Baldur's Gate (series)

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Baldur's Gate
Baldurs Gate stacked logo circa Enhanced Edition.png
Baldur's Gate franchise logo
Genre(s) Role-playing video game
Developer(s) BioWare
Snowblind Studios
Magic Pockets
Black Isle Studios
High Voltage Software
Beamdog
Publisher(s) Black Isle Studios
Interplay Entertainment
Destination Software
Atari
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 2
Xbox
GameCube
macOS
iOS
Android
First release Baldur's Gate
November 30, 1998
Latest release Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear
March 31, 2016

Baldur's Gate is a series of role-playing video games set in the Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. The game has spawned two series, known as the Bhaalspawn Saga and the Dark Alliance, both taking place mostly within the Western Heartlands, but the Bhaalspawn Saga extends to Amn and Tethyr. The Dark Alliance series was released for consoles and was critically and commercially successful. The Bhaalspawn Saga was critically acclaimed for using pausable realtime gameplay, which is credited with revitalizing the computer role-playing game (CRPG) genre.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. Commonly referred to by players and game designers alike as "The Realms", it was created by game designer Ed Greenwood around 1967 as a setting for his childhood stories. Several years later, Greenwood brought the setting to the D&D game as a series of magazine articles, and the first Realms game products were released in 1987. Role-playing game products have been produced for the setting ever since, as have various licensed products including novels, role-playing video game adaptations, and comic books. The Forgotten Realms is one of the most popular D&D settings, largely due to the success of novels by authors such as R. A. Salvatore and numerous role-playing video games, including Pool of Radiance (1988), Eye of the Beholder (1991), Baldur's Gate (1998), Icewind Dale (2000) and Neverwinter Nights (2002).

<i>Dungeons & Dragons</i> Fantasy role-playing game

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

Contents

The Bhaalspawn Saga was originally developed by BioWare for personal computers. In 2012, Atari revealed that Beamdog and Overhaul Games would remake the games in HD. [1] The Dark Alliance series was originally set to be developed by Snowblind Studios, but ports were handled by Black Isle Studios, High Voltage Software, and Magic Pockets, with the second game developed by Black Isle.

BioWare is a Canadian video game developer based in Edmonton, Alberta. It was founded in May 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, alongside Trent Oster, Brent Oster, Marcel Zeschuk and Augustine Yip. As of 2007, the company is owned by American publisher Electronic Arts.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

Atari brand name owned by Atari Interactive

Atari is a brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972, currently by Atari Interactive, a subsidiary of the French publisher Atari, SA. The original Atari, Inc., founded in Sunnyvale, California in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company's products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.

Black Isle Studios had planned a third series to be set in the Dalelands and be a PC exclusive hack and slash game with pausable real-time gameplay. The game would not have been connected to the Bhaalspawn Saga series and was cancelled when Interplay forfeited the D&D PC license to Atari. [2]

Hack and slash or hack and slay refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat.

The series was revived in 2012 with the announcement of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition , an update of the original Baldur's Gate using an enhanced Infinity Engine. The release of the enhanced edition marked the first release in the series in eight years, and was followed by an enhanced edition of the second Baldur's Gate called Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition . [3] Beamdog has been granted permission to develop new games with the license, with two games in development, codenames Adventure Y and Adventure Z. Adventure Y has been revealed as Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition - Siege of Dragonspear . [4]

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is a remake of the role-playing video game Baldur's Gate, developed by Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog, and published by Atari. It was released for Microsoft Windows on November 28, 2012, with additional releases between December 2012 and November 2014, for iPad, OS X, Android and Linux. The remake combines the original game, Baldur's Gate, with its expansion Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast, retaining all of the original elements from both, while including new additions, a new separate arena adventure entitled The Black Pits, and a number of improvements to the game, some of which were imported from Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.

<i>Baldurs Gate II: Enhanced Edition</i> 2013 video game

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a remaster of the role-playing video game Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn and its expansion Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. The game was launched on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition features new content and widescreen compatibility.

