Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition

You know that feeling you used to get as a kid, counting the days down to Christmas? How each morning you'd tick off a checkbox in your head, and each night go to sleep with a smile on your face, knowing that the big day is coming soon? Well I'm not ashamed to admit that I, as a fully grown man, regressed to that childhood state over the last few weeks in anticipation of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. In many ways, the wait has been worth it. But like all Christmases, the sheen on that toy you've eagerly been awaiting can dull rather quickly. Make no mistake, BG:EE is a fantastic game. The problem is, it was a fantastic game when it came out 15 years ago, and to be honest, despite the title not much has really been enhanced since then.

To those not familiar with the series, the Baldur's Gate saga is commonly recognized as one of the pinnacles of RPG gaming. This is classic DnD , filled to the brim with deep and interesting lore, quests to complete, party members to find and converse with, huge environments to explore and a suitably epic and sinister personal story. You create your own character from a variety of fantasy archetypes, and courtesy of the conversion of the game to the BG2 engine, there are plenty of them on offer. From there you are thrust straight into an epic tale of mercilessly godlike proportions. And it is glorious.

The developers, Beamdog, have done a great job at staying true to the spirit of the original. All the original content is here, and some extra has been developed as well. 3 new fully voiced NPC characters each with rich stories and a long side quest to complete, an out of campaign arena game, changes to the UI (which are hit an miss), new cutscene art replacing the dated original ingame movies, as well as a host of bugfixes rounds out the entirety of what's on offer here. A completely redone multiplayer mode has also been developed, but the developers are still working on it. Currently the only option available for multiplayer is an archaic IP address connection mode. Yuck. Fortunately the developers have promised full multiplatform multiplayer and a matchmaking service, which should hopefully be coming soon.

As far as the differences between the original Bg and EE, there isn't anything that hasn't been noted above. The infinity engine, despite all the love and labor beamdog have put into the aesthetics of it, is exactly the same as what we saw decades ago. Sure there's some minor tweaks, like zoom and new spell effects, but environment art, character models and ingame sprites are untouched. Essentially the game looks the same as baldurs gate 2 did. Fortunately the hand painted backgrounds hold up rather well, though characters and spirtes are showing their age. The same applies to the ruleset, which still uses the classic but impossibly confusing AD&D2E ruleset (THAC0: Harder than how magnets work). I can't fault beamdog for sticking to this, it would be impossible to keep the original play experience so pure if too many changes are made, not to mention the potential fan backlash at taking such liberties with their beloved classic. Done well, it could definitely have set this game apart. On the whole, though, I can't help but feel like it's a missed opportunity. But, as the title states, this is an enhanced edition, not a remake. Just be aware of that before you purchase.

But purchase you should. The game still provides a deep and engaging experience, and to those like myself whom are big fans of the series, this represents the best available version of the classic and is a must have. To those whom are experiencing baldurs gate for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to fix that mortal sin. Keep in mind that you're playing your granddaddies RPG here; No handholding quest arrow, no NPC exclamation marks to denote quest gives, and a brutally difficult experience that almost necessitates save scumming in the early stages (who's great idea was it to give kobolds ranged weapons?!) . Its old school, pure, deep, and oh so sweet. It's not all it could have been, but it's still definitely well worth your time and measly $20.

EmperorZoltan:
it was a fantastic game when it came out 15 years ago,

Just a correction, the original Baldur's Gate was released 14 years ago, in 1998, technically it is 13 years old though, but it will be officially 14 tomorrow.

Also, just a request, could you go into a little more detail on why the UI improvements are a hit and miss?

Heh, guess after a marathon day of playing the game my math sucks. Thanks for the spot on that.

The new UI, although a mixed bag, does a great job of clearly explaining the vital information regarding your character. The new inventory menu in particular make great use of its redefined space, and now has an area providing quick summary of your characters armor class, HP, adjusted THAC0 and damage amounts. Whereas in the original BG it was a bit of a crapshoot knowing what benefit you would get from a piece of equipment (without trawling your character sheet), now you instaltly see the changes equipping gear makes. All bonuses are clearly layed out and are relatively simple to understand.

