When we last left Xen the Blade and her party, they had just let an innocent woman die for absolutely no reason! Before we continue, some things to remember about Baldur’s Gate:

It’s an isometric role-playing game by the same studio that would eventually do Mass Effect. There’s lots of little sidequests branching off from the main quest, as well as romantic options. There were originally no romantic options in the first Baldur’s Gate. The Enhanced Edition has some. I won’t be dealing with any of them in this play-through. All game-play is done by point-and-click and while there’s some voice-acting there’s no FMV. The original game was made in the late nineties and actually did have some, but the Enhanced Edition replaces most of them.

In terms of story, your character is led out of a giant library fortress by their caretaker, who is then killed by an evil guy. You’re given specific instructions to reach the next part of the plot at every turn but some areas are locked until you’ve reached a certain part of the game. Early on, most of the characters tell you to get to Nashkel and deal with a problem in their mines. This is the first major plot point, and one you need to get past fairly quickly. Any weapon that isn’t magical is likely to snap into pieces and become trash. I went through a lot of two-handed and bastard swords.

I began the second day of play by completing a lot of side-quests. My first goal was to kill an ogre that stole belts. He was easily dealt with, and after giving up a good belt and slapping a cursed belt of masculinity/femininity onto Rashaad to turn him into a lady, we went back to Beregost. Beregost is more or less the central hub of the game world, at least until you unlock Baldur’s Gate. I gave a woman a letter from her husband, dealt with an assassin sent to kill me, and killed some evil mage. There was also one of the worst parts of the game there: the spider house.

You’re given a quest to clear the spiders out of a woman’s house. They are giant, and while she gives you some antidotes, these are usually not enough. While Andrew Weiss brought up that a Cavalier has poison immunity, I had glossed over this in the character creation under the assumption that a Blade (who can perform defensive and offensive spins to theoretically kill enemies more quickly) might be able to kill a spider before it poisoned them. Most of the time, I’m wrong, but this time the RPG gods were smiling upon me and I was able to clear out the house in one go. Bolstered by this, I finished the quest and went on to the Nashkel Mines. I also killed a thief for his boots. Imoen tried to steal them, but failed.

In the Enhanced Edition, you’re automatically ambushed on the way to the mines if you’ve talked to the proper person. Since I had, my party was ambushed, and we met the half-orc Dorn. The situation was quickly resolved. Once at the mines, a quick detour was made to help a man named Prism finish his work of art. It was of a woman he barely even knew, using emeralds he stole. The only help you’re able to offer is defending him from a bounty hunter named Greywolf. This is sometimes a tough battle, but my cleric knew Hold Person and it made things so much easier. Once both Greywolf and Prism were dead (the artist suicides immediately after the battle, declaring that he shall never be able to make anything more beautiful than his stalker statue) I went to the mines.

The Nashkel mines can be horrible. Later on, they are always horrible. You’re in a cramped space with arrow-shooting kobolds and there’s always a decent chance they’ll all hit you at once and kill your character. The first time I entered the mines I was playing as a Ranger and even with the actual armor class I was shot down in a hail of arrows upon reaching the second floor of the Mines. Caution is key, especially on the third level of the mines. This is likely the first time you’re going to encounter traps, and unless you have a thief leveled up enough to decently find and disarm traps, you’re going to have a bad time. Plus, after the traps, you have to deal with kobolds who shoot fire. The thief is handy here, too, since they can stealth their way behind the Kobold Commandos and kill them with extreme prejudice.

Once you’ve gotten past all these traps and kobolds, a little exploration will expose you to the delights of the ghoul and slimes. The final area of the Mines are an evil cleric named Mulahey’s quarters. This is not a fun area. First, you have to clear out some more kobolds. You can heal yourself afterwards, if needed, but then you have to fight Mulahey. He, by himself, is not tough. He does summon about fifteen minor enemies to deal with and this, in conjuction with his own magics, can make this a really bad battle. I put Imoen and Neera in an alcove to protect them but allow them to use ranged attacks on the Mulahey’s troops, and placed Minsc and Rashaad to block them off while Branwen and Xen took care of the man himself.

Mulahey proved to be a pushover once Branwen cast Hold Person on him. Xen sliced and diced him until he died, and then helped with the clean-up. Once he was out of the way, the next plot point was revealed: the Bandit Camp! Instead of going right there, I did a bunch of other side-quests. I met with Elminster (a character from a series of Dungeons and Dragons novels) and Drizzt Do’Urden (ditto) and killed a bunch of jerks who wanted me dead specifically. Three of them were waiting for me upon exiting the mine. I had Imoen sneak up behind them while Branwen tried to use her magics to hold and silence them. This worked and became a favored tactic.

Most of the quests involved killing something, and possibly retrieving an item. The only one that doesn’t is finding a little boy’s lost dog. Once you find it, it turns out to be a hellhound while the little boy is actually a demon. It was very surprising the first time. Neera also brought up her quest: find another Wild Mage named Adoy who could possibly help her control her magic! All the characters in this game, save yours and Imoen, have tragic backstories. The main character and Imoen do, too, I guess. Just tragedy all over the place. Anyway, Adoy’s quest is simple. Either fight or talk your way through a horde of goblins to find the man (Xen opted to talk her way out of it), fight a few more goblins, and meet Adoy. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface.

In reality, once you’ve spoken to Adoy, you’re ambushed by two powerful mages, two thugs, and an ogre. You’re also locked in a cage with no way out and limited maneuvering room. I tried to beat them without anyone dying many times, then shifted my focus to just Xen not dying. I ultimately prevailed after getting Imoen to set some snares, positioning Minsc and Rashaad in opportune places, and readying Branwen to silence the two mages right when they appeared. They were finally defeated, though Neera did not get the answer she sought. Lacking a better option, we did some more side-quests until exhausting the current supply and heading the Bandit Camp.

You can brute force your way into the Bandit Camp, or you can trick a guy into taking you there. I did the latter, but once there, I made the mistake of having Imoen pick a lock. This turned the entire camp into enemies and it took a little while to kill every bandit, but the deed was eventually done, though the four main bandits remained. Here’s another thing about Baldur’s Gate: the mages and archers you fight seem to be very overpowered. One of the main bandits is a mage, two more have bows and arrows, while the third is just a guy. Years ago, they were nearly impossible for me to defeat. Then I realized they could be lured out of their tent and killed one by one. Once they were dealt with, it was back to Beregost.

The next plot point was the Cloakwood. Instead, more side-quests, but this time on the Sword Coast itself. Another stat-increasing tome was found, and sirens were defeated. A chicken was turned back into a man. My second day of play ended when my party entered a forest and happened upon some spiders. Unlike the encounter in Beregost, these quickly poisoned and killed the entire party. They counted not only normal giant spiders amongst their number, but also ones with swords for legs and others that could teleport. How is that even fair?

The next time I play: possibly Cloakwood and its mines! Another thing Cloakwood has: an entire section filled with spiders!