Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review: classic reborn

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition has modified a great RPG with new content and characters that hold true to the spirit and style of the original. Throw in the continued replayability to an already massive game, dropping $20 on this should be a no-brainer for those wanted to relive the classic days of the isometric RPG.

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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.

The Black Pits

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.
Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 28, 2012 10:45 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review: classic reborn.

    Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition has modified a great RPG with new content and characters that hold true to the spirit and style of the original. Throw in the continued replayability to an already massive game, dropping $20 on this should be a no-brainer for those wanted to relive the classic days of the isometric RPG.

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 10:52 AM

      Since there is so much interest here, I'll answer any other questions I can. The review isn't longer because so much of the game is unchanged. It's more for people who know the game and the series.

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        November 28, 2012 11:40 AM

        Not a review question but do you know if they've ever said anything about doing a remake for Planescape?

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          November 28, 2012 11:55 AM

          No, not now. They are too focused on BGEE and BG2EE for which they have contractual obligations, then DLC. Planescape is a whole different can of worms from a contract standpoint.

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        November 28, 2012 1:14 PM

        Is cross platform multiplayer in yet? Also non-locally? I would like to play with my buddy over the webs, but read that somehow only local multiplayer is supported at launch..

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          November 28, 2012 1:24 PM

          Direct IP connect. Beamdog's own MP service will come in a later patch. As for cross-platform, Oster said they had it working well in the office, but Apple nuked the first submission for a crash bug. Probably another week for something other than PC.

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            November 28, 2012 1:53 PM

            When is that iPad version scheduled to come out now?

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 1:48 PM

        When is the iOS version coming?

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 10:55 AM

      Hmm. Dunno, seems rather thing on improvements :(

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 10:56 AM

        +thin

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        November 28, 2012 10:59 AM

        The new content alone is worth the price, as well as being able to play at higher resolutions and zoom in. If you were expecting major graphics enhancements, they aren't there. But I do like a lot of the BG2/TOB enhancements lumped into this, especially with the kits.

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          November 28, 2012 11:32 AM

          Yeah, that does sound awesome to be honest. Wonder what mods are compatible with it..

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          November 28, 2012 1:45 PM

          One of the most important things going on is behind the scenes, where they rewrote a LOT of UI and systems code that breaks out the gameplay bits that were previously hard-coded. This will allow modders -- yes, this game is STILL being actively modded by the community -- to change even more, and more reliably. I expect that had they not needed to rewrite all that busted, coupled code that the Overhaul team could have really done some amazing things. I really hope that what they've done will make BG2 EE a much more ambitious undertaking, because that's my favorite of this series.

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            November 28, 2012 1:48 PM

            Oster already said that BG2EE will be much easier after all the heavy lifting was done for this one. It will be interesting to see if they push for a quicker turnaround or go for more content.

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              November 28, 2012 2:24 PM

              I mean, I like that they added some new stuff for BGEE, but honestly I'm not sure BG2 needs any extra content. There's so much more in BG2, and when you add ToB, it's just kinda fucking crazy.

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                November 28, 2012 2:27 PM

                True. But if they sell it again for $20, they need to offer more than just an updated graphics engine and bug fixes. What synic0 said about behind the scenes is very true, and I'm sure some of that will carry through to BG2/TOB. So they do have a lot of work

                • reply
                  November 28, 2012 2:30 PM

                  True, I mean, I'm an idiot and would just buy the same game again with updated UI and nothing else, but I guess more content and new characters wouldn't hurt.

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                  November 28, 2012 7:05 PM

                  I think it's worth keeping in mind that there are community patches for BG2 that fix an enormous number of bugs. If they do BG2, they're going to have to fix all those bugs, and they'll probably find more in the course of squashing those.

                  I'm sure their work on BG:EE will help things move along smoothly, but a much bigger game will require more work. I would guess it will take them at least as long as it took to get BG:EE together.

