Chapter 3: If this is Your First Game
If you truly are new to the game of either BG1 or BG2 (or perhaps even both), then you are in a rare and very enviable position: Almost all experienced players wish that they could erase all their memories of the game, solely to play it through all over again and experience each new major battle and plot twist as if it were for the first time. This is pretty much your ONLY chance to play the game for yourself: All future runs will be colored, for better or for worse, by your metagaming knowledge of your first game, and very likely from people online telling you things that you actually don't need (and likely don't even want) to know. Therefore, treat your first game as something special, because it is—you cannot recreate your own inexperience. My advice to you is this: Stay away from all other websites about the Baldur's Gate series, especially forums and MOST especially walkthroughs, until you have beaten the game under your own steam at least once. If you truly, absolutely, need help with some part of the game, ask on an online forum—search for threads related to your problem, and if you don't find any, start a new thread asking for help. But if you just start reading random threads, you WILL spoil the game for yourself.
Here are some general pointers that should be invaluable in helping to make your first game enjoyable:
Travel with a full party of 6, as much as possible. If this means taking on Evil party members, so be it—just remember that they're only temporary placeholders until you find somebody more to your liking. You want a full party not only because of the sheer numerical advantage it gives in battle, but it also allows you to have a more well-rounded party, and gives the bad guys more targets other than you to shoot at.
Be good to your Thief, and be sure your Thief is damned good. Grizzled old campaigners like me know where the Traps are—you, on the other hand, should keep your eyes glued to the ground at all times, at least when you're in areas known to harbor intelligent opponents. Also, use Stealth to scout ahead whenever possible: We know where the dangerous enemies are, too—but you certainly don't want to go charging around a corner without knowing whether you're going to come face-to-face with a Gibberling or a Beholder. Yes, Reloading is a wonderful feature, but do you really want to do it every 2 minutes?
Don't try to argue with a railroad plot. There are certain points in both games where BioWare took steps to ensure that the Main Plot could never get stuck—these "steps" usually take the form of killing the PC if he has managed to royally screw up. By and large, I agree with their reasons, it's just their methods that are a little heavyhanded.
Of great importance is your Install Order: If you don't patch your game, or install the fixes in the wrong order, you're going to encounter bugs in your game. First off, if your computer is running Windows Vista or Windows 7 as its operating system, you shouldn't install the Baldur's Gate games in their default root directory (C:\Program Files\Black Isle\) because the computer will automatically try to resist any changes made in the Program Files directory: You can play the games just fine from the default directory, but it'll be more more difficult to cheat or mod the game (more on that later). So just make a new directory, C:\Baldur's Gate or something, and install there. If you're running an earlier operating system, though, you're already good to go.
2) Tales of the Sword Coast (if you have it)
3) Official BioWare Patch: If you have the 5-disc BG1 but no TotSC, it's here, if you have the 5-disc BG1 as well as TotSC, download this, and if you
have the 3-disc BG1 + TotSC ("The Original Saga"), no patch is needed.
4) Appropriate BaldurDash bugfix & Text Corrections: The top three links (they look like floppy disks) are what you're interested in. The 1st one is the
text update for BG1+TotSC, the 2nd is the text update for BG1 without TotSC, and the 3rd is the actual bugfixes. Don't read any further down the
page, if you want to avoid spoilers.
If you're playing BG1 through Tutu, follow the directions in the Tutu README. You will need a Full install of your entire BG1 game, plus at least a Recommended install of BG2:SoA.
Baldur's Gate 2 / ToB:
1) Baldur's Gate 2 : Shadows of Amn
2) Throne of Bhaal (if you have it)
3) Official BioWare Patch: If you only have SoA, install this patch, and if you also have ToB, use this.
4) The appropriate G3 Fixpack. (Even after the patch, BG2 still has a significant number of bugs, most of which are corrected with the Fixpack.)
This install order reflects the installation of a game of Baldur's Gate without any mods (except Tutu). If you're going to be running any mods on your first trip through the game (which I don't actually recommend), the full Install Order is described in Chapter 11.
Perhaps you're an old hand at BG1, but this will be your first game of BG2, or vice versa. There are some important fundamental differences between the games, as follows:
1) Walking Speeds. Although the "Movement Rate" variable is the same in both games (6 is normal), all of the actual walking speeds are about 25% faster in BG2 than they are in BG1. This can be disconcerting at first, but you soon get used to it.
2) Bumping into People. In BG1, all creatures are immovable objects: They can walk around and all, but if they're in your path, you have to go around them—they only way to get them out of your way is to kill them. This can be quite annoying in cramped spaces, where you find that you can't move because there's some stupid Commoner just standing in the hallway scratching his ass. In BG2, however, as long as you're not actually in combat you can push people aside: You just walk normally, and any creatures that are standing still automatically get bumped out of the way as you pass.
3) Combat AI. In BG1, most enemies try to attack whichever party member they see first, and keep attacking him as long until something else deliberately attracts their attention. In BG2, however, more varied creatures have more varied AI behavior, such as preferring to attack any visible target of Class[Mage] over any other target that is not a Mage, or randomly switching targets without any obvious reason, just to make the combat as a whole less predictable. Some (flaky) AI scripts don't take the creature's sight range into account, and assume that "If Character X is in your party, Enemy Y must be in sight range of Character X," which can lead to things like an enemy suddenly breaking off combat with your Tank to go attack your Cleric, even if the Cleric is halfway across the map and the enemy has no reason to suspect that you even have a Cleric. There are several mods that improve the computer's AI, making them less likely to do stupid/unrealistic stuff like this.
8) BG2 allows you to take a quick glance at your foes during combat, to see how wounded they are. Mouse-over any Hostile creature to check out how much they're bleeding—along with their name, you'll also see one of the following: Uninjured, Barely Injured, Injured, Badly Injured, or Near Death.
9) In BG1, going to your Inventory screen automatically un-Pauses the game, making switching weapons in the middle of a fight potentially a very hazardous process. In BG2, opening up your Inventory automatically Pauses the game.