by: Ray Muzyka (director)
by: D&D, Gold Box and possibly Black Box games, perhaps Wasteland
Two main games and two expansions. A few spiritual sequels using the same
engine, the Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment, were produced by a
Neverwinter Nights and its sequel,
but really, the continued relevance of the Dungeons & Dragons brand to
computer gaming is largely due to Baldur's
Baldur's Gate was the game that rescued
computer D&D from the wastebasket. SSI's bug-ridden Black Box games had
nearly destroyed the venerable property's reputation. It was rescued by one of
the coolest computer games ever to bear the brand. The game is still clear
enough in the memory that it seems like it must have used 3rd Edition rules,
but it turns out that it doesn't: all the mainline Baldur's Gate games used 2E rules.
the Gold Box games, Baldur's Gate
doesn't use a first-person perspective, and it doesn't force the characters to
stick together in one unit either. This is one of the more inventive
breakthoughs of the game, in fact, and it seems like it may have been inspired
by Wasteland's party-splitting
feature. At any time, the player can switch to combat time, giving characters
actions as if they were in a fight.
Baldur's Gate (Screenshot courtesy http://nostalgeek.wordpress.com/)
fights the game can either be played in real-time or, since the pause feature
allows commands to be queued to characters, as a kind of turn-based game. The
game can even be switched to multiplayer mode, allowing a different human
player to take the role of each character.
Although there are many NPCs in the
game who can join the main character, in multiplayer mode individual characters
can be rolled for each of the six party characters, instead of just the leader,
a feature that was expanded upon in the later BioWare game Neverwinter Nights.
particularly awesome thing about it (and the later Neverwinter Nights) is that most of the NPCs in the game, in
addition to having scripted dialogue and often quests and rewards to impart,
are also attackable characters with stats should the need to use them in combat
This helps the game to remain more open-ended and available to multiple
solutions to problems than linearly-scripted.
Baldur's Gate is possibly the
game to best marry the old-school simulation approach of the early CRPGs with
the later tendency to provide unalterable, hard-coded stories.
I don't think I can let this game pass by without noting the extremely
well-done characterization of the potential party characters. I am not aware of
anyone who has played this game who had a certain ranger named Minsc join his
party who wasn't utterly enthralled by the character.
It is rare that a CRPG
can produce a character with the kind of life and wit that you can imagine a
tabletop player investing in his charge. He even has a Wikipedia
page, which confirms that he had his origin in social
pen-and-paper sessions. Go for the eyes, Boo!