It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it’s the end of 2013 and I’m sitting down to review Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. It’s been 13 years since I first sat down with Baldur’s Gate II in the attic of my best friend’s home, playing into the early hours of the morning and silently praying that his parents wouldn’t realize we were still awake. I can’t quite remember if we honestly loved the game as much as we think we did or if it’s just been romanticized over the years, but regardless, the game holds a special place in our hearts.
13 years later, I’m now tasked with breaking down the game for a new generation of gamers. It’s daunting, truth be told. The original Baldur’s Gate II was one of the most important RPG games of all time, and nothing has really been like it since. Do I knock points off over the fact that it has some features that are now slightly archaic? Should I hold the flaws of the new content as a major strike against the title? I can say with certainty that Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a polarizing entity, but it’s still as magical as I remember it after all these years. Despite this, it is no longer one I can wholeheartedly recommend the way I once did.
The first change you’re sure to notice between the original and Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition are the updated graphics. While the original Baldur’s Gate definitely didn’t look bad by any stretch of the imagination, the massive jumps we’ve had in technology have completely changed the playing field. No longer is a resolution of 800 X 600 considered the bleeding edge, and players simply aren’t accustomed to a locked camera view anymore.
Beamdog looked to correct both of these by having the resolution scale to your monitor, and allow you to zoom in on the battlefield. The problem is that this doesn’t go nearly far enough. Your graphic options are limited to “Full Screen”, “Hardware Cursor” and “Scale User Interface”. I don’t think I’m asking too much for the ability to have a bit more control over the resolution, and this is a problem that has lingered from last year’s offering. The character models do look better than the original’s offering, but since they’ve just been retouched as opposed to redone, they can’t possibly hold up against today’s standards. Zooming in only highlights these issues as everything becomes brutally pixelated fairly quickly.
The main appeal of Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition has to be the four new characters, each of which inject a few hours’ worth of new story into the mix. Players who tried last year’s installment will recognize three of the new characters making their return (the mage Neera, the monk Rasaad yn Bashir and half-orc Dorn II Khan) and will be pleasantly surprised to find that they have a few new abilities that make them infinitely more enjoyable. Unlike the last go-round, adventuring with your new companions feels like a natural extension of the game as opposed to a jarring piece of forced-in material.
The fourth new character is by far the best incentive for gamers to pick up Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. Thief Hexxatt quickly became my favorite and her story may be one of the best in the franchise, finally offering players a female-only same-sex romance. This may be the one true flaw with her story, since the character is written so well that it seems a shame to pigeonhole her like that, but the modding scene is already working on opening up her story to everyone. However, the best compliment I can pay here is that she seamlessly flows into the fabric of the original Baldur’s Gate. It honestly feels like she could have been here the entire time.
One thing that I’m slightly concerned with is how the new characters may be made available to gamers. We were gifted the game through a Beamdog press account, and by nature had everything available from the start. Some of the documentation we have implies that the characters may be considered DLC for the tablet version of the title, which removes the best selling point that the game has.
I stated during my review of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition last year that my main issue isn’t with the Baldur’s Gate part, but the Enhanced Edition part. The core game here is still one of the best RPG experiences ever created, but Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition doesn’t offer a strong enough incentive to buy it again.
For a fraction of the price, you could buy the original Baldur’s Gate from GOG.com, and pick from an absolute plethora of mods to build the game up to what you need. Really, this is going to come down to the new characters. If you feel like paying a bit extra for four (very well done) characters, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what you find here. The game still plays fantastically and really should be considered required material for fans of the genre. But if you’re someone who has already sunk hundreds of hours into the game over the past decade, there’s not much here demanding you to open up your wallet again.
This review is based on a PC version of the game given to us for review purposes.
Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition makes some improvements to what is one of, if not the, best RPGs ever made. That said, it may not have done enough to warrant the extra cost when compared to simply buying the original.