BioWare’s role-playing game Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn has achieved cult status thanks in part to its well-developed and well-written companions. As it turns out, we have Final Fantasy VII to thank for this.
In conversation with Rock and paper shotgun Former BioWare designer and writer James Ohlen admitted that after playing Final Fantasy VII (1997), he decided to make the companions in Baldur’s Gate II better.
The idea to familiarize himself with Square’s JRPG came to Olen from Interplay producer Dermot Clarke, who informed the designer during one of his smoke breaks that the characters in Baldur’s Gate were flat and uninteresting compared to Final Fantasy VII.
“I love competition, so I played Final Fantasy VII. And, my God, compared to these figures, ours look like cardboard cutouts. It’s terrible”recalls Olen.
That’s why BioWare decided to take the storytelling in Baldur’s Gate II to the next level by giving the companions personal stories and motivations, making them seem more like real people rather than just a collection of characteristics.
Olen was influenced by characters from Square’s JRPGs up to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which was partially inspired by Chrono Cross (and Star Wars, of course).
After leaving BioWare in 2019, Olen founded Archetype Entertainment (owned by Wizards of the Coast), which is currently busy with its debut project, a non-linear sci-fi role-playing game.