A long time ago, closer to ten years than twenty, the original Baldur’s Gate was released on the PC platform. It was developed by Bioware and Published by Black Isle Studios (who would later go on to have key members founding Obsidian Entertainment) and was a role playing game adapted from the widely popular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebook for the Pen and Paper game. After being a widely successful game, the sequel, Baldur’s Gate II, was released and was hugely popular and some would say that it was even more highly regarded than the first. Now, closer to twenty years later, the two games have had a HD remake, allowing a new generation of gamers to experience the wonder of the Baldur’s Gate universe in Widescreen and non-blotchy resolutions.
At the core of the game, Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is the same game that came out all of those years ago. Not much has changed in the way that the game is played, the storyline or anything like that. Or at least as far as we can tell. However, We did notice that given the abundance of choice (the choices that can be made throughout the game, be it in a dialogue tree or an actual action) that we’ve had in similar games more recently, such as Dragon Age, has kind of retroactively made Baldur’s Gate II seem like less of an experience than it would have felt all of those years ago when gameplay mechanics such as those were still new and being implemented into the genre.
For example, we noticed that in Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition, there would be many instances where chat loops would be implemented, basically forcing you to eventually find the right conversational path, or there would be less choice in general. The best spot to see this particular scenario occurring is at the start of Act II where you’re being recruited by that guy that wants 20k Gold. Heck, we were roleplaying a kind of asshole character and attempted to attack the guy, but he just brought up a dialogue box where he announced he was leaving until we cooled off. Talk about a let down.
Conversely to this however, is that this classic RPG is also a little more freeing from a gameplay perspective. For instance, you have access to a quick loot bar that will allow the currently selected character to pick up items off the ground without having to click open a menu or select the item off the floor. Also included is a button that enables you to pretty much hit anything with your currently equipped weapon. This includes civilians and guards. We can remember this one time there was this bouncer (type) character in some town and he wouldn’t let us pass, so we just started wailing on him. Eventually a guard came into the zone and noticed him attacking the party and even assisted our team in taking the NPC down. It was both hilarious and cool at the same time.
A lot of gamers have probably heard the stereotype that RPGs are nothing more than sewers and caves, and after playing through Baldur’s Gate II, we can see why they’d have this impression. A lot of the early parts of Baldur’s Gate II are spent pillaging through caves and sewer like sections. In fact, you see only a small amount of actual green in this game near the end of the first cave-sewer-dungeon towards the beginning, and then it’s gone from the game for a while after that. We can safely say that the first few hours of the game is pretty much a sewer crawler. This is pretty much the opposite experience to what you would have with the first Baldur’s Gate, where it’s grasslands and forests for the most part.
What’s great about this release of Baldur’s Gate II is that it comes stacked with the original Baldur’s Gate II (Shadows of Amn), as well as the two expansion packs. This creates a massive chunk of content to have to explore, which keeps you and your character adventuring onwards. And really, being a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, this is something that you will want to be doing. The only downside to this being a video game is that the storyline is pretty limited, this is because it is a pre-written script and can’t be modified on the fly by a human mind, or Dungeon Master. Even so, it’d be interesting to see a tabletop session adapted from the Baldur’s gate II storyline, because it is still one of the best stories in an RPG to date.
What might irk some players is that the Player Characters refuse to do anything but walk really slowly towards their destinations. If there is a game speed option, we have yet to find it. Actually, that reminds us of the User Interface. It’s not a huge mess, per-se, but it really shows its age. If you’re used to the sleek and easy to us interfaces of todays games, it will take a little reorientation to get back into the feel of Baldur’s Gate II’s archaic skin. However, once you are used to it, it can be quite intuitive.
The re-release HD version of Baldur’s Gate II also comes with a few new features. Most notable of these features are the three new characters being introduced to the game. It’s a bit hard not to notice these characters as the game tells you about their existence every time you click to start one of the three games up (BGII and it’s two xpacs). It’s pretty cool to see something new added to such a dated package.
Overall we quite enjoyed our time with Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. While it is a near identical copy of the original game, the widescreen and higher resolution support makes this version of the game much more appealing to anyone looking at trying out a classic, or reliving one. While some quirks of being an older game exist on a design level, Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition still proves that this was one of the more solid role playing experiences of its time. Fans of Bioware, Obsidian and RPG’s in general should at least give the game a go.
Baldur’s Gate II HD is developed by the now revived Black Isle Studios, published by BeamDog and licensed under the Hasbro Dungeons & Dragons brand. It can be found on Steam for ~$25.