Closing the Gate
With the news out that there are enhanced remakes of Baldur’s Gate and its sequel on the horizon, it seems like all some people can talk about is rumors of a third game. Not just rumors, really, as Beamdog (the company doing the Enhanced Edition conversion) head Trent Oster has stated that, if the updates of the first two games are successful enough, he wants to do Baldur’s Gate III. And this is one of those times where I look at how things have changed and wonder why they can’t just leave well enough alone. In that spirit, I have put together five reasons why I can’t see a third game in the Baldur’s Gate series happening.
1. The Bhaalspawn Saga Is Over
The first reason is quite simply that the story that spanned the first two Baldur’s Gate titles, which followed the player character as the child of the God of Murder, was wrapped up definitively in the Throne of Bhaal expansion for Baldur’s Gate II. To continue that character’s saga would feel contrived and would butcher the endings in place. Even if there was a totally new and unrelated storyline, I feel like the producers might treat Minsc and Boo like Konami treats Pyramid Head: they throw it in as random fanservice even when in context it makes zero sense.
And if it’s not a game in the same series, why call it Baldur’s Gate in the first place? You’ll just be inviting comparisons to one of the most well regarded RPGs in gaming history.
2. The Rules Have Changed
It has been 12 years since Baldur’s Gate II was released. The Dungeons & Dragons ruleset has gone through drastic revisions to the point where it no longer resembles the game it was in 1st and 2nd Editions. Baldur’s Gate used the 2nd Edition rules – since then there has been 3rd Edition, 3.5, the much-maligned 4th Edition, and Wizards of the Coast is now apparently working on a 5th. The Infinity Engine and the gameplay style it created worked perfectly with 2nd Edition. However, it’s rather questionable that they would be able to create a new game that features the same gameplay with the current ruleset (and Wizards of the Coast is highly unlikely to allow the developers to use a previous ruleset – after all, they want to promote sales of their own product with the game).
One big example of how the system has changed is in the alignment system, which previously spanned law, chaos, good, evil and all points in between; the alignment system now ignores Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and all flavors of Neutral. The Baldur’s Gate saga had characters of all possible alignments, and each played it to the hilt. It would be something of a disservice to a conniving jerk like Edwin to just give him the “Evil” label when the Lawful Evil alignment suits him so much better (and plays him off against his moral opposite, the Chaotic Good Minsc). It’s one of many jarring changes that 4th Edition has. If you went from playing Baldur’s Gate I or II to playing a third game with a different ruleset, you would probably wonder just what was going on.
3. The Realms Have Changed
The Forgotten Realms campaign setting that was host to the Baldur’s Gate saga is no more. During the migration from 3rd to 4th Editions, Wizards of the Coast decided to skip time 100 years forward in the wake of an event called the Spellplague. The re-design of the Realms and Wizards’ seeming wishes to give it the kind of world-shaking events that Blizzard likes to shoehorn into their settings (in order to squeeze new storylines out of an overused setting, usually) has left the Realms in a state of disarray. Even if the last time you visited the Realms was with Neverwinter Nights or Dark Alliance, it will seem a different place. Many of these changes were made simply to justify new game mechanics (like Dragonborn and Tiefling player characters).
The Forgotten Realms setting is one that used to be great. Unfortunately, it’s not the Forgotten Realms of Baldur’s Gate. The town still exists (I think – for all I know they may have leveled it in one of the novels), but the feel is different and so is the map.
4. An Unproven Developer
Beamdog’s projects so far have involved remaking and enhancing older titles. While their staff consists of one of BioWare’s founders as well as one of their programmers, neither of them were on the main design or writing staff for Baldur’s Gate. While I don’t doubt that they can make a technically proficient game, can they make one with characters that we care about? If there’s one consistent thing BioWare has been able to do in all of its games, it is to provide a compelling cast to march alongside the hero to hell and back. While I imagine Beamdog could scrounge up some good writers, we don’t know if they have yet.
Then again, when Baldur’s Gate debuted, BioWare was unproven in the RPG field, as well. So this provides an interesting parallel to the original Baldur’s Gate. However, it does raise the question of why they would prefer to make a sequel to a pair of widely regarded classics instead of striking out to make their own unique game. D&D has more campaign settings than the Forgotten Realms, after all. Why not create a Dark Sun or Ravenloft game? Wizards has revived these settings in 4th Edition. Why not take the advantage to do something new and unusual?
5. The Wizards of the Coast/Atari Relationship
Since Atari acquired the Dungeons & Dragons license, their only real uses of it have been for Neverwinter Nights and D&D Online. Their other efforts with the license have been largely lackluster, as last year’s dreadful Daggerdale shows. A third Neverwinter game has been in development hell for ages. The best D&D game that’s released in years was a Facebook game. Atari doesn’t seem to have a lot of love for the license. When Interplay acquired the license back in the ’90s, they made numerous games with it, in addition to keeping previous license holder SSI’s AD&D games in print.
As for Wizards of the Coast’s involvement, their main goal in licensing a product with the D&D license is to get people interested in buying their pen-and-paper games and related products. So time will tell if they will be interested in putting a new D&D game to market.