Friday 13 December 2013

Baldur's Gate 2: Enhanced Edition Review (PC)

The Baldur’s Gate series has long held the position of being among the best RPG’s of all time. The depth of tactics and customisation of character are often considered unparalleled and the worlds which they allow players to explore are both breath-taking in scale and rich with detail and magic. But it’s been a long time since the game first released and we decided to take a look at the enhanced edition of the second game to see if it still holds the same wonder so many years on.

Following on directly from the events of the first game, you awaken in a cage with little memory of what has happened. You’re soon sprung by a party member and reunited with Minsc and Boo (the killer hamster) and a collection of other characters from the first game. From then on it’s time to escape and uncover your fate. We don’t want to give much away but your quest will take you to dark dungeons, have you deal with sly dragons and mages and clash with some of toughest monsters in the Dungeons and Dragons bestiary. It’s both a long and difficult journey, but always a rewarding and engaging one.

The first thing to say is that the rule set still holds strong. Dungeons and Dragons has a pretty solid system underpinning its world and everything works properly here. It can be frustrating to repeatedly fail something on the role of a dice but then that’s what quick saves are for. It’s also a system still used in many an RPG today and we don’t see that changing any time soon. Everything from detecting traps to combat and healing is dealt with via virtual dice rolls and once you get used to it you’ll be carefully balancing the strengths and weaknesses of your party with ease.

The game takes the traditional RPG approach of being viewed from a semi top down/isometric perspective. Nothing much has changed here, with the enhanced graphics adding a layer of extra clarity but little else. You can zoom in and out and rotate to get a better view of things and anyone familiar with games like Fallout will be right at home here. There’s a new wide screen option to make things better on modern displays as well.

Aside from a nominal graphical brush up there have been other additions made to the game. First of all you now get everything with the incredibly challenging expansion ‘Throne of Baal’ now packed in. There are also new companions to meet and use with new areas relating to them to explore. Throw the super challenging ‘Black Pits 2’ as well and you’ve got a big game complimented by a sizable amount of new content. This certainly isn’t something that’s only going to last a few days.

There are a few things with the game we would like to have seen dealt with though. The original game came with a manual the size of War and Peace and within it pretty much every spell and weapon was explained. The digital version doesn’t have this (Obviously), and you have to right click on things to see their full description. A simple overlay of text while you hold the mouse over items and icons and a quicker way of seeing the effects changing armour and weapons have would have been really useful and acted to streamline the experience. 

A better way of collecting gold and gear from fallen enemies could also have been implemented as individually clicking on fifteen goblins and clicking on fifteen lots of gold, weapons and whatever else they are carry does become irritating and modern day gamers really aren’t ready for this. When you compare this to something like Diablo 3 is shows just how far back some of the mechanics are. 

The last grumble is characters dying. It’s become a pretty much accepted concept now that unless the main hero dies then party members are simply knocked out until the end of the battle. Not here, when they die they turn to bones and drop all their gear. Not an issue if you have a rod of resurrection but they are hard to find and players can find themselves simply overwhelmed early on if they aren’t careful. Losing a character early removes chunks of the game as well so we would have at least liked the option to stop this.

However, any faults are minor irritations in the scheme of things. Once you get to grips with the pace and way you need to approach the game this is still one of the most rewarding adventures to undertake. There really is little else like it and nothing else we have come across is quite as epic or grand in both its ambition and the journey the player undertakes. For Dungeons and Dragons and PC RPG fans this is as good as it gets and you should dive in without hesitation.

Overall 9/10

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