Nostalgia Lane: Baldur’s Gate 2

I’ll admit it, I never really got much into the first Baldur’s Gate — it had a nice start, but felt meandering after that and lost me.  But where the first failed to keep my attention, the sequel smacked me to the ground and shouted, “YOU’RE MINE NOW!”

I loved me some Baldur’s Gate 2 in the worst way.  I really didn’t start playing it until 2001, doing two complete playthroughs in the space of a couple years.

The early 2000’s were a great time for single-player RPGs on the PC — you had Fallout 1&2, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum, Icewind Dale, Diablo 2 and more to choose from.  I wasn’t necessarily a BioWare fan back then more than any other company, but BG2 hit the scene like a nuclear bomb of goodness and made them hard to ignore.

This was the first RPG I played that truly felt “massive” in scope.  I wasn’t overly crazy about the D&D or combat mechanics (I certainly wasn’t going to keep pausing combat every two seconds to issue new commands, so combat was like “highlight all allies, move them into Zone of Death, pray for victory”), but all of the BioWare elements that we’d come to know and love started strong in this title.  There was the gripping introduction, the chunky mid-section of the game where you could go off and do a huge variety of whatever you wanted, a shocking twist, romances between you and NPCs, and customization out the wazoo.  I played this in conjunction with my friend Bob, who lived in PA at the time, and we’d call each other to share what we were doing in the game and any secrets we’d found.

I’ve always appreciated the more mature edge that BioWare gives their games — they’re not graphically violent or sexual or profane just because, but sometimes the story calls for it and they don’t back down from telling it.  BG2 had a couple moments that certainly rocked me back on my heels — I mean, hey, this is a game that begins as your character is being tortured.  They even had a rudimentary form of the morality system that would later be more defined in games like KOTOR, but even as far back as BG2 I would weigh my choices at times and decide whether I was going to try to be virtuous or ruthless in my approach.

Above all, here was a game that made me really care about its characters.  Your party wasn’t just a bunch of no-face NPCs tagging along for the loot, they were fairly complex individuals who bickered and laughed between each other, had their own strengths and weaknesses and weird quirks (like a barbarian who had a space hamster named Boo in his pocket).

In a weird way, this was my MMORPG before I ever really played one.  The world felt persistent to me, and as you progress, you’re even able to carve out a niche for yourself and secure a stronghold that becomes your own base.  I really never wanted it to end, and when it did, I couldn’t bring myself to play the (what looked like a lame) expansion.  I didn’t want to resurrect false hopes.

Anyway, even though BioWare separated from the D&D license, this remains the single best D&D title ever made, a shining example of how these imaginary worlds aren’t just silly medieval stereotypes, but vast and complex and often bewildering.

15 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: Baldur’s Gate 2

  1. Sven May 7, 2010 / 10:35 am

    Dude, Minsc was a Ranger!

    “Magic is impressive, but now Minsc leads! Swords for everyone!”

  2. We Fly Spitfires May 7, 2010 / 10:52 am

    I’m ashamed to admit it but I never got into BG2. I think I was too young and too immature to appreciate it and all of it’s complexity and depth. It’s the type of game I’d like to download and play again on my laptop on holiday one day.

  3. Matt May 7, 2010 / 10:55 am

    *dries a tear* ah, Baldur’s Gate 2… maybe it’s just the nostalgy talking, but I dare say Best RPG ever made, bar none.

  4. Professor Beej May 7, 2010 / 11:09 am

    My first non-MMO MMO was Diablo. I was able to play with other people online for the first time and loved it. I tried BG2, and I couldn’t get into it. Something about the way the dialogue was presented turned me off.

    It may sound silly for a reader like me to complain about it, but BG2 had too much text blocked together to sift through. If they had broken it down into more scannable snatches, I’d have been okay. As it is, though, I only remember thinking, “these paragraphs are way too long” and giving up.

  5. Llokki May 7, 2010 / 11:13 am

    Ahh, the memories! I always loved the spell which let you summon a familiar as a wizard or sorcerer…not because they were particularly powerful, but because they had a personality based on the caster’s alignment. Neutral was my favourite, as they had rogue abilities, and I was always bickering with mine over whether or not it should hand over what it had pickpocketed 😀

    Minsc and Boo were priceless, and there was also a chaotic evil dwarf fighter/berserker (forget his name. Starts with ‘K’ I think) who had an awesome personality as well.

    I’m really going to have to re-install it and give it another run-through one of these days…

  6. Llokki May 7, 2010 / 11:14 am

    PS: anyone else notice the ‘Space Hampster’ that is available to buy for your cabin in Mass Effect 2. I loved that little addition 🙂

  7. Unknown May 7, 2010 / 11:27 am

    ToEE is the better D&D game, just sayin’…. Nice rightup tho 🙂

  8. Rackham May 7, 2010 / 11:55 am

    I loved Baldur’s Gate too. I remember being in awe when I played BG II and simply stopped every now and then and just remarking on how much fun it was. And it happened again when Icewind Dale came out.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Neverwinter Nights? That game is still played to this day and is, I think, one of the most successful standard RPG games on the market. I can’t begin to explain how much I loved playing NWN! (Wasn’t so keen on NWN2 however)

  9. Cedia May 7, 2010 / 12:30 pm

    Yep, one of the greatest games ever. Just curious, what did you think of Dragon Age?

  10. suzita May 7, 2010 / 2:05 pm

    I loved this game – Minsc and Boo were just fantastic. I have occasional urges when I want to re-install and play again… but I don’t as I fear disappointment 😉

  11. cirdanx May 7, 2010 / 2:38 pm

    OMG 😀

    Yes Baldurs Gate 2 is still the best RPG in my eyes, nothing comes close to it. Nothing. I totaly agree with you, except one thing…the addon ToB was one of the best game addons ever and really was the end of the story.

    Even though the focus was a bit more on the combat, it was just great. Also the community made some of the most amazing mods for the game.

    I think this old article is pretty good:
    http://www.gamebanshee.com/editorials/bg2fiveyearanniversary.php

  12. theerivs May 7, 2010 / 2:46 pm

    LOVED the Baldurs Gate Series. Growing up on such fare as Pool of Radiance, and the Gold Box on the Commodore 64, these were pure heaven for me.

  13. Jomu May 7, 2010 / 2:55 pm

    “Boo says fight hard, so I fight hard.”
    =D

  14. Xoduz May 7, 2010 / 4:51 pm

    “You must gather your party before venturing forth.”

    Apart from that, BG2 was a brilliant game. Just pure brilliance.

  15. OrderedChaos May 7, 2010 / 5:04 pm

    BG and BG2 were great! Icewind Dale was another good one too.
    ToEE sucked. The best thing about it, was I once made a group of all evil people, and the beginning video started out with “One day, after burning down a church…” My friend and I looked at eachother, laughed and then proceeded to make another set of evil characters, so we could hear the intro again. I never did finish that game.

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