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GameBanshee Reviews Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

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GameBanshee Reviews Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

Review - posted by Infinitron on Sun 24 November 2013, 00:24:34

Tags: Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition; Beamdog; Eric Schwarz

The ever-diligent Eric "sea" Schwartz has written a review of Beamdog's Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition for GameBanshee. Is it an improvement over its predecessor? The answer, as expected, is "yes, but...". For example, here's his description of the game's new quests:

As for their quests and stories themselves, after playing through all of them, I have to say that it's still something of a mixed bag, but overall the new content is a step up from the drab and uninteresting stuff found in the first game's Enhanced Edition. For starters, instead of one or two new rather humdrum and short areas added to the map, now each character has about double that number, and all of them feature more elaborate questlines. While still linear, the gameplay they offer is a lot stronger, often featuring more side-quests and multiple quest solutions (like hiring on allies to help with a tough fight, talking your way out of one, and so on). This is good stuff, and while not all quests are that interesting, the mere fact that even few are is still welcome.

When it comes to combat, much of the encounter design has been radically improved over the first game's re-release, and the challenge level has been upped significantly. It feels weird to say, but some of the most enjoyable, tactically demanding fights I had while playing through Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition were actually from the brand-new areas and quests. This is in stark contrast to the added combat in Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, which was pitifully easy and just plain boring, with few real tactics required, so Beamdog have most definitely improved here.

I did say above that the new content is still a mixed bag, and there are definitely gripes to make. For example, Hexxat's character, while a worthy addition to the game, occupies probably the most dull of all the character storylines, and after her little twist there isn't much to keep up interest. Some of the side-quests are also rather weak - ones associated with Neera's story in particular, including hunting down stray cats in a forest, and searching crates for a little girl's lost brooch, are pretty much blatant filler, and aren't any more fun than they sound on paper.

I also feel that Beamdog's team lacks some of the class and charm in the writing department compared to millennium-era BioWare. I found that sometimes the tone and consistency was all over the place - lots of fourth-wall-breaking comments, strange anachronisms, humor awkwardly juxtaposed with more serious events, and so on. And, frankly, I despise Neera, whose character is not much more than a blatant Manic Pixie Dream Girl fan-service stereotype, and half of whose lines seem were written with the intent of starting new "go for the eyes!"-esque memes. It's not that the writing is bad, in fact, far from it, but it often doesn't fit with the original content as well as it should.
And in conclusion:

Unlike the original Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, I am much more willing to recommend Beamdog's new Baldur's Gate II re-release to players. While there are some bugs and the new content still does not quite match what BioWare was producing in its prime, it's a much more solid package overall. After playing for a couple of weeks, I'm having trouble going back to the original, if nothing else for the technical features like the quick loot UI, the super-quick saving/loading, and the ability to play in windowed mode without requiring any third-party programs. But at the same time, is the new content excellent and must-play for most people? Probably not.

There's one more thing to consider - at $25 USD, Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition is now more than twice the price of the complete edition of the original release commonly available at web sites like GOG and GamersGate. At $20, that price seems pretty fair, but $25, while realistically not that much more money, still feels a bit hard to justify, especially if you have already played Baldur's Gate II before. There are plenty of excellent new RPGs out today that can easily be had for that price or even less, as well.

So, with all that said, my conclusions about Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition are probably not that surprising: the original game's still as good as ever, the new content is nice to have but isn't really necessary, the fixes and improvements are offset by the new bugs and crashes, and the price hard to justify paying for those who already own the game and are comfortable installing a few mods. Beamdog have won back some of my lost faith by bringing out a much more polished and higher-quality product this time around, but I still have my doubts whether the studio has it in itself to produce a game of its own at this rate, as seems to be the logical trajectory the studio's headed in. I suppose we'll find out in the coming months whether the team is content to keep re-releasing old Infinity Engine games, or ends up doing something new.​

Indeed.

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