Ok, I must first admit to wanting to play this game for ages. I have played Diablo (I can't wait for Diablo II) so I thought that they would be similar, I was to be proven wrong, what sort of RPG requires 5 whole CD's, yes, thats FIVE CD's.
The whole game revolves around the TSR Forgotten Realms gaming system, having used similar systems before I was quite amazed how the whole game fits together. After chosing your character, which involves tons of options to customise your character right down to the skin and hair colour, you have to fight your way through a baddie ridden land. Wherever you go, you cannot spend more than 5 minutes playing without having a fight, the problem with this is that any mages, etc. that you have in your group will use up thier spells rather quickly and need to rest to replenish them. The problem with this is that if you are nowhere near a town and you rest, you are going to get attacked by a few monsters not having had the time to re-learn your spells which means you have to use your warriors and to tell you the truth, they are pretty weak in the begining and dont have half a chance at beating any monsters numbering 3 or more without getting hurt or without your magic.
The plot in the game revolves around practicaly everyone wanting to kill you and the fact that all the iron in the land seems to be really brittle (except any iron you come across, which is weird), you and a gang of up to 5 warriors go around the land solving puzzles and quests for anyone in trouble in the hope of finding out why you need to be klilled and whats wrong with the iron. Your own little bvand of warriors can be altered as many times as you want, this allows you to choose the best group needed to accomplish a mission, you can always drop a member of your group only to pick them up later in the game.
The graphics really show off the 2D engine used to represent all the creatures and buildings dotted around the land, using either 16, 24 or 32bit colour it really looks nice. interaction with the landscape could have been handled better with characters getting trapped everynow and again because they dont have the intelligence to walk round a tree or building, also everything has to be spot on, even to pick up an object your character has to be right on top of the item instead of just next to it, dont get me wrong the game is great in every aspect, it just cant be perfect, no game can but this comes pretty close.
The sound in the game is pretty good, every spell uses its own sound, not unique sound but during battles who cares about sound, each character has its own few sayings that soon get on your nerves and you feel like turning it off, but you cant! Area sounds are pretty cool letting you know when you are near water, monsters or people, allowing you to scour about figuring out where the next attack is coming from or where you are on the map.
Combat is all handled in realtime, until you decide that you've had enough of a beating and you want to pause the game to gather your thoughts and kick some butt. If you dont use the pause button you wont even get past the first few screens, the whole point of pausing is that due the the computer being able to do everything at once, you have to have a small chance at working out how you are going to combat the array of attacking monsters, sometimes the best and only option is to run away and come back later after resting and getting your health back, I admit that I have done this quite a few time in the beginning since you cant always keep every character of yours at full health and in fighting condition.
During battles the action can be autopaused if a certain action happens, for me it pauses everytime one of your characters gets hit, this at time can be annoying if your beating the hell out of this poor fellow and he manages to get 1 or 2 hits in, but otherwise it is a good feature allowing you to pull a critically injured character out of the firing line.
The last point is the automapping feature, when you are in a town or woods you can spend ages finding out where you are or running around revealing empty parts of the map, the fog of war feature is ok, but I think the map should be revealed automatically with the fog of war feature on top so you dont spend ages wandering around parts of the map you dont really want to.
Baldurs Gate is one hell of a HUGE game, if you intend on playing it revealing every part of every map and killing every monster you should look about losing a few weeks of your life, this game is really good and some of its faults, however small sometimes get pretty annoying but can be lived with if you take into account the size and greatness of the game, just get it.