I’m an RPG guy. I love the things. I’m a sucker for swords and sorcery in any and all forms. Hell, screw the swords and sorcery, put some stat sheets in space and I am THERE (I’m looking at you Phantasy Star and Mass Effect)!
I play all sorts of games, but the ones I truly love are mostly RPGs. Now, as a child, I didn’t really have a computer that was up to the task of playing games of any kind. If I could get a page of text to save properly, I considered myself a lucky young man when I was dealing with that electronic abomination. This being the case, I’ve always been a bit behind when it comes to the old-school, western pc RPGs, but they have been on my “to-play” list for as long as I’ve been aware of them.
I’ve also had a sort of “watching from afar” fascination with D&D. I’ve never actually played, but I’d always looked at the older kids at the local comic shop with envy. Sure they were nerds, so was I, but they were nerds with friends! It looked great. I never sought anyone out for pen-and-paper play, opting to focus on the world of electronic entertainment to fulfill my gaming needs, but the fascination has always nagged at the back of my mind. I’m not particularly keen to find a group now, but I always felt like I missed out on some sacred rite of nerd-passage by never sitting down with a 20-sided die.
Fast-forward to this past Christmas. My wife and I were short on cash, and decided to do some more budget oriented gift giving. She knew I had a wishlist on Good Old Games, and, because she’s an awesome lady who pays far more attention to my ramblings than any sane person should, she bought me the original Baldur’s Gate. I was ecstatic! Not only would I get to finally experience one of the great, classic, western PC RPGs, but I would finally be able to dip my toe into the world of D&D.
Starting out, the learning curve for this particular game is quite steep. I had forgotten how vital a game manual could be back in the day, and I neglected to properly bone up on the basics before setting foot in Faerun. While my pedigree isn’t pristine when it comes to my experience with Bioware games, I have played Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect. I thought that I’d be in for a similar kettle of fish when I fired up the character creation process. I was sorely mistaken.
Being something of a Dragon Age vet, I decided that the only way to go for a first playthrough would be to just nerf the game by rolling up a super powered mage, right? Turns out, times have changed since the Baldur’s Gate days. I quickly found that my all-powerful mage was closer in strength to a petulant child than an almighty juggernaut of the arcane. I had no idea that all the spells in the game are only usable once before you’d have to rest in order to re-charge it. That was something of a shocker. I’m far more used to magic-wielding characters having a pool of power to pull from. Having to decide about casting on a per spell basis is an entirely different strategy element than I’m accustomed to.
I had similar realizations over and over again. My characters died constantly, my mage was next to useless, and I found the dense lore to be a high barrier to entry while I tried to muddle through all of these other deficiencies in my abilities. The more I played, the more I realized that I was wholly ill-equipped to play this game using the skills I had honed in the more recent PC arena. I cracked open the manual and sunk some serious time into learning the interface and the intricacies of how the stats affect gameplay and character creation. Armor class is better when it’s lower? THACO? This was all stuff that I had completely glossed over when I first dove into the game.
I restarted the character creation process, and this time decided to go with a Ranger class that specialized in Bows and in Short Swords. Again, not my wisest choice of combat concentrations, as a character equipped with a two-handed weapon can’t easily switch to a sword-plus-shield combo in the heat of battle, but it was a far better match than I’d originally tried to strike out with.
I’m loving the game now that I’m building some momentum, and I’ll write more later as I make my way to Nashkel with my little ragtag band of adventurers. Anyone else sunk some time into this one?