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About eighteen years or so after marking Baldur’s Gate off my To-Save list, I’m knee-deep in the Infinity Engine once again with Siege of Dragonspear. I’m not going to talk too much about it here, not least because there’s a full review coming soon. But there’s one thing I do want to talk about – not one new to the Enhanced Editions, admittedly, and that’s its Story Mode option. Essentially, at any time you can flip a switch and even a Level 1 mage can suddenly wander into a Beholder’s lair and poke every single one of its eyes out without the slightest danger. You can’t die. At all. In every possible way, you render playing large chunks of the game pointless.
I entirely approve of Story Mode.
More than a decade after the Baldur’s Gate [official site] saga appeared to come to an end, there’s a brand new expansion available to buy right now. I know how this might look – it’s classic April Idiots’ fodder, telling you about a new chapter in a much-loved series and then revealing that all of your favourite characters have been transformed into unicorns or somesuch.
This is real though. You’ll need the Enhanced Edition of the game to play and we’ll have our own judgement on the expansion next week but, for now, here’s a trailer and some details.
Here's a sentence I never expected I'd have the opportunity to type: The new Baldur's Gate RPG Siege of Dragonspear is now live.
The release date was announced at the beginning of March so this isn't a surprise, but even so, it's great to lay eyes on a new Baldur's Gate trailer. And to hear Sarevok's voice! I guess I never realized how much I missed the big lug. There's another voice in there that's mighty familiar too, but I can't quite put my finger on it: I know who it's supposed to be, but I'm just not certain that it's really him.
And yes, Siege of Dragonspear is technically an expansion to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition rather than an all-new game, but developer Beamdog says that it contains more than 25 hours of new gameplay, and that's close enough for me. It details the events that transpired between the original Baldur's Gate and the sequel, Shadows of Amn, during which you somehow went from Hero of the Beach to enemy of the state. That dramatic change in fortunes was never properly explained, and so I'm looking forward to seeing how Beamdog handles it—and how it will manage to insert a near-full-length adventure between the two games without adversely impacting the (admittedly loose) continuity between them.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspeak is available now at siegeofdragonspear.com.
Update: Beamdog boss Trent Oster says that it is actually David Warner providing the voice of Jonoleth Irenicus, the mega-villain he so effectively brought to life in Baldur's Gate 2. "We pulled him out of retirement," Oster said. A very nice touch.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear was originally envisioned as a small expansion to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, the Beamdog-built update to BioWare's seminal D&D CRPG. But it quickly grew into a sprawling experience of its own, with unique characters, quests, open-world areas, and an estimated 35 hours of play time, covering the gap between the triumph of Baldur's Gate and the unexpectedly unhappy kickoff of Baldur's Gate 2. Beamdog said late last year that it would be out in early 2016, and it has now nailed that down to March 31—less than a month away.
Though Sarevok is dead and his plan for war averted, peace eludes the citizens of Baldur's Gate. A crusade marches from the north, seizing supplies, forcing locals into military service, and disrupting trade along the Sword Coast, the Dragonspear website explains. A charismatic warrior known as the Shining Lady leads this army, her background shrouded in mystery. Can the rumors be true—is she, like you, the child of a god?
Siege of Dragonspear will include four new companion NPCs—a Flaming Fist archer, a boozehound bard, a goblin shaman, and a gnome cleric—and new locations including the Boareskyr Bridge where Cyric slew Bhaal, the act that started all this trouble trouble. (You might say he got the ball rolling.) Despite its size, the FAQ notes that Dragonspear remains an expansion to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, which is required to play it.
Because Siege of Dragonspear was built using the Infinity Engine, which powered the original Baldur's Gate games as well as Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale—it's old, in other words—the system requirements are pleasingly light. They're also essentially the same as the requirements for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, if you're thinking of picking them up together:
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is available for preorder now in the usual standard and Digital Deluxe editions, and also a sweet-looking (and very expensive) Collector's Edition, at siegeofdragonspear.com.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, the Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition expansion that was announced in the summer, is set to come out in early 2016. The launch window was revealed in a Dragon+ interview with Beamdog boss Trent Oster, in which he also explained that it was originally envisioned as just a small, inexpensive piece of DLC that was intended to be released ahead of Baldur's Gate 2 Enhanced Edition.
"It grew in scope and we realized we were tight on time and needed to put more effort into Baldur s Gate II ahead of its launch, so Dragonspear went on the backburner," Oster said. "When we came back and re-examined it had become a fifteen-hour expansion. At that stage it was still going to be DLC, although for a little more money."
Writer Amber Scott added that the expansion was "too crowded" with quests and characters by that point, so the decision was made to expand it with additional dungeons and open-world areas. As a result, Siege of Dragonspear now clocks in at around 35 hours, according to Oster, "if you play the critical path and don't do much besides."
The story still bridges the gap between the two Baldur's Gates with the tale of Caelar Argent, the Shining Lady, who's leading a mysterious crusade out of the northern regions of Faerun. Scott explained that one of the expansion's key features will be the addition of large-scale combat, which will enable players to take part in "giant battles" alongside groups of allies.
It will be possible to play Dragonspear with a brand-new party, although Scott said it will likely be more "emotionally impactful" if you import your group from the first game. Either way, a copy of the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition will be required to play. Some minor but useful-sounding changes to the user interface are also on the way, although they'll be patched into the Enhanced Edition games with or without the Dragonspear expansion installed.
On a separate but very relevant note, Oster tweeted earlier today that Siege of Dragonspear is now "content complete," although a proper release date is still a ways off.
We are Content Complete on Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear. From here on we find, fix and finish. The game will say when it is done
— Trent Oster (@TrentOster) December 15, 2015
We move from custodian to creator.
That was how Trent Oster described it. Beamdog s co-founder who, twenty years ago, was also there when Bioware began, is once again returning to one of roleplaying s most beloved and most influential series. This time, he won t just be adding a new lick of paint here or a subtle embellishment there, as he has with the company s Enhanced Editions of the Baldur s Gate games. No, Baldur s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear [official site] is something wholly new. While Beamdog are calling it an expansion pack, its scope and scale mean that it outsizes both Tales of the Sword Coast and Throne of Bhaal. For all intents and purposes, it s Baldur s Gate 3.