‘Baldur’s Gate’ and ‘Baldur’s Gate 2’ are huge and hugely influential games, pulling off the rare trick of also being very good to play. It’s complicated origins in the world of ‘Dungeons And Dragons’ have spawned imitators and nurtured the growth of mighty descendants.
This enhanced edition of ‘Baldur’s Gate 2’ includes extra characters, improved gameplay and, possibly, most significantly, support for improved modern graphics and screen resolutions. This review is of the PC version but an iPad/pod/phone Operating System (iOS) version is due soon for the huge army of iphone and ipad users. This potentially could be a very successful game.
The initial set-up begins with a now very familiar process of character building. The player has the option of choosing from ready-made characters or combining characteristics to produce customised versions. These choices influence how the game will unfold. You have the option to choose a character picture which doesn’t affect gameplay, but if you really have to have a beard, this is probably for you.
The game begins with your character waking in a cage in a dungeon. You realise that there are other characters nearby. Players of the original ‘Baldur’s Gate’ will find a few familiar faces here. You now have the option of adding Non-Player Characters to your fledgling group. This team building is important. The mix of characters will heavily effect your combat successes or otherwise. Throughout the game, extra NPCs will offer to join the group, often adding extra sub-quests. Deciding which NPCs to add and their influences on your collective fighting abilities can be tricky to manage. There is a limit to the size of your group of six, including the player character, but the initial stage in the dungeon gives you up to four NPCs to add.
Battling through the early stages and looting chests and shelves soon equips your group with various weapons and potions. You are now ready to begin in earnest.
It is a tough job to review such a legendary title. A quick flick through the Internet reveals a huge fan base. The game developers are wise to give the game a relatively light polish rather than a dramatic rebuild.
From a technical viewpoint, the game needs a very low-spec PC to play. At a push, your car’s Anti-Brake lock System (ABS) system could probably run it. This makes the experience of playing it even more remarkable. The system requirements are a 1gig processor, half a gig of RAM, OpenGL graphics and a couple of gig of HD space. I was running the game at a screen resolution of 1920×1080 and it looked pretty good. I tried viewing it on my 32inch TV and it did get a little pixelated.
Initially, I played the game as a tanked-up fighter. I added another fighter, two ranged attackers and two magic users. This seemed to work in most situations. One of the positive features is the ability to save frequently. Traditionally, role-playing games fall into two types: Real Time Strategy Games where the action is continuous and Turn-Based Strategy Games where you and your opponents alternate moves like a chess game. The RTS nature of combat here is given a turn-based feel by giving you the ability to pause the game and tailor the type and objects of individual attacks. I found this a useful way to go because I like to plod along and open every chest. The NPCs may be given specific instructions while the game is paused. In the absence of any specific commands, they will happily hit targets automatically, but the targets and type of attacks may not be the most efficient.
Once or twice, I noticed NPCs just standing around while being attacked. This usually happened after spell-casting but a quick nudge got them working again.
I next tried to play as a mage with two fighters and three more magic users. This combination worked well with some big magic using bad guys, but I was battered pretty frequently. With numerous NPC types and dozens of group combinations, you are sure to find a way which suits your playing style.
This is a huge game. Some estimates suggest that you can blast though in 50 hours or so. If you hit every side quest you could possibly add another 250 hours of play. Overall, a very impressive feat in a game which takes up less hard disk space than a film.
The game shows its age in places. You can zoom in on the action slightly, although doing so usually cause the detail to drop dramatically. Another issue is the world map. When moving between areas you are presented with a grid-like choice of islands of activity. Compared to the modern equivalent of ‘Skyrim’, it looks a little dated. Arguably, this is the appeal of retro-gaming. ‘Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition’ is more like a game of chess. Like a good book, all the best action takes place in your mind. It is less about the form and all about the substance. Just to compare, other games from the year 2000 include ‘Gran Turismo 2’ and ‘WWF Smackdown’. Thinking about it, ‘GT2’ was pretty good, too.
Overall, I love this game. It has huge replayability for the detail fiends. When the iOS version arrives, hopefully an Android version might follow? The ability to save frequently would make it a perfect game to dip in and out of. Here is hoping the release of ‘Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition’ could be the first of many great retro titles for gamers wanting a bit more than bubble popping on their tablets.