a 4/5, and BG2 5/5. BG2 is pretty much the only game I'd give a score that high - I consider it the pinnacle of CRPGs; something others should try to match. Maybe PS:T as well, but I think it's more of a 4/5 to me since the combat is far from polished. I feel every aspect of BG2 is rock solid.

Dhruin October 8th, 2007 13:07

I have a soft spot for BG - I hadn't played a D&D CRPG in a while and it hit the right nostalgia notes for me. Many of the criticisms are valid but I think you are too harsh on the story and the superceded AD&D rules. I also don't agree BG is a sandbox game.

From a structural perspective, I acknowledge the largely empty wilderness areas are a poor design (notice how quickly BioWare learned the lesson) but, personally, it made me feel like I really was exploring the Sword Coast.

I'm also ambivalent about criticism of the dungeon-crawling aspect - I suspect (and this is just my gut reaction) that if you were reviewing ToEE, you would be likely to defend the level of combat ("hey - it was meant to be a dungeon crawler!"). I know not everyone will agree but combat was always central for me in D&D's design and philosophy and I expect D&D games to be combat heavy.

Is the Gold Box Pool of Radiance a classic? I don't remember much more than lots of combat. That said, I certainly agree BG could have offered more alternative solution scenarios.

woges October 8th, 2007 13:21

BG was a game I just picked up on a whim when I got back into gaming, after a few years of non-gaming. I really enjoyed it. Forgotton Realms are rather cliche but I think it works quite well with AD&D. I believe BG was my introduction to FR actually because when I played AD&D it was in Greyhawk. I didn't like the NPC's in BG though so I just rolled 6 of my own chars and played with them.

I did read the dark elf trilogy around that time and that was just crap, and ended any real interest I had in reading anymore fiction about FR.

Morbus October 8th, 2007 13:25


Originally Posted by Dhruin (Post 48290)
*snip* nd the superceded AD&D rules.

It didn't have any influence on the final score though. AD&D3 was not released by the time, so it would be unfair. Even though GURPS would be much better, but it doesn't really matter.


Originally Posted by Dhruin (Post 48290)
From a structural perspective, I acknowledge the largely empty wilderness areas are a poor design (notice how quickly BioWare learned the lesson) but, personally, it made me feel like I really was exploring the Sword Coast.

Then why don't you consider it a sandbox?


Originally Posted by Dhruin (Post 48290)
I'm also ambivalent about criticism of the dungeon-crawling aspect - I suspect (and this is just my gut reaction) that if you were reviewing ToEE, you would be likely to defend the level of combat ("hey - it was meant to be a dungeon crawler!"). I know not everyone will agree but combat was always central for me in D&D's design and philosophy and I expect D&D games to be combat heavy.

I am one of those that think torment is the only real D&D cRPG. But I get what you mean. Well, I guess it's a matter of opinion?


Originally Posted by Dhruin (Post 48290)
That said, I certainly agree BG could have offered more alternative solution scenarios.

Exactly. That was partly my point. Poor balanced (as in uninteresting and repetitive) fights were also a factor though.

woges October 8th, 2007 13:50

If you want to see uninteresting and repetitive fights go play Dungeon Siege. That game is truly dull.

Morbus October 8th, 2007 14:28


Originally Posted by woges (Post 48295)
If you want to see uninteresting and repetitive fights go play Dungeon Siege. That game is truly dull.

And yet most of its combat dynamics are better than BG's… However, when magic comes into play, BG is just sooo much better :P DS is, indeed, a very dull and uninteresting game… DS2 is a bit better though, but not much.

doctor_kaz October 8th, 2007 14:46

I didn't really love Baldurs Gate as much when it first came out, but I liked it better when I played it fouir years later and I could appreciate it for a lot of the things that it did for the genre when it was released. Baldurs Gate was, indeed, a huge step forward for RPG's, and Baldurs Gate 2 was the all-time pinnacle (in my opinion). My biggest problem with Baldurs Gate was "the game is no longer paused on this screen" and mostly everything else that I didn't like about it had to do with engine and interface problems, like how items wouldn't auto-stack, and the crappy Infinity Engine pathfinding.

I would have much rather seen turn-based combat instead of the hybrid turn-based/real-time system that has become the staple for RPG's, but I guess I have gotten over that a long time ago.

I really miss the old pre Jade Empire Bioware.

Gallifrey October 8th, 2007 15:05

I'm one of the few it seems who thought BG/TOSC was much better than SOA/TOB. What really worked in BG for me was that it felt like a D&D pnp campaign. It was a series of adventures strung together which had a connecting thread through which the PC and his/her party began small and leveled up while discovering and learning. It felt like an adventure.

In terms of mechanics, sure it had it's flaws but all games do. The combat system was fine I thought, the hugely adjustable real time with pause feature was a fine compromise between the two styles. My greatest compaint in the mechanics was the lack of weapon combination slots, namely the inability to go from a weapon and shield to a bow. The pathfinding was horrible but as I recall it could be improved by adjusting a value somewhere, which made it a lot better.
The AD&D rules were just fine, I knew them well and the modifications to the PC game were done well enough for me.

While it's sometimes nice to read reviews on old games, I'm not sure it's a great idea to write them years after the fact as it's impossible to be objective given all the more current game experiences that have come between. One's observations will invariably be coloured in different ways and opinion overtakes critical thought (which is what reviews should largely be comprised of).

woges October 8th, 2007 15:25

Yep the design of the first BG is great at capturing the feel of a pnp campaign. I liked the way you could systematically search the map. Opposed to the abstract way it's done in BG2, basically, by quests. I really missed that in the second game.

txa1265 October 8th, 2007 15:31

I played BG2 first and then BG (which is why I liked Jaheira so much I suppose :D), but while I see the sequel as the better game I still love BG.

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