I think I might have a bit of a problem.

So I've been playing a lot of Baldur's Gate. A lot more than I originally intended. But that's what happens when a game is actually really fun and immersive. Which BGEE is, a bit to my admitted surprise.

As you might be able to tell from the picture above (as well as the title of this post) I've been busy recruiting party members from all along the Sword Coast. Perhaps too many. Driven partly by my completionist nature as well as the conditioning received in later BioWare RPGs that every companion is essential and important, I've managed to accrue since my last post an additional eight party members (Xan, Branwen, Garrick, Neera, Kivan, Viconia, Safana, and Baeloth) over my original seven. So... yeah. I'm not sure I'm supposed to have that many.

There are a few controls in place. I've instituted a house rule in my playthrough wherein any character that dies during a boss fight stays dead (so long as that character isn't also present in BG2) and similarly I won't hire any character who requires me to perform an evil act to earn their loyalty. Even so, this has only lost me two character so far: Xzar (who perished against Mulahey) and Edwin (who required that I kill Dynaheir). At this point I may actually have to start saying no to aspiring companions (the horror!).

Altogether, I'm actually enjoying BGEE a lot more than I expected to. When I first tried the original, unaltered version of Baldur's Gate some four years ago I was thoroughly underwhelmed. The UI was clunky, the resolution was poor (and for some reason the fan-made UI mods wouldn't work with my copy), and the characters were somewhat drab compared with BioWare's later offerings. The story was somewhat interesting, but given that it felt like a struggle just to get through a single battle at times, it wasn't enough.


This time though, I'm having a blast. The precise reason eludes me, which may be because there is no single cause. Part of it is probably that I've since played (and enjoyed) both Fallout and Planescape: Torment and so have accustomed myself to the conventions of older CRPGs. Part of it is probably the fact that this time around I'm playing the game largely as though I am not already familiar with the story and so have a bit more freedom to do what I want, rather than what makes sense in light of canon (which, bizarrely, was the way I approached the game the first time around).

I do feel, however, that the biggest reason for my change in disposition is attributable to Beamdog and what they've done with the game. My biggest complaints with the original game were A) it's low resolution and clunky interface and B) the fact that the characters were much less engaging than those in later games like Knights of the Old Republic or Dragon Age. Both of those issues have been addressed by Beamdog. The interface, even unfinished as it is (pending a large update in version 1.2), is cleaner and more efficient than the original UI. The new characters Rasaad, Neera, and Baeloth are all well-written, fun to converse with, and come with quests of their own, making them, if anything, more fun to have around than the game's original party members. On top of that, BGEE gives me a lot more flexibility in character creation than BG1 did, allowing classes and races which were unavailable in the original game.

On the whole, I'm very happy with my purchase and am genuinely looking forward to the pending release of BG2EE. Now if only I could figure out how to control my strange compulsion to acquire new characters...