I played both games when they first came out as a young lad (early teens). I never finished BG1 as a kid, I always stopped just before Baldur’s gate city. I managed to finish BG2 and its expansions though but was mostly just cheesing through the game. So I played through both enhanced editions after they went on sale this summer…….. and I gotta be honest…. I like BG1 better…….
I played through BG1 finishing about 90% of the side quests and all of the expansion content. Took me about 40 hours and I couldn’t stop playing. Then playing through BG 2 wasn’t quite as smooth. I stopped a few times and took a break for a week or so at a time. I would even take breaks from playing through BG2 to go back and play more BG1!
Now I still think BG2 is absolutely amazing. The story is still phenomenal the gameplay is great, and BG1 & BG2 work perfectly together. The power pacing is so amazingly perfect. The fact that by the end of the expansion you are… literally… godlike in your powers is all the more meaningful because you remember leaving Candle Keep with pitiful weapons and then having your party get cut down to half health after the first wolf you face!
But for me BG1 had perfect pacing. Things made sense, you had clear short term goals that perfectly flowed into long term plot development. Like any good story the micro existed to serve the macro level plot. Even the side questing felt natural along the way of the main story. I’m in Berogast… I have to go to Nashkel….. I have a bunch of side quests in my journal…… as I’m going from point A to point B I’ll explore all areas in between them. Everything was paced perfectly and seemed to flow naturally. Even the expansion felt amazing, like a fantastic epilogue.
Meanwhile BG2 had such erratic passing through it’s first 20 hours. It started with an opening dungeon that took WAY TOO LONG in my opinion to get through. Then you get out into the open and get given a grand important goal…….. and then the side questing starts……… This game felt like it started the Western RPG “A.D.D.” approach to questing. I would go to the bar to get quests to get money I would think “all right. I have this one I want to focus on it.” As soon as I leave dialogue starts with another quest. Then I go to another zone and see a scripted even and get another quest, then when I’m traveling to the zone I want to go to I get stopped mid travel with a scripted encounter, I then have to go BACK to the city with an item, then more quests get thrown at me while I’m going to the new districts. THEN my part starts complaining ‘Oh we should check out this lead sooner than later’. Before I knew it this “BIG” macro level plot element is far in the back ground, I haven’t even gotten to the first area I wanted to go before I watched plot trees exponentially expand. I just wanted to sit the game down and say “YOU”RE INTERESTING ENOUGH! You don’t need to keep throwing things at me 100 miles an hour! Calm down and take some Ritalin!”.
Eventually the game does come back together and calm down. But I was just jarred by how all over the place the pacing was. The high level story didn’t seem to flow as naturally. After 90 minutes you get the “State of the plot” but then you need to faff about another 20 or so hours before you move that plot point to the next level. BG1 felt like it was gradually unravelling as you progressed, with a constant mix of side questing and overall plot being portioned out to you.
I also thought the combat was a bit tighter in BG1. BG2 it became easy to start getting OP and relying on your super abilities. The amount of buffs and dispels you need to manage also became a bit daunting and I stopped remembering what specific buffs even did, it just became “A.B.C.D.E…….” before tough fights, there’s also a lot more wizard battles in BG2 where you needed to memorize the right way to strip defensive buffs. The epic feel was still kind of nice, but I like the more compact tighter feel of a narrower set of variables. The last boss of the BG1 Vanilla and then Tales of the Sword coast were both legitimate “Bugger my britches this is interesting….. how can I do this”, whereas late BG2 & expansion there were few fights that didn’t just melt to the correct application of buffs/debuffs and then Stop Time/Dragon’s Breath.
So anyways…. LONG rant there I guess. But I am really alone on this? Did anyone else enjoy BG1 more than BG2? I still love BG2 still one of my favorite games of all time, but I just felt like when it expanded into the epic behemoth it became it lost a bit of detail and polish (Kind of like how I feel Portal 1 is better than Portal 2 for similar reasons). Maybe I’m just alone…..