I play old games (Baldur's Gate)

 You must gather your party before venturing forth. Be warned, this is going to be a long one
Yep. Remember how I vowed to finish this game? Well, I didn't. But I must have, at maximum less than 5 hours to go before I go and murder Sarevok and his stupid Bhaalspawn face. But because I really don't... feel like doing those last few hours right now, I figure now is as good a time as any to put down my thoughts on one of the most important RPGs of all time. Other than that, the other thing I have to mention is that I played the game through Baldur's Gate Tutu, a total conversion mod that allows you to play it with all the enhancements of Baldur's Gate II (which I will use for comparison a lot in this blog, as that is my baseline), and undoubtedly makes the game easier and slightly more enjoyable(Max HPs with level ups and all that.) but other than that and a widescreen mod (1920x1080 bitches!) though, I played through the game mod-free, trying to have as "pure" of an experience as possible.  
 
These caveats aside, Baldur's Gate is very much an alright game with hints of great here and there. Considering that this is Bioware's first actual RPG, it's not totally unsurprising. In terms of importance and influence, no doubt this is an incredibly important game, laying the groundwork for every Bioware RPG ever made. But as something that one would actually play in the year 2000 and 10? Ehhh... sure.  It's playable. Maybe mods make it better. But my purpose is to take a look at the game that the developers actually made, instead of some sort of totally bitchin NPC banter pack or whatever the hell people do to mod this game in their spare time. 
 
Obviously, this is a Bioware game, and if the good doctors have taught me anything about the games their company makes, it's that they often focus on story and choice and stuff like that. This being their freshman effort, the story of BG1 is fairly meh, all considering. Since "Interesting Non-Player Characters" wasn't apparently on the design doc until BG2, everyone who joins your party has roughly 6 lines of dialog (those being when you first meet them and when you kick them out because you found better party members) in addition to the sounds that they make when you click on them. Thus, you are forced to rely on your own character's RPG-ing skillz. However, most choices are: A. Kitten murderingly evil (which in addition to making everyone hate you, is a totally nonviable way to play the game.), B. Obnoxiously saintly or C. Apathetically Greedy/Neutral. This is par for the course for all Bioware games pre-Mass Effect (or hell, even pre-Dragon Age), but none of your choices have any impact on the story, whatsoever. I guess you could murder a story related NPC and make the game unbeatable, but why, why would you do that? Thus, without interesting characters or interesting choices the story of Baldur's Gate consists of your ragtag party of adventurers going around the Sword Coast and chasing one faceless bad guy after another until you realize that the Iron Throne is the bad guys and Sarevok (who only appears at the beginning and the end of the game, by the way.) is the main bad guy of the bad guys after which you subsequently murder him and get captured by Jon Irenicus (who is a way better villain, for comparison's sake). Yeah. Once again, more laying the groundwork for better games here than anything else. 
 
Obviously, the other half of BG (the actual game part) is where it still manages to hold up ok. Oddly enough, it doesn't fit into the traditional Bioware mold of vignetting the hell out of everything through the use of self-contained plotlines to contribute to the main story as a whole. In fact, the main quest is almost wholly linear, but if you were to think of only doing that, you would be fooling yourself, as you wouldn't have nearly enough EXP to be successful. Most of BG is going to be spent aimlessly wandering around mostly empty wilderness areas, occasionally murdering whatever beasties appear in view, and sometimes participating in a side quest, until you unlock access to the titular city more than halfway through the game, which allows for more centralized, but still kind of aimless questing. Since your character starts at level uno, you are pretty much fucked in whatever you do, and thus the start of the game is significantly harder than anything that comes after. Slightly weird structure aside, BG becomes far more enjoyable after the initial difficulty hump. You gain more spells, you don't die in one hit, and you can actually hit things with your weapons. Nonetheless, it's nowhere near as interesting as some of the higher level mage battles in BG 2 (CAST BREACH OR DIE), or even the hack-n-slashy action of Icewind Dale. The combat is still good, which is more than I can say about half-a-dozen games I have done on this blog series (cougharcanumcough). 
 
