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Boss Fight Books #8

Baldur's Gate II

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Upon its release in 2000, BioWare's PC role-playing epic Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn was hailed as a paragon of its genre and named "RPG of the Year" by IGN, Gamespy, and Gamespot. A game like Baldur's Gate II requires not just a master wordsmith but a dungeon master. Enter award-winning novelist Matt Bell, author of the surreal domestic novel In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods and co-author of the Dungeons & Dragons novel The Last Garrison.

Bell's book explores BG2's immersive narrative and complex mechanics, unpacks how RPG systems enable our emotional investment in characters, investigates the game's non-linear story, and relates his own struggle to reconcile being a "serious" adult with his love of D&D and video games. Dig in, geek out, and go for the eyes, Boo!

140 pages, Paperback

First published June 22, 2015

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About the author

Matt Bell

39 books1,633 followers
Matt Bell’s next novel, Appleseed, was published by Custom House in July 2021. His craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, & revision, will follow in early 2022 from Soho Press. He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur's Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Orion, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 35 reviews
Profile Image for LemmiSchmoeker.
323 reviews7 followers
June 3, 2022
Instead of the expected background information about the game, this is mainly an autobiography interspersed by a (often tedious and shallow) retelling of the game's story with some insights about the methods used for characterising its various people and creatures. Bell apparently hasn't given much thought to how explicit the story should be described, so there are many spoilers - including every major plot twist - but details are often shyly left out or just hinted at in passing.

I didn't know Matt Bell before reading this book, and wasn't all that interested in learning more about his struggles as an author or his childhood as a geek. This doesn't mean that those parts of the book were particularly annoying, but one could have wished for a more concentrated look at the game. In fact, the autobiographical parts didn't seem to have much to do with the game beyond a general look at the author's interest in computer games and fantasy.

This could have been a fascinating look at a game and a gamer, but instead it was just a tepid mixture of two largely unrelated stories, both not very compelling on their own. It was far from terrible, to be fair, but the only reason I can think of to read it would be to learn more about Matt Bell and his personal experience with Baldur's Gate II. For everyone who doesn't share this desire, avoiding it won't be a great loss.
Profile Image for Jan Pospíšil.
53 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2015
This is not a book about Baldur's Gate II. This is a book about the author's writing career and how he's trying to overcome his shame of enjoying fantasy and games. Congratulations on coming out, I guess.

So who's it for?
A) It spoils the story of the game from beginning to end, so if you haven't played it, tough luck.
B) If you did play the game, the book offers very little actual content related to the game itself, no luck either.

If you want to read about Matt Bell and about an obscure ancient game you won't ever play, this book is for you.

PS: I don't usually judge books by their price, but goddamn, this thing is like two issues of Readers' Digest put together. Worth 20 bucks? Meh.
Profile Image for Antônio Xerxenesky.
Author 44 books389 followers
July 12, 2020
Um livro sobre um escritor sério que tem vergonha de gostar de D&D. A releitura que faz de BG2 me fez vontade de nunca mais jogar BG2.
Profile Image for Cale.
3,559 reviews24 followers
March 20, 2016
I forget when between reading Boss Fight Books that these are rarely really about the game, and more about how the author interacted with the game. That's definitely the case here, as Baldur's Gate II is used as a foundation piece for Matt to write about his experiences writing and being ashamed of his interest in fantasy as he became an adult, and a 'real' writer. Besides not really sharing his embarrassment at reading 'juvenile' literature, Matt ends up coming across really pretentious, especially in the sections talking about his adult writing and his troubles co-writing an AD&D novel. Pieces of his struggle are tied back to his latest play-through of Baldur's Gate II, and a fair amount of references to the game and the characters (and a whole lot of complaints about what the game is not, oddly), but this book really isn't about the game. That's fine, but it wasn't what I was expecting going in (although I should have been). This is more a memoir than a book about a game. And on a personal note, the multiple apologies to his wife about her seeing him playing AD&D (and her comment afterward) make me think the author hasn't made as much progress reclaiming this aspect of his life. The book would be interesting to people in a similar situation, but if you're reading it to re-experience Baldur's Gate II, you're better off just booting the game up again yourself.
Profile Image for Ryan Werner.
Author 10 books36 followers
October 6, 2015
"Bell does what I do with wrestling, what most nerds do with the things they hyper-focus on, and gives it a cerebral twist. This book about Baldur’s Gate II is an apt mix of recapping the game itself and dissecting it in a way that justifies an interest that has continued beyond, through puberty and adulthood and Rush albums both good and bad.

