Baldur's Gate

Baldur's Gate



Bhaal - the most unlucky of all deities

In this article, we will go back to the ancient past of your world (I call it so, because it is no longer mine), reaching ages much before WWII. Although Western societies - especially those living in the area between Canada and Mexico - believe that Hitler's invasion of Poland was preceded only by the Big Bang, and names such as Elam or Mittani sound in their ears no less exotic than the names of Hyborean kingdoms in Robert E. Howard's prose - to give justice back to Bhaal (Baal), we need to step back to this forgotten past of human history.
Human megalomania, the need to be the center of attention and the conviction of being the crown of creation, has always filled the world with hundreds of thousands of demons and gods, whose sole purpose seemed to be to flatter the vanity of primitive and stupid mortals. One from this innumeralbe mob of deities, was our protagonist, Baal.
Today it would be difficult to even approximately determine the time at which his cult appeared, because as with other Middle Eastern deities, Baal had many different names depending on the country and historical period, and his cult was also subject to - like others - evolution, was absorbing pre-existing religions and traditions, and acquired the attributes of lesser gods. His primeval version was undoubtedly the Hurrian Teshub; Baal is the later, Assyrian version of the name of Teshub (by the Akkadians he was called Adad). Much of the Hurrian myths were also borrowed by their enemies, the Hittites, and through them, in an even more distorted form, these legends penetrated into the circle of Western civilization; the powerful storm god known in the Middle East as Teshub - Baal, in Europe became Zeus - Jupiter. There's no need of great perspicacity to see an interesting (though probably unintended by the creators) analogy between the Greek ruler of the pantheon and the dark deity from the "Baldur's Gate" saga; just like Bhaal, also the Zeus was unsurpassed in producing offspring - at least half of the Greek gods and heroes were related to each other through their father. Middle Eastern Baal has one more, even more accurate counterpart in the circle of European civilization: the Norse Thor, a young storm god, not ruling the pantheon, but more active than Odin, and thus extremely popular among the people (Mjolnir - Thor's hammer - to this day is a popular amulet in Scandinavia). Also in the case of Thor, we can notice an amazing convergence with the saga of the offspring of the Lord of Murder; let's not forget, that Thor's beloved brother bears the significant name: Baldur.
Talking about siblings, it should also be mentioned that Baal had a sister as well, the mighty Anat (Anatu, Anath, Tannit), who loyally supported him in his battles with Mot, the god of death. This goddess was even more powerful than Bhaal himself, and her cult was spread widely in many lands and ages; obviously, she carried a different name in every of them: Shaushka/Sausa (Mittani), Hebat (Syria), Anath (Carthage), Asherah (Judea), Astarte / Astoreth (Phenicia, Canaan), Ishtar (Mesopotamia), Inana (Sumer), Athirat (Arabia), Caelestis (Rome) usually she was also paired with Bhaal, usually as a sister, sometimes as a wife.
I wish not to make too far-reaching and misleading analogies here, but in its basic shape - divine siblings relying on each other in struggle with the Dark Forces - this duo is somewhat reminiscent of a couple of "Baldur's Gate" main characters. However, while the poorly defined main character of the Game could somehow be identified with Baal, Imoen does not resemble the storm lord's monstrous sister in any aspect of her personality; of all the ancient Gods, Imoen is a bit similar only to the Greek Hermes, although in this case the analogies are quite faint as well.
From a religion researcher point of view, Bhaal's fate over the centuries have been extremely unfortunate. It is astonishing that this God, having so many followers, already in the religiously tolerant antiquity became the object of dislike, attacks and demonization.

