Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition Is Here! It Was Nice Knowing You People

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Out on PC and iOS, the LONG awaited Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition has arrived. And it is spectacular.

I managed to pull my face, bloodshot eyes and all, away from my iPad long enough to come here let you in on a little secret: this is the best thing to happen in gaming in a long time. All hyperbole aside, Baldur’s Gate’s updated version is just as good as the original (in most cases) and makes it freaking portable. Prayers= answered.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some cons. As a matter of fact, the most notable difference in the Enhanced Edition is simply the UI. Instead of the classic brown, earthen stone look, Overhaul Games has changed it to a blue hued stone that meshes well with the gold icons and trim. That said, the other changes are mostly a bit more subtle, especially if you are familiar with the original mod Baldur’s Gate Tutu. Because the bulk of game play seems to match what that mod accomplished, which was bringing the updated Baldur’s Gate 2 engine to the original, allowing for character classes, kits, items, new spells and more to the original. It was an amazing mod and one of the few I actually used, as my favorite game of all time is Baldur’s Gate 2. Followed very closely by the original of course.

If they make enough from BG1: EE sales, they’ve promised to move forward. Prompting me to go out and do unspeakable things for money to donate to the project.

That said, a lot of Overhaul’s enhancements, as welcome and delightful as they may be, seem to have come from preexisting mods. For instance, there’s a handful of new banter dialogue between characters, a spot I know was covered by many a modder. Whether or not they are the same ones I don’t know, but if not, they are delightful. As are some of the new selection sounds characters make. Khalid’s “If at first I don’t succeed…the wife won’t let me forget” is one of my favorites, as is Jaheira’s “If a tree falls in the woods…I’ll kill the bastard what done it!”. And considering the voices are spot on with the original, either these little sound bites were in the original files and never used, or they got someone to re-do the voices. If I can’t tell, then I guess that means they did their job right.

Perhaps the biggest changes are the new party members. For reference, as of now, I have gotten through a few side quests, and past the Nashkel Mines and carnival, making my way back to Beregost. I skipped my usual Minsc/Dynaheir or Edwin choice for two of the three new characters: Neera, the Wild Mage and Rasaad, the Monk. Added to showcase two of BG2′s additional classes, the two are interesting characters that made it not so painful to leave two or three of my other usual favorite characters behind.

Neera, the plucky wild mage, is your neutral aligned choice of new party member.

First, I ran into Neera in Beregost early on. Without getting into her story too much, she’s a plucky level 2 wild mage (at least when I ran accross her) on the run because of her unreliable, sometimes disatrous, magic. She’s the same as any other mage party member really, or a wild mage player character. However her story of trying to find a way to control her magic, and perhaps be accepted by those around her is one that’s easy to follow. That said, I REALLY do not care for her voice, and the actress seems to just be going through the motions. There’s also something about her portrait that just bugs me, though I can’t figure out what. All in all, however, she’s a worthy addition to any party (due to her chaotic neutral alignment), and alternative for those looking for an early mage that’s not Edwin or Dynaheir. Though I have a hard time envisioning someone playing to win not picking Edwin. Although Neera does pose the potential to be romanceable by a male player character. Not even Edwin’s prodigious talents can fill that role!

Rasaad, the gentle monk, is your pick for a lawful good aligned groupie.

Rasaad the monk of Selune also appears relatively early, in Nashkel. Thought by the townsfolk to be a circus performer, a drunk challenges him to a fight. Rasaad gently declines, and if your side with him and his calm demeanor, he joins your merry band. As a monk, Rasaad is probably going to win Most Likely To One Shot A  Boss, as monks are rediculously powered as they get higher lievel. However at level 3 when I met him, he felt underpowered, almost too much so. His stats are middle of the road, making him not particularly good at anything, especially taking a hit. My mage, with her constitution of 10 has more hit points than Rasaad with his constitution of 14. It’s slightly mind boggling. That said, he seems to have grown in the past few levels and become a much better asset. I can’t help but wonder if the team decided to perhaps make him under powered on purpose, so as to not give you a cheat char so soon. Beyond that, Rasaad’s voice acting is superb and his voice actor has developed a soothing and calming tone for him befitting his lawful good nature. While I’m not as equally invested in his personal story as Neera’s it still has an allure that I’ll follow up on as soon as my wild mages go discover themselves. As Neera is romanceable by male player characters, Rasaad is for the females.

