Friday, November 6, 2015

Screenshot of the Day: Baldur's Gate 2

I am unfortunately the person in the burning cage.

Baldur's Gate 2 is a (relatively) old fantasy role-playing game and is considered one of the best in the genre. In high school, a friend and I played the first Baldur's Gate to the point of memorizing the game, so it's a surprise I haven't played Baldur's Gate 2 sooner.

The opening of BG2 is beautifully done, but quite grim: the player character and their friends, protagonists of the first game, have been captured and is helpless in the dungeon of an evil wizard. The player is being experimented on and, by the time an escape is affected, some friends from the first game are already dead. It's a very dark place to begin a story, but it gives the player a range of immediately obvious emotions and motivations to act on right from the start, a thing most RPGs attempt to do by tired stereotypes like burning down a village the player character cares about but the player really doesn't. BG2 certainly can't be accused of a slow start.

Just so the mood doesn't get too dark, there are many things about BG2 that remind me it's just a game. Resting, for example, heals the player and their companions. During my daring escape from the wizard's dungeon, I decided we should bed down and take an eight-hour nap. Nobody came looking for the escaped prisoners that whole time, so my sense of urgency took a hit, but I suppose it's partially my fault for trying to sleep in the first place. One of my character's companions did question the wisdom of camping out a stone's throw from our former cages, so the developers at least thought of the possibility.

That last phrase sums up a lot of my experience so far with BG2-- the game is constructed for any sort of character the player might wish to construct. Dialogue options can make you an upright paladin or a sarcastic bard. Quest options can make you a down-to-earth pragmatist or a passionate idealist. Equipment and class options can make you a hard-hitting giant or a nimble thief. In the main story (to this point, at least), you can be motivated by revenge or power or the wish to save an old friend. Baldur's Gate 2 starts off like no other RPG I've played and continues to realize its potential as the player's choices drive the rest of the game.

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