Beamdog Addresses “Problematic” Content in Baldur’s Gate by Adding a Dash of Social Justice

Since its release this past Thursday, Beamdog’s Baldur’s Gate expansion Siege of Dragonspear has been gaining a lot of attention on RPG forums as well as social media. Unfortunately for all those involved, the attention has been largely negative, due to what is being perceived as a “social justice” theme running throughout the newly released game.

Billed as the game that would bridge the narrative gap between BioWare’s 1998 classic Baldur’s Gate and it’s sequel, Siege of Dragonspear’s aim was to introduce the idea of the bhaalspawn and explain what happened to the party prior to their capture by Irenicus. However, discussion now seems to be about the heavy-handed nature of its gender politicking.

Discussion first erupted on /v/ late Thursday night, where pictures and videos of the events in question began to trickle out. In the thread, many instances of fourth wall breakage and modern day gender politics were shown.

The above video shows a shopkeep, who appears frequently during the game, going into detail about the path she took towards discovering her true gender identity. While by itself it might not be considered much to show concern towards, various other modern-day themes have cropped up in the fantasy epic. One of these would be fan-favorite Minsc and his fourth wall breakage when he makes a joke about GamerGate.

[springboard type=”video” id=”1619289″ player=”nchg001″ width=”585″ height=”330″ ]

There are other such instances, such as one of the new NPCs, a goblin shaman, chiding you for being racist, and the daughter of Corwin, one of the game’s new characters, critisizing the player character for showing concern towards their mother’s well-being, which many seem to consider to be a textbook case of “mansplaining”.

Perhaps worst of all would be the apparent change in Safana, the game’s sultry-voiced rogue. While in Baldur’s Gate she was a tease who played on male desire to get her way, her personality has now been altered within the expansion to be more in line with what the writers felt was acceptable. What this amounts to is Safana becoming a sarcastic dissenter who will now mock the player character during certain key events, particularly the one where Corwin’s daughter informs the player character that her mother does not need a man to protect her.

The changes made to Baldur’s Gate can perhaps be explained during a recent interview Kotaku conducted with Siege of Dragonspear writer Amber Scott. In the interview, Scott expresses dissatisfaction with the way women were handled in the original 1998 version of the game and describes how the company attempted to fix it:

    “If there was something for the original Baldur’s Gate that just doesn’t mesh for modern day gamers like the sexism, [we tried to address that],” said writer Amber Scott. “In the original there’s a lot of jokes at women’s expense. Or if not a lot, there’s a couple, like Safana was just a sex object in BG 1, and Jaheira was the nagging wife and that was played for comedy. We were able to say, ‘No, that’s not really the kind of story we want to make.’ In Siege of Dragonspear, Safana gets her own little storyline, she got a way better personality upgrade. If people don’t like that, then too bad.”
    “I got to write a little tender, romance-y side quest for Khalid and Jaheira where you could learn a little bit about how their marriage works and how they really feel about each other.”
    There’s also four new companions, one of whom is gay, one of whom is bisexual. There’s even a monster companion, a throwback to a Baldur’s Gate II easter egg. But it’s not just about representation for representation’s sake. Beamdog wanted to give players options.

Our own review for Siege of Dragonspear is currently underway.

Carl Batchelor

About

Carl is both a JRPG fan and a CRPG'er who especially loves European PC games. Even with more than three decades of gaming under his belt, he feels the best of the hobby is yet to come.