THE AGE OF I NFINITY
Baldur’s Gate beckoned players in with beautiful graphics, a heavy focus on story, and some of the genre’s most beloved characters. It looked fantastic, thanks to the Infinity Engine’s method of displaying worlds. Huge rendered maps with overlaid sprites allowed for exquisite detail without the predictability of tiles. It wasn’t just D&D reborn, but a new start for the genre. RPGs were finally cool again. Replayed now, it’s the complexity that jumps out. Baldur’s Gate was based on AD&D Second Edition, and it doesn’t hide the fact. It wants you to know its dice rolls. It wants you to know terms like THAC0 (“To Hit Armour Class Zero,” aka, the likeliness of a hit landing). It often pushes you to areas you’re not ready for. Roll a mage and wander to the first real fight in the game – an ambush at the Friendly Arms Inn – and watch as a single hit lands like an anvil to the face.
It was still an RPG of its time, rooted, for all its attempts to welcome new players, in the designs of the past. It was BioWare’s first RPG, and the company hadn’t even formed with a plan to make them. The founders had intended to start a medical software company, before deciding games would be more fun. Previous releases were mech game Shattered Steel and comedy shooter MDK 2. Even Interplay, the publisher, had only moderate hopes for Baldur’s Gate. Two million copies later, BioWare was the new cool kid in town.