Bell shows the humanity that lies between the lines of any RPG. The actions of our character, Gorion’s Ward, are set up as a series of choices in a system that, regardless of who the player behing the character is, eventually brings us all to the same outcome. Birth, Middle Stuff (food, sex, etc.), Death. This should sound familiar."

Full review forthcoming at Heavy Feather Review.
Profile Image for David Dinaburg.
283 reviews42 followers
January 29, 2019
But if you’re reading this, maybe you already know this story. Maybe you have your own versions of everything I’ve told you.

Maybe all along you’ve been saying, That isn’t quite right.
I smiled at this moment, revamped my score upwards a star, refigured what I had gotten from this book. Because earlier I had found myself saying, “That isn’t true. That isn’t what happens.” And that is the best part of the book—“Yes, yes,” it seems to say, “You played the game your way, your memories and mine differ, but that’s the point.”—and I wish it had loyally followed that tack. Because I cannot recall what happened in a game I played eighteen years ago—even a game I played a dozen times—yet any amount of prompting sends memories cascading through my mind: I am filled with nostalgia.

A celebration of homecoming isn’t the path this book chose. It forced a narrative arc of the author coming to terms with his own nerdery, his own self doubt and shame, and it is a story that has been told a thousand times before, and better. It tries to parallel the experience-point growth of a Dungeons & Dragons character, sort of, but with a crassness that I found uncomfortable. He writes a professional D&D book but won’t allow his literary mentor to critique it, he plays D&D with family but his wife calls him unfuckable—yikes, dude—he hides his fantasy books because they lack the clout he craves as a literary figure. And at the end, accepting his love of fantasy is supposed to have made him a better writer, like accepting the heritage of Bhaal makes Gorion’s Ward the central figure that he or she is. C’mon. Recognizing that you’re a dork isn’t quite the same as realizing you’re part of the prophecy of Alaundo; The Lord of Murder shall perish. But in his doom he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny.

The parts where my story and his diverged served only to underscore the magic of the game, obscure the seams of the world itself. Baldur’s Gate II had Aerie, and she worked for me. She was an angel: factually a winged elf. Her life was spent flying above the clouds, gentle and free. That life came to an end before you meet her, with capture and imprisonment by a circus; her wings have rotted and decayed within her restrictive cage. The destruction of what made her feel like a full person could have been her entire personality. But her fragility and loss swathed a core of fire, a strength to keep moving forward after freedom—literal, metaphorical—was denied.

And I was seventeen and she’d initiate some sort of adult dialogue and my characer would end up with her. Dating. Awesome. The book posits some sort of risklessness to the relations: “You can fall in love, as long as you’re willing to wander screen to screen, waiting for one of the only four lovers in Faerûn to speak. The four lovers, who have eyes only for you.” And although I ended up with Aerie the first time, throughout the dozen subsequent playthroughs she would turned me down, or be upset by my choices and leave the party in a huff, or once—once!—she ran off with the bard, Haer’dalis, whom I would never ever allow to travel with me again no matter what bizarre configuration of party members I was attempting. Spurn me once and no parallel version of your dimension is safe from my wrath. So while I am sure there is a foolproof way to click the right choices and never lose Aerie to a faded heart or the passions of another, it never felt that way to me. I knew it was mechanically possible for her to leave, so when she stayed I never doubted that it was by her choice.

