With so many articles related to BioWare's Baldur's Gate series coming from PC Gamer as of late, I'm starting to wonder if this is all part of some larger marketing campaign leading up to the announcement of a new installment from Beamdog. Whatever it is, I'm not going to complain about yet another editorial, with this latest entry discussing the importance and impact that the series' companions had on building those fond memories that each of us has:
A new party member was never just another faceless fighter made up of skills and numbers. Rather than being a spreadsheet that swung a sword, they were someone who brought their own personality and objectives into the group, and even some painful prejudices. Baldur’s Gate offered the idea that your companions don’t blindly offer their silent support in whatever you try next, but might run out of patience if you didn’t pay attention to them or, worse, could begin fighting amongst themselves over what might generously be described as ‘philosophical differences’ (such as being unashamedly Chaotic Evil).
Take Xzar and Montaron, two of the first potential pals lurking in Baldur’s Gate’s woodland wilderness. Not only are they bickering bad guys, their motivations aren’t quite what they seem. It’s the game’s way of telling you that perhaps it’s not the wisest choice to simply team up with any old adventurer you meet in the middle of nowhere. Then there’s Minsc, one of the toughest characters in the series, but also one of the least coherent: a manic man who will turn on you if you don’t fulfil your promise to rescue his companion Dynaheir. His conversations with his pocketsized pet, a so-called space hamster, are the very least of your problems.
Even the bad guys have soul, none more so than the second game’s villain Jon Irenicus, expertly voiced by David Warner. This is a man who’s motivation is little more than heartbreak. Your investigations reveal a person broken down into bitterness, trying to reclaim something that was lost so long ago that he can’t even remember what it is he seeks.
It’s a testament to these characters that, 20 years later, they still shine, they still come through as such defined, distinct personalities. They’re all so human (whatever their race might be), far more so than in any other D&D game that had come before, and they bring so much dimension to the series, adding their quips to quest dialogue or finding ways to tease one another during downtime. They, along with so much of the excellent writing in this series, have influenced me as a writer and I remember many of them as well as I remember any favourite characters from films, books or TV. 20 years on, they still deserve that same level of love and appreciation and, boy, do they still get it.