Tag Archives: baldurs gate

Baldur’s Gate And Planescape: Torment Still Tell Stories Like No Other Games Can

With today’s releases of Baldur’s Gate games and Planescape: Torment for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, some of the most influential video games of the last 20 years complete a very long journey to the kind of wide audience they’ve long existed just outside. They’re also very old games that have spawned newer, flashier imitators, and they show their age.

This definitely makes them a little less appealing at first blush, but it’s worth stressing: If you’ve never played any of these before, it’s worth taking the time to experience them.

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Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, developed by BioWare, and Planescape: Torment, developed byBlack Isle Studios, are computer role-playing games created by what were, at the time, dream teams of RPG designers at the top of their game. 1998’s Baldur’s Gate in particular revived and perfected the style of RPG that sought to closely emulate the experience of Dungeons & Dragons—wherein you gather a party of colorful characters and venture out into the world, taking on monsters and confronting moral dilemmas. One year later, Planescape: Torment bent that format into something more narratively ambitious, where fighting was allowed but it was more interesting to talk, to read, to ponder over dialogue and wonder how characters were connected. Torment, to this day, is widely regarded as one of the best video game stories ever told.

An increased development focus on consoles killed much of the momentum built by these games at the tail end of the ‘90s, even as Baldur’s Gate II released to even greater acclaim in 2000. As publisher Interplay ceased operation, the games went out of print and became difficult to run on modern hardware without fan mods. For a while, you could get them, but it took a lot of work—until 2012, when Beamdog Interactive began releasing Enhanced Editions of these classic games for modern devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Twenty-one years later, it certainly helps that the newest ports are—at least on PlayStation 4—surprisingly excellent, taking games designed for a boxy CRT monitor and refitting them to play well on my flatscreen and work with a controller. There’s some clunkiness—a lot of how you play these games involves navigating menus full of items and abilities and indicating where you’d like them to take effect, and that will always be clumsy on anything that’s not a mouse and keyboard. That said, I did play Baldur’s Gate on an iPad a few years ago, and while it was less than ideal, I played nearly the whole damn game.

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Planescape: Torment
Screenshot: Beamdog

As officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons games, they take settings previously published for tabletop campaigns in the late ‘90s and use them as the backdrop for epic single-player adventures. I did not know this for years until I finally played them, and knowing that is important for understanding what makes them special.

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In a way, it’s about limitations. A hallmark of tabletop role-playing has always been liberation, the way players are free to dream up and take part in adventure in ways that more rigid media like, say, video games couldn’t really allow for. While Baldur’s Gate is far from the first video game take on D&D (it’s not even among the first dozen) it kicked off an era of video games that achieved the platonic ideal of D&D-style role-playing, no dungeon master needed.

By this I mean: They told stories, good ones, in which the player felt they were truly taking part. Your decisions didn’t just matter, they colored the tenor of your experience far beyond the good/evil/neutral trinary of modern big-budget RPGs. They let you get inventive the way you could in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, tackling encounters however you liked as long as the dice rolled in your favor.

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Baldur’s Gate cast players as Gorion’s Ward, an orphan raised in a monastic life under the care of the scribe Gorion, suddenly thrust into the wider world when they learn that their real heritage might be connected to something monstrous. Of these three games, it’s the most straightforward, about going on a grand adventure and learning something about yourself. In Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, you’re asked a more complicated question: Now that you know what you are, what are you going to do about it?

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In Planescape: Torment, you’re The Nameless One, an immortal man stripped of his memories on a quest to piece his long life back together. Like It’s A Wonderful Life in reverse, you slowly become aware of all the lives you have touched in your journeys, and must deal with the fact that your personal history might have been an awful one.

All three of these games deal with themes of legacy and memory, which is potent fodder for a video game narrative. Games are about interesting decisions, the stories told by the choices that we make in them. Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment make this a literal part of the stories they tell, with a level of nuance rarely seen in games before them and since. In their spiritual successors like Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect, the stories are about how much you mean to the world. In Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, it’s more about how you shape your character in response to these worlds. They resonate all the more for it.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Love When A Book Feels Like A Good Role-Playing Game

Concept art from Divinity: Original Sin 2
Illustration: Larian Studios
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Role-playing games are one of my favorite genres. They’re also the genre I came latest to. I didn’t play video games for most of my teenage years, the time when I would have lost entire weekends and nights to them. Coming to love them as an adult has been a minor tragedy, because the amount of time I have to dedicate to 60-hour epics is shrinking dramatically with each passing year, and I am not quite ready to admit that I cannot play them all.

So I look for that sprawling feeling elsewhere when I can—books, mostly, since the time I spend in front of screens is probably best described as “unconscionable.” Strangely, I don’t really gravitate toward fantasy literature, since I’m not particularly interested in swords and magic and courtly intrigue. I specifically want the feeling of role-playing games: I want to be so transported I feel outside of myself, watching the beautiful little struggles of people who are ultimately small cogs in something incomprehensibly big.

