Baldur's Gate 2

Grand temples, Yoshimo (oh, poor Yoshimo) and gleaming weapons. Not your typical Pearl River Flow material, is it? 

"Will I be able to write it?" That's the question that plagues me for the Baldur's Gate review. It's a valid question. Baldur's Gate has kept me from writing quite a few things. Term papers, mostly. Term papers and job applications.

Success and the joys associated with a life of comfort, privilege, and status. All denied me, by this game, but I must say it was worth every pain.

Therefore, I must write the greatest game review of all time, something worth the psychic cost that Bioware has inflicted upon me.

SO IT BEGINS!

Wait, holy shit, my paladin and fallen cleric just got into a fight and Keldorn just up and KILLED a member of my party! With a Holy Avenger! Carsomyr +5, to be exact. And stupid Anomen attacked him with the Flail of Ages, which, sure - is a great weapon and all - but really? You're a cleric, Anomen, not a Paladin. Keldorn is going to murderize you! You should have known that! I guess I should try and resurrect you, given that I'm the son of a god, and have a magic rod that brings people back to life...

Well, I can't. I won't. I need to write this review like I needed to write that BioChem paper back in 2002. The one I failed because I was playing Baldur's Gate 2. So yeah, the review...

I mean, why'd you kill him, Keldorn? We were trying to solve the crime our BARD was accused of committing! We were already down a party member, and now I have to go recruit that weird wingless-winged elf I found in a circus tent with that gnome from the first game! Okay, well, we'll just go visit your family first, if that's okay, and...

God, they don't get along. This Paladin's family does not like him one bit. Why would they? He spends all his time out and about helping save the world with ME, one of the sons of the god of murder, that's important, I understand, but...

Oh. Oh, Helm. She's seeing someone else. His wife's cheating on him, with the man that's taking their kids to the circus!

Though that is a seriously dangerous circus. I had to kill a bunch of shapeshifting demons and ghosts under the control of a deranged gnome just to make it safe. Oh, well. Hey - that's where the wingless elf (she had wings once, okay?) is. Shit. I probably shouldn't take Keldorn there. He just murdered a party member in a fight and heard about his wife fucking around with some nobleman at this damn circus, but hey - he's staying right by the circus, and I can swing by, pick up a new cleric (she's also a mage!) and deal with this shit, then go solve the murder-mystery of our bard, all in one night!

I LOVE THIS GAME!

My dedication to bridge based photography knows no multiversal bounds, people. Also, my barbarian wears shorts. Into battle. I know. It's the "done thing." 

...and that's what I want to talk about. The rich content of the game. The NPCs that have quests and lives. That's commonplace now amongst your big RPGs - especially the BioWare ones, made by the same people who made THIS game - but back when I was playing Baldur's Gate (approximately 2 minutes ago) - especially BG2, it was new? I guess, I don't recall that well. Anyway, I'm going to take a break to fix this problem and...

Oh crap! Viconia! My cleric from Baldur's Gate 1! They're going to burn her at the stake! I abandoned her heartlessly in Act 2, and now... she's dead. She's dead right when I needed a fucking cleric.

So, Aeire is it, then. Game's only got three goddamn clerics. But hey - she lives right next to the guy I need to talk to for crime-solving AND the cuckolding nobleman! I can fix this! I can...

Maybe it's just nostalgia, right? I mean, it's not like I'm still playing this game thanks to the blissful support from the community, who has stitched together both games and both expansion packs into a heartfelt "Trilogy" that is by far superior to the "Enhanced" edition heartlessly re-released by some money-grubbers seeking to cash in on this superior experience of video gaming.

Baldur's Gate! I was playing the Baldur's Gate games when I should have been in college, and I didn't stop when I got out. My first year on my own, in a wrecked apartment with a 2nd story door to the open air and balcony that had been gone for years, I sat up there and on a computer sitting on an ancient wooden pedestal and ottoman and played this game. Sure, it was 3 years old by then, but the expansion pack to Baldur's Gate 2 came out in the same year, and the two seemed so great together, and...

Wait, I'm getting sidetracked with a game review when something interesting has happened in the game. I've solved my crime. I've sent my paladin on a day off with his family to keep them together. My *new* cleric is wearing the most excellent gear. My bard is out of jail.

Okay, well, now - to write that review. Good thing I'm a hundred hours in and only halfway through.


We return, dozens of hours later. The strength of Baldur's Gate games, both 1 and 2, is the expansive beginning act. Act One and Two in the first game, the impressive Act 2 in BG2. These give you the sort of freewheeling fun you expect from a Bioware RPG of that era. Your objectives are simple, yet loosely defined. Get a certain amount of money. Find a certain note. The only way this can be accomplished is, of course, through the mass murder of anything and anyone in your path, the disarming of every trap on the ground, and probably, at some point or another, exploiting the primitive AI and calling it "tactics."

No doubt you have memories of such events. A wizard throwing a fireball into a room full of summoned wolves holding the enemy at bay. Bottlenecking an endless series of Kua-Tuo and hammering them to death with your barbarian warrior. Springing a trap on an unwary demilich, re-killing him instantly. Using mindless skeletons to absorb the endless waves of mind-flayers in the Underdark.

In a modern context, this would seem "cheesy," and be a bit off-putting, but the mechanics are done just right, to save the sense of adventure. The fan patches that make up the (must use) Trilogy edition turn many of these would-be-gamebreakers into fun twists, balancing the overwhelming power of too-many summons, or the game-destroying failure to roll a saving throw on your fighter, who then murders the entire party.

When you come out of the game-turning events - reaching Baldur's Gate, heading off to Spellhold, your characters are powerful, no more pathetically flailing at people with quarterstaves, now you're hitting with legendary swords and immune to everything the game can throw at you.

Until the enemies level up - or you go in search of the most challenging fights! There's always something you can do that's NOT EASY.

One of the best fights, to me, comes in Throne of Bhaal, the sprawling "expansion" that serves, to me, as a fitting Baldur's Gate 3. You run across an army. Yes, an army. Wizards, archers, warriors, big gangs of minions. An army.

And you fight them. If you win (at this point, you're quite literally a god. You will win) you look back on an entire pile of loot and death, and know it's only a short ways to go until you can earn that Throne of Bhaal.

Also, the endings are good. Most games just hurl you into a fight you probably didn't quite realize was coming. Not Baldur's Gate 2. No sir, the game telegraphs these intentions from a mile away. You chase the Big Bad Sarevok into his lair. You take the wizard Irenicus to HELL to fight him. You assault the throne of Bhaal itself. There's no 'well what happened?' no Knights of the Old Republic twist, no question that you have in fact, finished the game.

You've probably already played this game. Skip the "Enhanced Edition." Get the regular, on Good Old Games. Apply the trilogy patch as they lay it out.

That's the best way to revel in the greatest game the world has ever seen!

There. A dragon. Because "Dungeons and Dragons" is in the name, and "Dragons" is a pretty significant part.