Games

TitleReleasePlatformsNotes
Baldur's Gate December 21, 1998 Windows, Mac OS.Developed by BioWare
Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast April 30, 1999 Windows, Mac OS.Expansion, developed by BioWare
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn September 21, 2000 Windows, Mac OS.Developed by BioWare
Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal June 22, 2001 Windows, Mac OS.Expansion, developed by BioWare
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance December 4, 2001 PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA.Spin-off, originally developed by Snowblind Studios
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II January 20, 2004 PS2, Xbox.Spin-off, developed by Black Isle Studios
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition November 28, 2012 Windows, Mac OS,

Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS.

Enhanced Edition, developed by Overhaul Games
Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition November 15, 2013 Windows, Mac OS,

Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS.

Enhanced Edition, developed by Overhaul Games
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear March 31, 2016 Windows, Mac OS,

Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS.

Expansion, developed by Beamdog
Baldur's Gate III TBA Windows, Google Stadia Developed by Larian Studios

The Baldur's Gate series brought technical advancements over role-playing video games of the past. BioWare's Infinity Engine offers a pre-rendered isometric worldview, with sprite-based characters. Baldur's Gate was the third computer game to make use of the Lua scripting language. The engine was used for Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series.

Isometric video-game graphics are graphics employed in video games and pixel art which angle the viewpoint to reveal facets of the environment that would not be visible from a top-down perspective or side view, thereby producing a three-dimensional effect. Despite the name, isometric computer graphics are not necessarily truly isometric—i.e., the x, y, and z axes are not necessarily oriented 120° to each other. Instead, a variety of angles occur; some form of parallel projection, such as dimetric projection with a 2:1 pixel ratio, is the most common. The terms "3/4 perspective", "2.5D", and "pseudo-3D" are also sometimes used, although these terms can possess slightly different meanings in other contexts.

Sprite is a computer graphics term for a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene, most often in a 2D video game.

<i>Planescape: Torment</i> role-playing video game

Planescape: Torment is a role-playing video game developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay Entertainment. Released for Microsoft Windows on December 12, 1999, the game takes place in locations from the multiverse of Planescape, a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy campaign setting. The game's engine is a modified version of the Infinity Engine, which was used for BioWare's Baldur's Gate, a previous D&D game set in the Forgotten Realms.

The games are based on a real-time modification of the second edition AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) ruleset. The player's party can have up to six members, either created by the player according to the AD&D rules or non-player characters (NPCs) recruited by the protagonist from the game world. Numerous side quests and plot twists are associated with particular NPCs and can be activated if they are found in the player's party. Through extensive, context-dependent dialogue, many characters inside and outside the player's party are fleshed out and given an added level of complexity.

A non-player character (NPC) is any character in a game which is not controlled by a player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games, where it applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee, rather than another player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer via algorithmic, predetermined or responsive behavior, but not necessarily true artificial intelligence.

Original series

The first game in the series was Baldur's Gate and introduces the player character as a powerless orphan raised in the monastery of Candlekeep, south of Baldur's Gate and north of the kingdom of Amn. The main character searches for the killer of their foster father Gorion, and becomes involved with the region's iron crisis which causes metal to crumble, while battling to stay alive. An expansion pack for Baldur's Gate called Tales of the Sword Coast did not add to the primary storyline, but presented the protagonist with more areas to explore along the Sword Coast, more powerful enemies, more spells, and better equipment. It also allows the player character to reach higher levels of experience, made some general changes to gameplay, and altered the original game's final battle.