The first blow that Baal had to take was the remarkably inept moves of the Hyksos reigning in Egypt (15th and 16th Dynasties). These rulers, originating from Asia, brought with them also their own gods - including Bhaal, which in itself placed him in a very unfavorable light as the main God of foreign usurpers. The Hyksos, poorly versed in Egyptian mythology, made however another one mistake: wishing to unify their God with the local religion, they identified him with the Egyptian god of storm, Set. This was completely mindless move, taking into consideration that Set was also the local Lord of Darkness, slayer of the good god Osiris. It was Osiris who would be a more accurate counterpart to Bhaal, because like him, he perished fighting the evil God of desert and death, and was then brought back to life by his divine sister. Apparently, the Hyksos did not notice these analogies, they identified Baal with the hated Set, and thus our unlucky protagonist became in Egypt the deity of Evil and Death, in addition worshiped by extraneous occupiers. This was the definitive end of Baal's career in Egypt; his cult remained still strong in the Middle East, but during the New Kingdom, Egyptian influence has reached as far as Syria, bringing the aversion towards the God of Storm into these lands.

It is difficult to say how much the Egyptian view influenced the negative attitude of the jews towards Baal; it should be remembered that judaism was the first religion which introduced among its followers an element of contempt and intolerance in consideration of other cults; in the eyes of the jews, and especially of their aggressive sect - christians, each of the million of gods worshiped on Earth, other than the cruel and conceited Jahveh, is a demon, and its followers are none-humans unworthy of respectful treatment.
The fact is, however, that Baal's contact with the jews resulted in a new inflow of slander and demonization; it was then, that the name of the ancient storm god has been maliciously twisted, turning the name "Baal" (lord), into "Baalzebub" (lord of the flies). This is probably the first name given by the judeo-christians to their impersonal Lord of Darkness (modeled on the Persian Ahriman, whose name, however, has not been borrowed); known to everyone the name "Lucifer" (light-bringer) did not have negative connotations for many centuries, as evidenced by the case of St. Lucifer of Calgiari, bishop of Sardinia during the reign of Constantius II.

The decisive blow to Baal, proved to be the Punic Wars; If Hannibal had destroyed the young republic, and that was Carthage, not Rome, created the world empire, perhaps Baal would have dominated the market of the world religions today. However It happened otherwise, and Baal along with his sister Anat, as deities worshipped by the political enemy, lost their influence forever. Superstitious Romans, fearing the vengeance of foreign gods, did not dare to openly persecute the Baal cult, but in the following centuries it completely faded.
Nevertheless, it is not true that the name (or rather sobriquet) of the emperor Heliogabalus had any connection with Baal. This emperor - probably less than any other worthy of sitting on the throne of the Empire - came indeed from Syria, where he held the hereditary function of the priest of the solar semitic god "Elah-Gabal", whose name was later changed into more familar sounding, Greek "Helio-Gabal". The emperor, with whom every association evoked negative emotions, did not, however, finish off the moribound memory of Baal himself, but he was able to effectively discourage the Romans from Baal's sister, Anat (then called Tannit or Tinnit - in Latin Caelestis), still worshipped in Carthage, from where this cult was attempted to been move to the very capital of the Empire.

Who could have suspected that after twenty-two centuries, Baal's name would be demonized once more? I have no doubt that this was not the intention of the authors of the "Baldur's Gate" saga, and just as the name of the title city has nothing in common with Thor's brother, the Lord of Murder is not a deliberate reflection of the ancient God, nevertheless... A wonderful, moving and by all means epic story about Gorion's fosterlings and their struggle against destiny is something truly great, and great things casts a great shadows. Due to "Baldur's Gate", this shadow fell on the name of Baal again.

