Baldur’s Gate is one of the true classics of video game history. The original game came out back in 1998, but an Enhanced Edition was released for PC and mobile devices in 2012.
That means it’s easier than ever to dive back into this world of swords and sorcery. But is this classic game worth your time when so many other fantasy games are out there?
A Familiar World
If you don’t already know, Baldur’s Gate is set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. That means that players who enjoy playing that classic tabletop game are going to have an easier time understanding elements of the story and the gameplay.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to be a tabletop veteran to dive into Baldur’s Gate. The game is user-friendly, and a number of onscreen tips will help even complete newbies navigate this world.
And the Enhanced Edition has made these tips more plentiful and more useful, making this game one of the most user-friendly introductions to this familiar world.
If you have played any of Bioware’s later games, the character selection in this game will feel familiar. As it is in games such as Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age, you have a single main character and a number of supporting characters who help in your quests and battles.
These characters generally fall into various RPG tropes such as “gruff wizard.” However, each character has a rich background and complex dialogue that helps them to feel real and unique.
Much of the game’s replay value comes from figuring out how different characters interact and either help or hinder your current character build. And as an added bonus, the Enhanced Edition throws three new characters into the mix.
Dice and Gameplay
For those who haven’t played this kind of game, combat can be a bit confusing. To start, you click on bad guys to initiate battle. This is when things get complicated, albeit behind the scenes.
Instead of getting instant success with your attack, the game rolls some virtual dice for you. And just like in a real tabletop RPG, the results of these roles determines whether your attack is a success or failure.
It’s the same kind of combat you’ll find in Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, and you get used to it very quickly. However, for someone who has number-rolled a D20 in their life, your first game or two might be a surprise!
By the way, combat can be as “active” or as “passive” as you want. You can give each character individual instructions during battle or assign them a behavior that determines how they play. This helps make even the most minor encounters feel meaningful.
The Bioware Story Symptom
I have written before about Bioware and their story. What story? Well, the one story that they just keep telling.
In Baldur’s Gate, you play as an orphan with a mysterious past, which you discover more of throughout the game. Does that sound familiar? The idea of “mysterious outsider learns about their life” is what drives other Bioware games such as KOTOR, Mass Effect, and Planescape: Torment.
To be fair, it’s a compelling story, and this game’s narrative is very engaging. But if you have played any of those other games before, parts of it will feel a bit familiar.
Graphical Highs and Lows
Whenever it comes to an old game, one question lurks like an elephant in the room. Does it still look good?
Baldur’s Gate holds up pretty well. The Enhanced Edition does a lot to make it look good on modern screens, including adding a widescreen mode and tweaking a few graphics. And even if you’re rocking the original game, there are a number of mods to help make the game look shiny. The background graphics of each stage look nice and crisp, and they have held up well over the years.
With that being said, there’s only so much you can do with old game graphics. The sprites often look small and limited, and the game’s color palette on the Enhanced Edition looks slightly washed out. Overall, these are minor concerns, and the game looks remarkable for its age.
Before I wrap things up, it’s worth commenting on this game’s soundtrack. In a word, it’s fantastic!
Music does a lot of the heavy lifting in making you feel like you’re really in a fantasy world. For example, it’s impossible to think about The Lord of the Rings movies without thinking about Howard Shore’s amazing score.
The music of Baldur’s Gate transports you to the fantasy world of Faerun, and it amps up pretty much everything. Even the simplest combat turns into an epic clash with this soundtrack!
Ultimately, the music hearkens back to the true spirit of Dungeons and Dragons: bringing a fantasy world to life in your mind.
So, should you play Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition? Yup — the sooner, the better!
The game is relatively cheap on all platforms, and it offers about 50 hours of entertainment on the main story alone. If you’re trying to max out the various optional stories, this can easily be 100 hours of adventure.
And that’s 100 hours of pure fun. The combat is nail-biting, the stories engaging, and the characters rich and complex. It won’t take you too long to figure out why this is one of the all-time classics in gaming!