Last week, I started BGEE as a Human Fighter (Kensai) with the intent of dualing him to Mage in BG2EE. I rolled my stats enough to be able to afford an 18 in STR, DEX, CON, and INT. I chose Axes and Dual Wielding as my starting proficiencies, and leveled up Axes at every opportunity. I chose Axes due to their melee and throwing potential. I was rockin' the game solo, except for one part where I needed to borrow my sister (Imoen) for her ability to unlock certain locks I couldn't bash open myself.
Having come from a background of "Magic solves everything," and having thought that a solo Sorcerer was the solution to enough of my problems in the BG series, it was refreshing and awe-inspiring to see just how powerful
this simple character was. (Baldur's Gate
back in 1999 was new and foreign to me, and taught me that magic missile
always hits; Fighters can't cast spells; multiclass Mages can't wear armor; and that a single character was a lot more easy to manage and potentially a lot more powerful than a party, among other things. In short, the game and the mechanic - needing to hit and hitting so unreliably - that turned me off of Fighters and non-casters in general in '99 wowed me about 15 years later!)
I've heard reports of people who say that a low-level Kensai in BG1 is a waste of space or a liability, and I can understand their point. I rest-farmed Watchers in Candlekeep until I was level 4, did some quests, then rest-farmed Ankhegs until I hit the level cap of 8. There were rare times I used buffing potions or scrolls, but on Core Rules difficulty (with maximum HP per hit die), I had very little trouble throughout the game. In terms of combat challenges, the Battle Horrors outside of Durlag's Tower were among the hardest things to take down, simply because I had
to melee them and chain chug potions. Daeravorn in Cloakwood was a challenge due to him continually teleporting and casting spells, though with the right potions and defensive scrolls, he would have been easy.
This brings me to my final point: Much like a spellcaster, given ample time to prepare (especially with having the right weapons and potions), the game's combat challenges mostly weren't. The final boss was an interesting struggle as a Sorcerer with a half orc Fighter/Thief and an elfblood Cleric/Mage companion (it was a multiplayer game), but after drinking about 10 potions - an Oil of Speed probably being the
most important among them - he was easy!
The Black Pits mode was effectively the same thing, just accelerated. Dual wield battle axes as magical as I could find, get a stack or two of throwing axes, buy a bunch of Oils of Speed, and just win most battles. The Ring of Fire Command, Boots of Speed, and red Cloak of Protection (with improved haste
!) meant I just butchered most things without trying very hard. For the rare fight I had to repeat, I quickly found out what I needed to do (like make myself immune to fire or ice), then rushed for the biggest threat.
A Baldur's Gate
arcane caster relies on patience, strategy, and intellect. A Baldur's Gate
Fighter runs on adrenaline.
Having played 3.x extensively for many years, and knowing that WotC tended to play characters in 3.x in a 2E style, I can understand why they thought Fighters were so powerful and casters not. I struggled extensively in many areas of the BG games as a solo Sorcerer, but I breezed through them as a Kensai. Kai was barely a factor since I so rarely used it. It was mostly my Fighter's high HP, fast movement speed, fast attack speed, and the amount of reliable tremendous damage I could do each round that put the Kensai on top. I was my own mobile can of whoopass that could annihilate any reasonable threat in a round or 3 if I could simply hit.
PS: I've never finished BG2 and am about to start it again. Pweath don't spoil things!
PPS: Drizzt was a challenge in melee when I was fully buffed. Then I realized I could run away and reliably hit him with my throwing axes, so I did!