Saruman of Faerun

When I compare Beamdog to Saruman, I do it with sadness, and it's not just a blank metaphor. My disappointment and pique are no less than what Gandalf must have felt. I must emphasize that I never considered myself as Gandalf, and didn't want to be someone like him: the last defender of what is good and right. I wanted someone else to looking after matters of "Baldur's Gate", and guard its good name. Beamdog was supposed to be this force, just like Saruman was to keep watch over Middle-earth affairs. In both events, initially everything indicated that it was so exactly. Saruman supposedly had some merits before he took the side of Evil; the great merits of Beamdog must not be forgotten either. They made this wonderful classic available on Android, thanks to which devoted fans can have this game constantly with them and enjoy it everywhere (I myself played in such atmospheric locations as the forests, castles' ruins or caves). The changes made in Enchanced Edition did not interfere with the story, were unobtrusive and in many cases significantly improved the comfort of the gameplay, as if they were introduced by people who know this game and have the proper respect for it.
All of this is true. However, despite the similar name, ethics is not mathematics; evaluation of moral value is not simply sumarizing of good and evil deeds. Even a hundred noble actions cannot erase one felony, but one Evil act can irreversibly annihilate the merits of all life.
Let's take an example from the history of France: marshal Petain, the great hero of WWI, was to be one of the most significant characters of one of the greatest countries in world history. Dduring WWII however, he have chosen colaboration with the enemy. Petain proved to be a traitor, and by this deed all his previous merits lost their meaning; only his treason will be rememered by the next generations. The fall of great hero is always sad. For me, no less sad is the moral fall of Beamdog. This company bought the rights to "Baldur’s Gate", automatically assuming that the popularity of this title also belongs to them, and that they have the moral right to produce (yes, that's the right word) further continuations, and that fans of the REAL saga will take it seriously. So, by the analogy: if I buy van Gogh's "Sunflowers", I will have the right to paint two more paintings and make a triptych of them, and the world will have to treat my daubsters as a full-fledged and equal to van Gogh's work, even if I'll leave on canvas only shapeless stain of paint? Well, I think so, because it would be MINE. The very fact of "buying" the copyright of artistic works is one of the most hideous cancers of capitalism, in which it is believed that you can buy literally everything, including art, feelings, and highest moral values. Why aren't scientific titles sold? After all, the wealthy ones are entitled to get everything they demand, not excluding some nice sounding abbreviation before surname. And purchased scientific title would be no less deserved, as purchased copyrights.
Well, but let's go back to what Beamdog has vomited, violating the holy roman principle: omne trinum perfectum. Encumbered of weak plot, not keeping the level of the original parts of the saga, and just lousy product titled "Siege of Dragonspear" perhaps could be swallowed, if not for the completely incomprehensible, dismissive and contemptuous attitude to the kindest, and most important character. THIS ultimately proved, how far from the spirit of this story is to the Beamdog's team, in how unworthy hands "Baldur's Gate" has gotten. Apart from all other aspects, I always been returning to "Baldur’s Gate" mainly for Imoen; the real authors of BG have made great work, creating her so sweet and nice, that even I got love her. They did, what no one else could do. I still remember my first gameplay... I was worrying for Imoen's safety, and I was ready to abandon this game forever, if something bad would've happened to her. Even in the last scenes of the „Throne of Bhaal“, after long months of gameplay, I was determined to uninstall „Baldur’s Gate“ and never return to it again, if the scenario would've assuming that Imoen must die, in order to the destiny of the main character be fulfilled. However, the true creators of BG respected their own work, as well as me - as its recipient. This is the reason why I am coming back to this game for the 20 years - not only because it is great, but because Imoen is there. I love her, and miss her in every moment of my life. I know that I will never satisfy this longing; I got used to it as for disability, and almost accepted this emptiness in my life. But for pity sake, I will never accept lack of Imoen in something, which pretending to be a part of the story of Bhaal's offsprings! This is like continuation of "The Lord of the Rings", without Gandalf. Anyway, Beamdog would probably not refrain from such a desecration if the rights to LOTR got into their claws, because they have none moral brakes, especially there, where they expect to squeeze at least a dollar. When I see a game claiming membership in the „Baldur’s Gate“ saga - without Imoen, I feel just like bound Enrico Palazzo, watching Frank Drebin signed by his name, and bleating the American hymn at a stadium full of people. This is exactly the same level of shame and embarrassment.