I don’t doubt I have more in common that not with the author. But I lack his shame, his self-flagellation; I have no arc from unspoken nerd to self-actualized dweeb. Like the author, video games taught me to break my PC and put it back together, taught me to scour the internet for hex editors and trainers so I could keep Imoen in my party but also have someone capable of wielding the +5 Holy Avenger (she looked great as a pink-armored Cavalier). Baldur’s Gate II was the first game I played to the point of breaking, the only game I fundamentally remade so that eventually the mechanics fit my story rather than the other way around. For the chance to relive that feeling, I can forgive this book nearly everything. I simply wish it wasn’t steeped in so much unhappiness.
Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 25 books337 followers
March 22, 2016
Interesting blend of fantasy role-playing and fiction classes taught by Gordon Lish. Worlds collide here. My big piece of advice, if you are setting out to read this one having never played Baldur's Gate, read a little plot synopsis and character bios first. My big struggle was keeping track of the characters and what was going on.

Okay, this isn't my favorite of the Boss Fight Books, but that has a lot to do with me and not the book.

Confession, I played about an hour of Skyrim last night. I wouldn't say I loved it.

Bethesda made Baldur's Gate and then Bioware later went on to make Skyrim, which I understand to be the pinnacle of the sandbox-y, swords and sorcery games. And in a lot of ways, it was pretty cool. Of course it looks good. The only games that don't look amazing anymore are the ones going for a cheaper look on purpose. The controls are fine, and you're able to slide between a first and third person perspective, which I liked a lot.

But it had all these aspects I just don't care for.

First off, these new-fangled RPG's are in love with customizing characters. I experienced this in Mass Effect, where I decided to make the ugliest possible ugmo of all time as my main character.

If I'm being really open and honest about it, I started trying to make the guy look like me. And then it was kind of hideous, and I went with it, ending up with what I'd describe as a real-life version of Popeye after a couple decades of drinking so hard that the only thing keeping him alive was the futuristic medicine of the Mass Effect universe.

It was distracting. I didn't realize how jarring it would be to see an ugly protagonist.

Anyway, the next thing I didn't like so much in Skyrim, man is there a lot of picking up shit and rearranging armor and weapons and stuff.

I had this buddy who was really into World of Warcraft. He's actually a real person, not a stand-in for me. I'm reading books about video games on the regular. I don't have anything to hide as far as being cool.

This buddy, when I went to his (mom's (sorry, but it's true)) house, he was always showing me his new WoW armor. And then he would ask me questions like, "This one is slightly more powerful. But THIS one looks cooler. Which one do you think I should pick."

Admittedly, I was worthless on that front. I just figured you'd use whatever was best. Sort of like how everyone was shitting on Marty McFly's Barbie hoverboard. I always thought, "Fuck that! If I had a hoverboard, it could be imprinted with a picture of my naked grandmother, I'd still ride that thing around." But I wasn't all the way invested in the world of Warcraft, so a decision that was easy for me was difficult in the context of the game.

This buddy also described to me, in detail, a "date" he had in-game where he and another person watched the sunrise on horseback and chatted.

I don't say these things to embarrass this buddy. What I'm saying is I understand that these games, with their dragons and their loot and their questing, they appeal to a lot of people, and appeal on a deep level I don't always reach.

For me, I just don't get into it. I find the characters boring, usually one of a few, stock fantasy types. The idea of a dragon isn't all that thrilling to me. Swordfights are sort of unexciting too.

I really WISH I enjoyed it because there's such a depth of stuff you can experience if you're into fantasy. But I'm just not.

Oh, there's one other thing too, which makes Skyrim and this book less fun, to be completely honest.

You make the storyline.

It's a thing lots of games were doing for a while, and Bethesda and Bioware are both really into it. You, as the player, can kind of do whatever the hell you want within the game. The advantage, you can end up feeling a lot of player agency. The disadvantage, a lot of that agency is kind of cast off in order to zip things up at the end so that most players experience one of a few different scenarios. Also, it takes away an element of gaming I really enjoy, which is the light touch you feel from a game designer here and there.