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 11:42 AM

      All I need really is a cleaned up version of the original. I just want a solid version of the game to finally play though. I've attempted it a few times but never got all the way through. This time... this time I'll do it.

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 11:56 AM

        Do it. This is the version to do it with, especially with the BG2 functionality included in the original.

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 11:59 AM

        lol can't wait for the 1 hit kills that will persist through the whole length of the game. Bring on the basilisks!

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 11:57 AM

      Must you gather your party before venturing forth?

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 12:05 PM

      Supposed to activate 5 mins ago, no dice :(

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 12:12 PM

      503 service unavailable

      TAKE MY MONEY

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 12:16 PM

        Oster said the servers are very slow in responding.

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          November 28, 2012 12:18 PM

          Very slow is an understatement. Immobile is more accurate.

          • reply
            November 28, 2012 12:24 PM

            Follow Trent Oster on Twitter. He's real good about communicating with the fans.

        • reply
          November 28, 2012 12:25 PM

          I guess the game is selling well then?

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      November 28, 2012 12:27 PM

      I just don't understand why this happens with EVERY game release. They say they'll release, then theres a "server problem" or they're "overloaded"...ffs.

      If you want a smooth launch, buy MORE servers than you'll realistically need and then bring them offline with a redundancy system. Instead the SOP seems to be having too few servers then going "whoops, we needed more servers".

      What a crock of shit. Just let me play the fooking game.

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 12:38 PM

        Because spending more money than you can afford to support a sales demand that you are unsure of is bad business, and if the demand is very high, then the customers will accept the apology for a slow gearup. They want what you have.

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          November 28, 2012 12:44 PM

          I'm fairly sure you would have a good idea of the sales numbers BEFORE launch. It's bad business to piss off customers.

          Ah well, I don't know why I'm moaning, I fully expected this to happen. Just once I'd like to see a game launch on time, with no issues.

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            November 28, 2012 12:48 PM

            Based on what historical business model?

            Kinda hard to project how many copies people are gonna buy in this particular case.

            It's a remodel and update of a game that people can get through other sources. I mean I have the CDs sitting less than five feet from me.

            OLD CDs.

            There really isn't a business model for this sort of thing.

            • reply
              November 28, 2012 1:22 PM

              At the very least, they knew how many people had pre-ordered and then pre-loaded, yes?

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        November 28, 2012 12:45 PM

        The amount of money it costs to make sure everything runs 100% on day one (or in the case of something as big as Diablo III - the first few weeks) is so high... it is actually worth it to buy what you can afford and let the customers suffer in the short term... because eventually demand will smooth out and everybody will be fine. It basically doesn't make sense to build a platform which can withstand the load of that initial burst.. because that burst is temporary and after a short time you have more hardware / bandwidth than you really need (waste of money). People eventually forget the launch issues if the game they are getting is good once they finally get it.

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          November 28, 2012 1:34 PM

          this, there's a reason everyone has the problem, even devs with effectively infinite money (ie Blizzard). Until there's some dynamic provisioning cloud service suitable games you'll continue to have this problem.

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        November 28, 2012 1:30 PM

        Beamdog'd

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          November 28, 2012 1:43 PM

          I really wish they just released it on Steam. I get why they didn't but it's still annoying.

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      November 28, 2012 12:29 PM

      Fuck it, evening will be ruining if I wait for this bullcrap.

      Going to watch The Walking Dead instead.

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 12:30 PM

        Ruined*

        Man, why doesn't Shack have an EDIT button?

        • reply
          November 28, 2012 12:35 PM

          So that terrible excellent posts are preserved for all time.

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 1:48 PM

      Anyone wanna co-op tonight? Serious bizness of course.

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 2:17 PM

      why you no like steam Beamdog :(

      • reply
        November 29, 2012 7:24 AM

        Why should they give money to Steam when most of the people interested in this game have already played and would buy it anyway? Maybe after they make their money it'll go up on Steam but it seems like they are doing quite well on their own.

