It’s Not You, It’s Me

Years ago.  I made the decision to beat all my games, or come as close as I was able to.  This turned out to be a pretty big undertaking.  Like I said, it’s been years, I’ve been going by console generation, and I’m still working through my collection from two generations ago.  Since then, I have played hundreds of games.  Beaten hundreds of games.  And as much as I have impeccable taste, there are still some bad ones that slipped through.  Sure, there were a few I wasn’t actually able to beat.  There were a handful I couldn’t bear to go all the way through.  There were a couple I called completed just because I technically saw everything the game had to offer, and couldn’t bear to truly complete it.

Even so, in the time I’ve been taking on this quest, I have beaten nearly every game I’ve owned.  Even the horrible, miserable, foul games that made me question my faith in a kind and loving God forevermore, I endured, and I conquered.  I have defeated Fur Fighters.  Overcome Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero.  Thoroughly plumbed the depths of Wrestlemania X8.  I have seen some of the darkest parts of the world of video games.

Why, then, is it Baldur’s Gate, one of the most highly regarded games out there, that I just can’t bear to force myself through any longer?

baldurs-gate-win-ingame-37780.jpg

There are a lot of people who like this game, for very good reason.  Even people who, like myself, never played it in its proper era.  People who love the story, get really into the world, even people who enjoy all the prep-work the game’s combat is based on, all things I’d normally enjoy myself.

But in trying to figure out why people liked the game when I just could not, reading over what people were saying about it felt like I had somehow ended up with a completely different game than anyone else.  The world that people loved, in what time I played I just saw standard fantasy forests and villages, with no more details than you could see anywhere else.  The plot?  They had some interesting things with the iron crisis, but I cleared that up and I never got the story past the base that some jerk killed my dad and wanted to kill me.  Both of those could have become something good, but I’ll never know, because neither of them managed to go anywhere in the first ten hours I spent playing the game.  Neither did the gameplay.  I was a mage.  I had one spell slot.  I could cast one spell a day, then I was completely useless.  First level D&D 3.5E was always really weak on the first level, and that stretches out so long here.

I’d love to jump into the middle of this.  I’d love to see the game everyone else enjoys so much.  This is one of the favorite games of a great swath of people, and there has to be good reason for that.  It has to turn into something great later on.

But as much as I enjoy a good slow-paced story, 10 hours without giving me anything is a little too much.  I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game that’s so slow about everything.  I spent ten hours with this great, wondrous, award winning game, and did not come across a single hook.  This game is amazing.  I was bored out of my skull.  Everyone loves it.  I could not go on.  I have finished so much worse, and I will likely never beat this game, or play its sequel.

It goes to show, the critical success, the popularity, it’s no guarantee that you’ll find the experience enjoyable.  People like different things.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  And sometimes, it’s okay not to like something.  Even when the whole world disagrees with you.

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10 responses to “It’s Not You, It’s Me

  1. I know exactly what you mean with Baldur’s Gate. Every few years since I bought it in high school, I reinstall this game and sink probably a comparable amount of time that you did into it hoping that it will finally click with me. It never does. I just don’t know what I’m missing here.

    • I am really glad to hear it’s not just me. I’ve been wondering the same thing, what are other people seeing that I’m missing? Has to be something there, but it’s definitely buried.

  2. I can’t help but wonder if I was doing something wrong, but I remember being annoyed at how slow the characters moved in this game. I would click a location on the map and wait nearly a minute for them to reach it. I’ve only ever beaten this game once, and when I did, I felt a bit drained and didn’t feel like continuing with the sequel. Maybe I’ll try again one day, though. Luckily, there is a run option in Planescape: Torment, so you won’t have to worry about it in that game.

    As for critical success not translating into personal enjoyment… well, I’ve already mentioned a lot of instances where that happened to me in my various ramblings, so I will say no more on that subject. Though if I may ask, are there any other notable instances where you tried a game that had this much critical acclaim only to be left disappointed?

