Baldur's Gate - On Monsters and Combat

Head on over to PC Gamer and you'll find this article that takes a look back at the Baldur's Gate series, and in particular its monster and encounter design that was partially responsible for the series' long-lasting success. The article also lists a few examples of especially fearsome and memorable creatures just to remind you about all the times you had to reload the game after entering a suspicious-looking room unprepared.

A few sample paragraphs:

On easy difficulty settings you can play Baldur’s Gate like an RTS, clicking on enemies and simply waiting for their health to deplete. But this is ultimately a boring way to play the thing. Every enemy is a puzzle to solve, and combining your party’s abilities to outwit and defeat them is a big part of the experience. And because of the sheer number of spells, classes, enchanted weapons, potions and enemies there are to experiment with, it’s rare to find yourself settling into any kind of routine. You have to engage with every big fight on a deep level, and that makes for a really satisfying RPG.

Another product of the monster design is making the world feel genuinely intimidating. When you’re creeping through a dungeon, the fog of war unfurling before you, there’s a palpable feeling of dread. Your mind starts racing: what if there’s a beholder around this corner? Or a lich waiting in the next chamber? The dungeon designers often lull you into a false sense of security with skeletons and spiders, then suddenly spring a vampire or a group of adamantine golems on you.

And that’s what a good dungeon crawl should feel like. Not like Diablo where you’re an almost unstoppable force, reaving effortlessly through waves of demons. You want to feel like you’re delving into some forbidden, cursed place, where danger lurks around every corner, but the twinkle of treasure waits at the end as a reward. By making every battle count, and designing enemies that you have to use your brain to defeat, BioWare achieves this brilliantly, in both Baldur’s Gate games. I’ll never forget the terror I felt the first time I saw a dragon.