The sequel to Baldur's Gate was Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. The main character is captured by Jon Irenicus and must escape into the city of Athkatla, the capital of Amn. Here the protagonist faces several different ways to figure out the reason behind the capture, as they journey through the region of Amn and the Underdark. The game presents a number of innovations over the first Baldur's Gate game, including further specialization of character classes, better graphics, and higher power levels. It also allowed more interaction with the game's joinable NPCs, including friendships, romances, and your own party members' interactions with one another. Throne of Bhaal is an expansion pack for Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, and includes both an expansion of the original game, such as new areas to explore, and a conclusion to the Bhaalspawn story arc started in the first Baldur's Gate game.

The third main title, Baldur's Gate III, will be developed by Larian Studios in partnership with Wizards of the Coast, which holds the license for the Dungeons & Dragons IP. It is expected to be released at a yet undisclosed date for Windows systems and as a title for the Google Stadia service. [5]

Dark Alliance

The action role-playing game Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance was developed by Snowblind Studios and others, and released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2 console, and later Xbox and GameCube video game consoles. The game takes place in the city of Baldur's Gate and surrounding area and is set in the Forgotten Realms setting, with a ruleset derived from the 3rd edition of Dungeon & Dragons; the plot is unrelated to previous PC games. The console version used an overhead third person view, and hack-and-slash dungeon crawl style gameplay. A Game Boy Advance version was released in 2004, with reduced graphics quality using an 2.5D isometric type perspective. While all ports were very well received, the original for the PlayStation 2 was the only one that gained universal acclaim. A sequel, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II was developed by Black Isle Studios and released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox; the game used the same gameplay style as the original, and was also positively reviewed. The gameplay style was expanded to make the game more like an role-playing game, the ability to craft weapons, armor and amulets was added, Baldur's Gate became a hub city with the addition of a world map and being able to travel back to areas, making the game open world and many more side-quests were added as well as the ability to level up one's class.

Cancelled games

Development on Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound was cancelled in 2003 and the third game in the Dark Alliance series was also cancelled in 2004 when Black Isle Studios was closed in 2004 by parent company Interplay Entertainment Corp. [6] On December 2, 2008, Atari stated in a press conference that the Baldur's Gate series (among others) would be revisited after 2009. [7] Hiring Obsidian Entertainment to try to make Baldur's Gate 3, the game would once again be cancelled upon the sale of Atari Europe.

Enhanced editions

The original game was remade in 2012 by Overhaul Games, later becoming Beamdog, 14 years after the release of the original game. It was re-released on multiple platforms as Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition , a collection of the original game and its expansion Tales of the Sword Coast. [8] A brand new expansion named Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition - Siege of Dragonspear [4] was released on March 31, 2016.

On March 15, 2012, Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition was announced. It was developed by Overhaul Games for PC, Mac, and iPad. It features "a re-forged version of the Infinity Engine with a variety of modern improvements." [9] Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition was announced as a Beamdog exclusive that would feature some new content and widescreen compatibility, and would continue to utilize 2nd Edition D&D rules. [10] Beamdog since also made enhanced versions of other Infinity Engine games, including Icewind Dale , Planescape: Torment and Neverwinter Nights .

The enhanced versions will be released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in September 2019.

Future

Overhaul Games announced that, after finishing the Enhanced Editions of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, they would be developing Baldur's Gate 3 with funding from Kickstarter, as Wasteland 2 had gotten. [11] Overhaul Games later clarified their Baldur's Gate game to be a separate game from The Black Hound. [12] Game developer Trent Oster suggested Thay [13] and Waterdeep [14] as possible settings for the game. Beamdog began calling the game Baldur's Gate Next as a way to differentiate it from the Bhaalspawn Saga. [15]

In September 2016, Interplay Entertainment placed its entire catalogue of video game intellectual properties (IP) and assets up for sale, including that of Dark Alliance. [16] Overhaul Games later confirmed that their chances were slim of acquiring the Dark Alliance IP and assets. [17]

Baldur's Gate III was announced on June 6, 2019 to be released for Google’s Stadia and PC during the November 2019 launch window. It is being developed at Larian Studios, the Belgian developer behind the Divinity: Original Sin series. Baldur’s Gate III will be “based off current D&D mechanics and spells and is the official new chapter in the legendary series,” according to a press release. [18]

