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The Baldur's Gate countdown that popped up last week has now ticked its last tock, revealing a brand-new expansion called Siege of Dragonspear. It's a "massive" addition to the epic RPG franchise, taking place between the events of the first game and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear tells the tale of a mysterious crusade in the north, led by a warrior known only as the Shining Lady. The city of Baldur's Gate once again calls upon you and your allies to save it from chaos, but there's more to this march than first meets the eye: Like you, the Shining Lady is rumored to be the child of a god, and the Lord of Murder, though dead, "still casts a long shadow upon your path."
The expansion will add an estimated 25 hours of gameplay to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, with new areas to explore, monsters to kill, treasures to claim, and four new NPCs to recruit to your party. The expansion will also add the Shaman class to the game, more than 100 new magic items, a redesigned interface, cross-platform multiplayer (it's being released for Windows, Linux Mac, and mobile), and a soundtrack by the outstanding Sam Hulick, the man whose music made you cry in Mass Effect 3.
Also very interesting is the new Story Mode difficulty that "allows players to experience the entire story with none of the Game Over screens." Those who prefer it the other way can opt for the Legend of Bhaal difficulty, "for a challenging tactical experience."
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear will not work with the original release of Baldur's Gate—a copy of Beamdog's Enhanced Edition is required to play. Pricing and release date have not been announced, but we do have some screens for perusal, and more information is up now at siegeofdragonspear.com.
From Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.
Baldur s Gate was one of my formative PC gaming experiences. I have vivid memories of sitting in the glow of my old CRT monitor on a Friday evening after school, dungeon crawling until the sun rose. I ve never been one for misty-eyed nostalgia, but last week I felt compelled to reinstall it. It was almost midnight, and I had work the next day, but I didn t think I d be playing for long. Just enough to sate my nostalgia. Three hours later and I was still up. Its claws are in me again almost 16 years after I first installed it on my old beige Pentium II and, surprisingly, it still holds up.
Developed by BioWare in 1998, it s a vast fantasy RPG set in the Forgotten Realms, one of the most popular and long-running Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings. You create your own protagonist using a deep character editor, then embark on an adventure along the Sword Coast, a stretch of rocky coastlines, deep forests, ancient ruins, bustling cities, and labyrinthine dungeons. There s a story to follow, but you can pursue it at your leisure. The world map is heaving with fun quests and memorable characters, and you get to decide whether you ll be a hero, a villain, or neither.
One of the most striking things about the game is how much personality it has. A lot of fantasy, especially in the D&D mould, suffers from being overly earnest and po-faced, but Baldur s Gate fizzes with character, and is often genuinely hilarious. Even a random commoner on the street might have something amusing to say, and I think almost half of the 15 or so hours I ve sunk into this replay have been spent talking to the many thousands of NPCs who litter the Sword Coast.
From Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.
As you explore you re constantly bumping into interesting characters, from eccentric oddballs and mad wizards to pompous lords and drunken dwarves. You even meet the legendary Drizzt Do'Urden at one point, who you can kill for his powerful scimitars and mithril armour if you re particularly skilled. The wealth of text in the game means there s a lot of reading, but it s all brilliantly written and wonderfully witty, never taking itself too seriously.
There are 25 recruitable companions in the game, but unlike a lot of RPGs where characters will swear unfaltering allegiance to the hero regardless of their actions and goals, many of the characters in Baldur s Gate are fiercely independent. Minsc, of miniature giant space hamster fame, will join your party upon the agreement you ll help him rescue his partner, Dynaheir. But linger too long without pursuing this quest and he ll go into a rage and attack you.
Similarly, characters will abandon the party if your reputation goes against their alignment. Noble deeds will disgust evil characters like irascible conjurer Edwin, while imperious paladin Ajantis will love you for it. This makes these characters feel like real people with their own goals and motivations, although it can be maddening when you re in the middle of a dungeon and one suddenly decides to ditch you.
From Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.