In a game like Super Mario Bros., you can see it. You can feel the places where a designer really looked at what the game could do and said, "If Mario can jump this high, a player who is running at this spot would hit a hidden block if running at full speed. Then that block would knock the player into a pit." It's a cool way for a dialogue to happen between the designer and player. The player wants to sprint through the game, the designer wants to slow her down.

It's something that happens in writing too. For example, you can use a long, complicated word to slow a reader down. You can make paragraph and line breaks to set the pace. You can vary your sentence length. Repetition. All ways that you can turn your work into a back and forth.

When a game is a total open world sandbox, I don't get that feeling in the same way. The designers do cool things, but it's up to you as the player to make sure you're experiencing them.

It feels like an epic novel, but one where there's no room for interpretation within the text. There's no back and forth. It's the creator's world, you're just walking through it.

The best parts of Skyrim, for me, would be the parts where I felt like it was a game meant to be played. That's what I like. I don't mind the feel of something being a game.

The best parts of this book were not the video game parts, but the parts where Bell talks about his fiction writing and the shame of writing a Dungeons & Dragons novel. I won't elaborate because that's the best part, and why ruin the best part?

Baldur's Gate, like Skyrim, is so open and free, and there are so many narrative possibilities that it's not all that interesting to hear about the story. Every turn comes with a big fat, "Now, if you didn't do X, you won't experience this."

I figure this book took a couple hours to read, so I can give Skyrim the same amount of time. See what happens. But overall, just not for me.
Profile Image for ignus.
16 reviews
April 22, 2019
As was the case with Boss Fight Book on Shadow of the Colossus, this one is also a narcissistic read. This time around, it's not about how some guy loves a game so much he went on to work for the company that published it. Instead, we get multiple long sections where the author boasts about his experience writing books, his childhood memories and how he interacted with the game. Also, he mentions multiple times the game is different for every person who played it. And that he's ashamed that he likes D&D and fantasy while in his thirties. And we get some brief segments about the game itself. As well as some repeated thoughts on the plot.
Thanks for the insight on the game. Or the lack of it. Towards the end I was skipping the "personal" bits.
I think that the problem with so-called "gaming journalists" is that they think people care about their feelings, personal thoughts and experiences of the past, such as their childhood, how they remember it and all that. Hate to spoil - they don't.
People like me, when picking up a book which was said to be about a game, from a series advertised as non-fiction insights on creating games would like to read about the game instead.
So far the series for me is truly a mixed bag with some greatness (Jagged Alliance 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Katamari Damacy) and some really uninteresting ego trips such as this one, or the before mentioned Shadow of the Colossus.
Profile Image for Christopher.
36 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2015
This book was fantastic. I've never even played Baldur's Gate II, but I'm a huge fan of Matt's writing. And I played a ton of AD&D when I was young. Plus, I'm a lifelong lover of fantasy films, video games, and all sorts of dorky shit. I really enjoyed reading Matt's reflections on how RPGs (and D&D in its electronic, dice-based, book, and other forms) influenced his writing and his personal aspirations. I think many kids who grew up loving stuff other kids found uncool later struggle with how much to hide or openly embrace those things. If you're looking for a book that tells the story of the development of Baldur's Gate II, this isn't it. But if you want a book that likely reflects your own cherished (but hidden) memories of rolling a 20-sided die to see whether you've slain that last Mind Flayer, read this book.

Plus, you have to love a book that hypothesizes about a D&D novel edited by Gordon Lish. Awesome.
Profile Image for Porkinsred6.
57 reviews
December 31, 2016
This is a nice, light, afternoon read. Although I did enjoy it, it was not worth the price I paid for it. Matt Bell comes to terms with his own shame about loving fantasy novels, playing dungeons and dragons, and his continued enjoyment of video games. His confrontation with this shame is relatable for the first 15 pages, but not for 120. There is more to this book, including a great telling of the story of Baldurs Gate 2, and his own trials on becoming a writer himself. This in not a bad book, and I am sure that people will be moved by its passages, but don't spend more than $5 on it.

