What does the word ‘enhanced’ mean to you?
If an advert says “enhanced vibration” or something similar you’re obviously going to expect this miscellaneous vibrating product to vibrate a little better. Not just the same old vibration as before with a shiny new skin on it, oh no, you want it to pulse or something. Not just the same old product as before with a new glaze on it and a pair of nostalgia goggles for the old vibrations strapped so tightly to your eyes they’re bulging out of their sockets. The point is, I want my money back.
So this is Baldur’s Gate, none of that Dark Alliance hack n’ slash half-assery, the real deal, but with the words “Enhanced Edition” and “Available for iPad” tacked on. You can hardly be blamed for going into this re-release with raised expectations, but looking for improvements in this version is as futile as invading France in the 1900s and expecting resistance. And no, that joke wasn’t racist, it was historical. You could argue quite easily that Baldur’s Gate didn’t need any improvements. That it’s just as enthralling and absorbing as it was back in 1998. In that case, get your head out of your ass, it was great but far from perfect, and there’s a lot of room for improvement here. Unfortunately, like the bedroom of a freckly middle child, that room was ignored by those who should have been responsible for it, and what we have here is simply a re-presentation of that same game. There’s nothing enhanced about it, save for the fact that it doesn’t look like complete arse on a 1920×1080 monitor.
The original magic that made Baldur’s Gate the RPG mainstay it is are still present, though most of the credit for that goes to BioWare rather than the studio handling this revival. It’s nice to own the game in a slightly shinier release but these graphical tweaks have long since been available to the public through a thriving mod community. Not to mention, introducing this game to anyone who isn’t lurking in the bushes on memory lane is almost suicide. There’s no tutorial and you’re going to have to get familiar with D&D rules to even know where to start, especially if you weren’t hanging on to every golden word Gary Gygax scribed back in the nineties. You just aren’t going to get the most out of it if you don’t, and you’re completed banjaxed if you’ve never read any D&D at all. If the thought of that gives you a headache uninstall the game and go burn some books to make yourself feel better about it. Then have some warm milk and go back to Black Ops II online for a bit.
To be fair the menus themselves are still heinously complex to begin with and it’s easy for even people moving their D&D experience from the tabletop to the PC to get lost within them at first. There’s no point talking about a learning curve here because there isn’t one, and while Baldur’s Gate should never be dumbed down, a tutorial at least would drag in a lot of the new-school RPG fans. The content the Enhanced Edition adds is minimal and no reason to buy the game by itself, it adds three new possible party members and an arena combat mode which seem like little drops in a big ocean of pre-existing content.
One area the game will always stand out in is character creation. It’s insanely detailed and allows you to create pretty much anything you can imagine, providing you with appropriate sprites for each race/class combination and the famous D&D morality system. It lets you choose your character’s alignment to incredibly specific degrees of Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic versions of good and evil, which deeply affects the game and it’s vital that you make this decision wisely. You can’t crusade around Faerún as a Lawful Good cleric in the company of Thieves or chaotic sorcerers – there’ll be trouble in the party if you tarry with clashing alignments for too long and these splits can happen at the worst of times.
If you’re completely new to the game you might be wondering what makes it so timeless. Back in the 90s the game capitalised upon its core audience, offering of a plethora of gaming options to D&D enthusiasts, and the creation of your very own character from the ground up. The character creation still stands out because the developers didn’t have any complicating concerns like voice interaction with other characters and your morality was decided from the beginning. The secret of Baldur’s Gate’s success is in fact deceptively simple – it just gave a bunch of people what they wanted and it took off in a big way, rather than giving gamers what developers think they want, an increasingly mundane trend today. Forget your Dragon Ages and Final Fantasies, this is a game of high, gritty fantasy on an epic scale that its *by today’s standards) meager visuals bely.
Overhaul Games haven’t really done anything that hasn’t already been done by the community to enhance the game and that’s the major issue with this re-release. It feels like they’re just trying to turn the success of a near-legendary game into some of their own glory. If this has been approached with love and devotion to the genre, there would be a fair few more additions than currently exist.
Baldur’s Gate is as characteristically indepth as its D&D spawning pool, and rest assured that original experience is still intact. There are some woefully persistent bugs that have survived the transition, which takes a lot of the glitter the title Enhanced Edition sprays liberally about the place. If you can’t be bothered to mod the original game to this slightly elevated visual standard then it’s perhaps worth taking a look. It’s as good an excuse to revisit Faerún as any though, not to mention a vital piece of RPG history and the sparking point of the RPG genre’s mainstream acceptance. All in all this gets a five out of five as a game, but a mere three for simply re-releasing a successful game and reaping the benefits.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.