Baldur's Gate - A 16 year old game stands up to the test of time, and it's co-op!
So during the steam summer sale, a friend of mine bought me Baldur's Gate 1(Enhanced Edition) so we could play together(the 4 pack was 20 bucks). 6 months later, we had never played together once so I finally decided that I wanted to play, so I played it solo.
Now there's a few things you should know about Baldur's Gate. The game was originally released in 1998. I played it while I was in high school my senior year. It introduced a LOT of new people to Dungeons & Dragons. It's a 3rd person isometric RPG in which you control all members of your party. It's paused based(instead of turn based), which means that when combat starts, you pause, issue commands, unpause, wait for something to happen, pause again, issue commands, etc, etc. There are lots of games with that type of system now, but as far as I know, BG was the first.
So the way you're -supposed- to play it solo is to create one character and go along recruiting AI NPCs to join your party of up to six. Well you can get around all that by playing in multiplayer mode by yourself. Multiplayer mode lets you create all six party members and tweak them to your desire. You can also export/import different characters at any time. You can easily get away with this from an RP(roleplaying) perspective by saving your game in an inn and swapping party members in and out saying "Oh I met this guy at this inn". So to start with, I created my own party of 3: Human Fighter(me), Paladin, and Cleric, then I pick up NPCs along the way. Not completely satisfied with the NPCs in game, I finished the game with 5/6 party members self generated, and only one in-game NPC(Yeslick the Dwarven Fighter/Cleric). If you enjoy character creation and tweaking things and micromanaging party members, gear, stats, and other RPG elements, this game is definately for you.
Lets talk about the story. This is where the game really drew a lot of people in. For those of you that have already played, you know what I'm talking about. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone that may play the game in the future(even if it IS 16 years old), but it's a great, great story that lets you choose your own path. Of course my path is that of the good soldier fighting for... well... good. But if you enjoy the darker side of things, it's always allowed, which a lot of games give you trouble doing. You can lie, cheat, steal, and murder and still complete the game.
Oftentimes now that I'm in my 3rd decade of life, I've gone back and tried to play games from my childhood that I remember really enjoying, and graphically none of them have stood up to the test of time(X-Com, Doom, etc). Since all of the assets in BG are more or less hand drawn and the enhanced edition lets you play at your native resolution, the game still looks pretty damn good, especially amidst the recent indy dev 8 bit gaming boom. So graphically, it passes the test. The environments are pretty freakin cool too. A whole lot of unique, hand drawn areas that I had forgotten about since I first played a long time ago that made me say "huh, cool" when I came across them recently.
And now let's talk difficulty. Holy ♥♥♥♥ is this game hard. It's been so long since I've played a game that didn't just blatantly hold my hand and coddle me the whole way through I'd forgotten what it's like to play a game that punishes you. AD&D 2.0 core rules are a huge ♥♥♥♥♥ and completely unforgiving. There are 5 difficulty levels in the game:
-Easy - Everything does half damage, all hit point gains per level are maximized, and characters can't permanently die.
- Normal - Everything does 75% damage, all hit point gains per level are maximized, and characters can't permanently die.
- Core Rules - Everything does 100% damage, hit point gains are randomized(so you can get as little as 1 hp/level on your badass front-line fighter that needs ~10 hp/level), and characters can permanently die.
- Hard - Everything does 150% damage
- Insane - Everything does 200% damage and you are a satan worshipping masochist
I may have added that last little part on the insane bit.
So being the badass gaming veteran I am, I of course choose Core Rules. I understand what THAC0 is, I know what the different classes are, I know how to D&D. I'm good.
Or so I thought.
I'm actually not as good as I had thought. I had to do a LOT of fights multiple times because Jesus Christ, this game can be hard. Mostly with the crowd control abilities the enemies get(note - If you fight against a group that has a mage, KEEP YOUR PARTY SPREAD OUT just like in ArmA). A lot of times I'd get hit with an AoE fear or confuse or stun, etc, etc, etc. It could be infuriating, but I kept re-loading and going at the fights in different manners from different angles, and analyzing my party and their abilities and switching things around until finally, at the end of the game, I had SOME sort of idea of what I was doing... I thought... until the final battle.
Let's just say that the final battle in Baldur's Gate had me curled up in a fetal position in the corner of my room praying to Torm asking him what I had done so poorly to have been punished so badly.
So somewhere between 20 and 50 attempts later, I managed to defeat the final boss and win the game. I even had to google strategies for the final boss. I actually felt a sense of accomplishment like I haven't felt in a game in a long, long time. The funny part is, 17 year old me beat the game in 1998 without the internet for guidance. I have NO CLUE how I managed that feat.
So I immediately went to steam and bought Baldur's Gate 2 enhanced edition, even though it's not on sale, and started a new game. This time, however, I'm playing on normal mode. It seems to be a much better balance of playability vs difficulty. I've still lost some fights, but I've learned a whole damn lot and built my party around the strengths needed.
I have a Cavalier paladin because he: 1. Can't be feared, charmed, mind controller, or poisoned; and 2. He can make the entire party immune to fear pretty much all the time. He's also a badass tank alongside my main character which is a frontline fully maximized fighter with sword and shield. I also have a pure Dwarven Cleric, Fighter/Thief, Fighter/Mage, and Dragon Disciple Sorcerer. I dual classed the Thief and Mage with Fighter bases so they could use longbows for good DPS instead of being relegated to a shortbow and a sling. The nice side to that is that they get fighter HP for their first 7 levels so they're pretty beefy on top of it all.
I just pretend(roleplay) that my entire group is a squad of trained military soldiers that have been sent on a mission, so they almost all have that base fighter class from their military training.
So I have 2 tanks(FIghter/Cavalier Paladin), a pure healing Cleric, and 3 pure DPS(Thief/Mage/Sorcerer). But don't be fooled, that fighter and paladin can put out some melee hurt too. The cleric is really the only non-dps class. Oh... Make sure you -always- have a thief in your party with the script that makes him passively detect traps. Trust me on this. You don't necessarily need a thief/rogue that can stealth, but you damn sure need one that can detect/disarm traps and pick locks.
And on that note, there are pre-set scripts that you can use for each character. There are about 20 for all the different classes in the game to mess around with. I pretty much have my whole group on the standard "I see an enemy and attack with my equipped weapon", except for my rogue, who is set to always passively detect traps when not in combat, and my cleric who is set to dynamically run around and heal. I micromanage everything else(mage spells mostly).
Read the rest of this review here: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/Jester814/discussions/0/648817377413793428/