Finally, another thing that BG suffers from, (but isn't entirely its fault) is the incredibly anachronistic and totally outdated AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset. Such random things as "Humans can only be paladins" and hell, the entire concept of Dual Classing (not to mention the term THAC0) are weirdly complex and simplistic at the same time. Such things certainly contribute to the "Old Skool charm" on some level, but on another they serve to show the game's age in a world where the current D&D ruleset is basically ripped from every MMO ever made (not that that's a good thing). Another thing that Bioware kind of worked around in BG2 (you know, like how there are roughly 3 multiclassed characters, the one Paladin you get has the best paladin kit ever, and you get a ring within the first hour that sets your charisma at 18). I played as a sorcerer (technically illegal, since they weren't added until BG2, but that's the power of TuTu for you.) and, let me tell ya, they aren't as good as regular mages or their 3rd edition counterparts, at least at the level 1-10 scale. 
 
So, in conclusion, I think Baldur's Gate is the kind of game that should be remembered more for what it did then than what it does now. That's not to say its crazy outdated, but there are better RPGs out there, both within the Infinity Engine catalog (i.e. Everything else in the Infinity Engine catalog, including BG2), and outside it. (I might actually go as far as to say that I would rather play Fallout 1. Ok. Maybe not. It's a tie. They both are old and anachronistic in their own special ways.) It's available for $10 on GOG right now. and I find that a perfectly acceptable price. However, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment are also available, and BG2 is inevitable. Those would probably be better choices. But hey, at least I (most certainly will in the near future) finish it. That's more than a lot of the games I have played.
 
Next up: Showing how, exactly, to ruin my childhood with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
 

16 Comments
16 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater
 You must gather your party before venturing forth. Be warned, this is going to be a long one
Yep. Remember how I vowed to finish this game? Well, I didn't. But I must have, at maximum less than 5 hours to go before I go and murder Sarevok and his stupid Bhaalspawn face. But because I really don't... feel like doing those last few hours right now, I figure now is as good a time as any to put down my thoughts on one of the most important RPGs of all time. Other than that, the other thing I have to mention is that I played the game through Baldur's Gate Tutu, a total conversion mod that allows you to play it with all the enhancements of Baldur's Gate II (which I will use for comparison a lot in this blog, as that is my baseline), and undoubtedly makes the game easier and slightly more enjoyable(Max HPs with level ups and all that.) but other than that and a widescreen mod (1920x1080 bitches!) though, I played through the game mod-free, trying to have as "pure" of an experience as possible.  
 
These caveats aside, Baldur's Gate is very much an alright game with hints of great here and there. Considering that this is Bioware's first actual RPG, it's not totally unsurprising. In terms of importance and influence, no doubt this is an incredibly important game, laying the groundwork for every Bioware RPG ever made. But as something that one would actually play in the year 2000 and 10? Ehhh... sure.  It's playable. Maybe mods make it better. But my purpose is to take a look at the game that the developers actually made, instead of some sort of totally bitchin NPC banter pack or whatever the hell people do to mod this game in their spare time. 
 
Obviously, this is a Bioware game, and if the good doctors have taught me anything about the games their company makes, it's that they often focus on story and choice and stuff like that. This being their freshman effort, the story of BG1 is fairly meh, all considering. Since "Interesting Non-Player Characters" wasn't apparently on the design doc until BG2, everyone who joins your party has roughly 6 lines of dialog (those being when you first meet them and when you kick them out because you found better party members) in addition to the sounds that they make when you click on them. Thus, you are forced to rely on your own character's RPG-ing skillz. However, most choices are: A. Kitten murderingly evil (which in addition to making everyone hate you, is a totally nonviable way to play the game.), B. Obnoxiously saintly or C. Apathetically Greedy/Neutral. This is par for the course for all Bioware games pre-Mass Effect (or hell, even pre-Dragon Age), but none of your choices have any impact on the story, whatsoever. I guess you could murder a story related NPC and make the game unbeatable, but why, why would you do that? Thus, without interesting characters or interesting choices the story of Baldur's Gate consists of your ragtag party of adventurers going around the Sword Coast and chasing one faceless bad guy after another until you realize that the Iron Throne is the bad guys and Sarevok (who only appears at the beginning and the end of the game, by the way.) is the main bad guy of the bad guys after which you subsequently murder him and get captured by Jon Irenicus (who is a way better villain, for comparison's sake). Yeah. Once again, more laying the groundwork for better games here than anything else. 
 
