I remember being 12 years old, scouring the computer game shelves of my local Best Buy while my parents were purchasing something (probably Chumbawumba's hot new album, or that duet with Brandi and Monica), and something caught my eye. The front of the beige box had a massive skull on it, and the back of the box showed various stages of battling rad things, namely thieves and monsters, with the quote 'It's easily going to be the best AD&D computer roleplaying game...'. I was sold. I didn't even know what AD&D was, but I know I HAD to jump on it! The box said it was the best one, so why settle for anything less? Little did I know how much the game would shape me not only as a gamer, but as a lover of RPGs, and even nerd culture at-large: The game was the original Baldur's Gate, and it turns 14 years old today.
Baldur's Gate was my first for a lot of things: It was the first PC RPG I had bought with my own allowance money, it was my first experience with Dungeons & Dragons, and it was my first experience with Bioware. Now, the TRULY fascinating thing about this game, is that I've never beaten it, while I've beaten Baldur's Gate II multiple times. Hell, I've never gotten past the first ten or so hours of the original, even though I love the game dearly. I start a playthrough, get excited, then something else comes along that pulls me away for a few weeks, and by the time I come back to the game, I feel like I need to start over. Couple the fact that I know how the grand saga actually ends, it creates a vicious cycle of never finishing the original. This cycle has repeated itself, at least four times a year, for 14 years. Insanity!
With the newest spotlight put on the Baldur's Gate Enchanced Edition, and the easily accessible original version available on GoG.com, there's no better time to hop in to see what the fuss is about. If you don't want to hassle with mods, your best bet is the Baldur's Gate Enchanced Edition, although at the moment there's a few kinks that need to be worked out. Also, the IOS support is a few weeks late, so if you're really wanting your Baldur's Gate on mobile/tablet, you may have to wait a bit longer. If you go the GoG.com route, a great GoG community member named Rartino created a brilliant modding guide, to bring the game up-to-speed on modern computers using widescreen patches, fan-patches, and more.
While the series is fairly dated on a mechanics standpoint, there's no other title (besides Planescape: Torment, another Infinity Engine classic) that tells such an expansive, personal tale. The characterization is off the chart, the ambiance of the world of Faerun is second to none, and the pacing is still the best in the genre. Even 14 years later, Baldur's Gate still has the wonderful habit of causing the player to truly get lost in the world, performing countless sidequests, and a staggering amount of plot content. You can still turn the game on, and have an entire night pass you by, with no regrets for doing so. It's truly (still) the gold standard as far as computer roleplaying games are concerned.
No matter the way you decide to play it, you owe it to yourself to give Baldur's Gate a look. Use it as a PC gaming history lesson, use it as proof of Bioware's once-dominant ownership of the computer RPG, but most of all, use it as a reason to play one of the finest games ever made.