Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition: Everything You Should Know

On November 30, 1998, a little-known company called BioWare released a strangely titled game named Baldur's Gate for personal computers. It was critically and commercially acclaimed, an excellent RPG with a gigantic world, interesting characters and lots of little details to discover and enjoy. Fourteen years later, Baldur's Gate is back. Today marks the release of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, a touched-up port of the iconic RPG with some new characters, features and enhancements. But what's inside? Is it worth revisiting, or playing for the first time today if you missed it in the past?

What is a "Baldur's Gate"?

Baldur's Gate is the name of a city that you can find in a role-playing game called Baldur's Gate. Fitting, right? The game is based on the world of Dungeons & Dragons, meaning you'll find priests, half-elves, THAC0, and all the other quirky features and stats that make D&D what it is. You roll your own character under D&D rules and restrictions, then take him or her into the world for questing and adventuring.

It's hard to sum up all the charm and wonder of Baldur's Gate in one or two sentences, but at its core, this is a giant role-playing game with a huge, sprawling world. There's a main storyline to follow, but there are also tons and tons of sidequests: you can go help a crazy berserker rescue the love of his life from a troll fortress; you can save an apprentice wizard who has accidentally transformed himself into a chicken; you can search for treasure in the undead ruins near a hobbit village; and much, much more.

Oh, like Skyrim!

Well... yeah! Kind of. Instead of giving you a first-person perspective, Baldur's Gate is isometric, which means you get a top-down view of the world. You move your characters by selecting them and clicking where you want them to go, which doesn't have quite the same feel as the direct control of a game like Skyrim. Some other aspects feel rather different, but if you like the exploring and role-playing of a game like Skyrim, you'll probably like this game too.

Also, Baldur's Gate has party members.

Party... members?

You can recruit up to five allies (for a total party of six) to follow you around, do your bidding, and fight for you.

Fun part is, all of the characters in Baldur's Gate have their own goals, personalities, and ambitions. If you recruit someone to help figure out why there's an iron shortage, but you don't seem to be looking into the iron shortage, that someone might get mad and decide to leave you forever. You also have to worry about balance: if you team up with a Lawful Good paladin and a Chaotic Evil sorcerer, they might not get along too well. They might get into a fight and force you to pick a side. Loser dies.

That does sound kind of awesome. So what's the story?

Your main character is an orphan (yeah, yeah, I know) raised by a dude named Gorion in a quiet, studious city called Candlekeep. One day, Gorion is all like "yo we've gotta get the hell out of dodge." So you're like "okay." Then you run into a terrifying guy named Sarevok. And then... well, bad stuff happens. You have to piece together a series of mysteries from there. And kill lots of people.

How do you kill people?

Combat in Baldur's Gate is really interesting: it's sort of a mixture of real-time and turn-based battling. Everything happens at once, but you can pause combat at any time to give orders to your party. So you can pause to have your characters gulp down healing potions, cast spells, move around the map, and figure out optimal strategies for taking out your opponents.

It can get rather difficult, particularly at the beginning of the game when you're rather low leveled, but you can always change the difficulty settings, and there are always ways to upgrade your party's equipment and abilities.

OK, OK, this does sound pretty cool, but what if I already knew all this? What if I've already played Baldur's Gate? What's different about the Enhanced Edition?

Lots of things. Let's make a list:

  • The first thing you'll notice is that Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition can support a high-definition display. Everything is crisper and cleaner, and you can even zoom in and out on the main screen (not possible before). The art assets, however, have not been changed, so they don't look too great when you zoom in closely.
  • This version of Baldur's Gate also takes a great deal from Baldur's Gate II, the 2000 sequel and by most accounts one of the best games of all time. Baldur's Gate II added a number of extra classes and sub-classes, some new features (like dual-wielding), .
  • Bug fixes! The game's creative director Trent Oster says they've zapped some 400 bugs while porting over the game.
  • This version of the game comes with Baldur's Gate's expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast.
  • It also comes with plenty of new stuff. First of all there's a new area called The Black Pits, which is basically a set of combat trials
  • There are also a few new characters: Rasaad yn Bashir, a monk (and his new area, the Cloud Peaks); Neera, a wild mage (also comes with her own new area); and Dorn Il-Khan, a half-orc Blackguard.
  • More to come, Oster has promised, especially if this one does well. There may be DLC in the future.

So it's out for PC today. Wasn't it supposed to come to iPad? Or Mac? Or Android?

It was. All of those versions have been delayed: the iOS version had a game-stopping bug, and should be out next week, according to Oster. The OSX version is also still waiting on Apple's approval, and the Android version should be out by Christmas.

The PC/Mac versions are $US20. The mobile versions will be $US10, but much of the extra content will not be included; you'll have to buy it separately as DLC.

When the different versions do all come out, you'll be able to play cross-platform multiplayer.

I remember playing Baldur's Gate like 10 years ago. Has it aged well?

It's hard to tell. If you're used to the fast-paced, actiony gameplay of today's Western RPGs — games like Mass Effect, Skyrim, and even Dragon Age — you might have a tough time adjusting to the more sluggish tempo of a game like Baldur's Gate. Characters move very slowly. It takes some getting used to.

But the writing is fantastic, the world is full of interesting (and funny!) little details to uncover, and the interface enhancements definitely help make it more accessible than it was a decade and a half ago.

Wait a minute. I remember playing Baldur's Gate with some crazy mods a few years ago that did similar things. Is there anything you can do here that you can't do with mods?

