Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (PC)

You had to know that this one was coming.

Beamdog and Overhaul Games have released Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition for the PC.  It's a little surprising that it actually got done, given some of the legal wrangling that happened after the first one came out.  But it's all smiles and rainbows now between Beamdog, Atari, and BioWare.  Except for those of us who actually play the game.
The comments I made regarding the visuals on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (released late last year) are just as valid here as they were previously, save for one small point.  It seems that somebody might have picked up on my comment in the review of the first game about how that “motion comic” opening sucked, because BG2:EE treats us to the original rendered opening cutscenes for both Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal, as well as the rest/camping animations.  Yeah, they look old and a bit cheesy, but they're what was with the original games, and that's how they should be.  Outside of that, it's the same thing as it was with the first game.

Yes, it all looks very lovely.  Yes, it's got all new high resolution textures.

The Baldur's Gate series was never ugly and the enhancements are pretty subtle.  As with the visuals, so with the audio.  The score is still there and amazing.  The voice acting is really well done.  There's nothing different about the audio from the first Enhanced Edition that really stands out.

In terms of gameplay, again, I think somebody might have been listening to my comments from the first game's review.

The problem is that they went completely the opposite direction in some respects.  The four additional characters that were added to the first Enhanced Edition make a return.  However, they appear to be only available as DLC purchases made within the game. (It's difficult to say for certain if this is applicable to the PC version; the review copy we were sent can only be accessed through a specific “Press” account set up by Beamdog, though documentation sent along with the game indicates the NPCs are purchasable only on the tablet edition of the game.)  If this is the case, then I'm rather badly torn on the implications.

On the one hand, the characters stuck out like sore thumbs in the first game.  On the other hand, trying to add paid DLC to an existing classic just strikes me as a shameless money grab.  No, you don't have to buy them, but then why even have them?

Outside of that, the main game and expansion play much like they played originally, which is to say really nicely.  The Bhaalspawn saga comes to a close after encountering the deadly wizard Jon Irenicus (still one of David Warner's best voice roles) in the trade city of Athkatla in the nation of Amn, as well as meeting up with your dead “brother” Sarevok in a demiplane attached to Bhaal's defunct kingdom, and a final showdown with the last Bhaalspawn.  That would have been enough just by itself, but Overhaul decided to add on another “arena mode” that sends a band of adventurers to the gladiator pits of Thay.  Much like the first “Black Pits,” there's a storyline, but there's just not much there to add a great deal of interest.

I said it before on the first game and I'll say it again here.  There is nothing to recommend this version of Baldur's Gate II over the original version available on  High resolution textures and widescreen monitor support can be added in with a little work and a lot less hassle to play the game.  We don't need another damn login screen.  If Overhaul Games wants to be putting out mods for the Baldur's Gate series, great, but they can't expect people to pay an inflated price for them.

- Axel Cushing

The Good:
- Still the same awesome game and expansion

The Bad:
- Another needless arena mode
- Extra characters are just extraneous

Score: 6.0 / 10