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      November 28, 2012 3:18 PM

      Looks like I might have to turn off nvidia surround because there's no place for me to select the resolution and it slaps the game onto the leftmost screen and it sorta overlaps into the middle one.

      Might have to dig around and see if there's a config file so I can set it to 1080.

    • reply
      November 28, 2012 4:08 PM

      fuuuu my computer went to sleep during the download, wanted to play a little before work. Guess I'll be playing it tonight.

    • Zek
      reply
      November 28, 2012 4:19 PM

      I never played the originals and would be all over this if it streamlined the gameplay. D&D rules are just far too old school for me though.

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      November 28, 2012 4:21 PM

      Creating my character right now... man... I miss games like this...

      • reply
        November 28, 2012 7:10 PM

        Ok, just played for a couple hours and I can confirm that yes... this game is still awesome!

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          November 28, 2012 7:28 PM

          I don't know if I can play BG1 again- I know the first 5 hours of gameplay all too well. I rolled a good character with a combined 94 stat too, but think I'll wait for a day where I can sink a bunch of hours into it.

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            November 29, 2012 9:04 AM

            I played just long enough to get past the intro and to the first town. I'm going to put the game aside for a bit and finish some other games I have. Once I start playing this game for real, I ONLY want to play this game until I get through it.

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              November 29, 2012 9:13 AM

              The nostalgia factor is great. And playing on a large monitor is even better.

              Has anyone tried The Black Pits yet?

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                November 29, 2012 9:22 AM

                I haven't yet. I plan on trying once I have a character which is leveled up a bit.

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                  November 29, 2012 12:34 PM

                  It's standalone. There is no option to use you SP character or group in the Pits (at least that I have found). You have to create one from scratch or use the default group.

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                    November 29, 2012 12:58 PM

                    Oh.... interesting. I imagined it as kind of a way to test your character's skills. Hmm, I'll have to try that out.

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      November 28, 2012 7:02 PM

      welp, going in! tried to play these when they came out, but i was way too twitchy. Hopefully i can handle the awesomeness in my old age :)

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        November 28, 2012 7:29 PM

        Both BG games always felt like games where I had to force myself to play through the first few hours, then I would become hooked. I still can't believe I managed to finish BG2 + throne of bhaal. So incredibly long, but so good.

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          November 29, 2012 6:00 AM

          I thought the first few hours of BG2 were great. That mage battle when you exit the dungeon was amazing for the time.

          And BG1 I kind of like starting a new character that isn't already built up. It's that usual humble beginnings story you see in every other fantasy novel but I think that works in the framework of a game where you start on level 1.

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      November 28, 2012 7:33 PM

      most annoying d/l ever.

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        November 28, 2012 7:49 PM

        Is it still being a pain in the ass to download?

        They really should have just released it on Steam and avoided this shit, ugh.

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      November 29, 2012 4:37 AM

      no android release? weak

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        November 29, 2012 10:25 PM

        Have a look at the google play store sanewave. GemRB is the name of the app.
        You have to mod the files on your PC 1st to get the resolution right but I have ALL of BG1/BG2 and addons running in the BG2 engine on my asus transformer. I think Gog.com has a great article about all the mods to use to get it all working.

        It took me a bit time to get it working but it was worth it. Most of the time was spent copying it across to the tablet.

        https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.sourceforge.gemrb&hl=en

        Personally I feel the modded version of the original game looks better UI wise than BGEE. But great effort none the less

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          November 30, 2012 8:48 AM

          <3 i probably wont be trying this. i already attempted and failed to get XCOM running in dosbox for android :(

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            November 30, 2012 11:28 PM

            Hehe got that working too, though the controls are a little odd with the touch screen. Come to think of it, its a little odd for BG but I guess I was just stoked that it was on the tablet.

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      November 29, 2012 7:03 AM

      I just want Jon Irenicus back in BG:II !