Baldur's Gate is a computer role-playing game (CRPG) developed by BioWare and released in 1998 by Interplay Entertainment. The game takes place in the Forgotten Realms, a high fantasy campaign setting, using modified Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) 2nd edition rules. The game received critical praise, and was credited (along with Diablo), with revitalizing the CRPG genre.
The story follows the player character's journey along the Sword Coast, which lies on the west coast of the continent Faerûn, as he or she grows up following the cataclysmic Time of Troubles. Character development occurs through dialogue and battle. The game rewards the player character according to his or her moral choices.
Baldur's Gate uses the Infinity Engine developed by BioWare. The same engine was later used in games such as Planescape: Torment, the Icewind Dale series, the Baldur's Gate expansion pack Tales of the Sword Coast, the sequel Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, and the sequel's expansion pack Throne of Bhaal. The Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series took its name from Baldur's Gate, but the storyline is unrelated and the games share little but their setting.
The game was programmed within the licensed ruleset of the Forgotten Realms role-playing setting, using the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules, though various elements from the ruleset were modified to allow the game to be executed in real-time. Each character is in constant action, while the game can be paused at any time.
During the game, past and present events are related to the player through dialogue, written text, journal entries, or cut scenes. Dialogue is initiated when the player clicks on bystanders. This generates written and sometimes spoken dialogue with selectable responses. Such interactions can lead to quests or missions.
The game is separated into seven chapters intercut with interludes of spoken dialogue. Free exploration of the world map is allowed in every chapter, though some areas are not unlocked until the player character advances to a certain point in the game. The player begins as a weak character, poorly equipped and without allies. As players progress they discover new and more powerful weapons, armor, and spells, and can form a party of up to six characters (including the player character). Experience points gained through completing quests and killing monsters improve the abilities of the main character and other party members.
The flow of time during the game is expressed by changes in lighting and by the closure of most shops and the increased likelihood of encounters during the night. Taverns are open during the night, but there are no changes in the presence of customers or the barkeeper to reflect the flow of time. The troupe of characters controlled by the player do become fatigued after traveling for a full day, which requires rest to recover.