Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition

Baldur's Gate. It is a classic. An icon of the golden age of PC gaming. One of the quintessential roleplaying games of all time. Even gamers who have never touched the game, who have never played a single roleplaying game in their lives, know its name. First released on the 30th of November in 1998 by a small development studio called Bioware, Baldur's Gate quickly became a favorite of gamers the world over and catapulted Bioware to the upper echelons of developer fame. One year after the launch of Baldur's Gate, Bioware graced the world with a sequel, Shadows of Amn, which to this day is regarded as the pinnacle of the Western-roleplaying game genre and one of the finest computer games in history. In 2012 a site went live on the Internet, the domain simply Baldur's Gate. It was nothing but a generic tiled wallpaper and an audio track playing in the background. A small, inconsequential thing--and we saw it. 

Gamers across the globe analyzed the music, the imagery, the website information. Rumors of a Steam version of Baldur's Gate abounded. Rumors of sequels and remakes spread like wildfire. We all dared to hope, dared to voice the greatest desire of our heart--to see the Baldur's Gate series return to the gaming world and usher in a new roleplaying renaissance renaissance.

Ultimately, it was not a re-release or a re-make, but something in the middle. A small company, Beamdog, with much discussion, debate and determination managed to secure the rights to make an enhanced edition of Baldur's Gate. To redesign the venerable Infinity Engine to perform better on modern PCs, to display properly at higher resolutions, and to incorporate touch controls to appeal to the rising market of tablet gaming. One week after Beamdog began accepting pre-orders for the Enhanced Edition, two-thousand people had opened up their wallets and exclaimed, "Yes, please!"

And we waited. And we waited. And now, finally, it is here. Fourteen years after the original release of Baldur's Gate, Beamdog's Enhanced Edition offers revised gameplay mechanics based off the Infinity Engine build used in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal; widescreen and high resolution support; full optimization for modern operating systems; new characters, quests and story content; as well as full translations of the game in French, German, Spanish, Polish and Czech thanks to the tireless efforts of the community. Baldur's Gate was one of the greatest games ever made. By all rights, this offering from Beamdog should be either equally good, or even better. Does the Enhanced Edition of Baldur's Gate live up to the well-earned reputation of its original incarnation, or does it just make a mess of things?