Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review
It’s a well-established fact that Black Isle was the development studio behind some of the best role playing games ever released on the PC, and that Baldur’s Gate was the pinnacle of their achievement. Originally released in 1997, it set the bar with its atmospheric and absorbing storyline, massive open environments and tactical turn-based combat, and still has a loyal fan following today. It’s these fans that have helped bring Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition to PCs, updating the game for modern operating systems and adding a slew of new content.
Both Baldur’s Gate and its expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast, have been rolled into Enhanced Edition, so series veterans should be instantly familiar with its gripping story. The western shore of Faerûn is under siege from bandits and in the grip of a crippling iron shortage, but that's the least of your worries – your foster father has been murdered and the gates to your childhood home have been closed, forcing you to build a party of adventurers and set out to liberate the Sword Coast.
There’s a healthy 40 hours of gameplay if you stick to the main storyline, but it’s through exploration, completing side quests and recruiting new allies that the game truly comes to life. The character classes, creatures and combat are all based on the Dungeons and Dragons rule set, meaning there are plenty of eccentric wizards, over-zealous druids and insane, hamster-carrying rangers to fill your group with, as well as an entire bestiary of monsters and enemies to clash swords with.
You can pause the game at any time to issue commands to each one of your party members, choosing weapons, spells and attack formations, giving you time to think when in the heat of battle. It’s crucial to survive; younger gamers may be surprised to discover how punishingly hard Baldur’s Gate can be – death comes swiftly to any character, forcing you to the nearest chapel to pay for a resurrection spell. If a particularly vicious creature obliterates them completely, they are gone for the rest of the game, and if your hero goes down you are forced to reload a previous save.
Although the game has been updated for higher resolutions, the isometric viewpoint, low resolution characters and pre-rendered scenery haven’t – this means you’ll easily be able to fit the entire area map on screen at once, but making it difficult to spot small items or select individual party members. We preferred a zoomed-in view, which makes it easier to play but also shows off the age of many of the game’s art assets. The original game had fairly basic pre-rendered 3D cut scenes, which have been replaced with beautifully drawn motion comics, but the graphics are otherwise left untouched. It’s still beautiful to look at, thanks to the stunning backdrops – each one is unique and filled with NPCs, enemies and new areas to explore and loot.