The journal as well has seen some nice attention, with quests now clearly being separated by catagory and collapsable for viewing convenience. Unforuntaly theres a bug that prevents quick scrolling through the journal right now, although I've just found a walkaround while writing this (left click and drag upwards to quick scroll) which has helped.

As for the misses, The spellbook and priest tomes in particualar are both ugly as sin. I'm not sure why this was changed from the original, which worked very well, but the new version is ugly and warps the spell icons. It works, but it feels like a forced inclusion.

There's some other small but niggling changes to the UI im not a fan of. You can not longer tell if you character is out of inventory space when pickup up equipment, as the bag icon does not change color as in the originals. There is an intermittent issue with characters occasionally being stubborn and refusing to accept an order without clicking twice, which is annoying though infrequent. The map is unchanged.

All in all the UI is changed, but as stated above, the results are mixed.

No problem on the age, I'm very nit-picky about that kind of thing because of all the times I've seen people accuse a game of being a copy of a game released after it.

Ah cool, I've been playing for a few hours, and I wanted to know more in depth cause I hadn't paid to much attention to the UI because it isn't painfully bad, and I just wanted to see if there was something that would bug me later on. That journal bug is a pain though. Haven't noticed the spell book things yet, though I rolled a Kensai(?) and the only mage in the party at the moment already has a decent spell ready(also his voice irritates me so I doubt I'll be keeping him around long), so I haven't seen that.

Just wondering, have you encountered any of the new NPC's yet, I've seen Dorn(a hostile fellow), and was wondering how their voices and what not fit in.

Ahhh the classic kensai, will be interesting to see how he goes in BG1. You planning on dual classing him to a mage later on? Will be interested to see if the EXP cap applies to only the primary class or multiclass as well.

I've got all 3 of the new NPCs in my party, wanted to see what they are capable of and how they fit into the game. I'm pleased to report that all of them are flawlessly implemented and fit right in with the tone of the game. And unlike the BG1 party NPCs, they actually interact with you outside of their recruitment and primary quest. They are designed to be and feel like BG2 NPCs and make a great story addition to your team. The voice acting is well done, none of them feel hammy at all. The actors did a good job.

Each of them has a fairly large personal quest to complete as well, I'm actually working on the Dorn quest right now.

As far as their power, they are well balanced and don't feel like necessary additions to the party to succeed.

Dorn is very powerful and hits like a truck, but his con stat is only 14 so he's actually a little squishy for a frontline fighter. He hits ludicrously hard though, and often chunks enemies.

Neera is a capable mage and I've had alot of fun with the wild magic surges, last one I had she was only meant to cast a magic missile, instead she sexchanged herself and killed the party with a fireball. Not pretty. She's not as good as Edwin (noone is...) but still very good, I don't feel like I'm gimping myself by using her. Her int is only 17 though, so I'm going to have to pump that with a tome if she is going to be useful in BG2.

Rassad is a tricky one, monks are notoriously rubbish at low levels and unfortunately BG1 is all about the low levels. Right now hes only doing 1D8 dmg with 1.5 attacks per round with his fist, and hes level 5, and his THAC0 isn't anything great either. Hes basically a subpar melee thief. I actually gave him a +1 wakizashi which was better for the first few levels, his fists have only just become decent enough to use. If I'm being honest he's actually a detriment to my party right now, he's just too weak at lower levels. Squishy with only 14 con as well. Hopefully with a few more levels he will improve, but right now.... uugh. I'd love to get viconia in to replace him, but I'm comitted now. His conversations are interesting though, although he does start off sounding somewhat like a religious door knocker (have you read the good book of selune?)

I'm also using Jaheria (whom I made kill khalid :D ), Imowen (whom I'm going to dual class to mage once she gets to level 7 thief and maxes out open locks and find traps) and myself as a Archer (subkit of ranger).

I think I might have to duel class him eventually, Kensai's can be pretty tough at low levels.

I just ran into Neera, and I just laughed my ass off when the bad guy said very un-enthusiastically "not again" and started flailing his arms around, it was so weird.

Rassad might be a companion for a second playthrough, or maybe wait a bit before getting him because I don't think I can get very far with a Kensai who dies fast and a Monk who dies fast.