Recently, I finished reading award-winning novelist Marlon James’ latest work, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, precisely because that’s what it offered. In a recent profile, James—who previously made his name in literary fiction with novels like A Brief History of Seven Killings—declared his intent to “geek the fuck out” with an “African Game of Thrones,” to give the kinds of people and folklore that rarely get centered in Western fantasy their due. It rules—partly because it feels a hell of a lot like playing through a Baldur’s Gate game.

The novel is about a man known only as Tracker, who recounts his personal history to a mysterious inquisitor who ultimately wants to know what happened when Tracker accepted a job to find a missing boy, a job that ultimately leads to something horrifying.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a dense, difficult book that slips in and out of focus from one passage to the next. It’s a tall, thick volume at 620 pages long—to read it for long stretches is to fall into a trance where you’re aware of the shape of things, even if you can’t always make out the details. It’s reassuring to have some kind of horizon to look toward, a wall to lean against when I felt disoriented.

That’s why I say it feels like a good role-playing game: The story starts with Tracker coming of age in the villages of the Riverlands and follows him until he comes to a city and joins a party. They venture out and face monstrous horrors on the road, and then, at another city, they find answers. Along the way, we meet characters who tell their stories at length and have their own agendas and side quests, some of which seem like they’re detracting from the main plot but ultimately end up being diversions you’re glad you took. (The story of Sad Ogo—a massive man you should not call a giant—is devastating.)

This isn’t something we haven’t seen in fantasy literature—it’s good narrative structure. You can recognize this in all sorts of stories across media. It’s just cool to see video games fall so neatly in this tradition, another voice in one big story that we’re all telling. It’s becoming more explicit, like the way the current generation of fantasy authors are openly influenced by Japanese role-playing games. (If you want something that will rock your goddamn world, put Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings next to Suikoden II.)

Reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf, I felt small. Maybe it’s weird to say this, but that’s one of my favorite feelings in video games—I like big sprawling games that suggest a wealth of stories unfolding around me, with nothing but my time and attention keeping me from finding them. And man, how I wish I had more time.

Source: Kotaku.com

Larian Shares The Very-Serious Story Of How They Got The Baldur’s Gate 3 Deal

Baldur’s Gate 3 is real, and Larian Studios, the developer behind the excellent Divinity: Original Sin 2, are making it. But how did they score the biggest win in all of role-playing games, one of Dungeons & Dragons’ most-beloved stories? What did they do to sell D&D makers Wizards of the Coast on their Mind Flaying take? It happened, per Larian’s first of many planned community updates, like anything else in Dungeons & Dragons: with a solid set of armor, an iron flask, and a wee bit of kidnapping. Check out their very charming and extremely goofy video for yourself.

Source: Kotaku.com

Baldur’s Gate 3 Confirmed From The Makers Of Divinity: Original Sin 2

After teasing it last week, the makers of Divinity: Original Sin 2 today confirmed the biggest pre-E3 bombshell yet: Baldur’s Gate 3 is coming.

Larian, the company behind Divinity, announced the news on Google’s Stadia stream today. It’ll also be on PC, the company said.

Says Larian in a press release:

Baldur’s Gate III will push the boundaries of the RPG genre and offer a rich narrative with unparalleled player freedom, high-stakes decisions, unique companion characters and memorable combat. It is Larian Studios’ biggest production ever and will be playable together with friends or as a single-player adventure.

I’ll be talking to the developers on Sunday at E3 for Kotaku Splitscreen, so soon enough we’ll hopefully know more about all this all came together and whether the Bhaalspawn, protagonist of Baldur’s Gates 1-2, is involved.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Makers Of Divinity: Original Sin 2 Are Teasing Baldur’s Gate 3

Are the developers behind my favorite role-playing game of the decade making a sequel to my favorite role-playing game of the decade before? It sure seems that way, as Larian Studios, makers of Divinity: Original Sin 2, are teasing news of a Baldur’s Gate 3.

This morning, Larian put up a teaser on the company’s website with a big ol’ three (see above), which led many of us to believe that Divinity: Original Sin 3 was en route. But some clever HTML snooping by Twitter user @kunkken (and confirmed by Kotaku) leads to a whole bunch of hints that this is Baldur’s Gate 3, officially licensed from Dungeons & Dragons makers Wizards of the Coast.

Before I go any further, allow me to make a brief digression. HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

Okay, carrying on. The original Baldur’s Gate trilogy, which ended in 2001, is largely regarded as one of the best role-playing game series ever made. It’s renowned for its brilliant design and writing, and even today, Baldur’s Gate 2 holds up pretty damn well. The Canadian developer Beamdog, best known for making enhanced editions of old Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate and its ilk, had teased a Baldur’s Gate 3 many times, but that never got off the ground. If the makers of Divinity: Original Sin 2—perhaps Baldur’s Gate 2‘s greatest successor—are really making a new one, this might be the news of the year.

Source: Kotaku.com