Probably not. The new content designed by the folks behind Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition will be exclusive to this game, but a lot of the interface changes and BG2 enhancements can be patched into a standard version of Baldur's Gate with a number of free mods.

On the flip side, this may very well be the definitive version of Baldur's Gate. You don't have to worry about messing around with system files and inadvertently causing bugs in your game, and the folks behind BG: EE promise patches and future content that will make the game better. Also: even though it's not out yet, this may be the only (non-jailbreaking) way to play Baldur's Gate on your iPad or Android tablet. Look forward to more Kotaku coverage of the iPad version of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition when it's out.


Comments

    HOBBIT village? Really?

      Halflings were originally referred to as Hobbits in the earlier version of D&D, along with their prominent traits and attributes (furry feet, living in hillside hollows, penchant for thievery). IIRC, the paper doll for a Halfling character in BG showed the same furry feet.

      The article appears to be written for people who are unfamiliar with Baldur's Gate, it seems especially skewed towards newer gamers - people whose cRPG experience may be limited to Skyrim and WoW. Calling them hobbits should give people a pretty good idea of what they are and that they are distinct from gnomes and dwarves.

        Nope, half longs have never been called Hobbits in D&D, not in the original version simply called Dungeons and Dragons, not in ADD, ADD 2nd addition or onwards. I have all those all books so I know. The did have hairy feet though and they are really strongly based on Hobbits, but never by name.

          From http://archives.theonering.net/features/interviews/gary_gygax.html#maincontent

          "Anyone reading this that recalls the original D&D game will know that there were Balrogs, Ents, and Hobbits in it. Later those were removed, and new, non-JRRT things substituted–Balor demons, Treants, and Halflings." - Gary Gygax

          I found that link as a source on the wikipedia of Halfling (Dungeons & Dragons), which also states that Hobbits were a "class" in the 1974 edition of D&D. There were apparently 19 different "editions" (additions, revisions) of D&D before AD&D was released. I'm not sure at what point the change occurred.

          I don't doubt that you own the source books that you say, but I believe Mr. Gygax when he says they were called Hobbits in the original release.

    Characters really do move slowly. They should've called it "Baldur's Gait".

      Someone's been watching that Too Human review.

      lol given that when it first came out my PC was pretty crappy, i didnt notice the slowness, i was just happy it ran

      6 boots of speed, problem solved.

    Go for the eyes boo! GOO FOR THE EYES!!! RUUUUUSK!

      I remember him saying that in Shadows of Arm(n?) but not in the first one.

      Props for one of the best repeating pieces of dialogue though.

    Cant wait to collect the equalizer again :D

    On the topic of the tablet versions not having everything the PC version has, like characters, and that you will need to make IAPs to get them. Just wanted to point out before anyone starts screaming that tablet owns are being ripped off.. remember that the initial game is half the price of the PC version and if you want all the same content, it will actually cost you EXACTLY the game as the PC version. So you're actually getting a cheaper "foot in the door" without the extra bells and whistles.. but can pick and choose the features you want to add on with the maximum cost being the same. So tablet owners are actually getting a better deal in my opinion... not to mention the fact that this was never available on touch-screen devices (since they didn't exist) before. :)

      Watch as the "On-disc DLC" haters attack you.

    Please let us know when this is released for iOS. I'm guessing this will be an AWESOME fit for tablet/touch controls.

    If you own the original this isn't worth buying

    Not trying to be a samrt arse, but is there actually people who come to Kotaku who need an explanation of what Baulder's Gate is?

      Not trying to be a smart-arse, but most of them know how to spell Baldur's Gate ;)

        Hilarious! Love it!

        And yes, there will always be people who come to websites who don't have knowledge about something specific.

      Honestly I suspect a lot of people don't know what Baldur's Gate is.

      That is, people who go to Kotaku. People in general, too, but we're not talking about those people.

      Last edited 29/11/12 2:21 pm

        Ok fair enough. I kinda put Baldur's Gate in the same category as some of the other big releases of 1998 which have achieved a high level of recognition e.g. halflife, starcraft etc.

    Everything I need to know, all the "enhanced features" were available in the form of hard work from modders.
    Tablet and extra dungeon are the only new things added and you have to be a fool to spend 200+ hours playing a epic rpg on a glorified phone.

    Hey guys...

    At the moment, along with the launch of the game, a lot of people are having a lot of issues...

    Just look at the forums; titles on those threads O_O

    http://forum.baldursgate.com/categories/windows-pc

    Wouldnt the easiest comparison be something like Final Fantasy in isometric? Party members, attribute stats, gearing etc etc. And im talking purely for people who dont know what a crpg is. Considering the massive popularity of RPG's on phones etc these days, articles written like this make me feel like the author has only just been exposed them selves to the genre and feels they must share their experience.

    On a more appropriate note, Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment are 2 of my most treasured RPG's of all time. Planescape: Torment being imo the definitive way of telling a story on a computer (i still have my original CD's after all these years).

    I wish they would update the rules to 3.5 :(

      I don't. I loved Neverwinter Nights, but I wouldn't trade the Baldur's Gate rules for the world. Confusing and seemingly arbitrary perhaps, but it wouldn't feel the same without them. Plus I always felt jumping around classes all the time gave a little too much flexibility to ridiculous combinations...

      3.5 is meh. 2.5 is the best. And 4 is not even D&D anymore

    Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition for iPad is now out ($9.99 US / $10.49 AUD)

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