Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Beamdog
Developer:Overhaul Games
Release Date:2012-11-28
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Presentation

What's perhaps the worst of all, though, is the way the game simply looks. Where the original version's graphics are sharp and pristine as ever, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is blurry and eye-straining when played in full-screen mode. As a result of adding the camera-zooming feature to a game with 2D artwork, the graphics have to be blown up to two, three or four times their original size. Not only is this feature near-useless because of how ugly it makes the game look, you also can't fully zoom the camera back out to regain the sharpness of the original graphics.  The only way to get the game looking sharp is to play in windowed mode, which has its share of problems like difficulty in scrolling the screen using the mouse, and of course, the lack of resolution options that prevent you from resizing the window.

On top of that, the user interface and updated fonts have apparently been drawn at a low resolution, and are scaled up. This means that the brand-new interface, regardless of art style, simply looks bad, and on top of that, much of the game text is hard to read as well. Even the new environments added for the personal quests of the new characters are underwhelming too - they don't match the sharpness or painterly attention to detail in any of the previous Infinity Engine games, instead looking more like screenshots taken from an early 3D strategy title, complete with low-resolution textures.  The brand-new cutscenes that replace the old ones are drawn well, but have stiff, barebones animation and don't mesh well with the game's established art style... and call me old fashioned, but I don't think the new interface colors suit the game either, as they're just too dark when put next to the bright, vibrant forests and cities.

I realize that I'm going on a bit of a tangent here, but it really is worth saying: this "enhanced" version of the game, designed specifically to run better on modern computers, and to look better, actually looks and runs substantially worse than the 1998 release. I do not purport to know why this might be the case, though judging by all the other technical problems, my bet is that the title was simply rushed out the door. No matter how, though, the end result is simply that the new version of the game is less enjoyable to play than the old one.

At least the new soundtrack and voice acting are both well done. The additional music found in The Black Pits and throughout the various game menus comes courtesy of Sam Hulick, who has done an admirable job of building on the original compositions in a way that doesn't feel out of place with the original score, though long-time fans will probably be able to tell his songs apart. The new voice-acting is fairly extensive and quite well-performed, and all involved do a fine job - save perhaps Mark Meer, who for some reason was cast as a monk with a bad Middle Eastern-esque accent.

Conclusion

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition could have been great, a tribute to a classic RPG and a promise of things to come for the franchise and for party-based RPGs in general. Its creators clearly had their hearts in the right place in trying to update Baldur's Gate for a newer generation, that's hard to deny. It's also hard to argue with new characters, quests, areas to explore, and a new adventure, all of which are, for the most part, competently done, if ultimately non-essential.

However, the lack of real advancement in terms of interface and controls, as well as the crippling number of glitches, simply makes it impossible to recommend this new version of Baldur's Gate over the original. The sad and ironic thing is that this version of the game, which boasts hundreds of bug fixes (mostly taken from the years-old work of modders), better performance and new features, ultimately looks like it will require multiple patches and mods to even reach parity with the modded-up original version. Unless you are desperate for the new content, I cannot in good conscience recommend Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, considering the original is still available, has hundreds of mods and bug fix packs, costs $10 USD less, and is just as great as it's ever been.