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I find BG1 pacing much better. And I don't ever remember a tabletop game going beyond level 9, either, so there's probably some bias. BG2 is a lot of fun, but I think it begins to lose charm with epic levels and a 'more of everything' game design.

I've replayed BG2 a few times. I've replayed BG1 a LOT.

It's kind of the same reason I found Hordes of the Underdark a bit dull, though I know many people regard it as the best of the official campaigns (but that's a low bar anyway).
Story is better in BG2 by far, but I love the coloring and general feel of the world in BG1 much better. BG2s world is rundown, dark and gritty. While probably more 'realistic', I prefer the bright and clean feeling of BG1. Reminds me more of the old school RPGs
I've been playing Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 for (almost) 15 years and love them both for different reasons.

Baldur's Gate 1 is great because of its wilderness area's. Yeah, I'm actually one of those people who love those area's; I don't really like dungeons and towers that go down and down or up and up forever and ever.

Baldur's Gate 2 is great for its party interaction, and its much better engine.

In the end, I think I like BG2 more, because of the better engine and party interaction.

However... now that the EasyTuTu Beregost crash-corruption bug is fixed, Baldur's Gate 1 might actually surpass Baldur's Gate 2 for me. I've installed these mods:

One Pixel Production BG1 paper dolls and items
Unfinished Business
BG1 NPC pack

This makes the setup actually look like BG1, while upgrading the engine and NPC's to BG2 standards. I'm in the middle of a playthrough now, after eyeing EasyTuTu for YEARS, but not daring to use it, because I have very bad eperiences with mods...

I absolutely love it. The above mods lift Baldur's Gate 1 up to BG2 level without adding in too much non-original content (basically only fixes, and the BG1 NPC pack), and it makes it a whole different experience.

Also, I always import my character into BG2 and never create a new one. The first thing I do is fix levels and proficiencies to what they were in BG1 (for me, and what they were or would have been for Jaheira and Minsc).
Post edited May 31, 2013 by Katsunami
I just finished Baldur's Gate (using TuTu) the other day, and I think I liked it more this time around than the first time I played it. There's something to be said for the low-mid scale D&D adventure that BG1 goes for in comparison to the high-stakes epic fantasy adventure that BG2 immediately starts with. You spend maybe a bit more time than necessary having "Die in one hit" durability, but I think I can understand arguments in that game's favor over its more expansive sequel.

I hadn't played BG2 in years before starting my most recent playthrough, and I'm interested to see how it holds up to my memories. It certainly starts a lot harder, with all of your good gear being taken and naught but the Golden Pantaloons being left to compensate. It's certainly the true originator of the Bioware style of RPG design.
I've always disliked this notion that BG1 is inferior to BG2, and that it's almost a waste to play it because the good stuff doesn't happen until BG2. I don't think I can separate them. Both are fantastic games, and have different strengths.

Overall I probably preferred the low-level campaign of BG1 better though, and especially the story. It was much more interesting to unravel the story in BG1 than being told the who the murderer was on page 1 in BG2. Some of the fights in BG2 were marvellous, like Firkraag, and this is where the game shines in my opinion. By the end, though, you become so powerful that nothing can really stand in your way, and this limits the fun a bit. You also have so many spells it's almost impossible to use them all, while in BG1 each spell can save your life or make a fight easier. BG2 is also more linear, while BG1 have the wonderful wilderness areas.

The main things holding BG1 back is the engine (sorted by playing it via easyTutu), and for me also the many tight areas where pathfinding will drive you nuts. This was much less of a problem in BG2. The main thing holding bG2 back was perhaps that almost every NPC you ran across was a backstabber waiting to happen, so the story got a bit predictable.

Both games are incredibly well-done and to this day stand as the epitome of RPG greatness. No modern game compares. But I hope Project Eternity and Numenera can reach up to the lofty standards BG1, BG2 and Planescape Torment set.
They're two sides of the same coin for me. I look at them as one huge game, much like how Might and Magic 4/5 become the World of Xeen. Easily my favorite games of all time and without a doubt the best D&D games ever made IMO. Unfortunately the bar was set so high with BG 1/2 that I compare all other rpgs to them. Here's to hoping another
genius team comes together to reinvent the wheel again. <.<
It's difficult to choose between them, in terms of stating categorically that one is better than the other. Disregarding engine and graphics changes and basing my decision purely on the story, in-game events and player options, i.e. choices of any kind, from which NPCs to take along or how to solve X problem, I *still* can't make an easy decision between the two. >laffs<

The stories in the series is a good one, compelling and enjoyable. The two games introduce, carry on and ultimately conclude the story in a very satisfying way, IMO. The two games *are* different, if only with regards to party level and the effects of that.

BG1 is more of a "growth" game - you start off very weak and underpowered and probably not a little confused about just what it is you are meant to do, with regards to the Big Picture. However the game is scaled to your level and this helps a lot - there are few areas that you can access at low level that are suicidal [and if you do get somewhere insanely deadly, re-load and don't go there yet!] Even low level monsters are challenging and it takes awhile before you can become more confident in your abilities and survival. I *love* this aspect of the game!

The fact that your weaker characters *are* weak is a great game play reality. You have to choose your battles and tactics wisely, you have to learn how to use your skills and spells effectively and you have to accept that simply running away is not only a viable option, but sometimes the *best* option.

