Review: Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition
I love D&D. I watch Critical Role and constantly think about trying to find a local group to play. I’ve been fascinated by the game since I was a kid but never played in any serious fashion.
I’m in my early 30s now but I remember back in the day playing the original Baldur’s Gate on PC. I remember not liking it very much. I remember constantly getting my ass handed to me and rage quitting. Well time flies and I decided I would give it another chance so read on for the full review.
This review does not contain any major spoilers.
A Game Enhanced
The Enhanced edition of the game has been brought in to the modern age. It’s impossible to cover everything that was fixed nor do I think it’s very important. The basics are:
The interface supports high-res and widescreen displays.
There are some new characters. Rasaad yn Bashir the monk, Neera the wild mage, and Dorn Il-Khan the evil blackguard.
New collection of player character voices.
Hundreds of improvements and bug fixes.
A new expansion called Siege of Dragonspear.
A new adventure called The Black Pits, not covered in this article. It’s some kind of arena fighting mode that is suppose to take ~8 hrs to play.
Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Despite it’s age Beamdog did a relatively good job with the interface. You can scale the interface, change the font size, play at full screen and a multitude of other options.
The game still retains it’s old school look and charm. I don’t remember there being any major graphic issues whatsoever. It looks like an old school game in modern times, well done Beamdog!
How Hardcore Do You Want to Get?
I won’t lie, this game is still hard as balls and at it’s core is still Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. If you’ve never played AD&D before (like me), you will probably be overwhelmed if playing even on a medium difficulty. There is a lot of things you need to know if you wanted to play this game to it’s full potential. If you are so inclined there are 3 manuals included with the game:
154-page Adventurer’s Guide, which looks like it covers all the game related mechanics.
144-page Mastering Melee & Magic guide, which looks like it contains most of the stuff the Adventurer’s Guide does.
79 page Sword Coast Survival Guide, which covers locations, factions, characters, etc…
I did not, however, read any of these. I didn’t even know they existed. I’m honestly not sure if it’s ever mentioned. I did not find out these existed until I started looking for help on certain things, like who a new character was. So keep in mind some of the things I am going to say may be easily avoidable if you read these guides.
I am though sure most people are going to say “ain’t no one got time for that”. And that’s fair. In this day and age, I sort of expect things to be IN the game. There is a tutorial type area at the start of the game that covers the basics.
If you really don’t want to try at all but just enjoy the story there is a Story Mode. Basically, in this mode, you can not die and seem to crush things with impunity. Perfect for anyone who just wants to enjoy the story without trying too hard.
Companions in Droves
The number of companions in this game is remarkable. You have choices that span the spectrum of races, classes, alignments, and personalities. According to the Baldurs Gate Wiki, there are ~35 different companions. 5 or so being are temporary companions. Such examples include:
Xzar, who is a crazy psychopath necromancer.
Kahalid, who has a speech studder.
Minsc, who believes his pet Boo is a ‘miniature giant space’ hamster. It’s really just a normal hamster.
I could go on. I did not get close to running into all them. Some are unavoidable, like Imoen, whom you start the game with.
Some companions seem to have side missions, so this adds a lot to the replayability factor.
Most companions seem to care very much about your reputation. If you become too disliked your good aligned companions will up and leave your party! You must be mindful of whom your recruit or you’ll get left high and dry. A few companions like Imoen will not leave no what your reputation becomes.
It’s a Big Open World
The Sword Coast is sizable. Impressive even for when this game was made.
There are towns, there is wilderness, there are castles, and there are caves. There is a lot to do and explore. It’s up to you how much you want to explore. You are only required to go to about half of all the areas, and not required to explore the areas. I often found it quite enjoyable wander and find unexpected quests and get my ass beat.
Side quests have a decent diversity. Save people, kill people, fetch items, your typical RPG fare. Your character and party alignment will dictate large amounts of what you do. If playing the good guy and have good companions you aren’t going to go kill people, at least if you already have a shaky reputation.
There is quite a few fun and interesting quests, enough I feel to keep you engaged. I did feel constantly on an adventure, and never really sure what was around the corner that was going to kill me. Or in some instances discovering a poly-morphed wannabe wizard turned chicken.
If I have a criticism it’s that you are not always sure if you have completed a certain part of a quest. There were a few times where I was wandering around not knowing what to do when I had indeed completed the quest and only needed to turn it in.
Hey! Let’s fight!
