Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition Review – PC
Baldur’s Gate II returns is fabulous style!
Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. This game has been around since the turn of the century for goodness sake! If you enjoy gaming yet lack the wherewithal to seek out one of the best RPGs ever made, then you do not deserve the magic box you are using to read this article.
Is there any point in reviewing Baldur’s Gate 2 after all? Since its release in 2000, it has won accolade after accolade and still sits highly in ‘Greatest Games of All Time’ time lists to this very day. Everything that there is to say about this game has been said elsewhere, many times by better men than I.
I have been a fan of this game since it’s release when my friend Alex and I would pour over the strategy guide at school and discuss dragon slaying tactics. Since then I have completed it and its expansion pack, Throne of Bhaal, over a dozen times in as many different ways and generally consider myself an authority on the game. Which is why I was so excited to hear that I could play the great Baldur’s Gate series on my iPad. Last year, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition was released for Windows, Mac and iPad, lovingly updated by Beamdog with new characters, quests and visuals. Baldur’s Gate: EE did everything right. It kept the spirit of the game, updated the UI with more user-friendly stat displays and gave us a slew of interesting quests and characters. And now they’ve hit the sequel and it’s expansion pack.
Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition sees Beamdog finishing off their project of updating the Baldur’s Gate series. Like the first Enhanced Edition, the first thing you notice in-game is the updated UI, which is clean and touch-screen friendly. In your inventory, you can see a breakdown of your attacks and armour class for those unfamiliar with the game’s AD&D mechanics. This, I am told by my brother, nine years my junior and never having played 2.5 D&D, is extremely helpful to newcomers and doesn’t overburden you with strange acronyms (I’m looking at you, THAC0!). These touches, plus the HD dialogue text and widescreen support give the game a much cleaner, fresher look while still keeping the beautiful watercolour aesthetic.
Veterans of the series who couldn’t wait thirteen years for some new content know that the Baldur’s Gate series has a thriving modding community: http://weidu.org/ There have been bug fixes, new classes and new NPCs for years now and this Enhanced Edition feels like some of the best bits from the unofficial mods. Little touches like more effective item stacking, a little note telling you if you’ve already learned a spell you’ve picked up and skill bonuses based on race all make the game more streamlined than before. Some of the items have sexy new skins and while I know it was bug fixed years ago, I would just like to mention my appreciation for keeping the infamous “You must gather your party…” alert from being on a constant loop. There are new sub classes, including Dwarven Defender, Blackguard, Shadowdancer and Dragon Disciple. There are also two new Monk sub classes of Dark Moon and Sun Soul Monks. These new sub classes are staples in the pen and paper realm of D&D and also help tie in some of the new NPCs.
As well as the new characters from the first Enhanced Edition, Dorn Il’Khan, Neera and Rasaad yn Bashir, there is also a mysterious Thief named Hexxat. The Thief is a welcome addition to the NPC roster because in the past your Thieves were limited to either Yoshimo the oriental stereotype, yourself playing a Thief or Jan Jansen, the most egregious little gnome in all creation. Each of these new NPCs have a handful of personal quests that are all engaging and challenging, as well as banter with the existing characters. This is a part of what makes Baldur’s Gate such an amazing game to mod. Because it is only voice acted in part, most of the NPC banter is written text, allowing modders to include inter-party chat on the cheap and Beamdog have taken advantage of this with gusto. The dialogue is believable and interesting, but the very occasional script bugs and typos did throw me out of the experience from time to time.
The Black Pits return from the first Enhanced Edition, allowing you to test your mettle against a host of fearsome foes and while I have yet to try it, I am told that the multiplayer element is now much easier than before. But then again, we are thirteen years ahead of the original game and one would expect nothing less.
As well as the new content, I am delighted to report that some of the old tricks are just as exploitable as they used to be. Tricking the AI into getting stuck in a room while you pelt him with 200 sling bullets that only hit one in ten times still works like a charm and the Skull Trap still has no damage cap, keeping it the dragon slaying spell of choice.
Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a labour of love, certainly, but this labour has been rushed in places. There are one or two scripting errors and occasionally a bad guy will die, decide he isn’t dead and then fight you all over again. The game also crashed when I was moving through two areas of new content, but these are just minor issues that have plagued this game in the past as the venerable Elmonster discovered when fighting a brown dragon. Added to the list of things they didn’t fix is, sadly, the NPC pathfinding and AI. I am still losing party members who blunder into a nest of Kobolds when I’m not looking and I’ve fizzled more spells then I can count when I leave the AI to do it. Pausing the game and controlling your spellcasters directly is still the most effective way to win a fight. But since this is such a delightfully mod-able game, I expect little niggles to be fixed in no time.
- Excellent voice acting and NPC banter
- Cleaner, updated UI
- Hours of new quests and story
- Still the best RPG ever
- Some scripting issues
- Bugs can be annoying
- No Solaufein as an NPC