BG1 is even less linear than SoA, which is itself pretty non-linear in that you always have side quests, party NPC quests and random events giving you a lot [sometimes it feels like an overwhelming amount] of options. Each game in the series gets more linear as you go along - BG1/TotSC least linear, SoA a bit more linear and ToB really very linear.

For me personally, I like mid-range level adventures best - so late BG1/TotSC and much of SoA. By the end of SoA and all through ToB my interest level flags - the battles are routine, the tactics are 95% set in stone and the enemies *all* have to cheat to remain the least bit threatening. My attitude here is shown by the fact that I have completed BG1 and BG2 multiple times each with a great range of player characters - I have finished ToB just twice, and mostly just so I could say I had done so - I have very little interest in finishing the entire series again, although I'm very much enjoying my two concurrent games of SoA with different PCs.

Even though they share much the same engine, one single main story-line and pretty much the same in-game rules [ADD 2nd Ed - vastly superior to ADD 3d+], the games are noticeably different in content and play - not significantly different, but noticeably different. I would give the edge, slightly, to SoA/ToB, but not by much. If I *had* to choose having just one, it would be SoA/ToB over BG/TotSC, by the slimmest of margins.

However, it is a very small margin! :) I love BG1/TotSC for its own components and having to think about how you are going to run a battle against Hobgoblins, while actually feeling fearful for your party's survival, is a blast! Facing the chance of having your entire party eaten by a single Black Bear will create a battle which is, for me, massively more enjoyable than wizzing through multiple Fire Giants in ToB or hordes of Trolls in SoA. The sense of possible doom in BG1/TotSC is, for me, much higher [and thus more exciting and satisfying] than anything in SoA/ToB, apart from the big "major boss" ending battles therein.

However, as it stands, I have access to all of the series and even though I've completed all the games [and we are talking 10 or 12 years ago] I'm happily playing them again! Since we don't have to choose, I won't in actuality, but for the purposes of the question, like I said, I'll rate SoA/ToB slightly, say 2% - 4% points better, than BG1/TotSC.
I have both the original Baldur's Gate and Baldur's gate II: Shadows of Amn. Love them both but when I wanna play a challenging RPG with LOTS of options, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is head & shoulders above the original for various reasons.

Disc swapping was a major inconvenience of the original and the game had a slow beginning. Great game for beginners but I simply don't have the patience for that kind of gaming experience anymore.

Baldur's Gate II: SoA puts the player immediately into the action by rescuing & recruiting party members from the main villain's internment lab and ends with a daring escape.

One of the main reasons I love the sequel is because the Art Direction is vastly improved... the color palette is increased, there are more idle character animations, the sound effects are improved, the voice-acting, the particle effects in the spell animations are improved, the character portrait illustrations are improved, everything is improved!
BG2 is an awesome game and I probably should like it the best but for some reason I prefer BG1 overall. I've played through BG2 to completion only once (although I've played through part of the game many, many times) while I've played through BG1 to completion about a dozen and a half times (and have countless partially finished runs). I guess that's likely because I don't really enjoy high level play as much as low level (as far as D&D goes). But I do love them both.
Both I think but I cannot be sure because I haven't finished the second one yet. What I didn't like about is the slow start. It takes forever to reach the second level. Everything can kill you so at the beginning you have to take your pride aside and serve as an errand boy. Fetching this, finding that... BORING!
I love them both the same. But BG1 's style was a bit more to my liking (map, areas, exploration, Sarevok!, etc).
I would have to say BG2. Not an easy choice, but with Irenicus and Bohdi among my favorite villains and that in bg1 I tend to feel like I am just preparing my character for bg2. So I enjoyed bg1 before I had the sequel to import too :D Funny that :D
I greatly preferred BG2. I enjoyed BG1 and when it was released I thought that it was one of the greatest RPG ever created; however, I thought BG2 improved on everything compared to BG1. Some reasons I prefer BG2:

- More epic story and villain - I liked that it was more focused on the story from the beginning.
- Party interaction - Characters had more depth and were fleshed out.
- High level characters vs low level characters - I think low lever characters are too similar or weak. My mage runs in, casts his lvl 1 Magic Missle... and then does nothing for the rest of the fight.
- More exciting monsters - I would rather kill dragons and demi-god's over kobolds and wolves.
- TOB - I know there are mixed opinions on this since it is more 'on rails' than the rest of the series, but I loved the conclusion to the game.

I understand why many people missed the outdoor areas, among other things, but as a whole I felt BG2 was a grander game that hit the heights BG1 promised. I really liked BG1, but I thought BG2 was amazing.
Think that post is a good example of roughly where the divide often goes. Some prefer low-level combat, while others prefer high-level combat. I kind of like both to be honest, but probably prefer the low-level combat and campaign of BG1. Baldur's Gate feels more like one game to be though, one colossal game! :D I like that the story continues, with the same people if you want, and then comes to a conclusion at the very end. Everything in between is good too, more or less. With these two games they did a lot of things right, and very few wrong.
Pangaea666: Think that post is a good example of roughly where the divide often goes. Some prefer low-level combat, while others prefer high-level combat. I kind of like both to be honest, but probably prefer the low-level combat and campaign of BG1. Baldur's Gate feels more like one game to be though, one colossal game! :D I like that the story continues, with the same people if you want, and then comes to a conclusion at the very end. Everything in between is good too, more or less. With these two games they did a lot of things right, and very few wrong.
Yeah, definitely the low vs high level makes the difference. If you like tactical fights, high level combat provides a huge realm of possibilities. I personally don't (I just get overwhelmed with too many choices), so I prefer low level games.