The Sword Coast can be a weird place, and there is no shortage of characters that want you dead. You will be attacked while walking into Inns. You will be attacked because you chose to not help the evil wizard kill someone. You’ll be attacked because you have an evil character in your group and some random paladin could not stand it! I’m pretty sure even some companions will turn on you and try and shove a knife in your back. It leaves you feeling always uneasy.
The combat system is not overly complicated but can still be very hard to manage. Once you have a full party of 6 characters there is a lot going on. You need to cast spells, get your fighters to the front line, heal, and do whatever else you need to win. Luckily the game does have an AI and you can pause and issue orders at any point. This helps tame a lot the confusion but a lot can still go wrong. A spell doesn’t land (or a strong enemy one hits you) and you get destroyed. The game at times can feel like a game of inches.
Time for some shut eye
Sleep is weird in D&D and not like most RPG games you’ve ever played. It’s very important.
When you sleep in this game you do not fully heal. In most games when you stay at an inn, for example, you will fully heal.
To heal significantly you will often times use potions or use a druid or similar character that has healing spells.
Sleeping also allows you to restore your spells. You see the way D&D is balanced is your spell casters have spell levels. Each spell level has certain spells in it, and a certain number of spell slots you can assign those spells to. When you use a spell it remains used until you sleep, and then it is refreshed. There is no mana in this game like many other RPGs.
This leads to you having to cycle your spells with sleep. So if you have hurt party members you usually are going to have one or more rounds of casting all your healing spells and then sleeping. You will continue the cycle casting them again, and sleeping until everyone is healed. It’s a bit clunky and slows the game down a lot more than I would like.
At the same time you can also sleep not just at an inn, but in the wilderness or in dungeons. At an inn, you will never be disturbed. In the wilderness and dungeons, your sleep can be interrupted by random enemy encounters. This can get very annoying especially if you are low on health. Some times it takes a few tries to get a full sleep cycle.
Weird balance towards the end of the game
The last few major fights toward the end of the main campaign get exceptionally harder. Even on easy, I found myself getting completely waffle stomped and needing to try fights many times to come out on top. It really got grindy and felt like the game turned on hard mode.
The very last fight of the main campaign I had to turn on Story Mode to get through it because it was virtually impossible for my squad to come out on top. I don’t think the game does a good job of preparing you for that encounter.
Also, there is a point near the end of the game where you must walk through this room with two monsters in it. Each of these monsters can petrify with a hit, so it took about a dozen tries to get through this area. If you don’t have scrolls that get rid of the petrification or get lucky, you are in a very bad spot. It felt super bizarre because you haven’t had to deal with something like this so it’s easy to get caught with your pants down. When you run into this you will scream bloody murder.
Siege of Dragonspear
Siege of Dragonspear is a modern day expansion included with Baldurs Gate EE. It takes place directly after events of the main game’s campaign. It was created by Beamdog, the same company that ported the game to the modern age. It will take you at least 20 hours to play through. It really depends on a lot of things, I’ve seen other sources say 25 hours.
It has a new main story arch, new characters, new places, new monsters, new kick ass graphics, and lots of new voice lines. There are many familiar faces and the mechanics are all the same. Since your characters will reach higher levels there are also lots of new spells for your casters to wield. Overall it’s pretty high quality, and it’s what I would expect Baldurs Gate to be if they recreated it today as a 2D retro RPG. If you were looking for another reason to pick this game up, it would be worth it just for this.
You can use your character from the main campaign or create a new one, and your party will be all new as well. So if you don’t want to play the main campaign it’s still going to be really fun and accessible to you.
It suffers many of the issues I feel like there were in the main campaign. The game is still quite difficult. There are some issues with quests where I missed picking up an item on the ground not knowing I needed it. This can be frustrating. I also was a little disappointed that as far as I can tell my actions didn’t on the surface seem to have any consequences.
Overall it was mostly satisfying. The ending was great until it wasn’t. Let’s just say they throw a screw ball at you and I’m left feeling that I have more questions than answers.
Overall I put 51 hours over the course a few weeks into this game, covering both the main campaign and the Siege of Dragonspear expansion. You can do it much faster if just using Story Mode.
Was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. The game has been remastered and looks and works good, except for a few quest bugs here and there. The game is hard but there is a Story Mode that will allow anyone to enjoy the game. It’s really excellent value for your money, there is so much to do, and it contains a bit of replay-ability.
So overall I would recommend you give it a go, and if you haven’t played Baldurs Gate in a long time it’s worth it just for Siege of Dragonspear.