At the moment I'm using myself(kensai), Khalid, Jaheria, Neera, Garrick, and Kagain. I had Xzar and Montarron but they both died, as did Imowen. I'll probably get Khalid or Jaheria killed at some point, depending on who bugs me more about my reputation(or who just dies first because of horrible tactics).

Yea the early game is absolutely brutal, I had to save skum heaps just to finish up the nashkel mines, had people dying to 1 shot kills left and right.

I killed off khalid really early so I could fit in rassad, and only just finally replaced jaheria with a fighter / cleric dwarf I found in the cloakwood mines. He's working out much better, I hate the druid spell list and jaheria i find is rubbish in melee with her specalization in only clubs ><

Oh and a pleasant suprise, it turns out that Neera is romanceable! You've got to be pretty bold to get on that conversation track, but really wasn't expecting it!

I fear the mines, for I know I will fall, there will be so much death, I just no it.

Despite the fact Khalid is slightly whiny I'll probably kill Jaheria if I need, since melee is not good, and I'm not very good at using druids.

"suprise"? Wasn't Neera advertised as a "thrilling romantic adventure"?

Also, show your christmas spirit, give your bowser a santa hat! Or just add a present to the image(Like I did), if you don't know how, I can do it for you.
image(If you don't like the hat I can remove it, link http://i.imgur.com/zV8L8.jpg if it doesn't embed properly)

I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

You mind explaining what you thought was wrong with it? Rather than just whining and saying they shouldn't make anymore overhauls.

charge52:

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

You mind explaining what you thought was wrong with it? Rather than just whining and saying they shouldn't make anymore overhauls.

The game is very buggy, and the multiplayer is busted as hell. The monk companion is pretty much worthless due to the low level nature of the campaign.

The Crotch:

charge52:

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

You mind explaining what you thought was wrong with it? Rather than just whining and saying they shouldn't make anymore overhauls.

The game is very buggy, and the multiplayer is busted as hell. The monk companion is pretty much worthless due to the low level nature of the campaign.

The game has less bugs than the original, the same is true of the multiplayer, in fact I have experienced 0 problems with the multiplayer, and the monk isn't worthless, he isn't as strong as other companions, but that doesn't make him worthless.
None of these things would make this a bad overhaul, even if they were true.

Random stuff from across the internet (by which I mean a couple pages from SA and Team Liquid):

I think we found a bug! Tried to rest at Candlekeep Inn in multiplayer and we both got stuck in pause and couldn't quit out.

This bodes well.

I am somewhat disappointed. Within about 5 minutes of playing I encountered about 3 bugs/glitches. Is this what I should expect if I keep playing through? I feel like I oughtta sit back and wait for a patch or something before I keep going. Am I the only one experiencing this shit?

If you end a multiplayer session you can't start a new one because it doesn't recognise connected players properly (including yourself) so you need to restart the server.

The quest journal is almost unusable - you can't scroll up or down in certain windows, no mouse wheel support, so you have to drag that indicator incredibly slowly - they tried to upgrade it from the original, but the original worked fine, and this does not.

They've patched the mouse wheel scrolling already.

The new NPCs seem to have stopped talking in my game.

You have an insane amount of port forwarding issues to take care of first. If you have 3+, the game royally fucks itself after Candlekeep with a slew of scripting errors.

My favorite so far is a super fun one where Rasaad keeps trying to talk to me, and the only dialogue option is to end the dialogue, and then not 3 seconds later he initiates again, effectively halting any game progress. I ended up just murdering him.

I found an amusing bug. There's a new shield you can buy in the Friendly Arm Inn that gives +1 Constitution. If you equip that and use the cloak that turns you into a wolf over and over again without transforming back into a human(oid) you gain +1 con each use seemingly permanently.

Welp the new NPCs have gone completely silent on me even trying to force their dialogue with ctrl and I in clua console does nothing but make them stutter.

After spending like 3 hours downloading, the fucking thing crashes every time i finish char creation

I just found an irritating bug in BGEE. I play a werewolf druid and it looks like each time I shift my armor class becomes greater and greater and my armor class in human form also becomes greater lol. It seems reloading a save resets it.

mine has crashed twice before i can make it to the first inn

I like the idea behind the new journal a lot but it's buggy... New quests no being added, completed quests no being switched...