Obviously, the other half of BG (the actual game part) is where it still manages to hold up ok. Oddly enough, it doesn't fit into the traditional Bioware mold of vignetting the hell out of everything through the use of self-contained plotlines to contribute to the main story as a whole. In fact, the main quest is almost wholly linear, but if you were to think of only doing that, you would be fooling yourself, as you wouldn't have nearly enough EXP to be successful. Most of BG is going to be spent aimlessly wandering around mostly empty wilderness areas, occasionally murdering whatever beasties appear in view, and sometimes participating in a side quest, until you unlock access to the titular city more than halfway through the game, which allows for more centralized, but still kind of aimless questing. Since your character starts at level uno, you are pretty much fucked in whatever you do, and thus the start of the game is significantly harder than anything that comes after. Slightly weird structure aside, BG becomes far more enjoyable after the initial difficulty hump. You gain more spells, you don't die in one hit, and you can actually hit things with your weapons. Nonetheless, it's nowhere near as interesting as some of the higher level mage battles in BG 2 (CAST BREACH OR DIE), or even the hack-n-slashy action of Icewind Dale. The combat is still good, which is more than I can say about half-a-dozen games I have done on this blog series (cougharcanumcough). 
 
Finally, another thing that BG suffers from, (but isn't entirely its fault) is the incredibly anachronistic and totally outdated AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset. Such random things as "Humans can only be paladins" and hell, the entire concept of Dual Classing (not to mention the term THAC0) are weirdly complex and simplistic at the same time. Such things certainly contribute to the "Old Skool charm" on some level, but on another they serve to show the game's age in a world where the current D&D ruleset is basically ripped from every MMO ever made (not that that's a good thing). Another thing that Bioware kind of worked around in BG2 (you know, like how there are roughly 3 multiclassed characters, the one Paladin you get has the best paladin kit ever, and you get a ring within the first hour that sets your charisma at 18). I played as a sorcerer (technically illegal, since they weren't added until BG2, but that's the power of TuTu for you.) and, let me tell ya, they aren't as good as regular mages or their 3rd edition counterparts, at least at the level 1-10 scale. 
 
So, in conclusion, I think Baldur's Gate is the kind of game that should be remembered more for what it did then than what it does now. That's not to say its crazy outdated, but there are better RPGs out there, both within the Infinity Engine catalog (i.e. Everything else in the Infinity Engine catalog, including BG2), and outside it. (I might actually go as far as to say that I would rather play Fallout 1. Ok. Maybe not. It's a tie. They both are old and anachronistic in their own special ways.) It's available for $10 on GOG right now. and I find that a perfectly acceptable price. However, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment are also available, and BG2 is inevitable. Those would probably be better choices. But hey, at least I (most certainly will in the near future) finish it. That's more than a lot of the games I have played.
 
Next up: Showing how, exactly, to ruin my childhood with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
 

Posted by keyhunter

Hey punk. Don't hate on Arcanum.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@keyhunter said:
" Hey punk. Don't hate on Arcanum. "
Say what you will about the rest of the game (which I personally dislike quite a bit. Refer to my previous blogs on the subject as to why), the combat in Arcanum is shit. That is the only statement I was making.
Posted by owl_of_minerva

Your criticisms come down hard on the story, and that's fair, but wasn't the game along the lines of a more traditional CRPG in that it focused more on exploration, combat, dungeon crawls and the like rather than a narrative? I thought the story had some good ideas, dream sequences tied to doling out new abilities for example, but it didn't seem to be the focus, more like a thread binding the game together as a whole.  For a long time, if you were an RPG player, you weren't presented with a complex narrative. Undeniably it is slow, especially now, but compare it to say Goldbox games, or Wizardry/Ultima/Might and Magic.
 
Some would argue that a CRPG is much more about the mechanics - combat, character development, choice/consequence, etc. Presented in historical context, this was a pretty decent narrative for a CRPG (and to be honest, most Bioware games haven't improved that much in their choices or their narratives). Even Fallout, for instance, one of the best story-oriented CRPGs, has a pretty basic plot but the setting, characterisation, and incidental events combine together in a satisfying way to create a coherent world. Baldur's Gate's Faerun was amazing for the time: the Infinity Engine was much more impressive when the game was first released, and I still find the designs of some of the areas, and the environment itself, to be memorable.
 
In terms of mechanics, it's still a pretty solid game, and much more rewarding that most modern RPGs, namely Bioware-Bethesda's present efforts. Unlike the AD&D ruleset that provides a proper basis for strategic combat and char. development, Oblivion/Fallout 3 is broken, Dragon Age is systemically bad etc.  
But yes, if I were to recommend to someone that never played the originals to play a game now, it would be Baldur's Gate 2, which has everything the original offered with some truly awesome combat encounters at higher levels.
 
