So, I have a confession to make. I
may suck at this game.
Ten steps outside of Candlekeep on the road to the Friendly Arm Inn, I encounter two wolves trotting up to me. Now, modern RPGs will throw ‘real-world’ animals at you as trash to clear before getting to the good stuff. It makes a certain amount of sense, gotta save the dragons and orc kings for later. Two wolves are no big deal. They attack, and one bite kills my companion.
Being a bard, I bust out my attack-lute and activate a Battle Song, ready to skin some wolves. A wolf chomps my face, taking 75%(!!) of my health. I frantically flip through pages of archaic UI looking for my health potion as the second wolf eats the last 25% of my face and I die. Yikes.
Statistically speaking, this is a common experience. Most just say Fuck Baldur’s Gate! and uninstall. 87% of modern gamers don’t make it out of this chapter.1 I died A LOT, and it’s only Chapter 1. Part of this is the class I chose. With four hit-points, if a hobgoblin sneezes on me it would knock my block off. You learn to live by the Save. After every fight you save your game, because beyond the next door or hiding behind that tree is a quick death and a long restart. For the sake of this narrative, I’ve edited out my multiple, multiple grumble-sigh-slam-fist-on-table-receive-disapproving-look-from-Mrs.-Stylist-deaths. Just imagine after every sentence or two Stylist the Bard got a papercut, died, and restarted. On with the show.
Just outside of Candlekeep, Imoen catches up with me and insists on coming along. We avoid being wolves’ dinner by taking the long way around and meet Xzar (chaotic evil necromancer) and Montaron (neutral evil fighter/thief) in the woods. Given their alignment/classes, I imagine they are performing Macbeth with dead squirrels. These dudes seem like a good time so I bring them along. Dead Woodland Creature theater plays well with Stylist the Bard’s music.
About a day later after running for our lives from wolves, ogres, bandits, and anything else larger than a house cat we make it to the Strong Arm Inn. For the third time in two days, some assassin tries to murderize me but I’m saved by the town guards. Inside the Inn I find two more companions, Jaheira (true neutral fighter/druid) and Khalid (neutral good fighter). Quite frankly these two are a drag, but with a full party, I may be able to actually kill something. I peep around the inn and discover the worst pathing AI I’ve seen in a long time. Seriously, look at this:
Not a single character is on their mark. Three of them aren’t even in the correct room. I foresee this being a huge problem on a dungeon crawl in the future. Anyway, everyone in this inn is crying about this or that. Please kill this for me or go fetch that pleeeease. Their biggest problem appears to be a lack of iron as they’ve resorted to making tools out of glass or something. The are mines are south, so I gather up my band and head out.
Some old lady tells me where to find a the next town along the way, Beregost, and begs me to get rid of the spiders in her house there. Yeah sure whatever. We make it to Beregost at night, so not much is going on. I figure, what the hell, let’s go kill some spiders. We find the house and head in.
Immediately, we are taking eight-legged haymakers to the face. These spiders do not fuck around. It’s their house now, GTFO. Xzar goes down in one hit but luckily one of the four spiders lingers over him a bit. This was either more A+ pathing, or it was laying eggs in Xzar. I’d like to think both. I bust out my attack lute and start wailing on it. A spider dies from the shear force of my rocking. Jaheira and Montaron take another down, but Imoen gets eaten. We focus fire the third spider down while the fourth chews on Khalid’s pretty elf head. It’s a race, but we kill the spider before it kills him, barely. After all is said and done, two of us are all-dead (time to look through their pockets for loose change), and a third mostly-dead.
We drag the dead bodies through town to the temple. Too bad Xzar is dead or he could just walk them there. The priest tells me their services are free (yes!) but they take donations (uhhh) that end up being 200 gold pieces (!) out of our 230 (nooooOOOO). I grudgingly spend the money and we go on our way. Xzar has spider eggs in his brains and Khalid is nursing a two-liter of anti-venom potion. I never went back to tell the old lady her house was cleared. I guess that makes it my house now.
The band gets trashed at the local inn, some guy tells us to leave because adventurers are messy. No idea what he’s talking about but he won’t leave us alone so we murder him. Turns out he has mercenary friends so we get the hell out of Dodge, and make for the southern forests and foothills.
I could pend another thousand words on that forest, but here are the highlights. We raid a ogre mound and find a large collection of health potions. The mercenaries catch up with us, talk a big game, and discover the Candlekeep librarians are better equipped than they are. We find a mysterious submerged house we couldn’t interact with. Two days later we emerge from the foothills to find Nashkel, the mining town, and Chapter 2.
As you can see, Baldur’s Gate is pretty unforgiving, and the learning curve is steep, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it, getting accustomed to the way this game thinks. I haven’t checked a walkthrough, but I know that I’ve missed plenty or quests and content. And to be honest, I kind of like that. I enjoy stumbling on a quest rather than have a laundry list of quests thrown in my face every time a reach a new area. I’m starting to see what this game has to offer, and I think most gamers would too. If you can make it past that first wolf.
1 I just made this up.