The character sprites are pretty ugly, even by 1998 standards, but the pre-rendered backgrounds still look great. It s remarkable how atmospheric the game is, even now. Sound plays a big part in this, with chirping birds, booming thunder, and howling wind bringing the environments to life, not to mention Michael Hoenig s stirring orchestral score. BioWare s vision of Faer n is still a joy to wander, and proof that you don t need modern graphics to create a rich, compelling game world.
There s a great feeling of relief when you escape from the rain-battered wilderness into the glow of a warm tavern, resting your weary bones before heading back out into the wild. You really feel like you re on an adventure, and thanks to an infamously steep difficulty curve, every foray into the unknown feels dangerous. All it takes is one unlucky critical roll to lose a party member.
In a lot of ways, Baldur s Gate feels incredibly archaic. The bloated interface and incessant item and character management mean you spend a lot of time shifting items around and selling things to merchants. But I actually love this, as time-consuming as it is, because I appreciate having full control over my party. That is, in fact, one of the reasons I love the game so much: how little hand-holding there is. You always feel like you re in control of your protagonist s destiny, not just following a prescribed path even though the story is totally linear.
From Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.
You can be a saint or a total dick. You can agree to help a farmer find his missing son while sending Imoen into his house to rob him. You can devote your life to defending truth and justice, or screw people over to fill your pockets. It s a role-playing game in the truest sense, offering not just good and evil paths, but all the grey areas in between.
If, like me, you feel the urge to return to Baldur s Gate, there are two ways to do it. You can buy the original game for $10 on GOG and use this guide to enhance it for modern PCs. Or, alternatively, you can buy the Enhanced Edition on Steam for $20, which comes with additional companions, new quests, and an arena battle mode. I m replaying with the latter, just for the ease of having it accessible in my Steam library between my home and work PC, but either way is fine.
The difficulty and cost of making a game as big, complex, and freeform as Baldur s Gate with modern production values means we ll likely never see a game like it again from BioWare, but with Obsidian s Pillars of Eternity on the way, and Larian s superb Divinity: Original Sin dominating the Steam charts, the CRPG seems to be in the throes of a magnificent and unexpected comeback. Going back to Baldur s Gate, where it all began, has only made me more excited about its resurgence.
A whole slew of new screenshots have just landed in time to remind you that Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition is landing this Friday. All of the original art has been remastered into high-res, but the Dungeons & Dragons–based rule system and gameplay remains intact. The new edition also has four new allies and their various quest lines to explore, along with an arena challenge that focuses solely on tactical combat.
We were lukewarm on the enhanced edition of Baldur’s Gate, but there's no denying that an updated version of one of the most beloved RPGs ever, and with new content to boot, is exciting.
At the very least, the enhanced edition should be a great way for new fans to approach the legendary RPG. If you never got into the original or, perhaps, were just a wee baby 13 years ago, the enhanced edition represents a revamped version of a great game in one convenient download.
Check out more screenshots (there really are a ton of them) at the Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition website.
Here's a new trailer for Baldur's Gate 2, 2000's hottest RPG. Just pretend the last thirteen years never happened, and check out those tasty particle effects. After a successful roll against some unfortunate legal issues, Beamdog's Enhanced re-release of the BioWare classic is now preparing for launch. You'll be able to regather your party before venturing forth from November 15th.
The Enhanced Edition offers both Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn and its Throne of Bhaal expansion, along with four exclusive party members, new areas, a new "Black Pits" arena, and... *drum roll* ...widescreen support.
As with the first Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, I worry that the added improvements won't justify the price over the much cheaper original versions and their available mods. For the $25 being asked for to pre-order the game, you can get both Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, with all expansions from GOG, follow this modding guide to create a super all-in-one edition, and have some change spare to throw at any attacking kobolds you might face. It'll take something pretty special to justify switching to the Enhanced version. We'll find out if it's worth it next month.
Baldur's Gate 2: Enhanced Edition, an updated version of the classic BioWare RPG, is set to release November 15, according to the game's official website. Just like the reworked edition of the first Baldur's Gate, the sequel is set to include new characters, another Black Pits arena combat mode, and lots of work under the surface of the venerable game's interface and coding.