Placed in historical context then, Baldur's Gate is a better game than some of the games to follow it in the Infinity Engine. Planescape: Torment has a better storyline but fairly bad combat and mechanics, Icewind Dale is a great dungeon crawler but offers nothing for the story-oriented player (and really it is a retread if you played Baldur's Gate, it's the same mechanics) and Baldur's Gate 2 is more of an evolution of ideas already present in the original. It seems unduly selective to downplay the importance of a pretty impressive entry in CRPGs, which provided the underlying ideas for the later IE games.
 
I probably haven't explained myself all that well, but I will happily clarify any of the above positions if necessary.

 

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@owl_of_minerva said:

" Your criticisms come down hard on the story, and that's fair, but wasn't the game along the lines of a more traditional CRPG in that it focused more on exploration, combat, dungeon crawls and the like rather than a narrative? I thought the story had some good ideas, dream sequences tied to doling out new abilities for example, but it didn't seem to be the focus, more like a thread binding the game together as a whole.  For a long time, if you were an RPG player, you weren't presented with a complex narrative. Undeniably it is slow, especially now, but compare it to say Goldbox games, or Wizardry/Ultima/Might and Magic.
 
Some would argue that a CRPG is much more about the mechanics - combat, character development, choice/consequence, etc. Presented in historical context, this was a pretty decent narrative for a CRPG (and to be honest, most Bioware games haven't improved that much in their choices or their narratives). Even Fallout, for instance, one of the best story-oriented CRPGs, has a pretty basic plot but the setting, characterisation, and incidental events combine together in a satisfying way to create a coherent world. Baldur's Gate's Faerun was amazing for the time: the Infinity Engine was much more impressive when the game was first released, and I still find the designs of some of the areas, and the environment itself, to be memorable.
 

Certainly, I'm not one to complain about the lack of a good story in my CRPGs if the gameplay is compelling enough (see: Might and Magic, Wizardry). Hell, Might and Magic VII and Wizardry 8 are two of my favorite games ever, and the story in either game is entirely secondary to the game itself.
 
 But Bioware's whole shtick, then and now, is the characters and story they create, and I disagree with you that they haven't gotten much better. I am replaying KotOR right now, and while the main plot is quite cliche driven and the choices are so painfully Black and White, the actual vignettes of the individual planets (specifically Manaan and Korriban) are very good. Even progressing farther than that, I also think Dragon Age and Mass Effect, for all the trappings they steal from other works, establish interesting, believable, and compelling universes far better than they did in the days when their worlds were designated by the Forgotten Realms handbook. Hell, I would go as far as to say that Dragon Age has something resembling grey "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't" morality. 


In terms of mechanics, it's still a pretty solid game, and much more rewarding that most modern RPGs, namely Bioware-Bethesda's present efforts. Unlike the AD&D ruleset that provides a proper basis for strategic combat and char. development, Oblivion/Fallout 3 is broken, Dragon Age is systemically bad etc.  
But yes, if I were to recommend to someone that never played the originals to play a game now, it would be Baldur's Gate 2, which has everything the original offered with some truly awesome combat encounters at higher levels.


No doubt the mechanics are solid, but I would have to say, above almost everything in BG, the AD&D ruleset is it's weakest link, and, as 3rd edition games such as IWD 2 and Temple of Elemental Evil have shown, there are arguably superior ways to do strategic combat. But yes, I think that BG 2 manages to be far more compelling from this standpoint than the first game. And also, I understand your Bethesda comment (although, I have to say right here and right now: Oblivion is way less broken than either of the Gamebryo Fallouts) what do you find wrong with Dragon Age? Is it the general streamlined-ness of the whole affair? Is it the MMO style talent trees? I thought it a worthy successor to these games, and would probably rather play it than a lot of other games.

Placed in historical context then, Baldur's Gate is a better game than some of the games to follow it in the Infinity Engine. Planescape: Torment has a better storyline but fairly bad combat and mechanics, Icewind Dale is a great dungeon crawler but offers nothing for the story-oriented player (and really it is a retread if you played Baldur's Gate, it's the same mechanics) and Baldur's Gate 2 is more of an evolution of ideas already present in the original. It seems unduly selective to downplay the importance of a pretty impressive entry in CRPGs, which provided the underlying ideas for the later IE games. 
 
