Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
|Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, iOS, OS X, Android, Linux|
November 28, 2012
December 7, 2012
February 22, 2013
April 17, 2014
November 27, 2014
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is a remake of the role-playing video game Baldur's Gate, developed by Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog, and published by Atari. It was released for Microsoft Windows on November 28, 2012, with additional releases between December 2012 and November 2014, for iPad, OS X, Android and Linux. The remake combines the original game, Baldur's Gate, with its expansion Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast, retaining all of the original elements from both (story, in-game locations, gameplay and characters), while including new additions, a new separate arena adventure entitled The Black Pits, and a number of improvements to the game, some of which were imported from Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.
On March 31, 2016, an expansion was released for the remake entitled Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, which focuses on the events following the conclusion of Baldur's Gate, that lead up to Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.
Much like the original game, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition follows the rules of the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, licensed by Wizards of the Coast. and features both single player and multiplayer modes, while much of the gameplay, such as moving between locations, the "paper doll" equipment system, and inventory management, remains the same as the original game.
With the Enhanced Edition comes a number of new features, as Beamdog stated that the Overhaul team had added several hundred improvements to the original game. New features created for the remake (as of Version 2.3.6), include cross-platform functionality for the multiplayer mode, allowing players on different platforms to be able to play with each other, the addition of a new stand-alone arena adventure entitled The Black Pits, in which players form a party of six adventurers and battle against increasingly difficult opponents, the addition of four new characters, each having their own dialogue and some having their own associated adventures, with bonus quest enemies that have been added to the game described as posing a "more vigorous challenge", four new class kits - the Dwarven Defender, Shadowdancer, Dragon Disciple, Dark Moon Monk and Sun Soul Monk kits - a few new locations added to the game, an achievement system (for Steam versions of the game only), and two new difficulty modes - Story Mode, and Legacy of Bhaal. Story Mode is an enhanced version of Easy difficulty, in which all characters in the party cannot die, have a strength stat of 25 (regardless of the actual value) and are immune to most negative effects, while all enemies can be damaged and killed easily. Legacy of Bhaal, in contrast, is an enhanced version of Insane difficulty, with enemies having even more hit points, saving throws, THACO and attacks per round, while the difficulty cannot be changed once implemented by the player.
Some of the major improvements to the original game that are incorporated into the remake (also as of Version 2.3.6), include a revamped user interface, the ability to play at higher resolutions as well as different viewing modes including widescreen, increased flexibility to mod the game, a new renderer, multiplayer matchmaking abilities (at the time of launch, this function was in a beta state), updates to the map and journal system, the level cap for the remake being raised, and the importation of improvements and some elements from both Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn and its expansion pack, including classes, subraces and class kits, that were not available in the original game; a later patch (1.0.2014) the romance element from Baldur's Gate II is also incorporated, but only the new characters have this implemented. The developers also included an auto-update function to the game, with further modifications made to the remake based on suggestions made by users.
The iPad and Android versions are described as a radical departure from the game's original interface, allowing for zooming in and out via multi-touch gestures, which also allows for larger text. The tablet versions also allow for users to swipe between screens instead of clicking on tabs. Ex-Bioware employee and creative director for the enhanced edition Trent Oster said, "When I describe playing a Baldur's Gate combat scenario to someone, I use the analogy of a football playbook. ... When you think about Baldur's Gate in this light, the iPad makes so much sense. In fact, I think Baldur's Gate is almost the perfect game for the touch interface—it was just released a decade early."
Much of the game retains the original setting of Baldur's Gate and its expansion - that of the Forgotten Realms continent of Faerûn, the city of Baldur's Gate and the locations south of it within the regions of the Sword Coast and the Western Heartlands, including Beregost, Nashkel, Durlag's Tower and Candlekeep. The main story, too, is still retained - the player creates a character and takes them across the game's setting to investigate the iron crisis that is plunging Baldur's Gate towards a war with the neighbouring nation of Amn, uncovering it as the work of the game's main villain, Sarevok. All of the original characters that can join the player's party, and the quests that can be undertaken from both the main game and the expansion, still present within the remake. The Enhanced Edition brings with it four new NPCs that can join the party, with three incorporating standalone story-lines (an element used with NPCs in Baldur's Gate II) of which two feature new locations.
The standalone arena adventure created for the remake, The Black Pits, features a story set before the main events of Baldur's Gate, in which players create their own party of adventurers, in a similar fashion to that of the Icewind Dale Series, and undertake battles in an area situated in a small portion of the Underdark, though there is little to do in terms of exploration except for the holding cells the party can move around within.
