Beamdog / Skybound Games (studio)
22 October 2019 (released)
11 November 2019
I don’t know whether it’s just me or if other gamers see the past coming back to haunt everyone? We’ve had Medievil, Crash Bandicoot and more make a stunning reappearance in recent years. But it’s not just the console favourites that are getting a second life. PC classics are coming back …. Well coming to consoles for the first time ever more like!
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition Pack is a revitalised release of the classic hack and slash RPG. Only 20 years after its original release, dare I ask if it was worth the wait? Now I’m normally a little uneasy when it comes to a simple remaster of a game that’s 20 years old, especially one that was so beloved on the PC. But I think what we have here is a fine port with a couple of flaws really.
The Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Pack is a bundle of both Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, along with all extra content such as the expansions for both games. It’s impressive to see how much content the old games had and you can dive right in and probably spend months going through it all. One of the strongest aspects to Baldur’s Gate and arguably to most 90’s and early 2000’s RPGs of the same nature was their compelling stories. Everything starts off simple enough as a young orphan witnesses the death of their kindly foster father at the hands of a right evil scumbag. Soon enough you’re thrown into a complex and devious plot (the best there is) in which the very fate of the world hangs in the balance. The kind of setup that’s ideal for a massive RPG or two!
Now I will be honest and I’ve not actually played the original games before. Only the console exclusive games back on the Xbox and PS2, plus a few others in the genre such as Never Winter Nights.
So being 20 years old, you would imagine that Baldur's Gate would be a product and thus have a few flaws that represent that classic era of gaming in the 90's where not everything was so refined. Other games now and even just after Baldur’s Gate have built upon the original formula and in many ways improved it. But the flaws are still here such as lack of waypoints, a quest log which is a little rubbish and general presentational issues. Don't get me wrong, the developers have done a banging job at making this look pretty for the PS4, but things like general npcs all looking alike (I'm not a pixel art person racist!), the map being a little user unfriendly and the general text being so small. I don't understand why nowadays, developers can't just allow users to adjust the text size? God of War was a prime example of rubbish size text but PC ports of games are no better as originally intended for monitors which PC gamers do sit close too. But console games don't sit super close to their TVs. Unless you have a massive 4K TV then you might find some texts a little difficult to read.
As said it’s a product of the time and many others have fixed these issues.
But that doesn’t mean the remainder of what we get isn’t good, as Baldur’s Gate delivers on giving us a great story filled with memorable characters, rewarding exploration, an awesome soundtrack and intense combat that any RPG fan will enjoy. Even the character creation is vastly detailed, with different races, professions and even a varied good/evil structure to decide upon. Meaning you could be an ultra-nice thief (makes sense right?) to the mega evil warlock who’s hot for chaos and destruction!
Getting into the story of Baldur's Gate presents an interesting mystery where you'll meet a long line of fantastic companions who will keep you company on the long journey. Your crew will be able to help in a number of ways, providing vital services when you can’t do the job. You can take on a thief who’s good at breaking locks so that you can get some sweet, sweet loot. But then this might cause a problem with certain party members who might not like you stealing things and taking sweet, sweet loot that isn’t yours.
There’s an interesting dynamic to the party where you have manage the balance and ease any tensions that might rise. But the journey has other strengths including its immersive exploration that rewards players for their investment. The worlds are vastly interesting and contain plenty of hidden treasures waiting to be found and people to annoy.
But exploration is only part of gameplay in these RPGs, as you’ll do battle with many weird, wonderful and terrifying creatures during your adventure. Fighting off mythical beasts, undead creeps and piss heads at your local pub with spells, melee weapons and ranged attacks while developing skills and weapons outside of combat to be much more effective. Wow sounds like a typical Friday night at central London.
Combat works similar to the V.A.Ts system from Fallout where the world pauses and you’ll be able to plan out your attack. This might sound like a bit of drag but it’s a nice way to suitably disguise Turn Base combat into something more engaging. It’s odd …. But it works. Giving you a space to breath and plan but not fully knowing what will happen once the game resumes. It can be intense, challenging and purely unforgiving at times. But newbies can fear not as Baldur’s Gate offers a nice arrangement of difficulties ranging from the ultra-hard-core mode that the old fans will love. Then we have the nice ultra-easy (where you can’t die!) story mode, where you can just literally enjoy the story without the fear of death. It’s a nice way to show something for the purists, the pros, the average RPGs looking to get into more complex games and those who simply love a good story.
Even with a great story, there are some moments which were kind of cringing in fantasy terms. Featuring some odd characters, outdated daffiness which does come through the woodwork nowadays but back then, seemed like the writers didn’t see the missteps and kind of relished in it a little.
But I will totally forgive the lamer story elements because the rest of it is just amaz-balls! As mentioned before you’ll meet some awesome characters and get involved in some legendary quests like any great RPG would deliver. Such as helping poor villagers take on an evil beast or solving a grisly series of murders and one quest that’s basically that Dennis Quaid movie D.O.A featuring you being poisoned and having to get an cure before it’s too late.
Both Baldur's Gate and Baldur’s Gate II is offer an immense RPG experience with a confident and well told story, plenty of interesting characters, side quests and a fascinating world to explore. Now to be fair I didn’t explore everything these games have to offer but managed to finish the main stories and eagerly dived into expansions. This is a good thing as you’ll be investing plenty of hours on all the content here, with 40 – 50 hours on the story and so much more when it comes to the expansions, which are great and offer a range of different scenarios from combat arenas to conclusive chapters of the main stories.
All of this is enough to get you in the mood for Baldur's Gate III.
So what I can really say? Fans of old timey RPGs will have a blast at reliving classic adventures from the era that redefined and perfected old school RPGs. Even to the point where they’re still amazing. Some aspects haven’t aged all that well but the remastered graphics and sound design help make it a solid port/transition onto consoles. So defo worth checking out!
++ Engaging and immersive RPG gameplay
+ Great stories, side quests and characters
+ Looks decent for a 20 year old game
-- Some of the presentation is lacking and outdated
A PS4 copy of Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition (PS4) was provided by the publishers for the purpose of this review.