 I probably haven't explained myself all that well, but I will happily clarify any of the above positions if necessary.  "

 No doubt, all your points are valid in regards to historical context. And I have said that this game is important. But it's important because it laid the groundwork for better games, the same way that something like Daggerfall laid the foundations for Morrowind and Oblivion or how Warcraft II laid the foundations for Starcraft, and not because it holds up on its own merits in a modern context. While I haven't played every Infinity Engine game extensively, I have to say that they each have their advantages over BG, if that can be considered the baseline. Planescape's combat is dull, certainly, but that's not it's main point. It's the crazy incredible writing (which is probably still some of the best) and story are what makes it matter. Icewind Dale and it's sequel are more pure dungeon crawlers in the vein of something like the Gold Box games or Eye of the Beholder, less focusing on story and more on setting up some excellent set pieces and environments for the player made party to go fuck shit up. Plus, some really good art design. Baldur's Gate II is everything that the first game is, but significantly better. It's the first RPG where I can say it has side characters I'm genuinely interested in (except Nalia and Aeire can go jump off a cliff with their general lame-ness), and some of the stuff you do in that game is pretty incredible *especially* if taken in historical context.
 
However, I still like BG. I also think that it has a far more adventurous feel and tone than it's successor, and feels closer to actual P&P than any of the other IE games. Perhaps I came off too strong in my criticism. It's still a game I can enjoy and appreciate. There are just so many other games I can enjoy and appreciate more. Hell, I'm probably going to import my character into BG2 once I murderize Sarevok, although I'm not actually sure what that entails other than my character's stats and level. 
 
Oh, and if my lengthy response wasn't enough proof, I think you explained yourself quite well.
Posted by owl_of_minerva
@ArbitraryWater:  Thanks for the detailed response, I will ponder it as I too return to the RPG past and play some old classics. I probably need to replay the IE games again so I can see the development over time, but you're probably right that Bioware has improved with its storytelling. I basically agree with everything you've said there.
To go into detail about Dragon Age, I liked the fact that they tried to mess with some of the usual fantasy cliches by making it darker, more gritty political drama, etc. The characters, the moral choices, and the storytelling were all handled well. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, the MMO-style trees, the poorly-balanced abilities (game-breaking mage combos), and the poor economics (overpriced items, crappy drops from the trash mobs) detract from the experience. As someone mentioned, once they had 2 spells - I forget the exact ones - they spammed them over and over again for the rest of the game. You could use other abilities I suppose, but why use less optimal builds? This is totally unlike what working one's way up in BG1, or even better, BG2 was like once you get access to the best unique weapons and high-level spells. The combat itself in DA was fine, but the systems around it marred it and made it much less interesting than the best IE games.
It wasn't bad so much as it was disappointing, but it's still probably the best major RPG of late that remains relatively close to CRPG roots. I would much rather they stuck to 3.5 or something like that then create a new system which is bad, or certainly no better, though. I'm worried about Dragon Age 2, the way the design team is talking about it makes it sound like it's going even further down the path of simplification.
Posted by eldiax

Baldur's Gate <3 
One of the first RPGs I played ever.

Posted by Aronman789

I never got through the game either....really have to get on with that some day

Posted by endaround

I disagree about the story and characters being the main focus of BG.  Its more about exploring the world and brining your character up in it.  There are some memorable NPCs, but not really that many.  Yes the morality is black and white but then its 2nd ed AD&D and you have no other options.  The rules are well implemented and thats one thing modern RPGs really are missing is a fair rule set that everyone can see and understand.  Now I agree that unless you really like exploring wide open spaces and shooting lots of arrows most other IE games are superior.  Now I also think that KoToR was a big step back from BG2 and the place where Bioware went wrong.  Its not bad , its just not as good and sort of laid the foundations for Jade Empire, ME and ME2.  DA seemed to be an attempt to break from that (yes there is NWN but its hard to judge that) but DA2 seems to be returning to the KoToR/ME path.

Posted by Jeust

I have to play it some time. Now I'm also playing old games, mainly FFVI and Civilizations: Call to Power 2. Both are awesome games. 

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@endaround:  Yeah, I dealt with this particular point in my post to Owl_of_Minerva. Perhaps I may retract that statement, but I still think that the story was definitely still a major focus for Baldur's Gate. As for what I think of KotOR (a game that easily defined my childhood and introduced me to RPGs) you will have to wait until I blog about that. But I will tell you that I really don't like Jade Empire based on it's agonizingly bad combat system alone.  
 
@Jeust: It's very much a game that you can get away with not playing if you play BG 2 or another Infinity Engine game instead. Also: FFVI is probably my favorite FF game, as someone who normally sides with the hate spewing mob on most things Square. Civilization: Call to Power though? Isn't that the crazy bootleg game that had the Civ name even though Sid Meier had nothing to do with it and was working on Alpha Centauri at the time?
Posted by wrathofconn

I had this game when I was younger, and it was totally impenetrable to me at the time. I just started the game over and over as different classes and never got more than a couple hours in. I remember it being pretty demoralizing to die, though I don't recall the exact penalties that kept me from pressing on with my sweet-ass Fallen Paladin.