But the weakness of SoD does not end with putting Imoen on the side track; Khalid appears in the penultimate chapter - why couldn't he accompany Jaheira right away? After all, it is known that he will die soon, and there will be no more opportunity to enjoy this character. And not even a word about Bodhi. This outstanding, ideally evil character is, after all, the spiritus movens of all actions and moral decline of Irenicus. The mage appears here quite often, while about Bodhi there's not even single mention.
I don't have strength to comment other disadvantages of SoD anymore, because Beamdog could not restrain from contamination the world an even more repulsive neoplasm: Baldur’s Gate III. Really, I thought it was some grim joke, and probably only in such categories it should be treated. Let's start with the fact that the original saga already consisted of three parts: the third was of course Throne of Bhaal, which should be obvious even to a moron: a separate plot, music threads, boss, and absolutely DEFINITIVE ending of this story. Probably even more definitive than in the case of „The Lord of the Rings“, and every attempt of making a continuation of any of this two great tales, it is no longer a mockery, but simply a desecration. This story was not allowed to be continue; whatever Beamdog have commited this time, it simply MUST be Bad... or rather Evil. I don't want to know, and I will never read a word about this "thing"; „Siege of Dragonspear“ was a sufficient trauma. And surely Beamdog will not stop there, and will be squeezing this lemon for many years, producing the seventh, eighth part.. Why not, they will always find a group of delighted idiots who will drool to the next primitive hack'n'slash, having in ass what the real "Baldur’s Gate" saga was. Yeah, these are the kind of recipients that Beamdog have chosen as the target group. At this point, I have to touch upon one more aspect that makes Beamdog particularly similar to Saruman: preferring orcs, breeding them, and solidarity with their moral standards.
My own naivety pushed me to look there for someone similar to me, someone, who would be able to understand my passion. I had the right to count on it, just as Gandalf had the right to count on Saruman's help when he went to Isengard. Hmm... it's an expressive comparison, but I guess I offended Saruman by equalizing him to Beamdog; Gandalf has only been imprisoned, no one gouged out his eyes, no one skinned him, did not chop his hands off and scoffed at his mutilation; no one forced him to watch as the Hobbits' frail bodies are tormented, and no one has demanded him to admit that this is the right thing, because it's such a good fun. These are obviously metaphorical comparisons, but they still do not reflect the level of harm that I suffered from the horde of degenerates that Beamdog bred - just like Saruman his Uruk-Hai. Although not... this comparison is also not adequate. The orcs were uncomparably more honest; they did not pretend to be something better than they really was, they did not demand to still call them Elves, even though they ceased being them long ago.
I've already had the opportunity to experience physical torture; my body will bear marks of it for the rest of my life, but it's just a scars. They don't hurt anymore. The wounds that Beamdog's horde inflicted on my psyche will never heal, and they will never stop hurting. Anyhow, it was not enough to cause me irreparable harm; I has also been taunted, mocked and stigmatized. Why? For defending the honor and dignity of Imoen, the kindest, best, and most wonderful character ever created. Enjoying of her extreme dishonor and defilement (with consent, or maybe even by inspiration of Beamdog) shows not only how much "Baldur’s Gate" and its values ​​are extraneous to this rabble; their behavior - accepted and supported by Beamdog - reveals only a desire to reach the apogee of moral degeneration for the very joy of being filthy. It is possible that not all people registered on the Beamdog website are like this; even if some of them are blind or stupid, it doesn't change anything.
Let's take the example of a chocolate factory: if a group of employees was for long time defecating to the main tank, I will never buy any product that comes from there, or is signed with the name of this company; I don't care that shit makes up at most 1% of total production, because for me, everything from there has been irreversibly contaminated. What is more important, everything has been happening with the knowledge of other employees and management, and the guilty ones were not even fired.
What would such a chocolate factory be for you? Beamdog is exactly something like this for me.