During the main game, players can encounter four NPC characters in different locations and, should they be removed, they will relocate to a specific location rather than stay where they are, unlike the original characters of the game. Three of these each have a separate story connected to their past that later provide additional quests for the player's own character to complete, and can be involved in romances with the character depending on their gender and alignment:
- Rasaad yn Bashir – A human, Sun Soul Monk that the player can encounter in Nashkel. While travelling with the party, Rasaad comments about his former life as a Calimshite orphan with his brother, from the day they were inducted into the Order of the Sun Soul Order, to their investigation into the silence of one of the Order's monasteries that led to his brother's death. After being ambushed by Dark Moon monks in Baldur's Gate and lured into an ambush, Rasaad asks for assistance in putting an end to a Dark Moon temple that was set up in the Cloud Peak Mountains and in the course of doing so, comes to grips with his past.
- Neera – A half-elf wild mage, whom the player encounters in Beregost. After saving her from members of the Red Wizards of Thay, Neera accompanies the party before eventually requesting aid in finding a wild mage who could help her to control her wild surges of magic, leading to a search of a valley near to the ruins of the Firewine Bridge, and further trouble from the Red Wizards.
- Dorn Il-Khan – A half-orc blackguard, whom the player first encounters within the Friendly Arm Inn. During the party's travel towards Nashkel's mines, the group are ambushed by bandits, but are rescued by Dorn, who kills the two people leading the bandits as revenge for a crime they committed against him in his past. Recognising the player's character, Dorn offers his services to the party, and later asks for assistance in search out the other individuals who wronged him in his past.
- Baeloth – A drow sorcerer, who is the primary antagonist of the standalone adventure, The Black Pits. During the adventure, he pits a group of six adventurers against increasingly difficult opponents, while locking them under the effects of a geas to keep them from escaping or rebelling, but is eventually defeated by them after they come out as champions in his matches. In an update for the main game, Baeloth was added in as an 'easter egg' character, who offers to help the party after having revived from his defeat in the standalone adventure, minus most of the powers he commanded in the Underdark. Baeloth features no class kit, no new locations, no new quests or any romance with the main player character.
The Black Pits
Prior to the events of Baldur's Gate, a colony of Duergar dwarves is defeated by a mad drow sorcerer named Baeloth, who imprisons them and forces them to create an entertainment complex of his own design within the Underdark. Through his complex, the Black Pits, Baeloth assumes the title of "Baeloth the Entertainer", and draws in living creatures, monsters and adventurers from throughout the realms, either by invitation or forcefully capturing them, and pitting them against each other for loot. All who are brought to the Pits are imprisoned under the effects of a geas and cannot escape, eventually being killed during one of Baeloth's matches, with the exception of a champion, who was pitted against Baeloth himself after winning all their matches, but dying against the sorcerer. Baeloth's latest victims, a party of six adventurers (whose origins and past remain a mystery), survive their qualifying match and find themselves coerced into fighting in the Black Pits, learning that the drow is aided by a djinn named Najim, while their holding cells include several prisoners forced to operate as merchants, and a beholder who offers advice on the matches the party encounter.
Over time, with each successful match, Baeloth becomes increasingly frustrated at their survival against the tougher monsters he brings in, while some of merchants express support for their victories, along with hope that they may become free. Eventually, after becoming champions of the Pits, Baeloth decides to take the group on himself, expecting to defeat them and eliminate them so as to provide the crowds with some new fighters to root for. However, the match ends with Baeloth defeated himself and his geas on all of the complex's prisoners lifted. Najim, grateful of his freedom, helps the party escape, knowing that the duergar clan they freed will see them as outsiders and not accept them. The party swiftly leave by a portal, and enjoy their freedom soon afterwards.
Work on creating the Enhanced Editions of the first two Baldur's Gate games began with negotiations between Beamdog and the game's owners, Atari and Wizards of the Coast, which lasted for approximately fourteen months before a contract was arranged and agreed upon. Along with this, the developer also sought out a license from BioWare for use of the Infinity Engine for the original game's remake. During development, Beamdog made the decision to openly expand the number of platforms that the two Enhanced Editions would be on, and announced the remakes of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II on March 15, 2012, adding that Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition was to have a November 2012 release date and would be available for both PC and iPad, with the iPad version designed to make it compatible with all three generations (at the time) of the handheld device; several days later, on March 29, 2012, further announced the game was being designed to work on OS X, with the main art content creation program used to make content for the re-forged Infinity Engine being revealed as 3DS Max. Plans for two console version of the game were shelved, after developer Trent Oster revealed via his Twitter account that an Xbox 360 version of the game could not be made as the controller was not a good fit for it, and that a Wii U version wouldn't be made after the developers' negative experience with Nintendo while developing MDK2 HD Another console version, planned for the PlayStation 3, was also cancelled after negotiations between Sony and Beamdog, the former having contacted the developer first about this, broke down over the funding needed for the redesign of the game for the console; Oster revealed that the redesign cost would have been high, due to the amount of work required to fix the controls and make the UI of the game work for the PlayStation 3. Oster later revealed that due to fan demand, time for more thought to be put into a console edition had been allocated to after the release of Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition. The team also initially looked into a retail edition due to fan demand, later clarifying that it would likely be a collector's edition, but discussion on the matter later led to the possibility being unlikely.