I can certainly recognize its influence on games I played after though.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Just a heads up (as well as a bump). I finished the game. Unsurprisingly, having a wand of Fireballs is pretty useful when you want to kill a lot of guys at once. Also: The theives' maze is perhaps the lamest, most anticlimactic end area ever. It's not even hard. Oh, and this is featured on the community spotlight! Huzzah.

Posted by Egge

 A well-rounded blog post which offers a fair, sensibly critical as well as admirably non-nostalgic assessment of BG1. For the most part, the following disagreements should be viewed as my own fairly subjective take on the topic.
 
Personally I appreciated BG1's story and settings more than BG2's precisely because of the former's intentional high fantasy genericness and charmingly rustic focus on down-to-earth, low-level adventuring. BG2's über-epic Wagnerian bombast (complete with a Shakespearean actor doing the part of the main villain) always left me cold; partly because it so clearly exposed the Bioware writers' limits as storytellers.
 

I also think Dragon Age and Mass Effect, for all the trappings they steal from other works, establish interesting, believable, and compelling universes far better than they did in the days when their worlds were designated by the Forgotten Realms handbook.    

I found DA:O's and ME's game worlds to be dreadfully boring and uninspired, even though I really like some of the characters, dialogue etc. in both games. The biggest offender is undoubtedly DA:O, which takes its forgettable dark fantasy pastische so painfully seriously that it forces to player to sit through endless fully voiced dialogue scenes littered with the most vapid attempts at disguising their trite lore as anything but fantasy boilerplate. Admittedly, there's an argument to be made that Baldur's Gate would have been just as in-your-face about it's generic story and characters if Bioware hadn't been restrained by the limitations of the Infinity Engine, but for whatever reason BG1 in particular simply works whereas DA:O reveals an embarrassing pretentiousness as the core element of Bioware's storytelling approach. And don't get me started on ME's ludicrous "Giant Space Lobsters from Outer Space" scthick...
 

 Since your character starts at level uno, you are pretty much fucked in whatever you do, and thus the start of the game is significantly harder than anything that comes after. Slightly weird structure aside, BG becomes far more enjoyable after the initial difficulty hump.     

You just described every remotely faithful D&D computer simulation ever released so I really can't see what's "slightly weird" about that in BG1 specifically. Dungeons & Dragons tend to be especially extreme in that regard, but no matter where this phenomena occurs it's certainly always somewhat questionable from a game design standpoint - as anyone who has ever struggled with the first 10 hours of Wizardry 8 only to find the rest of the game remarkably easy will doubtless agree - but it surprises me that you think it stands out as something special about BG1.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Egge: I did believe I said somewhere that I definitely thought BG had a more adventurous tone than BG2 (your use of the phrase "High Fantasy Genericness" is apt), and appreciated that aspect of it for sure. It's weird, because most RPGs (hell, most games with stories) always go for the straight up opera rather than the somewhat more reserved tone of BG. Temple of Elemental Evil is perhaps the extreme other end of the spectrum, with it's level cap of 10 and generally constrained vision.
 
 I wouldn't call the core of Bioware's storytelling to be "pretentiousness", as what I think they actually excel in is not overarching plots, but in all the separate vignettes they create, as well as the characters. As for the lore, it's really how much you want to buy into it that will determine the quality of experience. Sure, do I think that the concept of something like the Reapers hasn't been done to death before? Sure, but it's the way it's told and the general tone set (70s Sci-Fi) that make the storytelling elements in Mass Effect good. Dragon Age? Maybe harder to justify. I still like it. Probably because I haven't bothered to read any of the stuff that DA is supposed to crib from specifically.   In the end, it's a matter of taste. I think that Final Fantasy's manner and form of storytelling can go die in a fire, but there are plenty of people on these forums who would disagree.
 
You probably aren't wrong about my difficulty point, but because of the general openness of BG's world, it's far more pronounced than something linear like TOEE or IWD. I had to be careful to not put myself in a situation where I would get murderized. Because of the way difficulty scales in W8, the difficulty kind of plateaus after the initial hump, and the game never really gets any more than "challenging". It's one of the few things I don't like about that game (it's sluggish pace is another)
Posted by Cwaff

I played through Baldur's Gate properly for the first time in 2009 and loved every minute of it!