+ Classic role-playing mechanics
+ New characters and Black Pits adventure
+ Deep world
- Limited graphics appeal
- Some uninspired voice work
Final score: 8 / 10
Controller support: No
1 GHz processor
512 MB of RAM
OpenGL graphics card
The original Baldur’s Gate was launched in 1998, with Bioware handling the development duties and Interplay and Black Isle listed as publishers. The impact it has made on the gaming world was immediate and long lasting.
Fans are still praising the story of the original Baldur’s Gate, the impressive party mechanics, the way it adhered to the rules of Dungeons & Dragons and the impressive world that it managed to create.
It’s not unusual to see the game used as the reference point in comparisons with modern role-playing game and many fans are trying to recreate it or parts of it in modern engines like that of Dragon Age: Origins.
The original Baldur’s Gate was also the first role-playing game that I’ve played and its influence on my own tastes and gaming habits was also huge and to this day, I have fond memories of afternoons when I played rather than do my homework and nights when I gladly explored the Sword Coast rather than play.
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is created by Overhaul Games and includes both the core campaign and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, in addition to three new characters, some new gameplay content and the Black Pits, a new standalone battle arena which will test the resolve of even the most capable player parties.
The entire effort was led by Trent Oster, a former BioWare programmer and project director, and it’s clear that it represents a labor of love designed to appeal to hardcore fans while also drawing in new players.
The setup for the story of Baldur’s Gate involves a child of unknown and terrifying origins, a worldwide conspiracy that threatens the production of iron and the very basis of civilization and a number of underground organizations that seek power and are not afraid to mess with magic, murder and the dark arts to get it.
The player has full control over his own character and first meets his sibling, Imoen, and father figure, Gorion, in the sheltered fortress-library of Candlekeep.
New look cutscenes
The game kicks off when Gorion is killed defending the player character and he needs to explore the wide expanses of the Sword Coat, with Imoen and a band of other fellow adventurers, finding the cause of the iron shortage, uncovering who is behind it and finally gaining access to information about his own origins and their implications for the game world.
The writing still holds up more than 14 years later and the companions that can be recruited in the player party are as interesting as ever, especially when it comes to fan favorites like Imoen or Minsc and his hamster.
The one feature of story that losses some of its original impact are the locations, which seem too barren and small in 2012, although there are still some nice surprises along the way for those who come into the game unspoiled or have simply forgotten the exact details of the experience.
Baldur’s Gate is a party-based role-playing game, which means that gamers are free to create their own character, then pick a party through adventuring and then evolve their tactics and their play style based on the new abilities and powers they choose for them.
The system is as elegant today as it was when the game was launched and the synergy between the various companions and the protagonist is something to behold.
One aspect that might be a little disappointing for modern gamers is the limited emphasis on loot and equipment, but Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition more than compensates by offering a world and characters that are much more interesting than those in the likes of Diablo or Torchlight 2.
A taste of the additions that Overhaul Games has made can be found at the Friendly Arm Inn, where a new party member can be recruited, with his own personal quest to explore.
There are two more companions available in the game and there are also more quests that expand the game world and link narrative threads that were not fully explored in the original version of the game.
The biggest addition to the experience is the new Black Pits area, which allows players to create their own custom party, equip it and then test their skills against a variety of ever more powerful enemies in as many as 15 full battles.
Overhaul Games has made a great job of upgrading the user interface and the core mechanics to suit modern gamers.
It’s easier than ever to select a party member and then decide what equipment he needs to use and what tactics he will employ and the game has been designed to offer as much information as possible in one screen, something that the original failed to do.
The graphics might make it hard for newcomers to enjoy Baldur’s Gate Enchanced Edition at first, but once they get accustomed to it the learning curve for the actual interface and mechanics is smooth.
Newcomers would also do well to check out the new tutorial for Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, which is specifically designed to instruct new players into the slightly mysterious ways of the Dungeons & Dragons and party-based role-playing games.
I consider myself a veteran and even I benefited from the included information, which brought me up to speed quicker than simply fumbling around within the single-player story, making mistakes that could have repercussions further down the line.
Graphics and audio
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is not a good looking game, judging by the standards of today’s gaming industry, but all those who play it should remember that this title was first launched in 1998 and that the Infinity Engine was always designed to support complex gameplay rather than to deliver top notch graphics.
The team at Overhaul Games has performed a minor miracle by simply making sure that Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition runs on current gaming hardware without any supporting programs or other tweaks and will perform another when the experience is launched on tablets.
Sure, the limited level of detail, especially jarring when zooming in a little too much, might drive away those accustomed to Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2, but the gameplay of Baldur’s Gate is more than enough to compensate for the lack of glitzy looks.
Those who loved the original will be happy to return to the world of the Sword Coast and see all the love that BioWare infused in the areas, the characters, even the spell effects that might seem basic for modern players.
The new cutscenes, created by Nat Jones, are also beautiful and manage to capture the essence of the game.
I am not as impressed by the voices that have been added to the game, which at times sound campy and at times disinterested, but they add an extra layer of personality to some of the characters.
At the moment, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition only offers gamers the possibility to link to one another using direct IP connections, which are pretty hard to set up.
The developers promise an update which will redirect multiplayer through Beamdog.net, allowing them to quickly set up matches and invite their friends.
The last time I played Baldur’s Gate was more than 10 years ago, but after the first 10 hours spent with the Enhanced Edition from Overhaul Games, I am in love with the game once again, ready to explore all the areas of the game world, hunt down all secrets and try out as many combinations of characters as I can.
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is a must play for fans of the universe and the role-playing genre who have not played the classics or have kept away from them for too long, especially as it adds some new content, makes the game playable on current systems and adds new cutscenes and voices, all for a reasonable price of 19.99 dollars or Euro.
I sincerely hope that this release and the sequel planned for 2013 give Overhaul Games the resources they need in order to create a full-blown third title in the series.
I tried this out today and it's fantastic. Gonna buy another copy on my iPad.
Comment #1.1 by: Notsomuch69 on 29 Nov 2012, 15:23 GMT
Yeah, just bought it. After struggling with the downloader, having to root around in a file system to delete 766 files, and surfing the forums I finally got the game to run. Enhanced edition should be "Enhanced" edition. The game can currently only be played in Window Mode, and any resolution higher than 1024 makes the font unreadable. Oh, and there are no options to change the screen resolution in-game. To play in a lower resolution you must change your desktop to your desired resolution. Wonderful.
Comment #2 by: Andrei Dumitrescu on 29 Nov 2012, 15:54 UTC