We’re currently well into the era of game remakes and remasterings – and now with Overhaul Games’ Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, we’ve encountered something that fits neatly in between the two.
A remake of a game involves completely building the original content from the ground up, opting to either remain true to its source (a la the upcoming Abe’s Odysee HD) – or taking an entirely new direction completely (like with XCOM).
Game remasters take a different route, in that they’re basically a fresh coat of paint slapped onto something that’s a bit dated, with an upgrade to the resolution, and shipped to consumers for a nice full price.
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is both, and neither of these things.
It’s sort of a remake because on the one hand, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced has been built from the ground up with an upgraded Infinity engine – but on the other hand, you would never really know, as things remain pretty much identical to the game which was released well over a decade ago – at least at first glance.
It’s also sort of a remastering, because on one hand, there is an abundance of aesthetic changes, upgrades and overhauls for your eyes to feast upon – but on the other hand, the game’s visuals remain significantly archaic in modern gaming terms, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is just the original Baldur’s Gate running with a few mods in tow.
But looks can be deceiving.
Nostalgia pants + 4
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition manages to refrain from changing anything that made the original a classic in the first place, while also slapping you in the face with a whole bunch of new content.
Reviewing Baldur’s Gate Enhanced in conventional terms is a bit unfair; it’s an old game, and no matter how many “enhancements” Overhaul staples on, its age is apparent, and you can’t hide from it.
Thanks to the HD compatibility, you can now see a lot more of The Sword Coast as you explore – but it will never be as visually engaging as the game’s successor (Baldur’s Gate II). A side-by-side comparison screenshot can be found here, for a look into how the visuals have changed.
The original’s severely dated FMVs have been removed and replaced with hand-painted animations, which work well as a more modern update, though, there a few holes where cinematics weren’t replaced with anything.
The interface and menus have been updated, and scale well in both full-screen and windowed mode – and the text has been altered as well to be better-suited to modern resolutions.
Everything else, though, is as you remembered. From character models to environments, things remain largely unchanged – though at HD resolutions, the world probably isn’t as big as you remembered it. It’s all a part of growing up, I suppose.
You must gather your party before venturing forth
The story remains one of the greatest tales ever told – adventurers banding together to traipse up and down the Sword Coast solving all kinds of issues – from iron shortages, to bandit problems – while also uncovering a plot against you and your strange heritage, which just so happens to be tied directly into everything.
It has to be said: the scripting, characters and quests have now entered into the realm of being “charming” and “quaint”. While the over-reaching plot is quite mature and complex in itself, it’s presentation is definitely from a different time – a fact which is emphasised as soon as Overhaul’s additional content and characters begin show up.
In fact, the three new characters – Neera, Dorn Il-Khan and Rasaad – are presented with the same level of polish found in the vastly superior, and more mature, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn.
They all come with their own backgrounds and questlines, along with fully-voiced dialogue branches and character development. It’s no surprise, then, that they almost seem out of place on the plains of Baldur’s Gate 1.
Their presence also presents an additional quandry: for Baldur’s Gate fans, there’s already an established draw to certain characters in the classic – from the husband and wife team of Khalid and Jaheira, to the lovable Minsc and boo – you’re almost hard-pressed to find a reason to care about the new guys.
That said, their integration into the pre-existing game world isn’t jarring, and unless you’ve played the original game, you wouldn’t even know that they weren’t there before. So they might just mesh in with your adventuring – if you so choose.
Chaotic Good/Lawful Evil
I’m not even going to pretend to know the finite details of the Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules (that would just make the hardcore DnD fans angry), but in the game’s terms, it’s basically a system of rules and variables that play out in the background processes which determine everything you do in the game – from your starting stats, the success rate of picking and breaking locks, to how much damage you deal in combat.
The entire concept is based off of the roll of a die or dice, which in “real-world” terms, have a number of faces depending on the weapon, class, proficiency, etc. These figures are then also influenced by modifiers attached to your equipment, spells or potions, which ultimately results in one result: a hit/save, or a miss/loss.
Everything you decide when creating and equipping your character impacts this aspect of gameplay in some way.
This core mechanic of DnD games remains unchanged in Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition – and it thankfully operates largely in the background – but Overhaul has also performed some Franken-retro-stein feats and stitched in a large bulk of Baldur’s Gate II’s content into the game as well. That means a wealth of additional modifiers for you to consider.
From equipment and weapons, to sub-races and class kits – there’s definitely a new spin on the old classic, and a whole lot of new variables to add into the mix. More notably, Baldur’s Gate II character animations, spell casting and spell effects have also been imported into the game.
Despite the “newer” additions, though, this is old school RPGing, and it has difficulty to match. Even if you opt to adjust the difficulty settings to have an easier ride (at the expense of a large chunk of experience points), Baldur’s Gate is quick to remind you that it’s from a different era of gameplay.
There is little you can do with your mage who has 4 hit points, knows only a couple of low-level spells, and won’t level up until several hours into the adventure. Get ready to save your game a lot.
So saith the wise Alaundo
The original Baldur’s Gate was a big game – and with Overhaul’s Enhanced Edition, it’s just gotten even bigger.
Gone are the days you need to change between 5 game discs – everything is presented in a simple 2.2GB package, playable offline.
Things run smoother, loading times are practically non-existent, and the stand-alone Black Pits expansion adds on a whole new chunk of content to explore, even though its ties to the main game aren’t apparent.
The game has gone live for download today across all platforms from their respective stores, and as such, I haven’t had time to explore the multiplayer. But from the promises Overhaul has made, it’s looking to be something that will add massive value to an already appealing package.
The game will have a difficult time to entice a new generation of gamers into its fold – with its dated shell and weathered paint – but for anyone who’s played the classic and needs an excuse to revisit the Sword Coast, you’re probably downloading it right now, already.
The bottom line: well done, Overhaul. You’ve proven that you can do it, and do it well – now bring on Baldur’s Gate II.