Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition

Time to put on your nostalgia caps folks, for tonight we witness a blast from the past. A gem from the glory days of the modern RPG. With a new coat of spit and polish, the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Editions is sure to bring back a load of memories. Most of them good, one hopes!

Unless you lived under a rock for the last 13 years, you've probably heard of Baldur's Gate. Back in 1999, the age of the RPG appeard to be over. All of the good Ultima games had come and gone, the gold box D&D games had outlived their fun, and not even Daggerfall could manage to spark interest in the genre. Then, as if mana from heaven, Bioware brought us Baldur's Gate. Many a sleepness night was thus spent roaming the Sword Coast in the effort to uncover the workings behind the regional iron shortage amidst talk of war with Amn. Adventures galore with Minsc and his space hamster, Boo. Even the silly thief girl Imoen who tagged along with you from the very start. Yes, this not only resurrected a dying breed of games, it ushered in a whole new age of revival for them. Like all games of the day though, eventually we shelved it and its progeny. Modern advances in operating systems later rendered it impossible, or extremely difficult, to get them to run on our new fangled machines. Until now.

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition brings back all of this and more on an updated version of the Infinity Engine. Everything from modern day wide screen monitor support down to additional features the original game couldn't support, such as kits and even romances with new NPCs.

Graphics & Audio

Though at first it may not seem like it, the graphics have been improved greatly over their originals. They will now scale properly to the resolution of your monitor, including wide screen formats. Character portraits have been vastly improved over the originals. Some of the texturing even seems to have been remastered in places. All in all, the graphics got a nice boost and you shouldn't be left wanting because of them.

Audio, as always, is top notch. The music accompanying the visits to each of the zones hasn't suffered one bit in quality. In fact, even my non-audiophile ears can tell these are not your grandfather's BG music tracks. They've been remastered as well to provide a rich background environment for your adventures.

As usual, most of the NPCs have generic voiced greetings, and they may be about the only parts not rerecorded for this. Aside from those NPCs which are new anyway. Ambient sound is as high quality as you might remember. There are some instances where I'm pretty sure extra lines were added to some of the classics too. If this is the case, then they managed to replicate the original voices perfectly. Or, perhaps even got the original actors to come back for some new bits.

Sadly, this didn't come without a price to pay. After playing the game for some time, it became clear there's some sort of problem with the audio controller. More often than not, after entering a new interior or zone, the sound would cut out or turn to a garbled mush. It isn't clear exactly what the issue was. Sometimes you could simply save and it would fix itself. Other times you'd be able to save, quit, then reenter the game from the menu. Unfortunately, it was just as likely you'd have the game freeze up and cost you any progress you hadn't managed to save.

The problems with the sound and music seem to have been mitigated for the most part by bypassing the BG:EE game launcher and shortcutting directly to the main EXE instead. They are still a problem though. More on this and other bugs later.

Gameplay

There probably isn't much to tell here. If you're familiar with D&D Second Edition, you already know all the rules. If you've played the original game, you can expect nothing much in this department to have changed.

Navigation through the world still takes places with the mouse. Clicking on things still sends you to where you want to go, albeit sometimes with a bit of difficulty. You can send anywhere from one to all of your people to the same place, or split them up individually as needed.

Being D&D 2E, yes, you're going to be fighting stuff. A lot of stuff. Oh God... does it ever end? Nope, but that's actually most of the fun is killing stuff to gain experience so you can become more powerful and in turn kill stronger enemies. You do need to mind your abilities and not stray into places you can't handle. This isn't Oblivion where the world scales to you. It's all static, and you can walk right to your death at level 1 in a battle you can never win.

That said, I continue to this day to have one major gripe about this whole system: Mages. They are way WAY too powerful and always have been. Attacking a group with one mage in it is bad enough. You can usually keep him at bay with your own mage, and an archer. Get two or more? You may as well hunker down and try to use the terrain against them. You'll be spending a lot of time dying and reloading any time 3 or more mages are in a fight. It's almost as though they're allowed to cheat.

There are of course quests you can do too, which provide you with a decent alternative means of gaining valuable experience and loot, but don't count on making a killing this way. Most of the rewards are still as chincy as they always were.

Exploring the world hasn't changed either. You still start in a new zone with only the immediate area around your party visible. Then you must clear away the fog of war to reveal what's just beyond that next tree, rock, or hill. It's surprisingly addictive and consumes your soul. "Just one more chunk of fog...."

Bottom line for gameplay is that there's really no surprises. It's everything you'd expect from the original, with just a touch more thrown in. You have been waylaid by enemies and must defend yourself.

Story

The basic plot line is pretty straightforward, and hasn't changed any. Though I will freely admit it's been so long since I played BG1 the last time I can't honestly say which was already here and which was added content.

Expect to delve deep into the mysteries of the iron shortage. Who is responsible for this? What are their goals? Why has your stepfather suddenly decided you need to leave RIGHT NOW? Who was that armored man anyway? All of this and more await. There's political intrigue to be had at every turn. There's also plenty of side questing to be done for all of those people who just don't seem to care that there's possibly a war with Amn coming. They just want their cloaks back.

So far as I could tell, it's all still intact and there are no inconsistencies caused by the added content.

Additional Content

The Enhanced Edition of the game comes with the original game, the Tales of the Sword Coast add on, and 3 new NPCs you can recruit into your party. So far as I'm aware, each of the new NPCs has an actual companion quest you can follow, unlike the ones from the original game.

Neera, the wild mage, is the only one I picked up for any length of time. Her quest is actually quite interesting and fits well into the game, though I will warn, it runs right into my major beef with multi-mage battles along the way. She also has a romance you can pursue, which is implied to continue on in a future installment.

