Now that Baldur’s Gate 3 has been out for quite a while, the question still remains– should you dive into the earlier games before embarking on this new adventure? Should you play Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2? Is it a prerequisite for enjoying the latest entry, or can you step into the world of Baldur’s Gate 3 as a newcomer and feel right at home?
But first, a history lesson is in order to add a bit more context to that question.
Created by Bioware, the first Baldur’s Gate game made its debut in 1998, followed by the highly acclaimed Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn in 2000. These games, set in the vast and complex world of the Forgotten Realms, wove intricate tales within the framework of the slightly modified Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition rules.
They are often hailed as quintessential CRPGs, celebrated for their epic narratives, intricate character development, and profound commitment to player choices.
However, following the release of the last expansion for Baldur’s Gate 2 in 2001, the series went into hibernation. While there were spin-offs, remasters, and remakes, a sequel seemed elusive. That is until Larian Studios, known for their Divinity series, unveiled their ambitious project: Baldur’s Gate 3.
Given how much belated Baldur’s Gate 3 was, should you play Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 3 before diving in?
The Short Answer: Not Necessarily
Baldur’s Gate 3 being the third game in the series shouldn’t deter newcomers to the franchise. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or new to the series, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers an engaging experience.
More importantly, the third game takes place over a century after the events of Baldur’s Gate 2, ensuring that prior knowledge isn’t a prerequisite. Larian Studios created Baldur’s Gate 3 with accessibility in mind, especially for the classes, welcoming both veterans and novices alike.
So, don’t let concerns about getting lost dissuade you. If you do get lost, it’s likely due to the expansive game world rather than any lack of prior experience.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a Standalone Tale
The story of Baldur’s Gate 3 is a standalone narrative, with only subtle ties to the earlier entries. While there are returning characters, Easter eggs, and references that might delight veterans, they don’t pose any significant hindrance to new players.
There are a couple of characters from the old games that you can recruit to the party and an old villain is returning from the predecessors, but all of them are optional content. Understanding and chasing them aren’t mandatory and you get plenty of exposition for them anyway.
Too Much Has Changed Over 100 Years
While the titular city of Baldur’s Gate remains intact with some series veterans likely even recognizing the map or specific districts in Baldur’s Gate 3, they usually won’t get much of a headstart in exploring the city and looking for activities.
On top of new buildings and structures, there are also new faces and politics brewing inside the city and some areas have changed drastically for veteran players to gain an advantage, especially in discovering secrets.
The Rules Have Changed
Storywise, you’re not missing much, but what about the gameplay? Should you play Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 to get a better understanding of Baldur’s Gate 3‘s combat?
Not really. It’s important to note that there’s a huge difference between the rulesets of the old Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 compared to Baldur’s Gate 3. Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 both use the 2nd Edition ruleset of Dungeons and Dragons; meanwhile, Baldur’s Gate 3 uses the more user-friendly and modern 5th Edition.
That’s three generations apart over two decades. There have been dramatic changes for Dungeons and Dragons during that timeline.
We also don’t recommend playing Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 just to familiarize yourself with Baldur’s Gate 3‘s gameplay since the first two Baldur’s Gate games assumed a pausable real-time combat while Baldur’s Gate 3 went full turn-based (to stick closer to Dungeons and Dragons‘ combat mode).
In fact, if you want to be more familiar with Baldur’s Gate 3‘s gameplay and combat, we recommend playing a tabletop campaign or one-shot campaign of Dungeons and Dragons, preferably with friends. That would be the best way to introduce yourself in preparation for Baldur’s Gate 3 if you value that kind of advantage.
Classics Never Die
Still, there’s no denying the allure of revisiting the classics. Playing Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 is not only a journey through time but also an opportunity to immerse yourself in two of the most revered CRPGs of all time.
These classics provide a window into the history of the genre, and they are iconic for a reason. By experiencing the earlier games, you can gain a deeper appreciation of the inspirations that have shaped Baldur’s Gate 3. The narratives and gameplay may not be as streamlined or polished as modern games, but they offer a glimpse into the roots of CRPG.
Make Sure to Grab the Remastered Versions
As for how much Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 have aged well, they didn’t. At least, the original ones don’t hold up to our modern standards. Graphically, they’re low-res and are rendered in a boxy 4:3 resolution so you’ll want to pick up Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition.
These two remasters were updated for modern resolutions with updated graphics and quality-of-life changes, especially to the user interface.
If you decide to undertake this retro gaming adventure, be prepared for a significant time investment. Each game can easily consume 60 to 100+ hours of your life. There’s even something uniquely rewarding about finishing the latest installment in a beloved series and then delving back into the classics to discover the threads that connect them.
Ultimately, the decision to play the first two Baldur’s Gate games rests with you. Whether you choose to embrace these older classics or jump straight into the latest adventure, one thing is certain – the world of Baldur’s Gate awaits. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or a novice, you’re bound to find your place in the heart of Baldur’s Gate.