Baldur's Gate is regarded to this very day as one of the greatest and most influential video games ever made. First released in 1998 by developers Bioware and publishers Black Isle Studios (an internal division of Interplay Entertainment), it invited the player into the world of the Forgotten Realms. An epic fantasy world where the player would explore vast, glorious landscapes, interact with some great characters and fight hoards of demonic evil beings. The game utilized the 2nd edition rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for its gaming mechanics which brought thoughtful tactics and intense action to the game. Baldur's Gate received universal praise for its deep and extensive gameplay, for its exciting, imaginative setting, great story telling, for reviving the RPG genre and even to this day Baldur's Gate is regarded as one of the standards for every other RPG to meet.
Now developers Overhaul Games has resurrected Baldur's Gate into the new age with Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. With hundreds of fixes, new characters and improved graphics, Overhaul Games has given Baldur's Gate a face-lift in the hopes of bringing this all-time RPG classic to this generation.
The Sword Coast is in turmoil. The cities of Baldur's Gate and Amn are preparing for war. Amn is under siege from the south, High Moor is being overrun and the region surrounding Baldur's Gate faces a crisis. Iron, the region's most valued resource, is running dangerously low. Trading Caravans that trade the iron are being constantly attacked from marauders and bandits. Armies are unable to produce enough weapons for themselves and the civilians cannot repair their farming tools or purchase plows. Without any farming tools the people will starve in the coming winter. Will you help discover who is behind this selfish power struggle and put a stop to their plans? Or do you plan on seizing power yourself?
The core gameplay remains much of the same as its original counterpart. You'll first create a character, set their class, their race, their gender, their skills and begin the game much like how it was in the original. There is much to do within Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition including exploring a huge world, interacting with NPCs and gaining quests from some of them, obtaining better equipment and weapons, learning more powerful magic and fighting hoards of evil monsters, all to determine the fate of the Sword Coast. The characters that you recruit are more than simple cardboard cutouts. They have complex personalities and have their own reasons for joining up with the player. They are a lot of fun to interact with and thanks to them the journey throughout the Forgotten Realms becomes less lomesome.
The story is riveting and gripping, taking you through an epic fantasy tale of adventure, romance, action and drama complete with plot twists and shocking revelations and also some major story elements take drastic turns depending on the choices you make. Combat also remains as intense and exciting as before. You'll be commanding your character and your party through the user interface where you can order your party to attack using melee weapons, use certain skills and formations for a more tactical advantage and initiate powerful magic to blast your opponents into absolute oblivion. Players can also script command behaviour so that your party members are able to accordingly respond to any battle situation without input from you. All these gaming mechanics will keep you learning, planning and fighting your way across a very large, vibrant and hazardous realm. No doubt mastering these complex gaming mechanics will have you laughing heroically (or evilly) at the face of danger.
As well as all the original features, this version includes new content to add more to the adventure. The visuals have also gone through a drastic improvement since now Baldur's Gate supports native monitor resolutions to give the game a more polished and smoother look. The interface has also gone through some cosmetic tuneup with a strong shade of blue to replace the dull grey. The pre-rendered cinematics of the original game have now been replaced with exquisite, hand painted animated cutscenes to match the improved visuals and give the game a more artistic flair.
The game also includes a much improved multiplayer function which includes matchmaking and allows players from different platforms to play with each other. Improvements such as class kits, subraces and classes have been ported from Baldur's Gate 2: the Shadow of Amn and are now available in this game. The level cap has been raised to help make your party more powerful and provide a more easier experience. The game also includes an expansion called The Black Pitt which sets you and your party in an arena where you be facing off against continuously stronger enemies, bringing a more action-orientated perspective to Baldur's Gate. 3 new characters have been added: Rasaad Yn Bashir, a human Monk on a quest to help those in need.
Neera, a half-elf wild mage who begins to understand her full potential. Dorin Il-Khan, a half-orc Blackguard on a furious quest for vengeance. With these characters comes new places to explore and more quest to complete giving the campaign an even longer length. Overhaul Games have gone though a great deal to make sure they release the most comprehensive and most complete version of Baldur's Gate ever.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is an enormous game. There is plenty of content that will keep you occupied for quite some time. The core campaign along with the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion pack offers hours of gameplay within a huge, detailed world with hundreds of quests and many NPCs to interact with. There's also lots of reasons to go back in for another playthrough once you've completed both campaigns. Play as a different race and a different class with a different alignment and play the game again making choices that were contrasting from your first playthrough.
The multiplayer will also make the campaigns more enjoyable as you play with your friends across different platforms. The modding community will also be able to add their own content to the game and provide even more reasons to continue playing. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is also perfect for those looking for a challenge. This game is no walk in the park and you'll need precise planning, early preparation and the determination to fight enemies who are much stronger than your party members to see this game to the end. The newly added Black Pitt will test your battle skills to the limit and keep you coming back for more. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is packed full of content that will make your quest through the Sword Coast a very long and exciting one.
There is an abundance of content that will keep you entertained for a long while. Yet there are some things about Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition that still prevent this game from being the definitive RPG experience. Keep in mind that if you already own the original Baldur's Gate, then there's not much reason to warrant a purchase of the enhanced edition. Even if the new version features a whole load of fixes and new characters, the core gameplay remains more or less the same and for the most part the changes aren't really that significant, especially if you're already using mods which provide just as much additional content and improvements.
Even though the graphics have gone through some improvements with this new enhanced edition, Baldur's Gate unfortunately still hasn't aged very well. 14 years ago the scenery was detailed and vibrant, the special effects were remarkable and the whole game looked like a beautiful painting. Yet looking at the game today it just doesn't fare too well against the newer titles of this generation. The new hand painted animated cutscenes look marvellous but everything else sadly does not hold up. It is rather unfair to compare a 14 year old graphics engine to today's games, but the fact is that the visuals in this game are archaic compared to what can be done now.
The sound production is great for the most part. Voice acting is also top notch and adds even more emotional attachment to the characters, even the non-playable ones. The musical score composed by Sam Hulick makes your journey and the battles you take part in feel more heroic and cinematic. The sound quality of the voices is rather low and hasn't really been improved much but they're still adequate enough for the rest of the game to be playable.
Those within this generation who have not played Baldur's Gate before and are looking to play the enhanced version may find it difficult to adjust to the primitive graphics and rather steep learning curve. Players may be frustrated with the punishing difficulty and could find their character and their party being defeated quite often. Baldur's Gate has always assumed that players are familiar with the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, so newcomers may find it problematic to customise their character and their party into the configuration they want. It's unlike Neverwinter Nights, another great Dungeons & Dragons game, where knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons isn't really necessary.
Overhaul Games has taken a lot of time and put much effort into bringing Baldur's Gate to the new generation and show that this legendary classic can still even to this day provide the player with a deep, complex, fun and exciting RPG experience. The game does not reinvent the original by any means, but the polished wonderful world of the Forgotten Realms, the epic storyline, and the thrilling gameplay more than makes up for the dated graphics. If you're looking for a challenging classic RPG, pick up Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition and find out for yourself why it's regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition provided by Atari.