Some minor graphical and sound glitches, the worst of which was Rasaad's punching voice clip looping every second after a fight. Sounded like he was burping non-stop, it was pretty annoying.

It's not so much that it's bad, it's that gog.com exists.

charge52:

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

You mind explaining what you thought was wrong with it? Rather than just whining and saying they shouldn't make anymore overhauls.

The game is very buggy, I encountered a abundance of bugs since launch. The new cutscenes look extremely cheesy, like something someone would make on the cheap in flash. I prefer the original cutscenes.
My main gripe is that they left the extremely clunky user interface in place. It was the one thing I felt needed to be overhauled. It doesn't make sense to me to overhaul a game for 2012 and then leave in a user interface that barely worked when the game was released.
I know people will argue that leaving all the clunkiness in place is part of the charm of the game but I disagree. If I wanted to just play Baldurs Gate, I'd play the original and use mods to add what I wanted. The thing is, I paid money for an 'Enhanced' version but really, it wasn't enhanced at all. It has a little bit of new content, but really, that isn't what I was looking for.
If the exact 400+ changes they made were listed on the games page, I probably wouldn't have paid for it. Especially a pre-order.
I consider Planescape: Torment to be the best RPG I've ever played but if they made an 'Enhanced Edition' of it now and left the god awful UI in place and all the clunkiness of the gameplay, I'd consider it a pretty big failure. If you are going to just port the game so that it works on newer operating systems, that is fine but don't tout it as some kind of enhanced version of the game.
We could just simply have two different expectations for what they wanted from this. I'll stick with the original game. I mean, why would anyone get this when they can just go on GOG.com and get the original?

I agree with clive on a couple of points, particularaly the lack of any real changes or improvements over a modded version of BG1... hell anyone who's played it with tutu before is basically getting the same package, minus some new content. BG:EE has its fair share of bugs, but what game doesn't these days? I think the main problem was that beamdog were too focused on a simultaneous multiplatform release, which has failed anyway (still no sign of the ipad or android releases). They are a small company with limited resources, and as well as being relatively new to the market are working with some seriously arcane source code. I'm not sure how well the game is selling, but hopefully if they can turn a profit and prove viability, they can expand their team size. Given the source material they are working with, I'm more than happy to give them the opportunity to grow and improve over time. BG2: ToB would be a fantastic opportunity for them to go nuts with content and story wise, as it's definitely the weakest game in the series.

As far as my progress in the core game is concerned, I'm trying to find the source of the killers in the sewers and and a bit stuck. I'd forgotten how barren BG1 could feel at times; BG2 introduction of cohesive interactive party members was a HUGE improvement over the sterile, silent members of your group in BG1. Even the new NPCs have shut down and rarely talk to me, I think Neera may be bugged as I can keep repeating the first kiss conversation by talking to her.

I've been making good progress through the black pits mode, and I'm happy to report that this is a good indication of beamdog's ability to create seamless content; the writing, voice acting and pacing is very well done, and although it feel more icewind dale than baldurs gate, this bodes well for ongoing new content for the game.

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

Look on the brightside: At least you got your refund.

alexwbyrd:

Clive Howlitzer:
I thought the overhaul job they did was terrible. It was a worse experience than simply playing the original with mods. Anything I would have wanted overhauled, wasn't even touched. I quickly sought a refund and received one. I don't really want this development team to tackle anymore overhauls.

Look on the brightside: At least you got your refund.

Yeah, I wasn't too bent out of shape about it. I was just hoping for more, especially so a newer generation could play and appreciate BG without having to put up with the archaic interface.

I bought this and I couldn't even get past the Tutorial Stage, not because it was hard or confusing, back because as soon as I launched the program I was assailed with multiple bugs. The screen flickered constantly, there was absolutely no sound, and the game crashes 5 minutes in. I had never had 1 game act like that on my system before. A shame really, I wanted to try this legend, guess I will have to wait for fixes to come my way.

And oh, Good review.

 

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