I think I finally understand why people play through Baldur’s Gate multiple times. When the game initially came out in 1999 I played it, but at that time my hardware was such that it was pretty painful (oh those load times), and I never finished it. When I got it off GOG.com and modded it, I did finish it, and part of my hesitation for buying the Enhanced Edition was I wasn’t sure if it was going to be that fun again. Having just finished BG1:EE, I can safely say that yes, going back through it again is indeed very enjoyable.
A lot of that is the content itself, as it’s fantastic and has held up amazingly well. What jumped out to me this time around is how flexible the game is. While it does have a main quest line that you must complete, it doesn’t dominate the game, and often you can elect when to move it along in between everything else. All of the side content is optional, and while you need to complete some of it to gain experience and items, WHAT you complete and when is totally up to you. What class your main character is, and how you build your party, also changes things more than in most games of this sort.
In short, BG1 is a sandbox RPG, but it’s not the open and sometimes almost pointless ‘sandbox’ of a title like Skyrim. In Skyrim you have entire sections of the game that never even comes close to touching the main storyline, and you also have a lot of ‘stuff’ that is almost completely outside the general events happening. In BG1, even the side stuff generally connects to the main plot, so you always feel like you are working towards the ending, rather than just running side quests. Not sure if I explained that well, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at.
The above is how I’m now playing BG2:EE (yea, picked it up at full price, wallet vote and all that), and it’s just as enjoyable. I identified the party members I wanted to bring along this time, and a somewhat general order for content up to the point I’m most familiar with. So far, I’m loving it.