The year is 1998, and anticipation runs deep at the studios of BioWare and Black Isles with their release of Baldur’s Gate, a role-playing-game tuned to the rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons2nd edition. Critics acclaim the game as the precedent for RPG’s all around, singlehandedly revitalizing the perspective of D&D on the computer. Interestingly enough, 1998 was just 14 years ago, and while Baldur’s Gate may not be the definitive “throwback” RPG in the shadow of games like RuneQuest (’78) or James Bond 007 (’83), it certainly has not been forgotten. Developers at Overhaul Games along with publisher Atari took a run at the pre-millennial classic this year when they released Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. As its title suggests, there are hundreds of improvements to the game—something that seems impossible while maintaining the integrity of the original Baldur’s Gate. However, the game’s inherent complexity allows these changes to be made seamlessly as it keeps its classic D&D design.
The game is set in the Forgotten Realms, where your character embarks on a journey with fellow adventurer Imoen to find the culprit behind the murder of your childhood guardian Gorion. Beyond the cheesy voiceovers and pixelated caricatures, one can immerse himself in the background elements that are acceptable even under modern standards. The original stories of Baldur Gate, along with expansion pack Tales of the Sword Coast, are tied in with fresh sidequests. In addition, players can experience “The Black Pits”, a coliseum-style test of endurance or traverse the lands of Faerûn with one of three new playable characters: a monk, half-elf, or half-orc, each with their own new unique characteristics.
At first glance, Enhanced Edition’s gameplay is not the friendliest to new players. It’s a combination of Diablowith the pathing pains of modern MOBA’s like Heroes of Newerthor League of Legends. Often times, I found myself doubling back onto instructions, even in the tutorial, in order to figure out just how to cast and equip spells. That being said, I’ve played the Dungeons & Dragonsboardgame only twice, and similar RPG’s in the D&D style in very limited samples, so the entirety of Enhanced Edition reads like a history textbook you are only willing to skim three days out of the week.Granted, a lot of the misfortune I experienced in my initial test of Enhanced Edition stemmed from my pure ineptitude to handle the game’s interface and combat system.
Customization is something that is presented early on, yet doesn’t fit snugly within the first few hours of gameplay. You are only wholly able to utilize the feature to its fullest as the game progresses well on towards its climax. The navigation of combat is sluggish in explanation, and does not fully prepare you for the quick-paced carnival of slaughter that lay ahead. Even the options menu is a sore-sight for eyes adjusted to a modern, clean interface. However, this speaks fundamentally to non-gamers looking to find a casual RPG. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is not that casual game…at all. This, of course, may seem like sacrilege to those devoted to D&D on the board or computer, but there were still aspects of the game that were appreciable despite its clunky controls. I eagerly reveled in the deep customization at its peak of each class, race, and character—something that is seen in modern RPG’s, sometimes in a less in-depth fashion than the 1998 original. Additionally, the game boasts fantastic replayability to those able to navigate its mechanics. It is important to understand that while Enhanced Edition may be a re-release of a classic, it is just that—a re-release. While I was unable to buy into its rather timeworn aspects, it may just be sweet enough of a stroll down memory lane for some.
Enhanced Edition is a good game for those who can appreciate D&D in all its complexity. For non-avid gamers, it may take awhile to get a hang of the game itself, although the story and interesting features may make up for it in the long run. However, for the casual gamer and for myself, I found Enhanced Edition simply an archaic treasure that may have to stay locked in the vault of historical game-changers.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Overhaul Games; Developer: Overhaul Games; Players: 1; Released: november 28, 2012; ESRB: NA; MSRP: $19.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.