By Guy Rainey / January 29th, 2014
|Title||Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition|
|Release Date||November 15, 2013|
Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition is a HD remake of one of those seminal Bioware classics that I’ve just never gotten around to playing until now. There are a few reasons for that: 1) I haven’t finished Baldur’s Gate yet because, 2) both Baldur’s Gate games are rather obtuse, especially starting out, partially because 3) I’m largely unfamiliar with the Dungeons & Dragons rule set. Aside from a rather substantial amount of time I spent in Planescape: Torment, the closest I came to anything related to Dungeons & Dragons was the original Dragonlance trilogy of novels. It’s hard to know going in what you’re going to want to be, and, since you must create your character before learning what challenges lay before you, it’s easy to create a character you aren’t actually going to like (a perennial problem of the Western RPG). Though, thanks to my time with Planescape: Torment, I did find out what type of character I would most like to play as, so I decided to give it a shot.
Fair warning: If you haven’t played Baldur’s Gate yet and want to, you’ll want to pass on Baldur’s Gate II for now. The events take place shortly after the ending of Baldur’s Gate, and make a lot of references to that game’s plot. A good number of characters return from the original Baldur’s Gate, so they may reference events you don’t know about, but there’s usually an amnesia option in the dialogue trees for those who haven’t played the original Baldur’s Gate. For this reason, though I don’t feel that the story is impossible to grasp, I feel like there’s a lot I’m missing out on and many of the major plot twists have now been spoiled for me. If you have the means, play Baldur’s Gate first. Actually, the main twist is tied to the central theme of the game, so, to talk about it, I’ll need to put up a spoiler, so fair warning. SPOILERS: The player protagonist is a demigod, the offspring of Bhaal, the god of murder. A mad sorcerer, Jon Irenicus, knows of this, and is attempting to force the child of Bhaal to assume the powers that his lineage gives. END SPOILERS In addition to the main story, there are side quests dedicated to telling the stories of each of the characters. There are many playable characters, with four new ones in this release (they continue stories from Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, so, again, fair warning).
So, what makes this version worth paying $25 for, when the original is $10 on sites like GOG.com? Well, it is designed to take advantage of modern screen resolutions (so no letterboxing or stretched sprites), and the text and user interface are designed to take advantage of this new real estate. But PC nuts will mention that there is a mod to set the game to run at a higher resolution (not as elegantly). Though, a newcomer trying out this mod will find the text in the game too small to see easily (though there’s a mod to fix that, as well). I’m still going to give the new version the point, because it adds one thing: zooming. You can zoom in and out at anytime using the mouse wheel. You no longer have to strain your eyes to see the action and text that was meant for 640 x 480 resolution. I’m really not sure that it makes the Enhanced version worth that much more than the original (after all, I picked all the original version Infinity Engine games, both Neverwinter Nights games, and Temple of Elemental Evil for $17.99 on sale). If you’re really, really, really into Baldur’s Gate, maybe, but otherwise, I’d wait for a sale.
The graphics have aged fairly well, I think, though there are a lot of reused character models. But you won’t see pixelization unless you zoom in all the way. The music is generic medieval fantasy. There’s no problem with it – it’s just okay. Overall, I’d say the presentation is acceptable. It’s inoffensive, and conveys the necessary information. Though “You Must Gather Your Party Before Venturing Forth” will get old really fast.
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