Baldur’s Gate II and its expansion Throne of Bhaal hit the PC gaming world nearly 13 years ago, and despite a return to gamers courtesy of Good old Games, developer Overhaul Games decided that they wanted to do more than just make the game playable on modern Operating systems. They set out not only enhance the resolution and add wide-screen support for PC’s, but to also port the game on Mac and iPad platforms. The enhancements also extended to gameplay, but they appear to be slight. Maybe the rechristened title is a bit too boastful to call it truly enhanced though.
Like the title suggests, Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a remastering of the original Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn and its expansion, Throne of Bhaal. They have been reworked to allow for higher resolutions and wide-screen support on PC’s and Macs. As a result, the game looks much cleaner than the old game or GOG release would on a modern operating system, let alone being a more stable build. However the spritework was not redrawn, and the game still has a fair bit of pixelation in both the models and textures. Also, there are no new animation frames to speak of either. Voice acting is still not fully voiced in game, still only being used in battle cries, major story events, or certain parts of sidequests. Not that any of this is bad, but it does make the ‘Enhanced’ part of the new title sound more significant than it actually is. There are new recruitable player characters though. Three returning new NPC’s from the Enhanced Edition of Baldur’s Gate are Neera the Wild Mage, Dorn Il-Khan the Blackguard, and Rasaad the Monk. There’s also a new character for this installment as well, Hexxat the Thief. Each are optional party members that have their own quests in both Shadows of Amn, and Throne of Bhaal. There is also the Black Pits II, a carried over scenario from Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. But it is also disconnected from the main story and has its own storyline.
As far as gameplay is concerned, not much has changed. The game still uses the 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragon ruleset. This means that spells need to be set ahead of time before use or re-use, and a rest is needed to charge them. Also some enemies can only be killed by certain methods like setting the enemy on fire as a finishing move, or magic based attacks being the only means of damage dealing. Inventory space per character is limited by both weight and available slots. The game can mostly be played entirely by mouse, as there are tabs for many things, though keyboard shortcuts still exist. The game is also in real-time, but the on screen action can be paused so players can more efficiently decide their next course of actions. Many of these elements eventually were carried to Bioware’s later games, as they were the ones who originally developed this game. There are some odd bugs to note though. Such as path finding: The AI being pretty stupid and taking the longest route to get to a destination. This seems to happen more often when you all gather in a group formation. Also, sometimes your party members will get stuck on the geography and be unable to open a container because they continue to walk into on object instead of going around it. You would think that after all these years the kinks left over from 13 years ago would be fixed.
Worry not though, as the game developers are working on patches for any lingering or new issues from this version of the game or otherwise. And despite the fact that The Enhanced Edition is currently incompatible with many mods, it’s likely that the community will either fix the old mods or make new ones based on the older versions. But the Enhanced Edition does have a bit more in the way of streamlining gameplay from a control perspective, and even a bit in the mechanics. I noticed that when I started my game, many spells had already been put into the spell book. That makes playing with a mage a lot easier. Also some NPC’s have new voice acting, which is an improvement over the previous VA’s.
Despite the lack of a significant overhauling, the core game is still a very solid experience. You can expect a significantly lengthy quest, with the main quest being as little as 10 hours. But of course that makes the game much harder, so having many side quests to do and make that clock go up into the 100 hour range, and that’s not even counting the expansion or the Black Pits II. Voice-acting brings the charms of characters like Minsc to life, and you can also expect a great story to unfold. The game may be a bit pricey for what is more of a re-release than a remake, but it’s ultimately up players if they want mods, or a version for the iPad, or just accessibility and streamlining. Either way you can’t go wrong.
Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition Screenshots: