PC Role Playing Games come and go, but some endure well beyond their time. In a genre increasingly co-opted by the MMO, these games are still played and modded because they are just that damn good. They earned their hard drive space in a manner your rarely see these days.
The Baldur's Gate series is one such franchise.
This is the RPG that put Bioware on the map. It created the fanbase you see today. I would even go so far as to say that this series is the sole reason they were able to field Mass Effect and Old Republic in the first place. In other words, friend, if you haven't played these games yet you owe it to yourself to do so. Baldur's Gate 1&2 are not only Bioware's roots, but hallowed RPG ground that is a tour de force even a decade downrange.
But what does this have to do with that?
With the success of Baldur's Gate, Bioware moved on to set up the Neverwinter franchise using a new graphics engine and post 2.5 AD&D rule set. It was, shall we say, a fairly bland attempt saved only by the expansion packs and player modding community. Still, they had built up enough brand name recognition to roll a successful save versus failsauce and moved on to create the far more successful Knights of the Old Republic console series which in turn solidified their RPG credentials. Neverwinter Nights was left behind and forgotten... Or perhaps not.
In an interesting turn of events, Cryptic is apparently engineering an end runaround to create their own Dungeons and Dragons series behind Turbine's back using the imminently recognizable Neverwinter brand. If you've been thirsting for hardcore D&D MMO untouched by Turbine's profiteering idiocy, your reaction was probably similar to mine; that is to say "Fuck yes!". Cryptic has been known to produce some decent games so a well wrought rendition of AD&D would be a welcome one; especially as good as this one is looking.
But there's always a catch.
Cryptic doesn't have Bioware's deep pockets or name brand recognition; nor have they had Bioware's seemingly unending string of natural 20s. In lieu of these stats, Cryptic has turned to another method by which to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory-- Blood sacrifice and an unholy alliance with Perfect World . My cries of joy instantly turned to bitter ash upon realizing just who Cryptic was distributing through: A company well known for its subpar MMO spam (they actually aquired Cryptic back in August, 2011). You won't see their name in the teaser movie. You barely even see their name in the MMORPG.com piece, never to be mentioned directly. But you will see their name in the secure URL of the official Neverwinter website.
I so cried.
In that moment, Neverwinter went from unquestionable buy-in to wary trepidation. Sure it's "free" but for now I'm solidly in a wait and see mode for this game because friends don't let friend play anything Perfect World has touched. Instead, I'll fire up another Baldur's Gate II campaign, safely ensconced on my hard drive with the only two mods you'll ever need: Shadow Keeper and Dungeon Be Gone.
Hopefully Cryptic will prove better than the name backing their title. It's possible. But with Perfect World sticking its fingers in the proverbial pie? I won't hold my breath.
[Edit]-- DragonDagger also makes a saliant observation in that Neverwinter is reporting a supposed release date of 4th Quarter, 2012 and that the game is listed as 'pre-beta', which makes for an awefully tight timetable to work within and expect a stable, coherant product. Unless they're a lot further along than they're reporting, this all but screams 'shake and bake' MMO.
*If you're new to the Baldur's Gate series, I recommend playing BG2 first, then BG1 as a prequel even though they were released in numeric order. BG2 is by far the superior of the two and tells you everything you need to know about your back story anyway.
If you're looking to return to Baldur's Gate 2 for the fond memories, Dungeon Be Gone is indispensable toward your sanity, eliminating the first and woefully unnecessary tutorial dungeon while keeping the XP, items and quests you would have normally gained. Shadow Keeper is a save game editor that allows you to edit your character beyond the normal 2.5 silliness. For example, my latest campaign is with a Lawful Evil Ranger/Archer kit. Oh, the female-female Viconia romance is just a bonus :)