Back in 1998, a gargantuan computer game burst upon the scene, stored on five CDs and taxing the modest hard drives of the era with its multi-gig installation. That game, Baldur’s Gate, matched its digital size with an epic role playing story based on the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset (second edition AD&D, more precisely).
Though it hid the complexities of its rules behind the screen, as it were, the game made no apologies for its complexity or its scope. This was gaming nirvana: hours and hours (and hours) of herding a party of adventurers through an intricate web of plots and quests and events, all told from an isometric perspective with pausible combat and the elaborate branching conversations that would become the hallmark of its developers, BioWare and Black Isle.
Baldur’s Gate spawned expansions and sequels and devoted fans, but eventually the isometric, text-heavy, detailed role-playing game would become the purview of independent developers like Spiderweb Software as the industry moved to shorter, more easily digestible (read: simpler, dumbed-down) games. BioWare would move on to more action-oriented role-playing games, but even in light of such successes as the Mass Effect franchise, they’ve never recaptured the glory of Baldur’s Gate.
Or perhaps I’m just seeing this game in a rosy, nostalgic light. Given that Baldur’s Gate has just been re-released in an “enhanced” edition, optimized for modern operating systems and generally cleaned up and given a polish, I’ll have the chance to see whether my fondness for the game stems from a general belief in the superiority of the ’90s to the ’00s or if the game actually is that good. It certainly was that good, but how it stands up to that proverbial test of time is a question I’m looking forward to answering.