You begin the game as a young orphan living with your stepfather within the safe confines of a scholarly community. It is a happy and idyllic life until your stepfather is killed and it becomes clear that you are intended to be next. You, as the young protagonist, must set out to discover just what kind of a mess you're in. During the adventure, you recruit a number of personable allies, you battle foes, delve into dungeons, trek across wilderness, solve puzzles and complete a plethora of epic quests that are seamlessly sown into the fabric of the overall plot. The story line unfolds in response to your choices to reveal your character's true identity as well as the natures and motives of your enemies.
This 1998 role-playing Game of the Year is a masterpiece and the standard by which all such games have been judged for some time. Groundbreaking 32-bit graphics, 3-D sound, multi-player options, and a friendly real-time game engine are blended with an unsurpassed depth of plot to create a game that redefines the genre. --Joshua B Coombs
Of course, in many ways it's been surpassed now, particularly by BG2 and the Throne of Bhaal expansion. But it's still a great place to start, and to be honest, if you're into computer RPGs and haven't played this, then what have you been doing since 1998? ;-) and if you're not into RPGs, and would like to test the waters, you won't go far wrong with this.
A couple of things about the White Label packaging: it comes with an extra disk containing the latest game patches: a clear advantage over the original package, where you'd have had to download the patch if you wanted it. However, the manual is also on the extra CD-ROM as a PDF file, making it harder to refer to during play unless you print it out. Having said that, the manual isn't essential to game-play; the vast majority of information you actually need while playing is available within the game system itself. So the on-disk format is quite usable in this case.
Overall, if you're reading this review, you probably have an interest in this genre, and you should probably by this game :-)
At the time it stretched my PC to the limit, and may feel a little dated now, but to be honest, despite technological advancement throughout the further Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games, I never quite re-captured that new excitement. In the original (on sale here with pretty much all you need in the way of patches etc) the story is electric, the quests seem original, it doesn't quite seem 'just hack and slash'.
Basically it is Dungeons and Dragons, not quite the same as the pen and paper game (its sequels do get closer as they go on) but certainly as good a representation as had been released up to that point. As addictive as RPGs should be, you end up caring for your characters, shouting at the screan and all that sort of important stuff.
As you can probably guess, I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It's pretty much my favourite game of all time. A fantastic place to start or continue your computer role playing.
It's not perfect- characters sometimes get stuck trying to cram through a doorway (easliy fixed but annoying), they don't walk very fast, and if you want to get the most out of the game, you need to do a lot of walking. It also doesn't look as impressive as the other spin-offs (Baldur's Gate II, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment). Still, it's probably one of the best RPGs on budget.