Dorn, the visious Blackguard, is your pick for an evil aligned slaughter buddy.

The third new member, Dorn Il-Khan, I have yet to stumble upon. The evil one of the new three, he brings with him the Blackguard kit of Sarevok fame. Unfortuneatly I don’t really see a spot for him in my current team, consisting of my own Neutral Good Wild Mage, Jaheira, Khalid, Imoen, Neera, and Rasaad. But I will definitely keep an eye out for him with my neutral/evil party I will make in the future.

The graphincs are…the same. They say they updated them, and I’m sure they did something, but I see no difference. The PC version does allow for MUCH bigger resolutions now, a problem in the past. But beyond that not much seems different. It does look great on the iPad, until you zoom in and pixelation takes a nasty hold. Also of note, the iPad’s framerate slows to a hellacious crawl when spell effects show up. It was alsmost heart renching. With just a Color Spray, my entire screen became jolty and laggy. Not to mention when the long lasting Entagle spell happened. I sat there for five minutes waiting for those damn vies to disappear, and normal speed to resume. As I’ve only seen it happen with spells, it makes it a bit disheartening to someone playing a mage, and is perhaps my biggest gripe about the iOS version. Below are some shots from the iPad:

Zoomed way out…

Zoomed way in…

Aaand the halfway mark. My personal favorite.

That said, the fact that they managed to get it on the iPad at all is still amazing. A freaking dream come true. To have this sucker portable will really cause me problems in the future I’m sure. But I’ve found that the game lends itself well to burst playing. Ten minutes here, 20 minutes there. It’s delicious.

Another feat of wonder is the controls on the iPad. Again, a wonder they got it to work at all. That said, the touch controls can be a bit wonky. Moving the party can be a bit of a hassle, as trying to drag accross the screen can result in your mini people now diverting course to where you just touched, perhaps landing them in hot water unprepared. This is where the auto pauses come in more handy than I think they did/do on the PC version, as it can really save your bacon. Pausing is done by tapping the clock in the bottom left corner, but the small button can be a bitch to reach sometimes, and I still find myself instinctively reach for my space bar.

Despite some of the game breaking bugs reported by many in both versions  I thankfully have yet to run into anything too terrible. On the PC I haven’t run into much more than a weird graphical glitch. The iPad does have some random crashes and the aforementioned graphical lag. The crashes are not an issue for a meticulous quick saver  and I am positively neurotic, so it hasn’t been too bad. One absolutely random and minute departure that did bug me was the removal of the Prophets of Alaundo that sing in Candlekeep to the west of the library. I’m not sure if maybe this was a bug, or intentional, but I miss them. Another noticiable change is the removal of the openining cinematic in favor of a sort of artistic, motion comic type thing. I’ve read that some people don’t like it, but I find it a nice change, and the art style in general seeps to some of the other “cutscenes”, making for a sort of fresh perspective.

This one of Nashkel, for example, is simple, yet lovely.

Lastly is the addition of The Black Pits, an Underdark arena that lets you participate in gladiatorial combat. I’ve just briefly played it, and it looks to be quite an interesting addition that I’ll probably revisit when I feel sated on the main story. Which may be a while.

All in all, the game is just as good as before, with quite a bit of sprinkled goodness thrown in by Overhaul. Many may complain that the additions don’t do more than take a bunch of mods and package them together. However Overhaul has done more than update perhaps the best western RPG (or earthly RPG?) of all time, they’ve made significant additions to an already established world that fit in near seamlesly. Add on the fact that they’ve made it VERY cost effective and portable, and you have what is perhaps the best “remake/reboot” of a game I’ve seen.

Now we all just have to throw money at them so they can re-make Baldur’s Gate 2 so I can die happy.

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