Quote of the book:

"Now, half a lifetime later, I understand that there are many different kinds of experience, and most of my own experiences can be organized into the broad categories of 'lived life' and 'art life'- and if I have spent more of my time in the second realm than in the first, this didn't make my experiences less valuable"

Profile Image for Mike Woods.
Author 3 books3 followers
July 4, 2015
Glorious. Here's what I wrote on my blog:

Baldur’s Gate 2 (the book) is the best sort of writing, and an exemplary of the essay form: it enlivens the subject at hand, it places it in a broader context (here, the place of games in culture, and it gives insight into the mind of the gamer), makes creative analogies (writing as analogy to character creation in gaming), and, most importantly, it is reflexive, it gives insight into the author and invites our own reflection. The book is about the creation of self, through a game who literally requires the creation of a self, and also about writing about himself, by which he creates a self.
Profile Image for Otso Rasimus.
107 reviews3 followers
December 24, 2015
The parts about Baldur's Gate had great insight. Sadly half of the book was about the author himself - something I wasn't interested in.
Profile Image for Brian.
650 reviews78 followers
February 5, 2017
Boss Fight Books tend to be somewhat self-indulgent, being as much about the writer as they are about the game they're writing about. Sometimes this turns out well, like Anthropy's excellent ZZT, but often I'm less sanguine about it. My favorite of this series so far was Bible Adventures, which was about the company Wisdom Tree rather than the author. And having recently finally beaten Baldur's Gate II, after 150 hours of playtime and 16 years after I first attempted to beat it, I was really not interested in reading a book about how embarrassing roleplaying games are.

The biography thread in Baldur's Gate II is about Bell's conflict between his desire to be seen as a Serious Man of Serious Literature and how his career as a writer came out of playing video games and tabletop RPGs as a child. Much of the narrative is taken up with his contract as one half of Matthew Beard, author of The Last Garrison. And I mean, I can kind of understand embarrassment about writing gaming fiction. There's often, as Bell says, a way of writing the game mechanics into the prose that is cringe-worthy. It reminds me of the interview I heard with R.A. Salvatore where his contact at TSR said he would have to kill off Artemis Entreri due to the shift from AD&D first edition to second edition killing off all the assassins as a character class, leading to a heated argument where Salvatore yelled, "He's not an assassin, he's a fighter/thief who kills people for money!" It's funny, but also cringeworthy that it would even be a consideration.

What isn't cringeworthy is the very idea that an adult would dare to be enthusiastic about fantasy.  photo emot-ohdear.png I'm sure I don't need to put the C.S. Lewis quote in here, but Bell continually writes about how he's always embarrassed by his past self and doesn't ever want to be judged by anyone he was before the present. He writes about going back with his brother and some of his family to play D&D and reconnect with his childhood, and how he even had fun. He was enjoying himself! And then as he drove away, his wife joked about how now he would be unfuckable for at least a week. Presumably for daring to show an emotion other than rugged masculine stoicism. I know nothing about her, or Bell, other than what's in this book, but that anecdote didn't leave me with a good impression, however much it was meant in jest.

There is some talk about the actual game here, which saved it from a one-star review. Some of them are problems I didn't have thanks to fan modding, like the common Bioware romance complaint that after the payout of sex, the romance is over and nothing else happens, for example. Others are innate to the game, like how since all the sidequests open up in Chapter 2, that one Chapter can--and was, in my case--longer than the rest of the game put together, or the way that the simplistic morality usually offers reputation for good deeds and money for evil ones. Though even that was flawed, since it didn't point out that reputation maxes out at 20 but money has no maximum.

I occasionally thought "That's not right" or "that's not how it happened," but Bell brings it back at the end and says that's the point. Baldur's Gate II is an RPG, and it's about making the character your own. The minimal characterization actually works in the game's favor, allowing the player to fill in the gaps in a way that endears them to the characters more than anything the makers of the game could do.

