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FISCHER: A great game by any other name

By Travis Fischer,

I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve finally gotten a start on “Baldur’s Gate 3.”

I’m only a little way in, but thus far the video game is definitely earning the Game of the Year accolades it earned last year. Based on the world of Dungeons and Dragons, my bard and I are having a great time on our fantasy adventure, talking and fighting our way out of trouble.

But there is a caveat.

FISCHER: A great game by any other name
Travis Fischer

I am not a fan of the Baldur’s Gate franchise.

Not that I have anything against it, I’ve just never played any of the games. Developed by BioWare in 1998, the first game and its 2000 sequel were both niche yet critically acclaimed role-playing games for the PC that managed to sustain enough popularity for a handful of remasters and spin-off titles over the last 20 years.

It’s a series I’ve been aware of, but have never paid much attention to until the latest entry started racking up awards. Once I found out that it was possible to make a party entirely out of tamed bears, I knew I’d have to get on board the hype train.

Fortunately for me, playing the previous two games in the series is not just unnecessary to enjoy this one, it’s almost better to not have played them.

Developed by Larian Studios rather than BioWare, “Baldur’s Gate 3” is a sequel to the original two games mostly in name only. The game’s combat system is fundamentally different and, from what I understand, the story is largely disconnected from the previous plots. Outside of sharing the same fictional setting and other basic game mechanics, one would be hard-pressed to identify more than superficial similarities between them.

In fact, “Baldur’s Gate 3” plays much more similarly to “Divinity: Original Sin,” another game franchise developed by Larian Studios. One could easily say that “Baldur’s Gate 3” is more of a sequel to “Divinity: Original Sin II” than it is anything else.

This is all the better for me. As somebody not invested in the Baldur’s Gate franchise, I’m perfectly satisfied to enjoy the critically acclaimed new entry without any preconceptions about what a Baldur’s Gate game is supposed to be. Honestly, the gameplay of the original Baldur’s Gate doesn’t even really appeal to me, so Larian Studios taking a new approach is a selling point.

All that said, I feel bad for the long-time fans of Baldur’s Gate that the old games did and continue to appeal to. They waited 20 years for a proper sequel to a game they enjoyed and instead got another game wearing a Baldur’s Gate mask.

I’ve been there. The Resident Evil series remains one of my favorite video game series of all time, so long as we only count the games made between 1996 and 2004. After that point, the series took a hard turn out of the survival/horror genre and became an over-the-top third-person shooter increasingly disconnected from everything I liked about the series.

The whole reason that franchises exist is to make more of something people already liked. When you create a sequel, you’re trading on the reputation of its predecessor as a selling point. That creates an expectation that should be honored.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have an awesome new game to play regardless of the name, but there is something to be said about a game staying in its lane. “Baldur’s Gate 3” would have been just as great as another spin-off title or a new series entirely. There was really no need to invoke a series they had no intention of fully utilizing.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and will be making an animal-taming monk for his next character.

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