It’s been a hell of a long time since 1997: the world has changed around us in ways we couldn’t have dreamed possible, some of them good, others bad. One thing that’s happened in that time is that BioWare have managed to make a name for themselves as one of the premier creators of RPGs in the world of video games. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic set a benchmark that games such as Dragon Age: Origins and the Mass Effect series attempted (with varying success) to meet. However, it all had to start somewhere, and for BioWare that beginning was in the humble surroundings of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, with a series of games set in and around the well known area of Baldur’s Gate.
Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is, as you’ve probably guessed, the second of the iPad remakes of the Baldur’s Gate games. It includes the original Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, its expansion Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Baal, and an added extra in the form of The Black Pits 2: Gladiators of Thay. So, as you can see, before I even get into detail about what the game contains, how many hours it’ll run you and all of the other details, it should be obvious that Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is well worth the price of admission if you’re in the market for an RPG you can play either in front of the TV, or on your morning commute to work.
When the game starts you’ll be asked to choose from one of four characters who will be able to join your own character on their quest through the game. The iPad version of the game only has one of these characters unlocked – Rasaad yn Bashir, the Monk – with all of the other characters locked behind an in-app purchase pay wall. This notion might put some people off straight away, but you’re getting a hell of a lot of content for your money, and even having those characters wouldn’t add too much more than a visual change and a slight stat modification.
The bulk of your time will be spent in the main campaign, Shadows of Amn, which starts off with your character escaping from a prison in the mysterious dungeon of a madman. The first task you’re presented with is freeing the people that are locked in the cages around you, giving you a party with which to do some real damage. This is the when you’ll truly realise that this is a BioWare game. The dialogue trees are absolutely massive. Each one of five options bringing up another set of five potential dialogue options and sometimes even more. You’ll never find yourself stuck for something to say, and sometimes it even feels like too much, especially when you’re reading most of it instead of having it read to you like you would in Mass Effect, etc.
The controls are something that most modern gamers will have to get used to. They consist of tapping the character you want to move (or the entire party if you wish), and then moving the character(s) to the spot in the map. Combat takes place in real time, with the entire team smashing away on whichever enemy you’ve deemed worthy of your blade/staff. This feels quite cathartic, a pleasant balance between the intricacies of being able to choose your specific enemy, and the simplicity of a point-and-click combat system. There are obviously some “mod-cons” missing from the game (entirely spoken dialogue, active combat and more) but once you get into the inner workings of the mechanics it starts to feel right, especially considering the pen and paper origins of Dungeons and Dragons.
VERDICT: There’s no doubt that Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a product of its time, but there’s also no doubt that it’s an absolute classic of the RPG genre. If you’re a fan of classic games, pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons or even just of BioWare in general and want to take a look at some of their first forays into the RPG genre, then you really should be picking up Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. It can be a little difficult to get used to (I play quite a lot of RPGs and it took me a good chunk of time to get the basic mechanics down) but the story you’re treated to, as well as the element of nostalgia, makes the effort utterly worth it.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.