There was no analysis of Irenicus as a villain, one of the most memorable parts of the game. There was no development of the frequently-noted tension between the villain's evil plans requiring so much torture and death and the hundreds or thousands of enemies that fall to the party's blades over the course of the game, nor was there any linking of this to the protagonist's nature as a child of the god of murder other than in a single paragraph. The parts of the game that I found most interesting weren't touched on at all, and the parts about the author's life I actively disliked.

I would have rather read the novelization Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn than this.
Profile Image for Joseph.
64 reviews
May 24, 2022
There are two major parts of this book which are cut back and forth between each other over the course of its story. The first part is about Baldur's Gate II, its predecessor, plot, characters, and the cognitive dissonance that it and many other RPGs create. This section wasn't terribly interesting to me, I thought it was okay, but a summary of Matt Bell's most recent playthrough isn't what I was looking for in this book. There's exploration of the design concepts, how the game treats your party members and the world, and while I did enjoy that it still wasn't what I wanted. The other part which I found much more interesting was Matt's personal story with D&D. Bell uses D&D being the IP that Baldur's Gate is set in as a springboard to explore his love of D&D when he was younger, how he drifted away it, and how he rediscovered his old passion for it. I particularly enjoyed when he was working on writing his first book (a D&D fiction story) and how it came to mean something to him, despite it being the last thing he ever wanted to write. If you love D&D, or used to love D&D I think this would be a great read for you. If you don't I wouldn't as easily recommend this.
Profile Image for Chris Daviduik.
29 reviews1 follower
July 15, 2017
I may never play Baldur's Gate or its sequel to completion, and this book provides a way for me to relate to friends who swear by the series' perfection. As a game developer I also find it interesting to analyze and peer into the acclaimed games of the past, however, similar to the Chrono Trigger book I read prior, there is a little "new" here for anyone already familiar with the game other than perhaps a dose of nostalgia. If anything, reading a wiki on this series would provide just as much value, if not moreso. The author fails to truly dig into what makes this game and series great, and instead just reminisces about their own experiences. Maybe cathartic for Matt Bell, but of little use or entertainment to myself. Although I don't quite regret reading this, I wouldn't be able to recommend it.
Profile Image for Jesse L.
450 reviews17 followers
June 2, 2019
Bell does a decent job writing about his feelings around being a DnD fan but his consistent self-negativity gives the book a sort of insulting feeling that the ending semi-self revelations doesn't quite make up for. The scene where his wife picks him up from DnD and watches him play for a bit and then says she's not gonna fuck him for two weeks was particularly revolting and memorable. There's so much emotional energy around being an embarrassed fanboy it reads more like a personal journal entry with barely any info about the history of the game. Maybe some people will relate to this book and get something positive out of it, as that is certainly his goal, but for me I got over those insecurities decades ago and it reads more as being overdramatic than anything else to still be that deep into those feelings, especially when you literally write DnD books.
Profile Image for Jason Adams.
384 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2019
I feel a lot of sympathy for Matt Bell. It feels like he is still working through some of the trauma of growing up geek. The confessional nature of his writing in “Boss Fight Books: Baldur’s Gate II” is touching to a fellow nerd. In the end, though, I am troubled on two levels. In the first place, it feels like he still has a way to go to trusting his “friends” to know and understand the real Matt Bell. On the other hand, I had assumed this book would have interesting details or backstory to one of my favorite games. He also picked the blandest party (though probably a more canonical one) for his playthrough.
An interesting meditation on “growing up geek” still, I wanted a little more Baldur’s Gate in my Baldur’s Gate book.
Profile Image for Catalin.
17 reviews
April 6, 2019
Very underwhelmed by this book.
I've read other books in this series (Jagged Alliance, Spelunky, Chrono Trigger) and all were much better than this one.

