I’ve been playing proper Dungeons & Dragons for more than six months now, in a staggering display of a-regular-group-of-adults-actually-happening-regularly (albeit through the magic of the internet). While we’re playing the latest edition (5th), the familiar bestiary summons constant reminders of my first foray into that world — the classic computerised 2nd edition adventures that are Baldur’s Gate and its sequel.
(Actually, my very first foray was accidentally getting a Drizzt book out of the library; I just thought it was a generic fantasy adventure novel, I didn’t know any better. When I got Baldur’sGate and made the connection I was like “huh???”)
Thus I chose to eschew the most productive time of the year to play somebody else’s video games, and spent the post-crimbo haze burning through the Baldur’s Gate saga. (Though to be fair, as I’m pretty much note-for-note rebuilding the Infinity Engine dialogue system for Exon, it most definitely counted as research.)
Playing the two games back-to-back, I was struck by one major contrast between them: the respective presence and then utter absence of “wilderness” areas.
Planescape: Torment… Actually, no, that’s wrong. “Planescape” is the setting, the meta-setting that draws together everything Dungeons & Dragons (from Baldur’s Gate to… all that other stuff nobody cares about).
Baldur’s Gate was the first Infinity Engine game I played so long ago: before I knew anything of this magic they call “Dungeons & Dragons”, before I knew anything about games and engines and how they worked, before I was a rampant modder…
(Though some time after I had taken R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale Trilogy from the library, completely oblivious to its significance as a small boy. When I finally got Baldur’s Gate, and found Drizzt, I was all “trololo?”).
It’s only fitting that, almost a decade after playing the first of the Infinity Engine games, I play the last.
I had been waiting so long for this. Finally achieving Planescape: Torment a while back gave me the insatiable urge to revisit all things Infinity Engine, but I was somewhat hampered by… oh, sundry concerns like the last exams ever, nothing important.
As I mentioned before, Baldur’s Gate‘s expansion pack was to be my own little leaving present. With all the trifling concerns out of the way, I started playing it.
I was going to begin by saying that I don’t remember Baldur’s Gate being this short; then I realised that over a single day of solid playing I crammed in about ten hours’ worth of time… Repeat this for about four days. Compared to the ‘half hour a day’ that would have been in effect when I first got the game, which would have cause it to take a considerable length of time to finish… Then again, on my first playthrough I managed to take up about 365 days of in-game time too.
This time I was a little bit more savvy, and my party micromanagement skills were somewhat improved (though still pretty sloppy). It only took half a year to comb most of the landscape, bringing all party members up to the expansion-improved experience cap of 161000.