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I've perused a few web threads on this question and have been surprised - and in some ways pleased - to see that BG1 is often preferred by diehard fans of the series. While I couldn't put a cigarette paper between the two games and in any case consider them to be Part 1 and Part 2 of an unforgettably epic saga - and my favourite games of all time, even beating Planescape : Torment, despite its "philosophicalness" (and I love philosophy) - I have to say that, even though overall I would have to give the decision marginally to BG2 on points, I dislike the view that BG2 is somehow infinitely superior to BG1. It isn't. I also understand and sympathise with those who prefer the first game.

What we have here is a saga in two parts. In BG1 you start off at level 1 with no XP, very basic weapons, items and spells etc. and that is how it was always meant to be. You can't expect to be immediately thrashing the life out of your opponents in a game which was designed to be the BEGINNING of an adventure. BG1 has the advantage of the "patchwork quilt" map with the wilderness areas which you can wander off the beaten track to explore, if you dare or are unwise enough to do so. This makes BG1 a bit more "sandboxy" then BG2. If I still to this day have one complaint against BG2 it is that it did away with the wilderness areas.

BG2 did many things just as well as and in some cases better than BG1 did them. As a whole the two games considered as one saga in two parts are a triumph and are the best games I have ever experienced in the course of a long gaming "career". I find it hard to understand when some people express the opinion that you might as well forget BG1 and move straight on to BG2. If the 640*480 resolution bothers you, you can use the widescreen mod (if you can get it working to your satisfaction) to correct that.

It is always very interesting to hear other people's views, however.
I love them both. But I think that, although the second is technically better (more classes, better graphics, the chance to own my own guild of thieves), the first one has... more charm.
I don't know, I think is for having played it first (and more xD), but it has another feeling.
The second part feels "more epic", while the first game is more like an adventure. You are a "child" and are forced to wander through the sword coast and all its dangers. You must focus and even fighting a bandit feels dangerous. In the second part you are more powerful, and that's great too, but the memories I have... Wandering the green valleys with the great music and that fake rain... *sigh, if I only hadn't to study my Chemistry finals...*
So tl;dr version:
I think that they are both masterpieces of equal value in terms of gaming, but I think that the second one is a better game, technically speaking, whereas the fist one has more charm (which is quite subjective)
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javihyuga: I love them both. But I think that, although the second is technically better (more classes, better graphics, the chance to own my own guild of thieves), the first one has... more charm.
I don't know, I think is for having played it first (and more xD), but it has another feeling.
The second part feels "more epic", while the first game is more like an adventure. You are a "child" and are forced to wander through the sword coast and all its dangers. You must focus and even fighting a bandit feels dangerous. In the second part you are more powerful, and that's great too, but the memories I have... Wandering the green valleys with the great music and that fake rain... *sigh, if I only hadn't to study my Chemistry finals...*
So tl;dr version:
I think that they are both masterpieces of equal value in terms of gaming, but I think that the second one is a better game, technically speaking, whereas the fist one has more charm (which is quite subjective)
This is a really good summary in my opinion and close to my own view. The first game definitely has charm, especially when you are roaming in the wilderness with that lovely music playing in the background. I refuse to criticise either game harshly, however, because there is nothing to harshly criticise. BG1 has more NPCs which can join your party than BG2 has (is it something like 21v16 ? My memory fails me, though I once knew but can't be bothered to google it) : this is in favour of BG1, as is the inclusion of the wilderness areas and the (slightly) more sandboxy structure of the first game. Also, the character portraits (and perhaps personalities) of the NPCs in BG1 are less "glamorised" than they are in BG2 (take Jaheira as an example). But BG2 is (imo) almost the perfect game, despite these deviations from the original formula.

But both games have a great feeling to them. I totally understand what people mean when they talk about the different feeling of BG1, though : this was perhaps the best gaming experience I ever had, but I don't know for sure because BG2 became so utterly epic after what imo was a slowish start ... But yes, the first game conjures up feelings which the sequel doesn't (and can't be expected to) evoke : you are at the beginning of an epic saga and you are weak and vulnerable in a vast world full of unknown but perceptibly powerful evil. Everything is fitting : the music, the pace of the game etc. I'm a huge fan of both games. The reason why I started this thread is to try to dispel the opinion that BG1 is "inferior" to BG2. The truth is that if you love this kind of game you will appreciate both games as two parts of an inextricably linked saga and that they are both "as they had to be", with perhaps the exception that I think the loss of the wilderness areas in BG2 was regrettable.
Post edited May 29, 2013 by Theoclymenus
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Theoclymenus: The reason why I started this thread is to try to dispel the opinion that BG1 is "inferior" to BG2.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The one and only 'inferior' aspect of BG1 is the game engine, but even that has it's unique charms. As for which do I love... all I can say is that of the two, BG1 is the game I come back to the most, by a mile.
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Theoclymenus: The reason why I started this thread is to try to dispel the opinion that BG1 is "inferior" to BG2.
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Hickory: Nothing could be further from the truth. The one and only 'inferior' aspect of BG1 is the game engine, but even that has it's unique charms. As for which do I love... all I can say is that of the two, BG1 is the game I come back to the most, by a mile.
i agree with you, though i perhaps very, very, VERY slightly favour BG2, though I haven't really made my mind up even yet. They really shouldn't be set against each other imo, because they are two parts of an organic whole, though each part is capable and great enough to stand on its own, but given the occasionally (irrational and based on no experience) biased view that BG2 "supersedes" BG1 I thought I would ask this question on the Baldur's Gate forums, rather than the general forums, because here it is more likely that you will get informed, impartial opinions.

