(Today’s guest author is Los Angeles comedian Alex Fleming- Ed.)
Are you trying to prove a point to yourself or someone else by playing a video game? Consider Baldur’s Gate – the granddaddy of old nerdy video games. Let me tell you, there are a lot of needlessly complex, unfathomably deep fantasy universes to explore out there but there is no ultimate nerd Everest like Baldur’s Gate. It’s not just a video game, it’s an adaptation of an ancient version of Dungeons and Dragons AND it’s the name of a city in the world of D&D. A triple threat. I mean, seriously, if you are trying to play the one up game, if you need to prove more than anyone else that you have no life, there are few currencies more valuable in Nerdery than the lore of “Faerun,” as it is called. Duh!
So, to recap, in one of the many worlds of Dungeons and Dragons is a city called Baldur’s Gate, and it’s not just some city, it is The City. It’s like New York but somehow less dirty. I mean, that’s what I know from the internet, I haven’t actually gone anywhere near Baldur’s Gate in this game and I’ve already put almost 50 hours into it. I’ve been out in the countryside and small towns working on side quests for the most part and have only recently started to hear rumors about the titular city. Eons could pass before I make it there, because, well, everyone has a story! And I keep meeting new people.
The first version of this game debuted over 20 years ago, and honestly I’ve been having a great time revisiting it. I’ve been glued to the computer for weeks. The characters are what really shine and make it reach that classic status. One guy talks to his hamster while he fights. His name is Minsc and he rules. (Boo doesn’t do anything, but Misc is one of the strongest companions you can have in the game.) I’ve met all sorts of characters along the side of the road, each with their own goals, backstory and secrets. It’s a real HBO ensemble drama, like Deadwood or The Wire but with Wizards.
If you’re the kind of nerd who knows a little bit about D&D, or maybe listens to a live play podcast or watches a stream on Twitch, you’ll love this stuff. It sticks to your bones. If you’ve played a retro fantasy role playing game and liked it you will probably make room in your list of favorites for Baldur’s Gate. However, if you consider an aggressive amount of customization and deep lore “research projects” you might want to try something else. This is a feature, not a bug. Once you finish learning the basics of how to move your character around you just have to learn the entire fucking 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons rules system in order to fully understand and optimize your party.
Because this game scratches a D&D itch that used to require socialization, coordination and logistics it lets you totally get lost in the world on the screen. No more worrying about drama, or whose house to play at, your only concern is how many hours have passed since you’ve talked to a living human being. How many days have you called in sick from work? Have I eaten in the last 6 days? I need to keep the electricity on so I can keep playing Baldur’s Gate.
It belongs in a goddamn museum. It’s not just a fun game with a fantastic cast and strong writing – it’s a historical artifact of what a moment in the collective imaginations of those who shared the Forgotten Realms universe was. The “Infinity Engine” that Baldur’s Gate uses became the basis for a series of sequels and other Forgotten Realms based games. I’ve heard the second game is actually the best. I don’t really care. This game rules. Gain a level of archnerd. Play Baldur’s Gate
*Note I played Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition which is a 2012 re-release of Baldur’s Gate for more modern computers.
Alex Fleming is a writer, comedian, nerd and game designer living in the LA area. For more information or to file a whistle-blower complaint please visit alexhfleming.com