Honestly it was so long ago that I don’t even remember why I didn’t like it. I just know I tried to get into it a couple times and never did. I admitted as much when I was offered a review copy of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for the PC, but the marketing person I was talking to and I thought it might be interesting to see if anything about the game can change my mind. Also I have Angela hanging around me and she adored the game when it first launched (and she’s waiting anxiously for the iPad version to release).
So the first thing you need to know is where to buy it. As far as I can tell you can only get it via Beamdog which is yet another PC digital distribution service vying for your dollars. The PC version costs $19.99. The good news is that if you don’t want another digital service client installed on your machine you can just download the game the old-fashioned way, or so I’m told. I used the client.
The game should be out on iPad later this week, and Andorid and OS X in the weeks and months to come.
So what’s Enhanced? Well the game runs full screen on modern machines, for one thing. I believe there was a patch to allow Baldur’s Gate II to do that but it was never made for the first game, at least not in a way that made things easy for casual players. They’ve added a new tutorial which stands apart from the game, and there’s now a kind of endless dungeon mode if you just want to practice your combat. There’re a few new NPC characters to potentially join your party. In the tablet versions these are DLC but they come included with the PC version. You have Rasaad yn Bashir, a calishite monk from the far south and the first Monk NPC in the game. Then there is Neera the Wild Mage, a half-elf from the High Forest. She’s the first Wild Mage NPC. Last up is Dorn Il-Khan, a half-orc Blackguard bent on revenge. Blackguard is a new ‘kit’ for the Enhanced Edition and the player can choose to go that route as well. Blackguards are apparently kind of anti-paladins.
The old 3D cut scenes are gone, replace by hand-drawn animations. There’re new portraits and a couple of new voices to round out the Enhanced Features.
I decided to run through the tutorial first. I’m going to be honest with you; even though the game is “Enhanced” it does still look dated, and it took me a while to get past that. If you don’t have at least some tolerance for ‘retro gaming’ you might struggle with this one. The tutorial is fairly long and for the most part not very exciting but it does use a bunch of NPCs you’ll be meeting up with later. You can create a custom character for the tutorial and if you save your game, you can later Import that character into the main campaign and with the character comes a bit of gear you’ll pick up while learning to play. Every little bit helps; Baldur’s Gate is one of those games that reminds us how much easier games have become over the years. I managed to die in the tutorial!
I’ve barely gotten started on the real game; I spent most of my evening running around CandleKeep doing odd jobs for people. Baldur’s Gate is a huge game and kind of slow to get going. On the other hand I found myself being bothered less and less by the dated graphics and started to really enjoy reading all the lore sprinkled throughout the game. When you right click on a shortsword to get it’s stats, you don’t just get some numbers; you get a few paragraphs about the weapon as well (you can ignore these of course).
What made it even more fun for me is Angela’s reaction to a lot of the quips from NPCs. Heck even I remembered some of them. The Innkeeper proclaims: “My hotel’s as clean as an elven arse!” and half-way through his comment she’s quoting along with him.
I took a first tiny step on what will be an epic journey if I stay with it; a journey not only though the Forgotten Realm but through the history of gaming. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition feels old, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve gained an awful lot in the gaming world in the years since the original was published, but we’ve lost some things as well. I really enjoyed the feeling of rediscovering a piece of gaming history.