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Beamdog, the studio behind the Enhanced Editions of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, and more recently Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, apparently has something new on the go. It's not ready to reveal the name just yet (or anything else about the game, for that matter) but it is in the market for beta testers.
It sounds like this will be a proper beta test, rather than merely a couple of weeks of pre-release publicity. Applicants chosen to take part will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which will (technically, at least) bar them from talking about the game. Once the requisite paperwork is taken care of, information about the new project and access to the "super-secret forum" will be passed along.
"When testing our game you will be able to give all the feedback you want, file bug reports, and make feature requests," Beamdog said. "It will be invaluable to us and will help to make the final product as good as possible."
And the recruitment message does actually contain a little bit of a hint as to what might be in store: It says Beamdog is looking for "adventurers, warriors, rogues, wizards, druids, clerics, rangers, monks, and shamans" who want to take part. Another journey through the Sword Coast, maybe—or perhaps even points further north? You can sign up to find out before everyone else at the Beamdog forums.
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
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.