by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Make way evil! I’m armed to the teeth and packing a hamster!
Baldur’s Gate ended what has been called the “RPG drought” of the mid-90’s. After a long period where RPG’s where far and few between, an unknown and unlikely gaming company founded by three medical doctors entered the market with... well, swords blazing. Baldur’s Gate shattered records, won Game of the Year awards from almost every major publication and wormed itself into the hearts and minds of gamers the world over.
Before we continue, it is worth noting that I usually try to make the various sub-headers in my articles match the actual content below. This time around, however, I’m using them simply as an excuse to share Minsc’s characteristic one-liners which means there is no relation whatsoever. Just enjoy the show!
There be safety in numbers, and I am two or three at least!
Minsc is just one of many colourful playable characters that might join your party when playing Baldur’s Gate. While none quite as colourful as Minsc, each is uniquely different from the others and you will learn to either love ‘m or hate them because of what they have to say. Moreover, characters interact with one another and – usually based on their alignment – love or hate each other as well. It is entirely possible that one of your more useful party members leaves simply because he or she can’t stand someone else. They will give you hints prior to leaving and if you don’t listen, you are suddenly one man, or woman, short.
It was a radical new feature that set the combined gaming press alight and Baldur’s Gate featured many such innovations. It redefined the RPG genre and set a bar that many people still believe to have been unsurpassed by anything but the sequel. After Baldur’s Gate II was released, things became dishearteningly quiet around the franchise, most likely because of licensing issues. Following the recent trend to make old games available on modern PCs again, the powers that be allowed Overhaul Games to release an Enhanced Edition of Baldur’s Gate. I guess we will have to make do.
Squeaky wheel gets the kick!
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition features both the original game and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion. In addition, three new characters have been added and a new adventure named The Black Pits has you fight your way out to freedom in 15 newly created arena’s. Unfortunately the latter is not actually part of the game, it’s a separate game that does not tie into Baldur’s Gate in any way. Do we need it? Probably not.
The term “enhanced” triggers expectations that the game does not quite follow through on. Any modern PC gamer will be used to go into the video settings panel of his newly installed game and tinker with the graphics settings to maximizing the visual experience. You will be disappointed to learn that the game has nothing under the hood that you can tinker with in the graphics department. There is one setting: full screen and that is it. On the plus side, it is a ‘one size fits all’ solution and the new graphics engine does break the feeling of claustrophobia when playing the original version on today’s screens.
The engine – does – sport some improvements other than visual fidelity. Playing in windowed mode, you can increase or decrease the window to your heart’s content. You can also zoom in using the scroll wheel and remove the two sidebars. It’s a quirky little addition that theoretically adds more screen real-estate to the game, but especially losing the party side bar makes the game almost unplayable as you would have to select your characters using the 1 – 6 keys on your keyboard. While I didn’t expect HD graphics, it feels like Overhaul took a shortcut not designing a completely new interface. Even just removing the stone backgrounds to all three bars would have been a huge improvement that I am sure everyone would have appreciated. There are a few other small improvements that do make life a little better, but overall, I expected more from an enhanced edition.
Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes! Raaaagh!
Having played Baldur’s Gate for most of the weekend, I felt like I spent time with an old friend that stopped by after a long absence. We have both aged – it’s been 14 years after all – and it has been a blast harking back to the stories of our youth. Nip & tuck has made him look a little bit younger than he actually is but he has lost nothing of his original charm, even if other charms have passed the revue since.
It is a shame Overhaul didn’t go the extra mile hooking us up with proper graphic settings and a better interface or even fix the ridiculous pathing issues that have plagued both the original and the sequel since day one. Yet these things do not stop Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition from being the definitive version of the game. If nothing else, it saves old fans from having to mod their game through BGTutu, making it playable without requiring any further tinkering. For them, and new fans alike, it is as easy as downloading it and hitting the play button and immersing oneself into one of the best games ever created. Period.
You can stop struggling with TuTu now
The term “enhanced” is overly generous