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Crimson Crux

Pseudo-techblog where the Corsarius gets serious. Visit blog.corsarius.net for his alter ego.

Greatest Gaming Engine Ever?

Thursday, November 03, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Baldur's Gate II screenshot
courtesy of www.bioware.com

Bioware's Infinity Engine, the workhorse behind the epic Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale RPG series the best gaming engine the world has ever known?

Reading an ancient back issue of PC Gamer (December 2002, the Doom 3 issue), I stumbled upon Steve Klett's Alternative Lives Column, in which he declares Infinity to be "the greatest game engine in the history of the PC."

Of course, he wrote that a few years back, but his points are still undoubtedly valid. Read on.

He states:
"[Infinity] has given PC gamers more entertainment (and more entertainment value) than any other, and that includes any 3D first-person engine. In both quantity and quality of gameplay hours provided, I don't think any game engine can touch Infinity's contribution."

That coming from a guy who says he enjoys both first-person shooter and RPG genres.

I've more or less spent hundreds -- nay, thousands -- of hours playing all the major genres, but I'm biased towards role-playing, so I'm inclined to agree with Klett's bold proclamation. No doubt there will be gamers who'll (vehemently) disagree, especially Unreal/Quake/Doom fans. Who says those games weren't damn beautiful? They were, especially Doom 3. John Carmack is a genius, I tell you.

But the amazing depth that the Infinity engine posseses is simply a dream come true for both die-hard and garden variety pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons fans. The
three games and one expansion pack I've played which run on Infinity -- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, BG2 Expansion: Throne of Bhaal, Icewind Dale, and Icewind Dale II -- were not by any means flashy, but they were revolutionary.

New game engines have arrived since the last use of Infinity (which was in Icewind Dale II), such as Bioware's own Aurora Engine used in Neverwinter Nights. But still, this pretty recent Gamespot article written by Matthew Rorie praises the timeless Infinity engine. "RPG engines just don't get any better than the Infinity engine," he writes. "...the Infinity games were perhaps the perfect marriage of form and functionality when it comes to computer RPGs."

* * * * *

Cover art courtesy of

As an aside, I'm currently addicted to Rome: Total War. Damn, I have never seen gaming goodness such as this. Epic real-time battles, deep Civ-like campaign, gorgeous graphics, astounding music. If I'm starting to sound like I'm advertising the game, don't worry -- I am. I utterly love it. (Gamespot Review)

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Blogger ia @ 11/03/2005 3:59 AM

as an aside too: i remember your baldur's gate game review waaaaaay back.

what, no starcraft bit? ^_~    

Blogger Corsarius @ 11/03/2005 4:06 AM

whaaat? i wrote a game review for BG2?!

oh, third year HS. and i thought i had never written a game review before. ;)    

Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/03/2005 10:24 AM

Ei there...

Hmmm, I never played that game but I have tried Ice Wind Dale II... Yeah the engine is good but I didn't like IWD2 graphics much haha. It seems I always look for eye candies first.    

Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/03/2005 12:32 PM

amen brother! the aurora toolset may be a modder's dream compared to the infinity engine, but bg1&2, torment (and fallout) made rpg's relevant again ^_^    

Blogger Corsarius @ 11/03/2005 6:49 PM

to fleeb: unfortunately, when iwd2 came out Infinity was well behind in terms of the visuals department. but hey, no one can disagree how well it simulated the paper-and-pen system of Dungeons and Dragons :D

to jorge: indeed! especially BG2 and its expansion. They were, and still remains, the cream of the crop of 2D RPG gaming. Temple of Elemental Evil, even with its nifty graphics, doesn't even compare to BG. :)    

Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/04/2005 6:54 PM

i have to agree; even if temple was a classic scenario of the pen and paper games, it didn't translate well. cant wait for nwn2 tho :)    

Anonymous Anonymous @ 11/08/2005 8:38 AM

This is opinion nothing more. What makes a great engine? The fact that it has been used by great games? ... or the fact that it is technically great? Although I loved BG, BG2, IWD 1&2, I'd have to disagree that it is the "greatest" engine ever. It is an RPG engine, and thus it's use was limited to RPGs. The article did not take into account the Quake 2 engine which would later be used in great games such as Half Life. It was versatile, very technical, used in many many games, and wasn't confined to FPS games. The BG and IWD series were great series, but it doesn't make the engine great. Certainly not as great as the Quake 2 engine.    

Blogger Corsarius @ 11/13/2005 3:30 PM

to jorge: when will bioware stop creating good games? hehe..

to vern: you're right -- ours is an opinion, nothing more. you've got valid points for the Quake 2 engine, and it certainly is one of best engines we've ever seen. but is it the best? open to debate, as the case is with Infinity.

i believe it boils down to which engine's traits a gamer pays attention to. you have yours with Quake 2, we have ours with Infinity. The engine per se is technically great, and not just used by great games. It's the first of its kind to accurately simulate the complex pen-and-paper d20 system, and it can handle the graphics which make it the "perfect marriage of form and functionality". it might not be the greatest for some, but it's still one of the greats.

in the end, thanks for the insight, friend. a little conflict of opinions doesn't hurt anybody :)    

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