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GrogHeads Reviews Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition

Can the update & enhancement bring the game up to modern standards? ~

Avery Abernethy, 30 June 2018

Baldur’s Gate was originally released in December 1998.  It was a tremendous financial success selling more than a million copies worldwide.  It was also a critical success earning a GameRankings score of 92%.  I bought the game when it was first released and later the expansion Tales of the Sword Coast.  I ended up replaying the game many times.

Minsc also has many memorable dialogue options including “Butt-Kicking for Goodness.”

An Enhanced Edition of Baldur’s Gate was released in January of 2013 on Steam and www.gog.com.  The Original edition of Baldur’s Gate was removed from the market. Baldur’s Gate has one of the most memorable characters in computer RPG history, Minsc the Ranger with his companion Boo the hamster.  Minsc obtained Boo after a severe head injury, thinks Boo talks to him, and that Boo is a “space hamster.”  Minsc also has many memorable dialogue options including “Butt-Kicking for Goodness.”

I have not played Baldur’s Gate in at least the last 15 years.  I recently purchased the enhanced edition for $20 to see if the game was still worth playing and also to get Minsc and Boo back into my life.

In Baldur’s Gate you create your main character.  Your adventuring group can include up to six characters and your main character must always be included.  The other members of the group are recruited from the wide variety of adventurers you meet during your adventures.

Baldur’s Gate mostly occurs outside.  There is a massive wilderness area and very few underground settings. Only Durlag’s Tower which is an optional quest has a considerable amount of ground to cover indoors.

The Enhanced Edition has many play changes.  The rules were updated.  Many more character classes are now playable.  Fighters especially benefit from the update because of their ability to have advanced weapons specialization.  Several additional NPCs were added to the game.  This is significant because the player runs a single avatar which they construct with the other 5 party members recruited from people your main character meets on their quest.  Tales of the Sword Coast is also included in the enhanced edition.

Much of the game has been reworked.  I read part of a two hundred page strategy guide that detailed numerous changes, fixes, tweaks and additions bound into the enhanced edition.

However, the base Baldur’s Gate engine, AI, and screen resolution makes up the core of the game.  The addition of weapons specializations, additional player classes, new NPCs and spells are all welcome additions. The game also runs in full screen on a modern monitor.

However, the art, screen resolution, and AI are still state of the art late 1990s.  As you can see from the screen shots, the representation of the characters and monsters looks blobby on a modern machine. The AI has some pathing issues. But because most of the action occurs outside or in large indoor rooms, the problem of characters wandering around the screen is not too bad.  Some of the scripting for the AI opponents is weak.  A thinking player should be able to beat opponents many levels higher than they are through better use of spells, targeting missile weapon attacks, and building a supremely difficult to hit tank character to block opponent melee fighters.

The story line is excellent.  The game can also be brutally hard even on the “normal” setting.  There are regular assassination attempts against your main character.  Early in the game when the party has relatively low health, being ambushed by an assassin will almost always kill one or more party members.  But by mid-game using reasonable party management your adventuring band should be able to vanquish all opponents.

I’ve completed more than half of the game without any crashes or glitches in the game engine. The adventure is a lot of fun and I’ve forgotten quite a bit of the material over the past fifteen years. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from replaying Baldur’s Gate, but I’m not terribly sensitive to outdated graphics.

If you have never played Baldur’s Gate, I strongly recommend purchasing the Enhanced Edition. The voice acting, characters and the adventure story-line are all well worth the purchase.  If you have played Baldur’s Gate before, I urge you to look carefully at these and other online screen shots before buying.  The resolution, animation, and enemy AI are all relatively weak compared to a modern game of in the same genre as Pillars of Eternity.


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