Romance has become a core component of RPGs, with many players sharing stories of their favorite sweet moments and getting into heated debates with each other over who is the best choice for their protagonist. Standing as a giant of RPGs, BioWare has set the gold standard in the industry for the progression of RPG romances. That all started with Baldur’s Gate II.
Released in 2000, Baldur’s Gate II was quickly recognized by gamers and reviewers at the time as a triumph of storytelling and gameplay, with positive reviews across the board putting it in the same category as Planescape: Torment and Fallout. One of the standout features of the game was the four NPCs who could be a part of the player’s party. These NPCs, of course, were also a major part of the Bhaalspawn’s life as romance options.
Baldur’s Gate II’s Romance Options Were a Game-Changer
Prior to Baldur’s Gate II, romance options in video games were relatively limited. The player was meant to simply buy into the fact that the protagonist was in love with whomever the plot deemed the main focus of emotional attachment. Often this was done with very little build-up or without establishing moments of connection. Everyone can agree that Mario and Princess Peach are an iconic couple, but few can really explain what the foundation of their romance is beyond baking cakes and fighting Bowser.
On the other hand, the four romance options in Baldur’s Gate II (Aerie, Jaheira, Viconia, and Anomen) are far more than simple plot devices or a way to increase tension within the plot. They are all characters with their own wants, needs, and quests outside the Bhaalspawn’s intervention. It’s even entirely possible to play the game and be unaware that there are possibilities for romance with the party members. However, the player misses out on quite a lot of content by not digging deeper into their stories. Each NPC can affect the player’s perception of the game and different factions. In turn, the player can also influence the NPC with how quests are handled and the decisions they make. Simply by falling in love, characters could have their class kits and alignments affected and the endings of their stories altered.
While this sounds run-of-the-mill now, back in the early days of PC gaming, this was a brand-new concept. Players didn’t often have so much onus over how the stories of individual characters could turn out, and they very rarely were able to make choices about who their character could fall in love with. This was BioWare’s first foray into video game romance, and it would quickly become a staple of its games as seen in Knights of the Old Republic and future titles like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Gamers’ love affair with Tali and Garrus began in Baldur’s Gate II.
Romance Options Bring More Players to Video Games
Romance is something that is naturally intriguing to many people. As long as there have been stories to tell, there have been stories about romance and romantic encounters. The introduction of romances into video games can be attributed as one of the many things that brought gaming to a wider audience. When Baldur’s Gate II was first released, it sold a little over 225,000 copies. By contrast, its spiritual successor, Dragon Age: Origins, sold well over three million copies in its first year. As one of the things that these two games had in common, romance and romance options added narrative value to the overall experience for many gamers.
BioWare turned romances into a feature that gamers looked forward to. It has become expected of role-playing games, it’s even become something that draws players into the experience who may not have had other reasons to enjoy the games. Romances are a fun way to hook gamers into playing a certain game. For players who are interested, romances breathe a little bit more life into the story of the protagonist and open up possibilities for interaction. Back in the days of Baldur’s Gate II, romances were limited. As time and attitudes have progressed and changed, everyone can find the romance option for them in video games. However, it all started with an isometric RPG where a Bhaalspawn could fall in love with an elf (or a human).