Development

Unfinished games

Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound (code named Jefferson and FR6) was mentioned in early 2001 as a new game in the Baldur's Gate series to be made by Black Isle Studios using a new 3D engine. [19] The Black Hound was originally going to be a departure from the high-powered epic of the Bhaalspawn saga to a low-key, role-playing plot. With protagonists progressing to around level four at the end of Black Isle Studios' typically large campaign and a hard cap at level eight, gameplay was refocussed to adventure, with emphasizing quests over combat. The game was only titled Baldur's Gate due to Interplay having lost the general D&D license to Atari, but still retaining the right to make Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale branded D&D games (the same reason as for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 's title). [19] The game was not going to be connected to the previous Baldur's Gate series in any way and would start a new series, the Black Hound series. It was to be a sequel in terms of gameplay and not story, although it would continue some aspects of the Icewind Dale II story.

The game was announced in 2002 and was said to have used the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, the gameplay of the previous Baldur's Gate games would have been updated to fit the ruleset. Many new gameplay features were also going to be added to fit the 3rd Edition Ruleset better, elements from the Dark Alliance series would have also been borrowed. The game used the Jefferson Engine which featured 3D effects such as casting dynamic shadows. The game was 75% finished before it was canceled. Its cancellation happened due to Interplay losing the right to publish Baldur's Gate games on the PC yet retaining the Baldur's Gate name for consoles, the result of this was Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II.

The game appeared to be canceled in 2003, just before its engine was re-purposed for Black Isle's ill-fated Van Buren project, the working title for the eventual Fallout 3 . Subsequently, Josh Sawyer, one of the designers of the canceled game, resumed development of The Black Hound as a module for Neverwinter Nights 2 . [19] As of 2009, this remains a side project for Sawyer, who works at Obsidian Entertainment. [20]

As revealed in an interview with Winterwind Productions, Black Hound developer Damien Foletto revealed the story and setting of the game, which would have been in the Dalelands. The player character would have been resting at their campsite when a woman chasing a Black Hound crashes in, she kills the hound which dies on the player's lap. Accusing the player of being in league with the dog, she is about to kill the player as well, but the Riders of Archendale arrive and scare her off and question the player. After a brief inquisition, the local magistrates tell the player not to wander far because they may have more questions. The players quest concerns to find out who the mad cleric was, what this has to do with them, why a black spirit hound follows them around, and why people can not leave the player character alone and do things for themselves. [21]

Reception and legacy

Aggregate review scores
As of May 14, 2018.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Baldur's Gate 92% [22] 91% [23]
Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast 85% [24]
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn 94% [25] 95% [26]
Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal 89% [27] 88% [28]
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (PS2) 84% [29]

(Xbox) 83% [30]
(GC) 78% [31]
(GBA) 71% [32]

(PS2) 87% [33]

(Xbox) 83% [34]
(GC) 79% [35]
(GBA) 76% [36]

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (PS2) 81% [37]

(Xbox) 79% [38]

(PS2) 78% [39]

(Xbox) 77% [40]

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (PC) 78% [41]

(iOS) 72% [42]

(PC) 78% [43]

(iOS) 73% [44]

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (PC) 77% [45]

(iOS) 71% [46]

(PC) 78% [47]

(iOS) 70% [48]

Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear (PC) 76% [49] (PC) 77% [50]

In 1999, Baldur's Gate won the Origins Award for Best Role Playing Game Computer Game of 1998,[ citation needed ] and in 2000, Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast won Best Role Game Playing Game Computer Game of 1999.[ citation needed ] The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences would award Baldur's Gate the AIAS award for PC Role Playing Game of the Year. Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance too would later win AIAS awards for Role Playing Game of the Year, taking the award for both its PC and Console categories in the year 2001. [51] Dark Alliance II would later be awarded the 2004 RPG of the Year Award by the surviving GameFan website, later being inducted into the GameFan Hall of Fame. [52]

Printed media

Philip Athans, editor of the Forgotten Realms novel line, wrote the first two novels in the Baldur's Gate trilogy of novels: Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, both based on the storylines of the video game series. The novels follow the bare basics of the original stories, but eschew several of the games' numerous subplots and include only a few of the NPCs. The Bhaalspawn main character is named Abdel Adrian in the novels. The third novel - Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal - was authored by Drew Karpyshyn.

