Baldur's Gate. I may be 16 years too late to this party, but I'm finally here.
Baldur's Gate is one of those games that I've been meaning to play for eight or nine years, but I've just never really gotten around to. Not that I haven't tried. I bought it several years ago, and I've installed it more than once. I even started it up a couple times, convinced that I would finally give it the attention it deserved. I would figure it out. It never really panned out though. Character creation was a bit confusing, I wasn't sure what skills and abilities to pick up, or what stats mattered. Once I got into the game, it was even worse. Moving felt slow and clunky. Combat was a nightmare. I was never sure what I should be doing, especially as a spellcaster, and it seemed like I was always dying. So, needless to say, I never got far. However, I'm excited to say that this changed over the Christmas holidays.
A little bit of history might be helpful in understanding my many false starts with this game. It was originally made by Bioware and released in 1998. For anyone who's totally unfamiliar with it, it's a fantasy roleplaying game that's set in the Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons & Dragons setting, and as such, it uses a modified version of D&D rules for gameplay. This means that gameplay is somewhat different than the more typical action-oriented style that's popular today. It relies on stats and randomly rolled numbers to govern gameplay and involves a good deal of strategy rather than button smashing or quick reflexes. The original version was only available on computer. However, in 2012, Overhaul games developed a revised and updated version called Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. This version is available on PC, Mac, Android and iOS. The new edition has really renewed interest in the series.
Despite this, I still might never have come around if it wasn't for a podcast I recently started listening to. I've never played D&D before. I've always known what it was and been vaguely interested, but just haven't known anyone who played. So, my first real exposure to it came through listening to the Adventure Zone (which I reviewed here). I found it so interesting and entertaining that I also started listening to Critical Hit, another D&D podcast. I've honestly become a little obsessed with D&D podcasts since then. (I still don't have any friends who play, so these will have to do.) This may seem unrelated, but it's actually very important. Wen I originally tried playing Baldur's Gate I had no idea what a lot of things meant. I didn't understand the stats, movement, attacking. But, after listening to the all of the podcasts, it's become much more clear. I've begun to understand how spells work, why the movement system is set up like it is, and what rules govern combat. When I started the game up this time, I was actually excited to make my character. Everything just made more sense. And I loved it! The game was still difficult, and I won't pretend that I understood all the stats and abilities, but I had a lot of fun.
This may not sound like a glowing recommendation, but I do truly think that it's a great game. If you have any interest in D&D, rpg's, or fantasy, you should really give it a try. The story is fantastic. Combat is fun and engaging, at least once you get used to it. It also has room for multiple types of characters. You can be evil, you can be noble, you can be fearful and scared of everything. I didn't like it at first because I was imagining Dragon Age circa '98, which it is not. When I went in understanding it as a D&D game though, it was a lot more fun, and I was a lot more prepared. So, in the spirit of encouraging other people to give it a chance if you haven't already, here's a list of helpful resources to make the game more accessible and fun.
1. Listen to the Adventure Zone. Seriously. There are only three episodes. Take a couple hours to listen. It will give you a basic, and entertaining, crash course in D&D.
2. If you like that, try Critical Hit. This one is a little less silly, but will give you a much more in depth understanding of how D&D works.
3. If podcasts aren't your thing, borrow or buy a copy of the D&D players handbook. Or just find some friends who play and participate in a few sessions with them. I promise that this will be helpful.
4. Check out this Beginner's Guide. It will help you translate all the D&D stuff into Baldur's Gate.
6. Don't be afraid to go to the official forums if anything confuses you or if you have questions. They're pretty friendly and really helpful.
-If you like Baldur's Gate, keep an eye on the upcoming Pillars of Eternity. It looks like it's going to be really good.