Baldur's Gate for Mac, by Graphics Simulations
Posted: 09-Feb-2001

3 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Graphic Simulations Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bob Barton Class: GAMES
Baldur's Gate (about $40) is by Graphic Simulations
Black Isle Studios,
TSR (Dungeons & Dragons),
Bioware and Rosetta.

Rosetta did the Mac conversion. The PC version is up to two. This is a graphical "Adventure" game where you play one character and control the actions of others in your party. Collecting objects and overcoming attacks by monsters while trying to find out why the iron supply is dwindling are my perception of the goals. A more comprehensive description can be found at one of the sellers such as
http://www.hartsunlimited.com/baldursgatemac.html or the Graphsim site. A player response site is at http://www.macbaldur.net/.

Unfortunately this is not my favorite type of game and I had enough difficulty with it that I do not plan to purchase it. I am getting close to retirement and do not have the latest hardware suite that would make gameplay more effective. The last games I tried were Myst and Riven and I liked both of them for visual and sound effects and puzzlement. I watched my nephew play a Doom shoot-em-up on a PC a while ago and do not have the interest or hand-eye coordination speed to be a decent player of that sort of entertainment.

My equipment is a mongrel Mac Performa 6116 with a 225 MHz/1 MB L2 G3 Sonnet accelerator, 72 MB real, 88 MB virtual memory, MacOS 8.5.1, external 4 GB drive and external 4/4/16 CDRW drive. The 6116's built-in CD drive is too slow for game play. I had to reset the Baldur's Gate game application size down from 64 MB to the minimum 44 MB to run it effectively on this hardware.

I obtained the first two game CDs for evaluation. There are three additional CDs for when one gets well into the game. You are required to install the program on your hard drive and this requires a whopping 410 MB for 540 or so items. For documentation, some web sites provide helpful tips and instructions for serious game players. A newer version 1.02d3 release is available as a 5 MB download and is supposed to cure several problems with the CD version. I downloaded it (DSL is great!) and tried to use it but it hangs up at the new/load game stage so I went back to the original CD version. Incidentally, the background music and sound effects and voices are very well done.

The game startup puts you through a series of animated logos for the various companies listed earlier and a short intro scene. "I will be the last and you will go first" says the spikey armored humanoid monster as he crushes the armored human and drops him off the tower. Then the startup menu appears and the only useful choice is "single player". The game kind of takes over your Mac and the usual 4 key and 3 key escape and reboot sequences did not initially work for me. Supposedly AppleCMD+Tab will take you to the Finder but my experience was that it frequently hung up the game and froze my Mac, requiring a power switch restart. Also, there is an init (.ini) file that is editable and I tried to shut off the time-consuming startup logos and movies but to no avail. Must be a Windoze port feature.

During one of my attempts, when the screen froze, it apparently hosed my Applevision extension and the 1710 monitor wouldn't come on again. I had to hook up an old 13 inch monitor and continue by peering through the keyhole.

Ok, bag the newer version and run the old version without trying the CMD+Tab combo. I built a custom character with multiple skills of fighting and thieving. One can use all the character suites that are available in the Dungeons and Dragons series from TSR. The Baldur's Gate setting is the Sword Coast environment of D&D and you start out around a Castle. One can also get lost in remembering the minutia of skills and inventory. They say the devil is in the details.

Time to move. You click where you want the character to go to and it walks there with a loud tread. This is useful because other characters can't sneak up on you very well. You meet and converse - well, actually, the green-clad monks do most of the talking to provide instructive tips. I opened a chest and got some gold pieces. A helpful tutor opens the door to a kind of hall where you can practice battling monsters without injury. You also meet the other members of a typical group of mixed skill characters that your character controls. Make that is supposed to be able to control - I didn't get the hang of it yet. Good WWF style grunts when blows are struck.

I couldn't quite get the hang of fighting. I think you place the tip of your sword image on the base of the enemy and click but it was not apparent that any damage was done. The number of blows needed to inflict destruction was not clear - and seemed like a large number. The text window indicates who is attacking who but I will need at least four helpers to keep track of everything.

Foolish novice that I am, I went into another building and found a bad guy who seemed to think killing my character would get him a reward. With my consummate fighting skill, the next thing I noticed was that my character image was 2/3 full of red. This was not good and I exited the building. Being severely damaged did not seem to impair the ability to move around. Fortunately, the next monk was outside a temple and I found out that priests can heal for the right amount of gold. It cost 100 units to get rid of 17 damage points - out of the 20 I had. Fortunately I did not see what happens when your character dies.

Well, I didn't get to the really good stuff outside the sheltered region around the castle but it's time to close out this report. What did I like: excellent visual and audio in all aspects and the oblique look-down viewpoint. What didn't I like: the lousy learning curve due to lack of information on controls; the frequent crashes and freezes until I learned not to CMD+tab and not run the newer version; the small character sizes (near retirement eyes); the annoying footstep sounds and my equipment limitations. Would I buy it? No. Would I recommend it? Yes, to a serious game player.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Mice