    • Being able to run wouldn’t fix all my problems with the game, but it would get through one of the biggest ones I had. After reading what you wrote about combat not being such a big focus in Planescape, it’s sounding a lot like they’re a lot better at managing the weakness of the engine in that game. I admit Baldur’s Gate has me a little more hesitant to get into the engine again, but I’ve got the sense it’s enough of a different experience that I shouldn’t really be transposing my feelings from Baldur’s gate onto it.

      As far as the critical darlings that I wasn’t really feeling, Half Life quickly comes to mind. I think that’s all because I didn’t play it in its era, however. It feels a lot to me like Goldeneye 007, in that it was completely revolutionary, and I can recognize it did a lot that’d never been done before, but since their innovations were taken up by and advanced by every other game that came afterwards, they ended up seeming lesser in comparison. I avoided that with Goldeneye, since I immersed myself in it so much when that came out, but had no such luck with Half Life. The fact that I’ve only ever played the PS2 port doesn’t help.

      Devil May Cry is probably more of a straight example. A lot of my friends were really into it, and I remember them getting absolutely immersed in everything about the game. I picked it up as soon as I got a PS2 because of that, and absolutely hated it. The camera really worked against that game so much, and I couldn’t bear it. It killed the whole experience for me.

      Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil are games I didn’t dislike per say, but never got into. They were doing some new and unique things, and these I can at least see why people liked, but they never really grabbed me. Good concepts, but I thought they needed a bit more polish for the execution to really shine.

      • They are such different experiences, you’ll have a hard time believing Planescape: Torment bears the Dungeons and Dragons license. It’s interesting because without an emphasis on combat, it comes across more as an adventure game with RPG elements than the other way around. Nonetheless, the protagonist’s stats are important (especially wisdom). Another cool thing about it is that you don’t have to gather your party before venturing forth – all you need to do is to send one person to the exit space to move to the next area.

        I played Goldeneye when it was originally released, but I didn’t discover Half-Life until 2011. The bizarre thing about this is that I ended up liking Half-Life more despite not playing it in its original context. I think it helps that outside of Call of Duty 4 and its sequel, I hadn’t really played that many games which relied on scripted events to tell an interesting story, so it provided a new experience for me. Then again, I think it helps that I played the original PC version.

        If Devil May Cry was made before dual analog gameplay was truly polished, I can see things not working out so well. It’s like that other early PS2 game you reviewed awhile back where the sticks were reversed. Camera is one of those things you tend to notice more when it’s bad than when it’s good.

        I’ve tried both Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil, and to be honest, I didn’t get very far in either. I might try them again when I get the chance, but I found that they never gripped me either. They do have very dedicated fanbases though, don’t they?

      • I’ve never played the Half-Life PC version, so yeah, that might make a difference. The game was really not adapted for the controller very well, and I remember being quite frustrated with trying to aim. That may have just ruined the experience for me.

        Thinking back on it, Devil May Cry is kind of a weird one for me. It started out as one of the Resident Evil 4 prototypes, and so has the traditional RE fixed camera, which really didn’t mesh well with the in your face action gameplay. The strange thing is, though, Onimusha was in a pretty similar situation, and I actually enjoyed that game. I think it comes down to the combat in Devil May Cry being a lot faster and covering more area than Onimusha, so the camera was much more of an issue there than it was to the more calculated Onimusha.

        Also yeah, Fur Fighters with the reversed camera controls. Never has muscle memory worked so much against me as it did in that game. Trying my best not to remember that one.

  3. I commend you for trying to beat most of your collection. A good chunk of the stuff I buy never gets finished (either because I don’t end up enjoying the game or because I don’t have enough time to play all the cool games that come out.)

    Baldur’s Gate is a title I couldn’t get into either. I can see why it is so fondly remembered, but the combat system didn’t click with me. Shame, cos I thought the hamster was funny.

    • Thanks. It’s definitely been a bit of a… involved experience, but it’s had me looking at games in a bit of a different way, and playing through things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

      Minsc and his Hamster was my favorite part of the game. More warriors need massive debilitating head trauma!

  4. I, like pretty much all the commentators here, also got comparably far into this game only to lose interest. From what I’ve gathered from veterans of the series, the first game is MUCH weaker than the second, with BGII really hitting the stride. Maybe try that?

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