Baldur's Gate is truly a masterpiece. Despite it's beauty, tactical depth and great story, the game does not take itself too seriously. This cannot be said of many other leading RPG titles, which I soon begin to find rather corny. If you like RPGs and have not played Baldur's Gate, then this is an absolute must, you do not even need to waste your time reading this review but of course you are welcome to. If you have played the original BG and are curious about Beamdog's boob job, I share with you my opinion.
The original game's two main lackings are native widescreen support and Linux support (I use Ubuntu/Mint). Interestingly, the Steam store lists BGEE as a Windows/Mac title, while BG2EE is listed as Windows/Mac/Linux. Both titles run perfectly on Linux since the latest patches.
The reason for me to buy Beamdog's re-release was simply curiosity. Where would anyone find the guts to mess with this classic work of art? What would they change about it?First looks and User Interface
My first impression of BGEE was honestly not that great. It was still before Linux support was added. The aesthetics just turned me off. The changed logo, the sword with the text "Enhanced Edition", the user interface which had it's old-skool goldish buttons replaced with red "open-missile-silo-doors"-buttons. It all just took away some of the original game's magic. Perhaps mostly nostalgic feelings on my part.
Once hours inside the game the UI didn't really bother me anymore. Since recent updates, I was pleasantly surprised by the "Quick loot"-button that was added to the bottom panel. This made looting a whole lot easier, since it is no longer necessary to check all the corpses individually for good loot, potions, scrolls, etc.More aesthetics
Not only the UI has had a makeover. The movies are also replaced. The new ones are not 3d-animated like the old ones. The new movies are built from nice artistic drawings. The drawings look really good and are accompanied by the trusty old sounds of the original game.
The character models have also been updated, though they are still not 'HD'. The pre-rendered environments are still the same as in the original BG. These were already stunningly beautiful anyway, no need to make changes there.Gameplay
There are some major changes to the gameplay. Characters are now created in the same fashion as in BG2. This means that not only can one choose from various classes, but many classes have kits to choose from, with each its own abilities and restrictions. Also, the Half-Orc is now a playable race as in BG2.
Weapon proficiencies are also updated to the BG2 standard, which means that the points are no longer put into groups of weapons (for example there used to be one group of large swords, containing two-handed, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ and long swords and another group of blunt weapons, containing staves, maces, clubs and hammers). The new system forces you to choose specific weapons, thus making switching between various weapons in the same group impossible if you have not spent any points on the other weapon.
Because of the relatively low level cap in BG1, you will find each character using one or two types of weapons throughout the whole game. This is not a problem, but it is a significant deviation from the original. The weapon styles from BG2 have also been added. This new proficiency system works really well at the higher character levels achieved in BG2, but has minor shortcomings in a game where characters reach level 8-10 and thus do not have too many points to spend.
As mentioned before, the weapon styles from BG2 have been imported. Two-Weapon Fighting is now also possible, which adds lots of fun to the game. You are now able to shred your opponents in seconds, sacrificing the protection of a shield. While shields in BG are not too powerful and one can easily manage without, dual-wielding is somewhat (if not more) overpowered. My Half-Orc berserker has 3 attacks per round wielding dual ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ swords. With 19 strenght, 3 points in two-weapon fighting, 3 in ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ sword and berserker rage (granting protection against hold, fear and other hazards, plus combat bonuses) he is an insanely strong melee fighter, one you would never encounter in the original game.
I mentioned the berserker rage, but many of the class kit abilities are very powerful. Some good examples are the priest of Helm's Seeking Sword (3 attacks per round with huge THAC0 bonus) and True Sight. The newly added "Shadowdancer" kit with its hide-in-plain-sight ability is also quite powerful, being able to backstab, hide and backstab again. There are many more new abilities that will aid you in your fight against (or for your own) evil.Balance
The battles in BG1 often used to be insanely difficult, but they were not designed for all these newly added features. This makes the enhanced edition somewhat less challenging than the original, but still very challenging. Only the greatest tactical geniuses would complain that the game has become easy. You should consider putting the difficulty slider one notch to the right compared to what you were used to in the original. Because of all the new additions, you will be well equipped for some tougher beasties.New adventures
For me, not too interesting. They are not of the same quality as the original storyline. Then again, that quality is extremely rare. If you do not like the new quests then you can always just skip them.Conclusion
The enhanced edition is a welcome re-release of a brilliant game. It offers some great improvements while leaving just minor scars.
+Native support for widescreen and higher resolutions
+Native support for Mac and Linux (no more messing around with Wine)
+Zoom function (though when zoomed in the game looks a bit crude)
+Quick loot function eliminates the hassle of searching every corpse individually
+New kits and abilities add fun
+Beamdog still provides updates, they have shown their love for this game and do not seem to have done all this for some easy cash (unlike some others).
-Aesthetics (mainly logo and user interface) could have been better/more faithful to the original
-The balance and difficulty of the game are slightly compromised by addition of the new kits, abilities and two-weapon fighting.