Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition ReviewPC

very good
key review info
  • Game: Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: N/a
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Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a revamped edition of the homonymous 2000 hit role-playing game, originally developed by BioWare, and now remade by Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog.

The game includes the original Shadows of Amn campaign as well as its expansion, Throne of Bhaal, wrapping up the Bhaalspawn saga. A more combat-oriented expansion has also been added, The Black Pits 2: Gladiators of Thay.

Baldur's Gate II was, as the name points out, the sequel to the acclaimed 1998 role-playing game Baldur's Gate, continuing the story where the first one left off. They are both based on the Forgotten Realms high fantasy setting, a licensed Dungeons&Dragons world from Wizards of the Coast.

The games were considered the best role-playing games ever made, many people seeing them as a revitalization of the whole genre, introducing the complex D&D rules and its rich fantasy background and storytelling tradition.

There are many that still consider the Baldur's Gate games to be the greatest role-playing games ever made.

Story

The game's plot usually sets the tone of the game, presents a conflict that the events then follow to completion, with a few choices along the way. So is the case with Baldur's Gate, but at the same time it isn't.

The world of D&D is a truly vast one, and the franchise has had time to develop and evolve since the 70's, its stories usually being convoluted and spanning generous time intervals, without being drawn-out.

Apart from the main story involving finding out the main character's own history and ancestry, there are a myriad of side stories taking place in a fully fleshed-out medieval world, just waiting for players to tangle in.

The medieval fantasy setting has always been rich with mythos, and Baldur's Gate II takes full advantage of both traditional medieval conflicts and the ones that arcane meddling imposes on the world.

This is a place where Baldur's Gate II really shines, as every important character that you meet has a backstory that is worth exploring and there is always something going on and you never run out of side-quests, from events that shape the fate of the world to retrieving a dead girl's teddy bear.


Gameplay

The game puts players in control of a party of up to six characters, one of which is the player's avatar inside the game world. The role-playing aspect of Baldur's Gate is very deep, and character development plays a major role in the game.

Players can either import an existing character, use a pre-defined one or create their own, choosing the class, ability scores, appearance and alignment of their avatar.

They can also recruit some non-playable characters they encounter to take part in their adventures, each one of them with its own story and personality, and the composition of the party will influence the course of the game, as bickering or romance will ensue, as well as opportunities for side-quests.

The game is played from an isometric perspective and battles take place in real time, but a tactical pause feature can be utilized in order to manage the multitude of actions available. Combat can seem a bit daunting at first, as the interface is not exactly stellar, there are a lot of options and characters do not always seem immediately responsive to commands.

The game has a pretty steep learning curve in the beginning, and most inexperienced gamers' actions will be mainly guesswork, as the interface fully shows its age when it comes to tooltips and accessibility. Some areas of the interface are quite difficult to navigate and will require some getting used to.

But the game's complex combat system, diversity of available spells and the many choices it affords will also become quite satisfying once mastered, allowing to circumvent certain encounters by mind-controlling NPCs and other such D&D goodies.

The character progression element is really well implemented, there are tons of dialogues with many options that allow you to navigate the game your way, the amount of choices available is incredible, and you'll often find yourself storing and old savegame just so you will be able to walk a forking path in the future.



The Baldur's Gate Enhanced edition added three new companions to the roster, Neera the Wild Mage, Dorn Il-Khan the Blackguard and Rasaad the Monk, which are once again recruitable. Its sequel came with an additional one, Hexxat the Thief, each one of them having a tied-in quest line to explore.

Another very, very useful addition is the quick loot bar that allows you to easily manage item drops and relieves the hassle of looting.

The party dynamics are very fun and they take into account the characters' backgrounds and alignments, as they may not always agree with your choices, and sometimes you might even end up fighting them to the death.

The game also supports up to six people in cooperative multiplayer, either local or online via the Beamdog servers, but for now the forums are full of complaints related to crashes if more than 2 people join a game. Although the game uses a legacy LAN networking model, Beamdog has shown its dedication to improving the issue, allowing even cross-platform multiplayer.

Sound and visuals 

This is another area that hurts the game; from a modern perspective, the game looks pretty bad. While it is true that the original renders were remastered and support for widescreen was added, along with some interface tweaks, the game still looks and feels ancient.

The backgrounds are detailed enough, but there is only so much you can do with a 15-year-old game. The graphics don't do anything wrong by any means, they are simply outdated. In 2000, they were good enough, but by today's standards they don't even qualify in the race with other isometric tile-based RPGs.

The sound production in general is pretty good, the music is fitting and enjoyable and there are always ambient noises where you would expect them to be. While fighting things tend to become cluttered, which is what you would expect in a party-based combat game, the audible cues for hits and misses being there, along with some warnings and taunts thrown in for good measure.

There are areas that could have benefitted from a bit more polish, but again, it's a 15-year-old game.

Most of the dialogues also have pretty decently acted voice-overs, which is really nice considering the amount of text in Baldur's Gate. The actors have done a pretty good job of delivering an in-character feeling, for the most part, and it only adds to the game's overall atmosphere.


The Good

  • Solid D&D role-playing
  • Deep story
  • Immense world to explore
  • Some new content

The Bad

  • Unappealing visuals
  • Clunky interface
  • Steep learning curve

Conclusion

While Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition still has the same award-winning content, even adding a little bit of extra stuff, the game is unfortunately still outmatched in today's arena.

The many bug fixes and the visual overhaul are not enough to compete with today's role-playing games, even with the addition of (buggy) online multiplayer with cross-platform support. The unappealing graphics and the clunkiness of the user interface, combined with the steep learning curve, will surely turn away many new players.

Which is really a shame, because the thing Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition does best is make you crave for more. More stories, more characters, more secrets, an experience that also presents itself in a more up-to-date manner.

The fact that the game runs smoothly on today's wide range of machines with no extra apps or patches required is a miracle in itself, but the engine really feels dated.

The game offers hundreds of hours of diverse and rewarding gameplay that you can really lose yourself into. It is still one of the best ways to experience role-playing games, and returning players will find fond memories waiting for them.

They will also find a not-quite-friendly interface and many occasions on which the game's age shows. It is certainly the best way to experience the Baldur's Gate saga, and definitely worth the money, especially considering you get hundreds of hours of good gameplay and interesting stories, but in the end the verdict is the same.

The legendary Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition feels a bit like a grandfather that has misplaced his glasses. You still love him, and your heart doesn't let you tell him that they're sitting on his head. All the goodness is still there, only unfortunately obstructed by the game's age.

It should be present in any gamer's collection, anyway. Along with the hope for a new game.


story 9
gameplay 6
concept 10
graphics 6
audio 8
multiplayer 6
final rating 8
Editor's review
very good
 
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