For assistance on the game, Nat Jones was recruited as the official art director for the project, with senior Dungeons & Dragons writer Dave Gross brought in on the team as a writer, and Sam Hulick composing additional music for the game. Overhaul also reached out to the modding community of the original Baldur's Gate games for further assistance in their efforts to revive the classic RPG. Speculation raised in August 2012 that the resurrection of Black Isle Studios, the producers of the original Baldur's Gate games, would see Overhaul co-develop the game with them, were dismissed by Beamdog who responded by saying that there are no plans to do so, although they wished the new studio luck. The game's first playable demo was revealed to be at PAX Prime 2012. While plans were made to release the game on September 18, 2012, delays caused the launch date to be pushed back, due to the amount of work being done to create it in 16 different languages, including English, French, German and Spanish further improvements to its gameplay, and fixing glitches pointed out to them before launch. In order to make up for the delay, Overhaul revealed information that the game would include further additions to it that the original did not have, including new characters, areas, story and hours of gameplay.
The game was officially released on November 30, 2012, but due to contract obligations, the game's Windows version was launched on the Beamdog website and also via download from its Client program (although Beamdog Client is not required to play the game after initial activation), while the iPad version was launched on Apple's App Store, and the OS X version on the Mac App Store. On January 16, 2013, the game was released on Steam. The Linux version of the game was released the following year on November 27, 2014, after being delayed earlier that year on July 1, with Trent Oster explaining on Twitter that the decision to do so was to wait until after the release of a patch to update the game to version 1.3., as part of an improved commitment to quality releases.
On June 19, 2013, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition was removed from sale on Beamdog's website and the Apple App Store, due to contractual issues. The issues were resolved within less than a month, and the game became available for sale at both outlets once again on August 15. Further extensive work is made on the game, with patches released by the developer to fix glitches and problems encountered by players for all available versions of the game. News of updates is often released on their official forums; on August 29, 2014, Beamdog announced the roll-out of a patch (version 1.3.2053) on their forums, stating that it was to be made immediately available to all versions of the game, adding that it had "..submitted to Apple for approval" prior to rolling it out on the Mac and iTunes App Stores.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition received mostly favorable reviews from critics; on aggregate review website Metacritic the game attains an overall score of 78 out of 100 on the PC. Shacknews praised the remake, calling the game "a truly enhanced version of a classic game". IGN gave the game 8.1, saying "Despite a dearth of immediately obvious changes, Baldur's Gate has aged well, and new players will find many hours' worth of fun if they approach it with an understanding of its increasingly antiquated framework." RPG website GameBanshee gave the game a poor reception, listing many bugs and oversights and commenting that they "cannot in good conscience recommend Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, considering the original is still available, has hundreds of mods and bug fix packs, costs $10 USD less, and is just as great as it's ever been." GameSpy concurred with this, questioning whether $20 was a fair price and adding that it "would be more impressive if we didn't already have such easy access to the original and its mods, though its cross-platform support will be nice for other platforms."
Overhaul Games revealed in an interview on August 27, 2012, that, although they had not received the contract to make it, if both of the enhanced editions of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II do well financially, and if the team demonstrates the ability to successfully make their own original content, the developers would make Baldur's Gate 3, describing it as their "long-term goal". Furthermore, they stated that the success of the enhanced editions, which had fueled their decision to remake Icewind Dale, would likely see them attempt to produce an overhaul of Planescape: Torment, using rules from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, and the Infinity Enhanced Engine, and that it would possibly set up the stage for a sequel to Torment.
Following its launch, the game was succeeded by Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition on November 15, 2013, a remake that combined Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn with its expansion Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, while including the new classes and content from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, four new characters with new locations and quests tied to them, and a new standalone arena adventure, with the game made available for all of the same platforms. Following its success, Overhaul Games also worked upon and released a remake of Icewind Dale, entitled Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, which was released on October 30, 2014.
An expansion entitled Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear was announced on July 10, 2015, with it aimed at adding around 25 – 30 hours of new content, and focusing on events that begin after the conclusion of Baldur's Gate, to just before the start of Baldur's Gate II; the expansion was released on March 31, 2016, with a streaming event in Twitch.tv and an AMA in the Baldur's Gate subreddit.
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