I thought I had no expectations when I started reading this book, but actually I expected a game-design heavy dive into the complex guts of Baldur’s Gate II, which is widely regarded one of the world’s best role-playing computer video game. Instead I got two intertwined narratives: one of the author’s personal life and how video games and Baldur’s Gate II specifically shaped their life; one of the narrative of Gorion’s Ward, the protagonist of Baldur’s Gate, and the structure of the game that tells his or her story.
This book is a fairly good overview of the games’ premise, structure, plot, power, and shortcomings. Far more importantly, Bell’s story of his life and how the game fit into his life and affected it is quite strong to me. As someone who was frequently called a nerd and dork by various adolescents in my cohort, it was actually surprising to me how strongly Bell’s story resonated with me, and thus how much of my earlier years I had forgotten. (Others who know me might have been less surprised, of course!)
Returning to the books’ depiction of the game, I have played Baldur’s Gate II at least twice and probably played it partway through several times more. When I read of the world of the Forgotten Realms, about that evil bastard Jon Irenicus, about the characters of spunky Mazzy or that tricky Jan Jansen or that git Anomen or sweet Aerie, it transports me back. This may not be the case for others who have read it, and certainly won’t be the case for those who have never touched Baldur’s Gate II. This book is in a tough spot, if it is the game you are interested in: if you have played it, you will find its exploration of the game wanting. If you haven’t, the description of the game probably won’t speak to you.
P.S. This book was published in 2015 by Boss Fight Books, which has a lot of other similar books focusing on single video games. I got it for the Kindle through StoryBundle, specifically through the Boss Fight Books sale that is ending tomorrow-ish.
P.P.S. My favorite Minsc quote was “Evil, meet my sword! SWORD, MEET EVIL!”
P.P.S. Okay, Minsc runner-up quote: “Make way evil – I’m armed to the teeth, and packing a hamster!”