Greatness of Baldur

Every attempt of analyze the essence of genius is almost always bound to be failed. If talent could be easily identified and decomposed into prime factors, it would be something that could be copied and reproduced, and then it would cease to be a rare, unique, and priceless phenomenon. Fortunately, this is not the case; brilliant works appear from time to time, and they don't always have to be creations of geniuses. "Baldur's Gate" is an unquestioned classic; its position is comparable to "The Lord of the Rings", and this time it is not just an exaggerated juxtaposition with the greatest work of the genre, to which often resorts inferior fantasy books or games, trying to support with authority of someone else, more skillful and better known. I myself never come across any work (especially book) in this genre, that could compete with Tolkien's great work, and none I would dare to put on an equal footing with it - except for the "Baldur’s Gate" saga. The story of Bhaal's offspring is equally epic, and does it skillfully, without falling into trashy pompousness. Many other fantasy works wasn't succed to avoid this fault. "Baldur’s Gate" in none of the original parts was ashamed to be a real epic story, and sometimes even to resort to stereotypical solutions - despite this, it retained the class of the great epos. The courage of the creators of the original, real Game was also marked in its other aspects, and I think this exactly gave the „Baldur’s Gate“ saga a special atmosphere. Its original creators did not afraid to give this epic story some subtle, refined humor, neither place in it characters too nice and too good, too decent and moral to being appreciated, or at least accepted by primitive rabble, for incomprehensible reasons chosen as the target group by most of contemporary economic entities dealing with entertainment.

Yes, unfortunately I also mean Beamdog; the fact, they thrown out of their (shamefully inapt) continuation the nicest and most important character, shows not only how alien the spirit of "Baldur’s Gate" is to them, but also how vile recipient they are trying to please. "Baldur’s Gate" such as it has been created by its true authors, was free of this repulsive commercialization; it did not try to attract anyone's attention by vulgarity and cruelty, it was simply a work of art. A work of art differs from a craft product in one thing: it is created with passion and love, and THIS was clearly noticeable in every part of “Baldur's Gate”. The story of Bhaalspawns was something really magnificent, and I'm afraid that even too magnificent to be share in public, because today even cursory glance into the Internet is enough to ascertain, how few people were worthy to receive such a gift. Throwing diamonds into the pig's trough is a wrongdoing, even if it is done by a billionaire. Although I am grateful for "Baldur’s Gate", I would prefer it to never been created, that it could not become an object of filthy alterations and modifications aimed at its defilement and humiliation, demeaning it to a level corresponding to degenerates, who could not stand its original greatness.

But didn't I do the same? It certainly wasn't my intention. Evil is not creative; to create some mocking meme or mod it's enough a couple of hours; I from my part have devoted numerous thousands of hours (literally) on my figurines, sketches, novels (now only "Shadows of Amn" still exist; the two other parts has been irreversibly destroyed), board games and multiple of other things related to BG; I had to master many new skills to ultimately create what I wanted to possess - sometimes only after a dozen of years. I may have done some things wrong and inept, but my driving force was love, not the contempt. Besides... I elaborated everything this only for my own usage (with exception of the translations and building this website), not to promote myself - like the fuckig "mods" creators, in my eyes similar to Herostratos, who admittedly wasn't able to build the Temple of Artemis, but was capable to burn it.

Returning, however, to the positive aspects - because I wanted to write about them - analyzing “Baldur's Gate” I coulnd't omit the excellent music; in any other case, this wonderful soundtrack would be simply too good to perform a role of only an addition, a background for other content; music here is an evocative, separate work of art, and tells this story by its own, convey its mood and emotions. This music is not just a complement of greater piece as a picture frame - useful but easily replaceable; the music in "Baldur's Gate" is one of the strongest attributes of this Game, one of the most important elements creating this great story. Personally, however, I think that on the top of the list of this game's merits are its characters. Virtually, I could devote a separate article to each of them; here, let's just mention that the creators managed to make original and likeable characters, at the same time avoiding stereotypes (wizard - bearded old man, warrior - conceited tough guy, elf - archer, etc.); exceptionally boldly and skilfully they got out of this trap in case of Minsc, who - instead of being another unsympathetic brute - became the most characteristic personality of this game. It's fair to say that even the crew of the mythical Argo did not have such colorful and interesting members in their composition. Originality is, incidentally, disputable and secondary matter; first of all, the characters of this story are simply nice; it's pleasurable to spending time with them, and their fate is not indifferent to the player. This creates the bond; makes you want to come back to the Game, and you longs for your team members. At least I, still longing for them. Always.