In case you missed it back in 1998, the original Baldur’s Gate is one of the most celebrated RPGs ever released – often referred to by hardened (and aging) PC gamers when recounting their all-time favourites. It was Bioware’s first RPG, and the game that put the developer on the map, and alongside a few other classics from the year (like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), has been kindly updated recently.
Baldur’s Gate is an isometric RPG that is set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world, specifically the Sword Coast. Succeeding in combat requires effective management of your six-person party, and a solid head for tactics. The choices you make will affect how your party members feel about you, and can result in quest-givers snubbing you. If it sounds a little “Dragon Age”, then that’s because it is. Dragon Age was considered by many to be Baldur’s Gate’s spiritual successor.
The first thing that really struck me once I had spent a few hours in Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is that it is brutally difficult, and compared to modern games, quite unfair. [I feel like calling it “unfair” might just awaken the wrath of those hardened, aging veterans you mention above. 😛 – Ed.] Levelling up takes AGES compared to anything you have played in the last ten years, and simple things like resurrecting party members, or understanding what “THAC0” means, are never simply explained.
One area where most gamers agree that Baldur’s Gate shined in was its story telling and world. Some argue that no game has ever eclipsed it in terms of writing, and while I’m not sure I’d go that far, playing the Enhanced Edition reminded me just how rich and engrossing the world that BioWare created was. The dialogue can almost be viewed as a series of fantastic lines, and the humour is spot on. The music is perfect, and what ultimately results is a game dripping in atmosphere and personality.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition stays incredibly true to the original. In fact, it is basically the original game with support for higher resolutions. There are a few new features, but don’t expect any updated visual effects, or meaningful content additions. However, new characters make an appearance in the form of Dorn Il-Khan the half-orc Blackguard, Neera the Wild Mage, and Rasaad yn Bashir, the monk. The new characters fit seamlessly into the original Baldur’s Gate fiction, and in terms of writing, they match the standard maintained by the original cast.
In terms of new gameplay, there is The Black Pits, which is a sort of Horde-style mode where you get to customize six characters however you please, and then see how long your party can hold out against a never ending wave of baddies. The interface has been overhauled and now resembles Baldur’s Gate 2, and the new cut scenes which replace the outdated CGI are very welcome. There is also a new tutorial, which is probably a good idea, given the modern gamer’s tendency toward impatience. Oh, and the Enhanced Edition takes care of numerous bugs and glitches that were present in the original; although some remain, and path finding is still terrible.
So, should you buy Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition? The answer is pretty simple. If you are massive fan of the original, and feel like playing through it again, then this is the version to own. If you never played the original, but feel like you are missing an important piece of gaming history (you are), then it is also well worth investing some time here.