Baldur's Gate 2 Enhanced Edition: D&D Perfection
What else is there left to say about Bioware's seminal RPG sequel? That it's brilliant? That it's a piece of videogame art, to be cherished in the same way as a puppy or, if possible, a christmas mogwai? Perhaps it'd be easiest to say: Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn is perfect, and Overhaul 's enhancements give it that slight nudge into the divine.
It's easy to fall into cliché when it comes to the Sword Coast's second videogame outing. I can almost catch myself bleating 'they don't make 'em like they used to' but this is a well served sentiment. Because literally, they do not make RPGs like this anymore. Bioware's original Forgotten Realm series is essentially Dungeons and Dragons ported into code: and by the pointy ears of elven gods is it spectacular.
Shadows of Amn takes place immediately after the events of the first Baldur's Gate. Saverok is vanquished, the realm put back at ease, and after setting out on a relaxing, for some reason, woodland stroll, you're set upon by enemies. Before you can say 'Josef Fritzl' the player character is locked away in a dungeon awaiting a few ghastly experiments.
Bioware's game is a work of fiction unlike anything modern games have mustered. While the studio has since parted ways with pen-and-paper and headed towards sci-fi and hollywood pastiche, their earlier Forgotten Realms work is still a marvel to behold.
It's a relic of a time when storytelling, writing, and mechanics had to fit together properly. Utilizing a mangled version of the AD&D ruleset, combat is a matter of stop-start tactics, ordering hamster-toting barbarians into battles and demanding a snooty druid take on clerical duties. It's a game that can be played your way, and one that never stops trying to immerse you into its deep and engrossing world.
The sheer amount of gameplay here counts into the hundreds, with an epic main quest, accompanied by expansion Throne of Bhaal, and a plethora of side quests from dungeon crawls to who-dunnit murder mysterious. There is something for everyone here: the only entry requirement is a love of dice rolls and a pair of plastic pointy ears to 'get in the mood'.
But what have Overhaul managed in the way of enhancements? Like the product before it, the retrospective developers have essentially tightened up the original code, patched up whatever holes it may had, and set it straight for a good once over with the modernisation iron. Essentially, this is the most complete version of Baldur's Gate 2 you're ever likely to get.
Of course, as enhancements go there isn't much in the way of new content, aside from a few new companions and a sequel to the Black Pits as seen in the initial conversion. And a better tutorial explaining the D&D rules wouldn’t go amiss. As tie-in with the iPad and Android additions, the re-release is for those that didn't own the game first time around, or simply can't be bothered with the multitude of mods and tweaks needed to make the original software work.
Less defensible is fairly hefty $25 price tag, which is the only downside to this immense piece of RPG history. For ease of use, cross-platform compatibility, and the knowledge that you're funding an indie that is reworking classics, it can be justified, but just barely.
With pricing aside, for the most part this article can be taken as one long gush of praise, because ultimately that is what it is. Baldur's Gate 2 is an RPG you must play. If only to sample Bioware's finest hour, any enthusiast has to try this game, whether that is through GOG or enhanced through Beamdog and Overhaul.
If you can contend with the price point, Baldurs Gate 2: Enhanced Edition is one of the best games released this year. For the most complete Forgotten Realms experience ever, and for the greatest use of the D&D license, this is a no brainer - and with the Holidays coming up, why not treat yourself? Merry Christmas Overhaul: now would you accept $15?
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humor, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle