So it beginsThe game starts with a rather ominous quote by Nietzsche (of all people) and a cutscene that doesn’t bode anything good. The story then unfolds in the world of Toril, on the continent of Faerûn, specifically the region of the Sword Coast. The protagonist is an orphan, raised in the fortified library of Candlekeep by a man named Gorion. One day, Gorion informs her/him that they must leave in great haste, but is reluctant to divulge the reason why, only saying that, should anything happen, s/he is to seek out his friends Jaheira and Khalid at the Friendly Arm Inn. The pair flees in the night, only to be intercepted by an ambush led by a man in black armour. The protagonist is their target, but Gorion interposes himself and urges her/him to flee. He is inevitably slain by his assailants, and the protagonist is thus left to fend for her/himself, as access to Candlekeep is barred to anyone without a rare book to bequeath to the library (yes, even if it’s someone they know who is in danger). As luck would have it, the protagonist’s childhood friend, Imoen, followed her/his flight out of curiosity, witnessed Gorion’s death and now offers her help. Together, they set out to find Gorion’s friends and discover the reason behind the ambush, as well as the murderer’s identity. And, as these things often go, they realise that there is trouble on a much greater scale brewing in the region, as a sudden dip in the quality of the iron has given rise to banditry and unrest. Moreover, the protagonist begins to experience troubling nightmares…

Most of this is fairly standard fantasy stuff (well, except the Nietzsche quote): an individual from an ordinary, obscure background is thrust into a major conflict against their will, but then goes on to become a providential heroic figure. Still, what it lacks in inventiveness, it makes up for with a solid execution, like a gradually uncoiling spiral. And there is a bit of a twist regarding the protagonist’s identity. There are some timeline issues that crop up later on (especially in the second game), but it’s a minor blemish on an otherwise good effort. The one thing I’m perplexed about is the title of the game: Baldur’s Gate is the name of the major city in the region, which the protagonist ends up reaching and exploring, but its role in the storyline is incidental at best. Certainly not enough to warrant having the entire game named after it, and definitely not its sequel, which takes place in a different region altogether and never even sets foot into Baldur’s Gate. I guess it just became iconic enough that it stuck. Be that as it may, it doesn’t affect the overall quality of the game.

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