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By now, I’m sure that anyone with even a remote interest in the steadily resurging market for CRPGs has heard of the ridiculous three-ring circus that cropped up in response to Beamdog’s newest release. Instead of beating a dead horse by quoting the constant he said/she said involved with the community, like I’d originally intended, I decided to instead bring my perspective to the table in regards to the company’s newest foray into the all but forgotten realm of Faerûn.

The game in question is Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, which is the first fully original step in Beamdog’s noble and impressive effort to revive an ancient fan-favorite from The Forgotten Realms series. The expansion picks up right where the first left off nearly twenty years ago and attempts to bridge the gap between Baldur’s Gate and it’s highly praised sequel, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. As a long-time fan of the series, (the original Baldur’s Gate was literally the first game I ever played in entirety!) my excitement was palpable, and my nostalgia had never been more ready to be exploited for monetary gain by gaming industry professionals.

The game in all of it's beautiful, unchanged, isometric glory.

The opening scene of Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear just moments after the death of Sarevok.

I almost hate to admit my disloyalty, but going into the game I actually didn’t expect much from Beamdog. While the writers and developers on the team all have considerable experience and talent, Baldur’s Gate is an intellectual property with characters and locales that are very near and dear to me as a gamer – so in my own typical fashion, I kept my expectations low in an effort to preemptively soften the blow if the game failed to live up to years of memories and nostalgia.

"Minsc and Boo stand ready!"

The triumphant return of a fan-favorite: Boo, and his human Minsc.

Fortunately, that blow never came. I am tremendously happy to say that Beamdog crafted a compelling story for players to immerse themselves in, and I’m even willing to admit that, while it isn’t better than Baldur’s Gate II, it does outshine the original – a feat that I consider impressive even by the standards of modern games, and a compliment that I have scarcely uttered about even the best modern titles.

Look, Ma'! No dialogue wheels!

Comprehensive dialogue so you can always find an appropriate voice for your character.

In addition to my high praise of the game’s playability, Beamdog knocked it out of the park in another way altogether. For those of you who may not know, Baldur’s Gate is one of many RPGs that take place within The Forgotten Realms – the default universe where Dungeons and Dragons games take place, and where the only limits placed upon character creation are the limits of your own imagination.

 

So many choices, it's almost overwhelming!

The expanded character creator that includes sub-races and sub-classes for the ultimate CRPG experience.

Though my view on the subject may be a tad idealistic, many early reviewers seemed to believe the opposite and complained that the inclusion of a transgender supporting character was somehow out of place within the world of Baldur’s Gate. Personally, however, I found Mizhena (the character in question) to be an excellent homage to the diversity that Dungeons and Dragons offers players, and am proud to see characters that represent the diverse spectrum of the LGBT+ community make their way into mainstream fantasy.

Mizhena, a cleric that makes her home in the ambient world of The Forgotten Realms

Mizhena, the transgender character who offended audiences by standing quietly, and only talking about herself when asked.

While Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear might not be a complete philosophical match for the Enlightened Adult Gamer™ I grew up to be, it was nice to see that the series had grown up alongside me. I highly recommend picking up Siege of Dragonspear to any nostalgic gamers that may crave a return to the days of old-school RPGs. Furthermore, I also look forward to Beamdog’s future releases, and I truly hope that the enormous outcry on behalf of a bigoted minority does not dissuade them from continuing to include characters from all walks of life in the incredible and colorful world that is The Forgotten Realms.

 

All images are copyright Baldur’s Gate.

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