Baldur’s Gate Enhanced
PS4 version tested
Review code provided
Dungeons and Dragons, chances are you have heard the name, whether it’s from days spent huddled around a table with your friends, a classic cartoon from the nineties or just in references from popular TV shows like Big Bang Theory or Stranger Things, Dungeons and Dragons is high fantasy role-playing on a Tolkien level. If you have heard the name Dungeons and Dragons you would have probably heard the name Baldur’s Gate, a popular RPG set in the D&D universe that has claimed many an hour of gamers time in its various forms.
Up until now, the core entries in the series have primarily existed on PC but thanks to Beamdog Games, us console dwellers can now get out hands on this classic tale of swords and sorcery, but is this classic a relic best left in the past or a whole new experience waiting to be had? let’s take a look.
Straight out of the box, or digital code if you prefer, you will certainly get your money’s worth. Not only do you get the full campaigns for the first and second game which is enough gameplay to last you an age, but all the extra content and expansions are present just in case you have a spare hundred hours to kill. Make no mistake, Baldur’s Gate originally released in 1998, a time when game genres were a bit more specific. Shooters were linear and on rails, beat’em’up’s were for settling playground grudges and RPG’s were in-depth, long-winded affairs.
The set up is relatively simple, after witnessing your foster dad get murdered you get the feeling a touch of destiny lays heavily on your shoulders. Time to set out and track down the bastard that shanked your old man. Along the way, you meet a range of characters that join you on your quest, each of whom has their own backstories, personalities and skills from AOE dealing wizards to lock picking Thiefs. As you can expect, completing your main story arc will not be straight forward, the game is absolutely littered with side quests and tasks to undertake, ranging from the quick and easy to the sprawling sub-stories that almost feel like full campaigns in their own right with much of the adventure being the fun of exploring every nook and cranny of the world where, among other things, you will usually find the best loot and items.
Freedom of choice is the order of the day, not only does BG feature an extremely in-depth character creation suite (more on that in a moment) but also carries a hefty cause and consequence mechanic. Being the nice guy or a pure arse hole is completely up to you but the choices you make will have drastic effects not only on how the game pans out but you can also lose valuable allies that no longer wish to work alongside you and also see adverse effects on your stats. Granted we have seen choice-making in modern games such as Mass Effect and Fallout but they never really had the payoff that BG has and the harsh consequences really do make you think hard about the character you want to be and the choices you make. Quests are varied and can usually be completed a number of ways, this again can be heavily affected by the type of character you are, the party members you have and the reputation you carry. With a slew of abilities from good old fashioned charm to Jedi style mind tricks the options are always open.
The characters you meet and team up with along the way will have a large impact on your playthrough but the most important character is, of course, you. Starting BG up you are greeted with a deep character creator where you can choose from Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Gnome, Half-Orc etc. Once the choice has been made a selection of classes will be made available, some are race-specific so choosing to be a Dwarf will give you access to some classes you might not get with an Elf. Once again the options are varied with Fighter, Cleric, Thief and all manner of combinations inbetween. Id say it took me a good forty-five minutes to set up my character by the time I read through all their history, stats, abilities and so on.
Combat will be a common occurrence throughout your adventure. Everything from bandits, beasts and monsters will be lurking and ready to smite you down. The combat takes place in a turn-based mechanic and it’s here that having the right party members comes into play. Knowing your characters strengths and weaknesses is every bit as important as knowing your enemies. Failure can come swiftly to the unprepared so taking the time to set up your attack strategy and target specific enemies is key, combat is a slower more thought out process and takes a bit of time to master but becomes extremely satisfying once you get into the swing of things. Luckily a well-paced tutorial is available to help you get to grips with the core elements.
BG offers a generous range of difficulty setting from a walk in the park story-based campaign to a crushingly difficult “Legacy of Bhall” setting and everything in between. Each setting will not only define how difficult enemies are overall but will also alter how your party receives damage from various stats and abilities and whether they can die in battle etc. Chances are the hardcore among you will want to go for the true test but it’s a nice addition to have options for those less insane that just want to enjoy the story and characters without the heavy challenge.
To say BG is a time-consuming experience would be an understatement. During my review time I probably only saw a third of what these games can offer which is down to the choices I made and my playstyle. As much as I enjoyed my time with BG I have to be honest and say it was a bumpy ride in places and a bit of a sluggish start. Part of that was by design but another part was due to the dated mechanics. As mentioned before this originally came out in 1998 and it shows. The interface is very menu and text-heavy, the character movement and design is clunky with a lot of the textures and characters all looking fairly similar. There is also very little hand-holding with quests which is something I did enjoy after having hud’s covered in waypoints and quest markers in a lot of modern adventure games. Once I got in the mindset of the games I enjoyed back in the ’90s like Diablo, I soon settled into the slower pace and enjoyed the freedom of exploration and making random choices just to see what would happen.
Performance-wise I had no issues. Navigating the menu’s and inventory took a bit of getting used to on a console controller, there is no substitute for a mouse and keyboard in these older titles but the layout was pretty intuitive overall which is a testament to the work put in for this port. With the visuals and animations being so dated I noticed no slow down which would have been a bit ridiculous running on a PS4 Pro.
Baldur’s Gate is regarded as one of the best RPG’s of all time and with good reason. With deep characterisation, lore, story and freedom of gameplay, it paved the way and introduced mechanics that we take for granted in so many games today from Dragon Age to Pillars of Eternity. As gamers, we love to get value for money so if you are a fan of the series or want to try a true classic then now is the perfect time to pick this behemoth up for hundreds of hours of content. For some players, the dated mechanics and visuals will be a turn-off and that’s ok after all the title is 21 years old! But for a true role-playing experience, look no further.
TBG Score: 8.5/10
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 15/10/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: RPG, Adventure
Download link: PSN