Reviewed Version: Pc
I remember when I was playing Baldurs Gate II for the first time back in 2000. I had bought a collectors edition, and was super excited that I could continue the adventure that I had started in the first game. Now that Overhaul Games have released Baldurs Gate 2: Enhanced Edition (after some legal disputes) I could not wait to jump into the Forgotten Realms once again. How does it hold up today?
Sometime after defeating Sarevok, our main protagonist and his party find themselves captured by a sorcerer going by the name of Jon Irencius. Irencius wants to tap into the hidden powers of our unlucky protagonist – since he is the son of the Lord of Murder – Bhaal. Luckily enough, Imoen (the childhood friend of our protagonist) have managed to escape from the cell to free our heroes. And so starts another big adventure.
After firing up Baldurs Gate II: Enhanced Edition, a sense of nostalgia struck at once. Everything I choose to do in the game was exactly how I remembered it – from freeing Minsc to escaping the dungeon, and exploring the world. At first glance not much seems changed in this version of the game, but it soon struck me that Overhaul Games have made a few, but nice enhancements. The first thing a seasoned player will notice, is the new user interface. It looks tons better than the old one, and is a better fit for this widescreen version of the game. It also runs without a hassle on new hardware, which is pretty nice.
Next is the new content. Several new characters have been added to the game– with some of them returning from Baldurs Gate: Enhanced Edition. These characters are seamlessly integrated into the game. Their personality and stories are well written, and I could almost swear that they had been there from the beginning. I especially like Neera, as her personality gives some life to the party. Then we have The Black Pits II. It is an arena styled adventure – with its own isolated story – following up on The Black Pits from Baldurs Gate: Enhanced Edition, and while it makes for a pretty nice distraction, it is not as good as the main campaign of the game. It is clearly made for those who wants more hack n slash, and a “not so good” story. I am not one of them.
The graphics are mostly unchanged from the original version. The games backgrounds have aged pretty well, but the characters have not. It is kind jarring that my the character portraits looks fantastic, while the sprites looks pretty bland. This is because the game is from year 2000 however– but I can see some new players getting scared away by their very simple 2D-look.
The game system is still based on the 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons rules. This means that behind the “simple looking” battle system there are a lot of dices rolling. Some of the rules do not make sense for a modern day gamer (like the armor rating going negative instead of positive), which could make it a pretty daunting task for someone “uninitiated” to deepen his knowledge about the systems of the game. Baldurs Gate II: Enhanced Edition is highly playable without this deep knowledge however, but it it helps to have it. When you learn to cope with the games nooks, and crannies– you will find that it has a very nice strategical battle system going. All the choices you make will decide the outcome of every battle, and when making the right ones– it feels good.
One thing that always grinded my gears in Baldurs Gate, as well as Baldurs Gate II, is the games brutal view on evil characters. Of course you can become even more evil after choosing your starting affinity, but if you go “to much to the dark side” guards will haunt you wherever you go in the world. While it makes sense, it is just so irritating. If Overhaul Games ever makes a Baldurs Gate III, I really hope the “good vs evil system” will be more like Mass Effect. Choices that changes the personality of the characters, but do make you the most hunted guy in the world.
I still like Baldurs Gate II. Some parts of it have aged better than others, but I still find myself having fun with it– while following its excellent storytelling. The game really is the base for later rpg’s like: Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect, and it makes for a nice throwback to see where those games started. I do see how many can be scared away by it’s simple appearance however. To me it seems that Baldurs Gate II: Enhanced Editon mostly is for players of the games first incarnation or hardcore Dungeons and Dragons fans that have not tried it.
With that said, if you have never played Baldurs Gate II, and wants to see what it is all about – Baldurs Gate II: Enhanced Edition is the version of the game to get. It works perfectly, while it has some nice additions that was not present in the original. If you are a returning fan of the game, it will not bring as many surprises, but still give a nice trip down memory lane. And if you get hooked to it, you will find that it sports many hundred hours of gameplay giving great value for your bucks. It is not perfect, but it is a nice piece of history.