Rassad is a monk of some Sun temple or something. I didn't pay much attention beyond that since he happened to be in Nashkel and I was there to pick up Minsc to do his quest. I never ended up coming back for him because I ended up needing another capable fighter and went to get Ajantis instead. Supposedly his quest is fairly involved.

Dorn Il-Khan is an evil half orc Blackguard. Since my party turned into a bunch of goodie two shoes guys, we weren't able to keep him for long. He's quite tough though and would have been perfectly suitable to fill in for Ajantis in an evil group. He also has a quest which SOUNDED like it was going to be rather lengthy, and it started off during a waylay screen of all things.

I'm given to understand that there are also two new map zones added to the game with this edition, though I could only confirm one. Provided I haven't simply missed it somewhere. I recall having seen a post on a forum (can't recall where now) that at least one of these is actually an incorporated user mod.

There is also an added module called The Black Pits which is handled separately from the rest of the game. I'd like to say this was cool, but you know, fighting a bunch of meaningless arena battles and talking to the same group of NPCs a bunch of times hoping for new dialogue just isn't fun. It lacked any semblance of substance at all.

Ankhegs Bugs

Yes, sadly this needs to be mentioned. There are numerous bugs scattered throughout the game. One of which will break Neera's romance quest if you're not careful. The aforementioned sound glitches being the other big thing. According to my trip through the official forums, there's numerous glitches, typos, rules that aren't being followed, mesh bugs, texture bugs, and pretty much any other type of bug you could imagine. Including severely crippling lag in Nashkel outside the inn and nearby temple. And I mean CRIPPLING. Modern graphics card be damned.

Ordinarily this would be bad because it would mean the developers need to issue a patch and you'd get to wait 6 months for it while they gather more reports. In this case, those patches are already flowing like water. There have been 3 reasonably big ones so far, and my report of the Neera bug has already been added to their official tracker. There are likely to be more, because there's still a ton of verified bugs that haven't been acknowledged yet.

This, despite them apparently having taken on board numerous community generated patches for the game.

On the bright side here, the bug in Durlag's Tower which originally cost me the chance to continue with my original BG1 party was fixed. I was able to sail the labyrinth levels without much difficulty thanks to that and got to actually see the remaining content there for the first time, as well as getting to see the stuff I had missed in Ulgoth's Beard for the first time.

DRM

Yeah. Frustratingly enough, there's DRM involved. Not nearly on the intrusive Steam malware/spyware level, but it's there. Your first installation and startup needs to go through their game launcher, and all patches must be downloaded there. They could have made this slightly worse by requiring the use of the Beamdog game management client, but thank God they didn't because that shit sucks.

The bright side? You can shortcut all this after you're downloaded and set up. Just make a shortcut to the actual game executeable the way we all did for Fallout 3. No more DRM issues. Not surprisingly, the game is more stable when bypassing the DRM. Who could have guessed?

Conclusions

If you liked the original Baldur's Gate, there's no reason you wouldn't like this too. Especially if you also liked the ToSC add-on. My advice though would be to wait a week or two before picking it up to see if the flow of patches subsides some.

There's also supposed to be some good user mods coming soon, and word has it Baldur's Gate 2 is going to get the same enhancement treatment.

Full sized post pic available here: http://www.iguanadons.net/gallery/Baldurs-Gate-713.html
.........................
RIP United States of America

July 1776 - November 2012.

       
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Posted on Dec 6, 2012 12:45 am by Samson in: | 8 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
Oh man that screenshot brings back memories. Thanks for the review. I notice that Gamespot already has BGII: EE listed, so I'd say that's confirmed.

Definitely grabbing these at some point.

       
That screenshot is also in the original size we were stuck with in 1999 - 640x400 :) (really 640x480 but this is as close as I could resize it)

       
Update for the sound issues.

It would appear that all I needed to do was coax the Creative Labs ALchemy feature into setting a configuration for BG:EE. After doing this, I'm unable to cause the crackling and static I was getting, even on the waylay screens.

If only onboard sound wasn't such a drain on CPU resources.

       
ALchemy didn't detect the game for me, but I installed using the BeamDogCrap so maybe if I uninstall and reinstall using the stand-alone installer it will be detected.

       
ALchemy won't detect it period. It has to be added manually. Creative Labs has never updated this tool with new profiles.

Open ALchemy. Click Add. Select "Use Game Path". Paste in the full path that leads to where Baldur.exe is located. ( For me: C:\Games\Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition\Data\00766 ) Click OK. Then select it from the left pane and move it to the right pane.

Make a shortcut directly to Baldur.exe on your desktop and then the next time you launch, ALchemy is running the show and you should have no further issues with broken sound.

I used the BG:EE installer, not the Beamdog crap client, so that part doesn't much matter.

       
And I just removed the BeamDog installation and started installing with the stand-alone installer, and immediately I was impressed with the revelation of what has been in each of the patches. BeamDog just says there's an update available, but you have no idea what is in the update, so if I'd been playing and knew of a bug I wouldn't know whether a new patch had fixed it or not.

       
Hmm, I don't really have anything to add beyond an echo of what AndalayBay already posted, but I suppose that's to be expected when school and family and such keep me from posting for most of a week. Despite it being an echo of her post, I do want to thank you for the review, Samson, it's nice to be able to see before I go buying yet another game that I really don't have time to play what I'm actually missing. Eventually I will have to pick up a copy of BG & BGII enhanced, if just for the sake of being able to say I have them in my gaming collection, but from your review, I may actually enjoy getting to play them too.

       
And, as is standard practice, here is what will eventually become an 11 post commentary series on BG:EE. Because I talk a lot.

       
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