In July 2014 a comic Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate was announced for October 2014 release. It is set generations after Throne of Bhaal and features Minsc as the main character. It is written by Jim Zub and pencilled by Max Dunbar. It is part of the Dungeons & Dragons 40th anniversary celebrations. [53]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<i>Baldurs Gate II: Throne of Bhaal</i> Expansion pack

Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal is the expansion pack for the role-playing video game Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, and is the final chapter in the Baldur's Gate series. It adds a multi-level dungeon called Watcher's Keep to the game and completes the main plot. There are several new weapons, a higher level cap, a further refined Infinity graphics engine, and new class-related features and magical skills. The novelization of the game was written by Drew Karpyshyn and released in September 2001.

<i>Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance II</i> video game

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is a 2004 action role-playing/hack and slash video game for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Developed by Black Isle Studios, the game was published by Interplay Entertainment, and distributed by Vivendi Universal Games in North America and Avalon Interactive in Europe. It is the sequel to the 2001 game Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance.

<i>Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn</i> role-playing video game

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is a role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Interplay Entertainment. It is the sequel to Baldur's Gate (1998) and was released for Microsoft Windows in September 2000. Like Baldur's Gate, the game takes place in the Forgotten Realms—a fantasy campaign setting—and is based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules. Powered by BioWare's Infinity Engine, Baldur's Gate II uses an isometric perspective and pausable real-time gameplay. The player controls a party of up to six characters, one of whom is the player-created protagonist, while the others are certain characters recruited from the game world.

Minsc fictional character

Minsc is a fictional character in the Baldur's Gate series of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing video games developed by BioWare. He originated from the pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons sessions held by the lead designer of Baldur's Gate, James Ohlen, and was expanded upon by the game's lead writer, Lukas Kristjanson. His video game debut was in Baldur's Gate as a companion character who can join the player's party. He also appears in the sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, the expansion, Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, and the 2015 game Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, as well as in promotions relating to the titles. Minsc is voiced by Jim Cummings in his video game appearances.

In Forgotten Realms, the campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, Bhaalspawn is a name given to all children of the fictitious Bhaal, Lord of Murder, who foresaw his own death during the Time of Troubles and fathered children who could one day be sacrificed for his return.

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<i>Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance</i> 2001 video game

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is a 2001 action role-playing/hack and slash video game developed by Snowblind Studios for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It was ported to GameCube by High Voltage Software, and to the Game Boy Advance by Magic Pockets. The game was published for PlayStation, Xbox and GameCube by Black Isle Studios, a division of Interplay Entertainment, and distributed by Vivendi Universal Games. The Game Boy Advance version was published by DSI Games. CD Projekt was developing a version for PC, but it was ultimately cancelled.

The Forgotten Realms Deluxe Edition is a compilation of role-playing video games set in the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting called The Forgotten Realms. This compilation was released in December 2006 and includes the Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale series and the first Neverwinter Nights and their expansion packs.

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<i>Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition</i> 2014 video game

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<i>Baldurs Gate: Siege of Dragonspear</i> 2016 video game

Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is an expansion pack for the role-playing video game Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition developed and published by Beamdog.

Baldur's Gate III is an upcoming role-playing video game developed by Larian Studios and to be published by Wizards of the Coast. It is planned for Windows systems and as a title for the Google Stadia service. It is the third main title in the Baldur's Gate series, itself based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing system. The game currently has no set release date.

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