Before the days when developers would make stuff like Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, they made classic RPG goodness that brought together innovative gameplay with deep and intriguing storyline together in a well-balanced package of awesome. That was what Baldur’s Gate was when it first came out in 1998, which was a legendary year in PC gaming. Fourteen years after its first release, with expansion packs and a sequel behind it now, Overhaul Games, Atari, and Beamdog have put their heads together to come up with something that seemed impossible in this age — a faithful re-release.
This enhanced edition of Baldur’s Gate and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion is not some reboot or reimagining of a classic, but the classic itself updated to look good in today’s standards. It serves to reintroduce the Forgotten Realms franchise to a new generation of RPG fans who want more beyond modern titles like Dragon Age and Skyrim. This is not just a history lesson about the origins of the genre, but the reinvigorating of the isometric computer role-playing game. This is the crossroad that connects the old with the new, bringing classic RPGs to a new age.
In addition to the already great storyline that has stood the test of time, it has been made fresh with the addition of three new heroes to mix things up and give players more options to making up a team and playing with different builds. There is also the Black Pits arena that pits your characters against a multitude of challenges, so powergamers can truly test their creations against the worst that the game can throw at them. Beyond these new additions, it’s still the same isometric role playing game with the combat system where you can pause anytime to issue commands and implement tactics, which then became a trademark of Black Isle and its subsequent incarnations like Bioware, Obsidian, and Overhaul. It still follows the 2nd edition of the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, so it doesn’t really stray from the original game.
Aside from being configured for hi-res, not much else makes the supposed enhancements obvious enough at first glance. You have to play it in order to get the full breadth of the improvements that have been added here. Perhaps it retains the rather pixelated look in order to not spoil the look and feel that the original game possesses. This does do a lot to keep the integrity of the game, as well as give long-time fans that nostalgic feel, and it’s not that pixelated anyway as it does look like an improvement over the original.
But nostalgia can only go so far these days, especially with all the new gamers craving for other things like shooting guns and shooting more guns. With the old user interface still intact, it may look unappealing to the kids who think that anything other than an uber-cool heads-up display is not a good user interface. But the thing is that once they do try this out, they may start taking to it due to its depth, thus exposing younger gamers to what older generations had raved about and inspire new trends and bring back old ones in game design. Perhaps this title wasn’t needed to be released, but it’s good that it did.
Hearken back to the good old days when stories were told in unbridled brilliance and gameplay complemented it with gusto. Not to say that newer games aren’t good at all, but so much can be said about games like Baldur’s Gate, wherein the narrative and gameplay experience were taken to unprecedented heights during its time.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 9/10