It must be a weird experience being a computer character in the role-playing game (RPG) Baldur’s Gate. Not only do you have to deal with a dark army of foul goblins, but your every movement is achingly slow as your pixellated legs ponderously wade through the landscape.
But that, unfortunately, is what Baldur’s Gate is like – and it sadly detracts from what could well be a real romp of an adventure. At first glance, Baldur’s Gate is an RPG enthusiast’s
Holy Grail. Based on the popular Forgotten Realms campaign – previously played around a table using a 100-sided die and armoury of pencils – it boasts the tapestry of a Dungeons-&-Dragons world.
Not only that, but it comes on a whopping five CDs, includes over 10,000 scrolling game-screens, and has dozens of subplots that are woven tighter than a chainmail jockstrap. Stir in 60 monster types, more than 100 spells, equipment selections that actually change how your characters appear on screen, and hundreds of builds to explore, and this should have been a great adventure.
And to some extent, this is a ripping yarn in true Tolkien-esque fashion. You start out by creating your own character, such as Paladin, Ranger or Fighter, and set attributes, such as how proficient they are at stealing. As you wander around the, admittedly, detailed land, you’ll gradually build up a party of do-gooders eager to go-a-dragon-slaying.
The interface is suitably Olde World, and you can drag-&-drop weapons and items into inventory slots, or gain quick access to spells. The background graphics are stunning: crisp buildings, cracking lighting effects, transparency and shadows, realistic movement and impressively varied scenery make for a believable world.
Yet sadly, Baldur’s Gate is a little blunted. As the characters amble into yet another slow-motion battle with equally tired-looking vampires, you can’t help feeling they’d rather be darning socks than dicing with death. Add in the fact that this is essentially a turn-based game that has been clumsily mapped into real-time, and you have a game that you’ll need to work at to enjoy.
Min specs: 200MHz Power Mac; Mac OS 8.1; 64MB RAM; 380MB hard-disk space.
That said, there’s a rich, emotive and downright massive game lurking inside Baldur’s Gate – the task you have is to find it.