I've completed BG1 3.9 times (PC failure stopped it from being 4) and BG2 3 times. I love both games. I intend to play all the IE games again, but perhaps not for a while IWD2 will probably be my first replay since I think I only ever completed it once, though I can't remember.

BG1 has an atmosphere, a feeling, which none of the other games has. That's not to say that this atmosphere is "better" (necessarily), but if you are not into this kind of game then you will probably fail to experience it in any case, which is shame but perhaps inevitable. Each of the IE games has a great atmosphere but it is hard to put into words what made the atmosphere of BG1 so special. I read a piece on the net once in which a BG fan recounted how he met his future wife as a result of playing this game. It's probably the best online tribute to this game I've ever seen : better than any professional review of the game I've ever seen.
Post edited May 29, 2013 by Theoclymenus
Personally I find virtually everything in BG2 to be superior to BG1. Technically it's superior due to the engine, the story and quests are more interesting, the characters are interactive to a much greater degree, and the combat is substantially more satisfying (at least until the later stages of ToB, that is). I find the numerous "force initiate dialog, insult the player while giving unique yet unrepeatable information, then disappear off the map forever" NPCs in every zone to be particularly irritating. BG2 also avoids the mechanical difficulties of level 1-2 D&D characters, which while not really BG1's fault, still impede the fun somewhat.*


*I love virtually every edition of D&D, but I'll be the first to admit that playing characters below level 3 is a headache for everyone.
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bevinator: *I love virtually every edition of D&D, but I'll be the first to admit that playing characters below level 3 is a headache for everyone.
This basically captures the opposite of my views.

When I started playing D&D, even before 1st edition, there were only three levels. 3rd was the highest level anyone anywhere could reach, and it was just unthinkably high. I played for many years with that system and had a blast. Though D&D now allows for much higher levels, I've always been a low-level, low-power kind of gamer. I just think gaming is SO much more fun and interesting when you're struggling. Being a 30th level character with +5 everything and a half-dozen artifacts in your pack is completely boring to me.

For those who don't know, there's a house rule in D&D called E6 (LINK), which makes 6th the highest level people can achieve. Here's a quick section:

"Ryan Dancey suggested that d20 has four distinct quartiles of play:

Levels 1-5: Gritty fantasy
Levels 6-10: Heroic fantasy
Levels 11-15: Wuxia
Levels 16-20: Superheroes

There’s been some great discussion about how to define those quartiles, and how each different quartile suited some groups better than others. "

If we accept this definition, we can see that people may prefer one game over the other simply due to the player's preference of character power. I prefer BG1, but is that because I played it first, because I've played it more, because I find it more developed, or because it plays at the "gritty" level? TOB is my least enjoyed part of the series, and I think it's due to being so high level. I just find such power... cartoonish.

I think in examining why people like 1 or 2 better, considering the power level they like to play with is an important factor.
Personally I think the "sweet spot" for D&D of all varieties is 3-12.

The issue with level 1 is that your characters (and everyone else) are hilariously fragile, and that in most cases, level 2 characters are literally twice as powerful as level 1 characters in every possible regard. The scaling simply doesn't work well below 3. This is most efficiently demonstrated by the goblin archers in Easthaven in IWD or the wolves outside Candlekeep. In a PnP game this is usually remedied by early quest XP, but cRPGs tend to thrust you into combat immediately, which can be a complete crapshoot.

The issue with 12+ is basically everything you've stated. Again, the scaling breaks the game, but for the opposite reason.
This is why I play easyTutu, because I get the bg1 game but play it on the "much better" software of the bg2 engine.
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bevinator: Personally I think the "sweet spot" for D&D of all varieties is 3-12.

