As @Det.Bullock says that seems to describe BG2 rather than BG1 which illustrates my point, IMHO. @ToomuchFluffy asked if people really meant BG1 and it’s a totally legit question but perhaps not quite in the way he expects because people lump the two games together and remember BG2 stuff as BG1 stuff.
But BG1 was ridiculously well-reviewed and whilst I think some of that is that it does start well, most of it is down to it being the first really good 2E AD&D game, really feeling like a computerised version of a (kinda bad and very railroad) campaign, not just a single long adventure like the SSI Gold Box stuff and not a conventional dungeon crawler. It was hype for D&D on the computer more than anything else. And where BG1 is like a dodgy campaign, BG2 is like a dream campaign, the sort of thing players and DMs both aspire to. And that glory reflected backwards and prevented BG1 being reassessed as not great.
Interestingly this segues into what I have been playing - Pathfinder: Kingmaker. A game very much directly inspired by BG1 and BG2, and interestingly clearly influenced by Pillars of Eternity. I waited until it was no longer a buggy unbalanced mess, and a good thing, I think, because it is still bugger than Pillars 2 was on release. I’ve had to reload more than once to fix bugs and had to alt f4 for the first time in literally years, and other stuff is clearly a bit dodgy.
It is pretty incredibly addictive for me, as a general D&D fan. There are some good ideas here. The way they handle resting is good, for example, with you setting up camp, assigning roles and so on.
The characters are solid rather than great, better than BG1 and more fun than Pillars 1 (nowhere near as deep or interesting but more fun) and their banter, mostly in camp, is good if a tad repetitive. There are some nice ideas, like a very playable take on Chaotic Evil on one guy (he is mean tempered does what he wants and only force can stop him, rather than being implausibly dedicated to pointless malice), and a sort of inversion (not quite) of Brienne, as well as an undead PC.
The plot isn’t compelling but it works, as does an initial 90 day time limit which almost seems like a nod to Fallout 1/2 (even dawdling and backtracking a lot I finished with 48 days out of 90 left). Still there are decent little stories and a complex geopolitical situation and stuff (which seems very Pathfinder).
Character building and progression is very true to Pathfinder, but better done, streamlined in all the right places. Pathfinder itself could learn from it. There are some issues, of course. The UI is confusing and particularly has you make choices in a weird order. Pathfinder has a vast and ridiculous array of classes and subclasses, many with huge crossover, confusing names, and weird obscure mechanics, and there’s no getting away from that. Pillars 2, for example, makes it so really anyone can build a good character without out of game resources, even a multiclass one. Not so Pathfinder. Loads of powerful stuff is simply hidden until you pick certain options and there’s a vast amount of stuff to know, and two similar seeming builds can be vastly different in effectiveness. So out of game guides and the like it is. That said there are at least “hard to go wrong” classes like Cleric, but new players are not directed to them. So there is both a lot of cool stuff and a lot of frustration there.
Combat is likewise a mix. I set difficulty to normal and the adjusted HP and damage from enemies up to the full tabletop levels (it starts lower on normal). This was very messy, as one might expect. A lot of “fine, fine, fine, dead” type situations, and frustration with enemies with immunities. For better or worse, just like the tabletop, set up rather than in combat tactics, is everything. Come into a fight buffed and ready for what will happen and you will likely kick ass. But unprepared or out of juice and you might die like a chump. Or in either case the enemy might get a couple of lucky sneak attack crits and your main tank may be facedown in the dirt before you can say “what the fuck?!” (even on reduced PC crits). My main character, who is admittedly low HP (Halfling Bard) got one shot at range at one point on full health. And trash fights? I have literally never seen so many. Some early stuff particularly makes Pillars 1 look totally streamlined and super hand-crafted by comparison. The memorable fights, though, are good, and the combat is highly legible, too. Health could stand to be more obvious, which is unfortunate, though.
I think they must have done something right, though, for me to find it so addictive, so “one more location”. DOS2 is clearly better in a lot of ways, but the finickity puzzles have really put me off and fights tend to make me go “thank god that’s over!” rather than “Woo fuck yeah!” even though they are only equally fatal and in fact I probably have to press F8 more in Kingmaker.