Title: Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition
System(s): Windows, (Also iOS, eventually Mac and Android)
Release Date: November 28, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Atari (Overhaul Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A, but the original Baldur’s Gate was rated “Teen” for Animated Blood, Mild Language and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
Baldur’s Gate is an undisputed classic. It’s one of the games that helped definite BioWare as a company and made people crave RPGs that offered them adventure and, more importantly, choice. People were able to completely customize their character and their decisions shaped the adventure. It’s probably the reason many people fell in love with RPGs.
The Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition understands that and has changed nothing that made people originally fall in love with the game. Instead, it made what was there better. The graphics look better. The game plays better. It’s simpler to manage your items and abilities. The Tales of the Sword Coast expansion is immediately included. Even what has been added as been included in such a way that it fits perfectly among what we know and love. It’s a love letter to the original game and even if everything isn’t perfect, it’s still incredibly sweet.
A journey that begins by stopping an iron shortage and ends with a murderous god
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition begins in the fortress-library town of Candlekeep. There a hero, created by the player, his or her “sister” Imoen and his or her adoptive father, Gorion lived in peace. It didn’t last. Troubles began once an iron shortage hit the Sword Coast. For some unknown reason, all iron is rotting immediately after being forged. One day during the shortage, the hero was walking around Candlekeep when he/she was accosted by a rather incompetant assassin.
The hero goes to Gorion to report the incident and learns that Gorion almost expected something like this to happen. The two leave quickly to find sanctuary, but the worst happens. More unsavory figures appear and come for the hero. Gorion saves the hero at the expensive of his own life. The hero and Imoen, who followed the pair, set off to find out why iron is deteriorating. Along the way, they’ll find themselves and their companions involved in a much larger adventure.
What’s new is mostly good, but also sometimes bad.
I want to start this off with my main Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition frustration. Are you ready? You have to be online to start playing the game. This is because the game launcher is checking every time the game starts to see if there have been any updates. There is no option to start in an offline mode, which would allow you to tap the Play button and launch into your adventure. If you’re offline, it will endlessly cycle and search for updates, never allowing you to just press the play button. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
One you get past that, the Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition starts out as a joy. Everything looks fantastic. The backgrounds and characters have received graphical touch-ups so everything looks lovely. I recommend playing it in the full screen mode as it allows people to really appreciate the improvements, but it looks fine in windowed mode as well. All of the cut-scene images are hand-drawn stills which really preserve the fantasy setting and keep one immersed in the adventure. There are also oddles of character customization options, which means one could spend over fifteen minutes creating a character. My first rogue took about 20 minutes, because I wanted to make sure she had the perfect skill set.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition also provides an immediate choice before the adventure even begins. The Black Pits expansion is a separate entity from the main game and an optional adventure. Players can choose to partake of it at any time from the main menu, entering into an arena where 15 rounds of battle against hordes of enemies await. I would have preferred if it had been encorporated into the main game, but it’s a minor qualm and offers a different kind of challenge than found in the main game.
While The Black Pits is a fine bonus, I’ll wager people will be most interested in the three new characters. I found all three to be pretty exceptional, especially since each one adds more than just a new party member. Rasaad yn Bashir, Neera and Dorn II-Khan, who are all romanceable by the way, also unlock access to new quests and areas. I liked Dorn and Neera best, for Dorn’s Blackguard kit and Neera’s intriguing magic that could end up helping or hurting the party.
However, this reminds me of one of the things that was not improved between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and that’s the character pathfinding. If you direct people to move somewhere, they will take the worst and longest routes to get there. Which is odd, because there are times when the AI is brilliant. Sometimes, the party members will perform perfectly in battle, but other times they’ll just be wandering around the outskirts, doing exactly what you don’t want them to do. It happens, and I’m holding out hope that Overhaul Games will fix this in an eventual update, since Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is being continually patched.
The Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition also plays better, for the most part. The game runs well with no lag and its easy to explore the world and take part in battles. I recommend pausing often during battles though. Make sure you pause often to make sure you select the appropriate attacks. Most importantly, newcomers should play the tutorial. It isn’t perfect, but it does tackle everything people need to know, whether they’ve played Baldur’s Gate before or not. I highly recommend it, especially since the inventory system has been approved and adjusted. Beware the quicksave, however, as it can save over important save files without forewarning. Keep multiple savefiles to avoid that issue.
Very much enhanced, but not exactly necessary
I think the Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is very nicely done. The improvements are definitely noticeable, with the most obvious being improved graphics, a smoother and faster game experience, the additional Black Pits quest and extra characters that fit perfectly into the existing story. Despite all the fixes, there are still issues with party member AI and path-finding that would have benefited from improvements as well. On top of that, I’m torn about whether all the enhancements and fixes would really make it worth rebuying the game if there’s someone who grabbed the original Baldur’s Gate and a glut of fan-made mods from the internet. While I did enjoy the new characters, I’ve seen fan-made characters that were just as good or perhaps even better and while the Black Pits is a nice bonus, it isn’t inserted into the main story and is played separately.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is lovely and is a fantastic reminder of how great classic PC RPGs could be. I think it’s best saved for people who haven’t played Baldur’s Gate in years, or at all, because then they can really realize how vastly improved the experience is. People who still have Baldur’s Gate on their computers, perhaps grabbing from GOG.com, should wait for a sale to satiate their curiousity about the enhanced edition.