The issue with level 1 is that your characters (and everyone else) are hilariously fragile, and that in most cases, level 2 characters are literally twice as powerful as level 1 characters in every possible regard.
I get what you're saying, and for a lot of players this is very true, but it all depends on how you play the game -- we're talking about Baldur's Gate cRPG here. If you start off with a 4 HP mage and get a crap dice throw at level up, resulting in a level 2 mage with 5 HP, one could hardly say that character is twice as powerful. A level 1 fighter with 12 Con, and throws a crap dice at level up is similarly not twice as powerful. But I don't think the majority of people play by the 'rules' in these games, so your sweet spot is probably just about right for those who don't.
We probably all have our own house rules for various things. One of mine is everybody having d8 HD.
Well, I love them both and enjoy playing them as one big game through BGT. (so BG2 engine)

I enjoy role-playing the early parts of BG1, a new character setting out on his journey - I couldn't bring myself to start with a pure BG2 game and an already levelled character - for me, a lot of the fun is developing the character as I go.

I reach a point in BG1 where I'm anxious to move on to BG2 though, so (other than the first couple of play-throughs) I don't try to do every quest by the time I reach Baldur's Gate - I just do the ones that are natural for my character / the ones he comes across. I usually do werewolf island and ice-island though, Durlag's Tower if I have the patience.

By the time I get near the end of TOB, I've had enough and maybe that's down to the more linear path of that part or the fact that character development has pretty much been done (ok, an extra spell or 2 or a nifty new HLA but not as much as earlier). By then I'm usually mentally planning another play-through and trying to convince myself to leave it alone for a while LOL.

Tldr:
Like them both, wouldn't play one without the other.
Enjoy the character development.
Post edited May 30, 2013 by TrollumThinks
I most enjoy them as whole. I like how it evolves from those modest beginnings into one epic story. You start with fighting gibberlings are barely able to fend off wolf with whole party and near the end you are slaying dragons and giants, summoning angels and at the end you can even ascend. I love the sense of progress and how I really get stronger. In some games it is mitigated by monster getting stronger but not here. I think it is well done in this aspect. You mostly fight new enemies and if you went back, you would slaughter previous enemies. Except some human enemies (mostly guards), you know you fight something stronger than before and it makes sense and feels good.
I played Divine Divinity recently and there you fight Orcs soon into game, later you fight, among others, stronger Orcs, tehn more stronger Orcs and even strongest Orcs. And it is really strange later, when you get much stronger and have to fight imps. And single imp melee fighter is much stronger than any of those orcs and would mop floor with group of them. It feels really weird.

If I had only option to play one of them, I would probably go with BG1. BG 2 is more polished, but I like BG 1 variety of companions and setting and is better as standalone game because it has beginning. :-)
I like the free adventure feel of BG1. You get dumped in nature with not much to go on besides going to town to meet some friends. There's no sense of a big bad guy out there waiting to create chaos, your main villain is nature.

I liked how the overworld was done for for BG1. Lots of places to explore. My only gripe in this part is that it mostly involves a lot of walking in a near generic setting. You either have forests, or rocky areas. Still, it gave a feeling of exploration, and they are completely optional (except for areas you need to walk through). It gave a feeling of openness, that you were truly on an adventure.

My first D&D game was BG2 long ago. I didn't like the idea of not starting at level 1. I was dumb back then and thought BG2 was better than BG1 to play, I was wrong. I like the idea of starting out weak. It gives better satisfaction when you slowly level up and become more powerful. Your mage that could only cast 1 magic missle? Now he can take out an army on his own.

Story wise, BG2 forces things on you from the start. BG1, you are just investigating strange things that are going on, and the story sort of stays in the back. Things slowly unravel as you explore the land. BG2 though has a lot of cool side stories that you could skip that give a sense of unraveling the story, but for the most part don't change the fact of the story you are thrown into. From the start of BG2 (after the initial dungeon) you are given a clear objective.

I found BG1 rather generic compared to BG2. For the most part, BG1 could take place on earth, you don't really travel to fantastic areas (which changes with ToTSC). But that's part of the charm, it feels familiar, yet fantasy enough to pull you into the world. Even exploring a regular cave felt like an adventure.

With that said, i'm glad I went back to try out BG1, as it's proven to be an awesome experience.

Both are great games, and saying one is better is like saying a Ferrari is better than a Lamborghini.
Post edited May 30, 2013 by chopkinsca
(Minor spoiler)

One small nitpick against BG1 : Monster Summoning is far too powerful in that game. I think the developers did the right thing in limiting the number of monsters you can have on screen at the same time in BG2. This "quirk" of BG1's did, however, help me when I encountered a certain legendary Drow in the wilderness, but he still certainly didn't go down easily ....