For western RPG fans, Baldur’s Gate was one of the greatest games of the ’90s. While certainly not the first adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons into a video game, it is most definitely the best at the time of its release, and began a long series of Forgotten Realms-based PC RPGs, introducing many people to D&D at the same time.
The game has a relatively open world, though certain areas will be walled off until certain plot points have been reached (most notably, the city of Baldur’s Gate itself). NPCs can be recruited in almost any order, and are often not needed for the plot at all. The game is largely unchanged from the original where story is concerned, and contains the content from the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, adding a few side areas throughout the game.
Enhanced is probably a fairly accurate description of the changes. The differences are fairly subtle; save for a few interface changes and a bigger screen resolution, the changes aren’t too noticeable. The majority of fixes and additions are simply making the game run on a modern screen size, as it was designed for a 4:3 800-by-600 display, the standard at the time. While it does add support for 16:9 screen sizes, the graphics are essentially unchanged.
It’s not a huge deal for me, as I enjoyed the look of the original, but people looking for an HD remake won’t find it here. However, I feel they don’t really want to beat the player over the head with a ton of changes. I think a lot of Baldur’s Gate fans don’t want them to reinvent the wheel if they don’t have to. Overhaul was subtle yet effective in making its changes; you can tell that things have been changed, though the original feel of the game remains.
The new characters fit into the story very well, and it feels as if they’ve been there all along. Some of their traits (especially the Wild Mage, which casts spells unpredictably) are a bit awkward, though in line with the AD&D rules on which the game is based. There is an added tutorial, which is incredibly useful for new players, or anyone not familiar with AD&D Second Edition. I prefer Third Edition myself, though I think Baldur’s Gate would lose too much in the transition, and I am glad they stuck with the original rule set.
The game kind of launches you into your quest with rudimentary supplies and little direction in regards to game mechanics, so I suggest playing through it. On the other end of the spectrum is the Black Pits, a challenging scenario to play through, unconnected to the Baldur’s Gate story. This is a challenge mode, designed for AD&D veterans or those who have played through the game.
It is unfortunate that more of the more well known fixes, available as mods or fan patches to the original, weren’t implemented. I also ran into a few glitches on launch, most of which have since been patched. Especially glaring is your party members’ terrible pathfinding, essentially unchanged from the original game. The game does include multiplayer, though the feature remains in beta at the time of release.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition doesn’t add more than what a new player needs to get into the series, and adds enough to get long time fans of the series interested, however it feels like much more could have been done. I think Overhaul was wise in holding back, especially for its first foray into the Infinity Engine series, especially considering the fondness many fans have for the original game.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is sold exclusively through Beamdog’s store for $19.99, and requires online activation.
Pros: Classic gameplay is intact, doesn’t force new content on you
Cons: Many things fixed by unofficial patches or mods remain unfixed in this version