There was once a time when I did most of gaming on a PC. That time was from 1999-2002, give or take some time on either side. Baldur’s Gate, as well as the other Infinity Engine games, was a big part of that. As much as I love those games, my experiences playing Baldur’s Gate is a big part of why I don’t do nearly as much gaming on a computer now.
My brother and I always argued about what video game system to get. I wanted a SNES, he wanted a Genesis. He won that round, and I really wish he hadn’t. I did have fun with the Genesis, but all the games I really wanted were for the SNES. Next time around, he wanted a PlayStation and I wanted an N64. That time I won and I regretted it. There are some absolute gems in the N64 library, but not enough to keep even a poor kid like me happy. So, before I saved up the money to buy one of the redesigned PSOnes, I had to turn somewhere for my gaming. And where I turned to was the computer. Mostly RTSes. I played Command & Conquer, C&C Red Alert, Warcraft II, and Majesty, among others. As a fan of RPGs on the SNES, I was eager to see what the much hyped computer ones were like. I didn’t really understand the difference at the time, all I knew was that I liked Final Fantasy. After getting bogged down in PC version of FFVIII (really, that is how I first experienced that game) I picked up Baldur’s Gate from the discount rack at Wal-Mart.
I loved it immediately. Having never played D&D (that is the one geeky bridge I’ve never crossed) the character creation was completely new to me. I rolled dozens of characters in all kinds of classes and all different races. I knew how to eke all possible experience out of Candlekeep before I left with Gorion. I plowed through the Friendly Arm inn and Beregost and Nashkel and explored the nearby environs thoroughly. Then I tore through the mines, clearing out all of those pesky Kobolds, only to be told to purchase the full game. I was a fool; I didn’t realize that I had purchased a trial version that only included Chapter’s 1 & 2. This next part might be on me, but a year or two later, when I finally tracked down the full game, I couldn’t figure out how to import my character from that save to the full game. It may be possible, but I couldn’t figure it out.
That is what killed PC gaming for me. There was too much to keep track of. Just because you had a computer didn’t mean your computer could play your games. Just because you had the game didn’t mean you had the right or full version of the game. It was exponentially more difficult to deal with than a console, where you put in the game and played. Those difficulties with PC games are much easier to deal with when you actually have the money to solve your problems. I was just a 12 year old kid trying to get things working on the family computer; it was a frustrating experience.
After feeling betrayed by that trial version, I couldn’t get back into Baldur’s Gate. I played BG2 for quite a while, but never got more than halfway and I played but never quite managed to beat either of the Icewind Dale games. For a long while I moved completely away from playing games on the computer. But in the last few years, the combination of Humble Bundles and Steam sales has given me a big selection of computer games to play, among them the Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate and its sequel.
I’ve finally got into Baldur’s Gate again recently. I did a lot research, not wanting to make things more difficult on myself than I had to. I settled on a class for the MC (Dual class Fighter/Cleric) and decided who was going to fill out the rest of my party. I’ve been running around the areas in the southern part of the map for days. I’ve moved the party members around, solved the bulk of the available sidequests and finally worked my character up from a level 1 weakling to a sturdy level 5 beater. I understand that that is still small potatoes, but he is now strong enough to handle some things. My mage party member (the less than fun Dynaheir) has finally started being good for more than one daily shot of Magic Missile. And Imoen has stared being able to put her thieving skills to good use. The biggest disappointment has been Minsc. Not that he is not still an excellent addition to the party, his skill with a bow makes him a worthwhile addition no matter what, but I remember enjoying his goofiness a lot more. He is still somewhat amusing, but it doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone like it used to.
Just the other day I finally cleared the Nashkel mines again. It was much easier than I remembered, but I was playing as a Fighter this time instead of a still underpowered Mage. I am now further in the game than I have ever been, though I am still a ways away from actually entering the city. I will, though, and soon. This time I will beat the game and exorcise it from my memory. This has always been one of those games I intended to beat one day. Well, today is that day. I will beat this game. Then I will import my character to the sequel and beat it as well. Or maybe I’ll get stuck trying to root some Trolls out of a castle again, who knows. I do know that I am glad I’ve finally been able to return to this game.