Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Baldur's Gate: Cyberspace Version of Dungeons and Dragons

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Baldur's Gate: Cyberspace Version of Dungeons and Dragons

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- The "dungeon master" is out of a job.

The computer has taken over and the legions of Dungeons and Dragons diehards who made that cerebral table game a cult classic are ecstatic, their excitement due to Baldur's Gate, an ambitious undertaking that delivers on nearly every front.

It was a hit before it ever got to store shelves, selling fast in pre-orders over the Internet as word of mouth spread. Even those who've never played Dungeons and Dragons are getting hooked. It's a slam dunk for anybody with a taste for the kind of fantasy, myth and legend popularized in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. Baldur's Gate (Interplay, five CD-ROMs for Windows, $49.95) faithfully follows the complex rules set down a decade ago in the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, a hugely popular role-playing game that uses special dice, along with pen-and-paper, to compute conflict outcomes and keep individual statistics. Taking the game successfully into cyberspace -- something tried before with mediocre results -- required a monumental two-year effort to build its vast, detailed graphic landscapes, extensive variety of inhabitants, animals and monsters, as well as the astounding artificial intelligence system that governs play. There's no human dungeon master anymore to make often arbitrary judgment calls, which is a good thing, since you can't get on the bad side of the impartial artificial intelligence in Baldur's Gate. The end result is a lush world of ancient good and evil, where hand-to- hand combat and spell-casting are as common as hunger, thirst and tired feet, where friend and foe can be hard to tell apart. Players find themselves sucked into a complex story of intrigue seemingly destined to bring all-out war in the land known as the Sword Coast, where the largest city is Baldur's Gate, named for the great explorer Baldurian, whose disappearance is one of many mysteries ripe for investigation. …

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