Some games are just classics. It’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t around to try them out when they first released, especially when it’s been so long. I imagine that to many people Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II must seem to have aged pretty badly. Trust me when I say that you pretty much cannot find a better CRPG than the Baldur’s Gate games. They’re the closest things we’ve got to single-player D&D beyond choose-your-own-adventure games.
Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II originally came back out back in the late 90s and early 2000s and were some of the first games developed by BioWare. If you don’t know who BioWare are, then what are you even doing here? Go and play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’ll wait.
Jokes aside, the Baldur’s Gate series was a clear early sign of how legendary the company was going to become. Now, both enhanced editions, each featuring several expansions alongside the original base games, are available in a single neat little package. So it’s time to strap that Dwarven Warhammer to our backs and see if these games still hold up and if they’re even playable on consoles.
Obviously, when you’re taking a game from the PC with all its key commands and mouse support and transplanting that onto console, you’re going to have difficulty. It’s fortunate that Beamdog, the team behind the port/enhancement, has managed to pull it off pretty damn well. You can move around your party freely with the left analog stick if you like, but you can also choose to use it to move a cursor on the screen if you prefer. As you move around the world, different interactable objects and characters are highlighted in green. It makes the world surprisingly easy to navigate, and hell, if you just miss the old days, you can still try to do it like if you have a mouse. It’s also pretty easy to select your different party members to control individually, even with a full-sized party. In general, the game handles really well for a CRPG-turned console RPG.
The menus have also been overhauled. In aid of easier selection, you have a radial menu that makes it much easier to actually get through the wealth of menus and sub-screens. The game is mechanically based on 2nd Edition AD&D from 1987, so there is obviously a lot of clunk that you may not be used to, even if you’re a player of modern D&D. In a way, the number of menus to click and sort through, with each character having their own skills, sheets and inventories, is part of the charm of the games. It’s sort of a lot to sit through, but realistically if you’re into either D&D or fantasy RPGs in general, then you’ll probably find a lot to love in both Baldur’s Gate games.
The story is a pretty classic one, at least if you’re into either the hero’s journey or fantasy stories in general. You play an orphan based on your choice of race and gender (because it’s defined by you at the start). You’re raised by a wizard in the town of Candlekeep. One day your guardian mysteriously suggests that you’ll be leaving town and should be prepared for a journey.
Obviously, on your way out of town, you discover you have a mysterious past, and your mentor is attacked and killed (spoilers?). You go on to have a mystical fantasy adventure, blah, blah, blah. Realistically, the story is not as important as the adventure and the characters that you meet on the way. The sequel also involves the same characters and takes place a few years after the end of the first game. You’re captured and experimented on, and again, it’s really more about the journey and the 50+ hours of questing and high fantasy that follows.
Publisher: Skybound Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Release Date: 15th October 2019
Do you agree with our review of Baldur’s Gate I & II: Enhanced Edition? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.