Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review: classic reborn

By John Keefer, Nov 28, 2012 10:45am PST

A woman in Spain made headlines when she "restored" a 19th century art fresco of Jesus. While good-intended, the amateurish result was hardly recognizable. Messing with a classic can go horribly wrong if you don't know what you are doing, something I recalled as I started to review Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. Changing a beloved game invites increased scrutiny from fans, even more so when adding to it.

Although publisher Beamdog is a newcomer to the gaming landscape, many on the team helped lovingly craft the original RPG as part of BioWare back in 1998. It's clear that they've managed to keep the classic--this time coupled with the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion--intact.

Beamdog did not mess with the original's story or art; it is a remastered vision for today's higher resolutions and bigger screens. Barring tweaks to the basic character and menu screens, there are otherwise no noticeable modifications in the gameplay or classic isometric look of the original. The AI can still be brutal and you'll still have to quick save often. Good news for fans, indeed.

Cutscenes have been modified to offer a bit more of an artistic comic-book style, but they neither add or detract from the overall goal of imparting the basic story. The game also combines the best mechanics, kits and items utilized in Baldur's Gate 2 and the Throne of Bhaal expansion to make a more complete experience. Still using the Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rule-set, players can now start the game as a wider variety of specialized characters, such as a sorcerer or archer, instead of just the generic base classes. You can also use the Tab key to highlight hidden areas, a welcome addition for the hard-to-find caches of goodies.

The success of BG:EE can be measured by how well its new content integrates into the experience. The monk Rasaad, wild mage Neera, and Blackguard Dorn are now part of the game, each with their own quest and backstory. I had all three in my party at one time or another, and their abilities only enhance what was already a strong and varied cast of characters. It is a testament to Beamdog's understanding of the spirit of the original game that makes these characters meld so nicely into the overall experience.

A new standalone combat arena known as the Black Pits proves to be a worthwhile addition to the game. Using six characters, players face off against an array of foes thrown at you by the drow Baeloth. As with other horde modes, the premise is thin: you have been kidnapped and only by winning these battles can you earn your freedom. Being able to quickly test strategies and builds against tough groups of opponents in this standalone mode is appreciated, but otherwise leaves little reason to come back once you have waded through all 15 fights once.

BG:EE does have a few blemishes. I had an occasional crash to desktop while in the Black Pits, and pathfinding still can be a bit odd, with characters getting hung up on trees or taking the long way to a battle instead of taking a more direct route. I was also frustrated by ranged characters swapping to melee weapons when they ran out of ammo in one slot, instead of automatically switching to a second full ammo slot, especially mages.

In the end, though, the game is still Baldur's Gate--a great RPG with new content and characters that hold true to the spirit and style of the original. The game is what the name implies: a truly enhanced version of a classic game.


This Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review was based on a digital PC press build provided by the publisher. Direct IP multiplayer could not be tested because of limited distribution of the press build. Cross-platform play also could not be tested as the iOS version has been delayed pending Apple's approval. The game launches today on PC.

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