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Baldur's Gate, the latest RPG from Black Isle Entertainment (makers of Fallout 1 and 2), proves to be a gaming experience you likely won't forget.
The Infinity engine (the engine used by Baldur's Gate) allows for simple point-and-click movement. This is extremely intuitive and easy to use, and especially useful if you're running from say, a pack of giant spiders. Combat is based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons combat engine, which pits your attack skill against the target's defending and dodging ability. However, combat is very simple; it consists of you clicking your character, then clicking on the monster to attack. Your character will promptly move forward and begin swinging his weapon. Though watching your character swing his sword and continually miss isn't very entertaining, you can remedy this situation by bringing along a mage - one who is skilled in the arcane arts. The magic system is once again based on the Advanced Dragons and Dungeons spell system, which doesn't require spell components or some type of 'mana meter'. Instead, spells, once cast, must be re-memorized, and cannot be re-used until done so. Spells are very balanced, and there are two types of spells for memorization; wizard spells for wizards, and priest spells for priests. Wizard spells focus on attack and illusion, while priest spells focus on healing and defense.
You have a variety of races to choose from, ranging from human to gnome, as well as a good selection of classes for every type of personality; you could be a fighter, or you could be a bard! Each race and class is unique, and have their own special abilities with which to aid them in their quest. For example, what kind of a thief would not be able to hide in the shadows, and move silently? A thief has thieving abilities, as such, though he may not always succeed in performing the desired actions.
Inventory is handled VERY well, with your character's carrying weight (in pounds) being determined by his Strength score. The inventory screen is very intuitive, and there is pop-up help for items and the inventory boxes, just in case you're not sure of what you're doing. Equipping weapons is handled by dragging the desired weapon into the character's weapon slots. Your character will then equip the weapon, provided he is able to use it, of course.
The Infinity engine uses rendered animations and background, so when playing Baldur's Gate, you won't get that '3-D experience' you might be searching for. However, what you will get is total immersion into the world of your character, with lush backgrounds, strange and interesting locales, as well as the random monster (all of which are animated very well). It can rain or snow, depending on where you are, and this truly adds a layer of atmosphere to your experience.
The plot of Baldur's Gate is top-notch, something most have come to expect from any type of AD&D game. You begin in the town of Candlekeep, when someone attempts to murder you. Your foster father, Gorion, tells you that you must leave, and you then both leave for the Friendly Arm Inn, in the middle of the night. On the way there, you are ambushed by a gigantic armored man, with a few of his 'friends'. Needless to say, Gorion tells you to run, and procedes to kill the armored man's friends with powerful magic. Unfortunately, the armored man slays Gorion. Eventually, you are asked to discover the cause of the tainted, weak iron being shipped out of the Nashkel Mines, and this leads you deeper into the discovery of your own character... for a VERY surprise ending. Besides the main plots, there are MANY, MANY subquests to be had.
Ugh, I dread reviewing a game's multiplayer capabilities. Anyway, Baldur's Gate comes with a small install of Gamespy Lite, specifically tailored to ping and search for Baldur's Gate games. The main problem with playing online is that for some reason, everyone sets a password on games they create on a server, not allowing you to connect. Another major problem is version conflicts. After the latest patch was released, you still had plenty of servers running the second beta patch, which was extremely annoying! Ping to the servers runs from decent to horrible, and the lag within the game is handled well. Baldur's Gate REQUIRES teamwork, so Player Killers, don't apply within. It (PK'ing) just simply is NOT fun or rewarding. It is good fun to play online, but it most likely won't capture your attention for very long. You'll soon be turning back to your own games on Baldur's Gate for gratification; multiplayer is too... hmm, boring?
Suggestion: Run Baldur's Gate on multiplayer offline, which will allow you to create all your characters and bring them into the game. When playing offline by yourself, use Serial connection. Or if you're online, but don't want to play with anyone, use your TCP/IP connection and just create your own game.
RPG fans will rejoice at playing Baldur's Gate. The only gripe I would have is the lack of variety in magical items; they are too bland. The game itself is fairly short, as well. It can be completed in 40 hours, at least. However, the excellent gameplay, storyline, and graphics will give you an experience you won't soon again; if you buy Baldur's Gate, you'll be visiting the Sword Coast quite often, I can assure you of that!
<< Rating: 85 >>
Graphics Rating: 8/10 (Rendered graphics, that 16 meg Voodoo 3 isn't useful here :)
Gameplay: 9/10 (Intuitive interface, excellent help and inventory screens)
Storyline: 10/10 (It's an AD&D game, what more can I say?)
Multiplayer: 6/10 (It works. But it's boring.)
Overall: 8/10 (It IS a great game, overall! Buy it!)
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