Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition PC Review
I’m ashamed to admit that Baldur’s Gate II, until this review, was one of the classic RPGS I had never had a chance to really play. A friend of mine had the game when we were in high school, but, given that my time was already occupied with the Final Fantasies and Chrono Cross’ of the RPG genre, it was never really high on my priority list. The first game in the series was one of the best games I played last year, and I’ve gone back and played it through twice more since then. It remains one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played, and so I approached Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition with trepidation, fearing that it couldn’t live up to the high standards of the first game. In word, I’m a fool – Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition surpasses and enriches what is an incredible game, with only a few small shortcomings along the way.
The enhancements to the game are merely superlatives on what is one of the best cast of characters and plot I’ve encountered in an RPG. Like Baldur’s Gate, the same rules apply here – you’ll encounter a myriad of characters and storylines that force your decisions, leading to a game where permanent death and a shifting cast of characters should be expected. Make no mistake – this game is tough. You’ll control your party in real-time, but the combat system allows you to pause time to issue commands to your team; retrospectively, the fights are a bit simple in appearance, but you’ll quickly find that these fights are unforgiving and faster than nearly all modern RPGs. Still, you’ll find that even with planning and the pause system, this game, just like the first Baldur’s Gate, delights in pushing you to your limits. Luckily, this is all made easier to navigate because of Baldur’s interface. The interface is nearly identical to the first Baldur’s Gate, with the exception of far smoother load times.
The game itself remains largely unchanged, with the exception of new content that belongs quite nicely within the game. Many of the tropes and themes that are commonplace in fantasy games find themselves here, yet BioWare’s superb writing and pacing keeps you involved as ever. Characters from the first Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition make return appearances here, and their stories are woven so well into your own that you will have a difficult time recognizing what aspects of the game are new. Long-time players have nothing to worry about – you’ll find plenty of new content to enjoy here as well.
Sadly, that involvement only remains true at an eye-level; zoom in too closely, and what appears to be an enhanced edition still displays some of the harsh pixels from the game’s original release. Though the game is marketed as enhanced, those improvements do not holistically apply to the look of the game; for every brilliant line of text, a pixelated character or a party member’s refusal to move a certain way reminds that you’re playing a game that’s over a decade old. Still, the game does look better than its original form – you will enjoy every minute that you spend trying not to die.
And you will be in that position quite often – Baldur’s Gate II: EE relies on the Second Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, a governing system that ensures each of your adventures will be dependent on a roll of dice for every encounter. You can operate within that system and prepare yourself for each encounter, but, just like my experience with Dark Souls, every battle left me hesitant to keep exploring for fear of what monstrosity might be lurking around the corner. Unlike Dark Souls, however, you’re far more subjected to the powers of fate, and the isometric perspective means that your desperation can only be expressed by clicking on an enemy and hoping the rules govern in your favor. It’s a somewhat archaic system, but the challenge uniquely inspires in a way that very few RPGs can still claim. Knowing that you will die again and again ensures you respect the story and characters, and you won’t regret spending a single moment exploring the vastness of what is an almost absurd amount of content. There’s not much that compares in RPG gaming to that sense of exploration, and your time with Baldur’s Gate II: EE will equally frustrate and delight.
If you’re a fan of RPGs, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Keep in mind that it’s not easy and that the governing system isn’t for everyone; however, get past that, and there’s a classic that compares to any behemoths of the genre even today. Just don’t blame me when you find yourself stuck in the first area; this game is hard, and you will be better for playing.