It seemed like the author couldn't decide if this was a book about the game (which is one of my favourite games if all time) or about his personal life. So expecting a book very focused on the game and its history, the "personal" bits seemed out of place and were off-putting.
Profile Image for Travis Webber.
176 reviews
April 3, 2022
If you're looking for an in-depth discussion of the game plot of Baldur's Gate II, the story of its development and/or its place in videogame history, you will be very disappointed by this book. And I can't say those are unreasonable expectations of a book called "Baldur's Gate II". But I found Matt Bell's melding of autobiography and his personal experience playing the game to be surprisingly moving. First thing I've read by him, and I will very likely read more.
62 reviews
January 2, 2020
I was hoping this would be about the making of the game/behind the scenes type of a book. It was not. It was primarily an autobiography of Matt Bell, and his struggle to accept that he is a nerd. It wasn't terrible. It just wasn't what I wanted it to be. That's partially on me for not reading any reviews.
Profile Image for Bryan.
23 reviews
March 3, 2023
Short. Mostly a plot summary and some reminiscing, but honestly about what I was looking for so I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Eric.
654 reviews7 followers
May 26, 2019
Great overview of the game, highlighting how different playthroughs could offer different experiences but also noting the bottlenecks the games forces players through.
Profile Image for Drew.
1,569 reviews506 followers
September 23, 2015
As ever, this might not be the sort of book that appeals to you if you don’t know the game – but, also as ever, I’d encourage readers who are even a little curious (because they’re intrigued by the hamster and armored man on the cover [Minsc! and Boo!], because they like Bell’s work, because of something else entirely) to pick this up and give it a try. It’s about a videogame, yes – but it’s also about a writer coming to terms with his love of fantasy, of geekery, of the things that formed and molded him into the writer he is today. There’s no shame in writing something fantastical or set in space or full of robots – something it took me quite a while to learn, too. Something I’m maybe still learning. It was nice to see that an author I respect quite a bit is still learning it too and willing to be so honest about it.
Now, about finding a CD-ROM drive…

More at TNBBC: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.c...
and at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2015/09...
Profile Image for Tim Paggi.
Author 3 books6 followers
June 29, 2015
More than a description of Baldur's Gate 2 (although this book does explore a good amount of what made the game so groundbreaking), Matt Bell's quick 33 1/3 style book focuses more on Bell's own personal narrative of growing up fascinated by D&D and the effects role-playing had on his imagination and literary identity through adulthood. People who've spent hours playing BG2, but don't generally admit it in public, will relate the most with Bell's story.
July 1, 2015
Not as in-depth as the other books in the series that I've read, but a satisfying read nonetheless.

Well-written and introspective, this is more of a recounting of Baldur's Gate II and a journey with the author from start to finish, peppered with the occasional side narrative of his journey as an author.

Still informative, but feels a bit incomplete without the interviews and behind-the-scenes analysis of other excellent Boss Fight entries like "Bible Adventures" by Gabe Durham.
Profile Image for Yune.
631 reviews21 followers
December 20, 2015
I'm a sucker for discussion about some of my favorite computer games, so an introspective look on one guy's experience with Baldur's Gate II was just up my alley, if a bit brief.

Yes, there are heavy spoilers; this is for reminiscing about the fun you had with the same game, with a winding detour through Bell's writing efforts and struggle to find fantasy a legitimate interest.

Reminded me of Bissell's Extra Lives, actually, which is a good thing.
Profile Image for Tom Fassbender.
Author 67 books7 followers
January 24, 2017
If you didn't grow up playing D&D or have ever played Baldur's Gate, you may not enjoy this short work, essentially an extended essay, on growing up geeky, writing, storycraft, and video gaming. But I found it to be an interesting analysis of one man's relationship to D&D and how it affected his life.
Profile Image for Graham Oliver.
727 reviews7 followers
June 9, 2016
Echoed so many of the things going on in my head with regards to video games: their limitations, my shame, the unique satisfaction possible, storytelling potential, etc etc. Loved this, even though it gave me no desire to replay BG2.
Profile Image for Matt.
60 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2016
The author's personal story was interesting, but didn't always mesh very well with the game exposition. Some worthwhile thoughts though on how players react to lush or sparse stories, visual effects, etc. Love the series!
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