As in the original Baldur's Gate 2, you're placed in a world that depends on the choices you make and the path you choose for yourself, some lawfully good and others perhaps chaotically evil. But there should be one or two new ways to uncover your character's true destiny, after hearing back in May that more than 350,000 new words of content had already been added to the enhanced version being completed by Overhaul Games and Beamdog.
Our review of the first Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition ultimately came down to a balancing act between paying a higher price for the new version or downloading the original from a site like GOG.com and installing a variety of existing mods yourself for a similar experience. It's encouraging to hear that so much more new content is apparently planned for the updated version, which includes both the Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal segments of the game.
Baldur's Gate 2: EE will launch at $25.
If Baldur's Gate had an undercurrent of politics and intrigue, it's nothing compared to the behind-the-scenes twists in the development of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. It was removed from sale for "contractual issues" at the request of a "publishing partner", later revealed to be Atari. Development of a planned patch was also postponed, and the possibility of an enhanced Baldur's Gate 2 slipping further into the shadows. Of Amn.
Now, it's back on sale, with its celebratory developers saying the outstanding issues are resolved, and news of upcoming releases will arrive soon.
Trent Oster's email to fans has been reposted on Reddit and GOG's forum:
"Dear Friends of Baldur’s Gate,
"Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is available for sale once again. All outstanding issues with our publishing partner have been resolved.
"We'll announce the details of an upcoming major Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition patch and the Android tablet version in the near future. We'll also have some exciting news regarding Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition soon after.
"We want to thank our fans for the outpouring of support we received during this difficult time. Legal issues are never fun. We're glad we can once again focus on what matters - makin' videogames!"
On the game's forum, Beamdog's Phillip Daigle shares some more info, admitting that "it'll be awhile before we can say anything", but that essentially, "things are back to normal." Later, he teases the upcoming update, saying, "Patch development is back on! We'll have an announcement regarding that in the near future. I personally am very excited for people to use the new UI."
In this scene, Sarevok will be taking the role of "contractual issues".
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, the attempted restoration of BioWare's classic RPG, has been removed from sale by developer Overhaul Games in light of contractual issues with the game's publishing partners. A statement by Beamdog/Overhaul president Trent Oster explains the situation - albeit in the vague manner of someone staring at a heavy pile of legal documents.
"We recently removed Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition from sale on Beamdog and the Apple App Store. We've taken this step at our publishing partner's request as we attempt to resolve a number of contractual issues."
Oster goes on to say that, until the "complex legal matters" have been resolved, the developer is unable to release the planned next patch to the game. It would have brought an updated user interface, "enormous performance improvements", enhancements and a new font system.
Perhaps more troublingly, the issues are also blocking Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition. While BG:EE struck me as slightly less enhanced than a properly modded version of the original, BG2:EE was shaping up to be a more dramatic revision - already boasting 350,000 words of additional content.
Strangely, you can still pick BG:EE up from Steam. Whether it's due to be taken down is unclear, but the Steam release was handled by Atari instead of Beamdog, and so received no direct support.
Beamdog president Trent Oster has given a status update on the sequel to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, saying that their upgrade of the classic Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn has already received multiple novels worth of added words. "We're hard at work on BG2:EE and it is going well," Oster told ShackNews. "Phil (our design lead) mentioned to me there is over 350,000 words of new content."
Which sounds promising. One of my biggest issues with the Enhanced Edition of the first Baldur's Gate was that the relatively small amount of new content didn't outweigh the benefits of a modded version of the much cheaper regular edition. But Oster says those hundreds of thousands of words relate to story and quests for Shadows of Amn and the Throne of Bhaal expansion, which will be bundled for the PC release. If Beamdog can add new, well integrated content into the sequel, it'll be a far more enticing prospect.
Beyond that, Oster wouldn't go into details regarding the game's release, except to say that he hoped to start talking about it soon. He did, however, reaffirm that the sequel would take precedence over any DLC that Beamdog may have lined up for the original, saying, "DLC-wise, we have plans, but nothing completed, yet."