Forgive me nerdly father, for I have sinned. As someone who considers themselves a fan and appreciator of fantasy movies, games, books, etc ... I never played Baldur's Gate when it came out in 1998. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge!
It was always on my list, but I just never got around to experiencing what proved to be an indelible piece of gaming for many D&D fans and PC Gamers alike. Though I think I have a pretty good excuse. Also, 1998 was a ridiculous year in video games! But that's a whole other post. Thanks to the courageous folks at Overhaul Games and Beamdog, those of us who missed out the first time now have a chance to sit down with Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, a revamped version of this classic for iOS. With improved graphics for the retina display, lots of tweaks and bug fixes to the original code, not to mention additional characters and content, Baldur's Gate is ready for both old and new fans.
Even though I've never played the original, I knew before I downloaded the new Baldur's Gate that it would be up my alley. And since it's safe to assume that most people who are ponying up the dough to play this game already know that it's awesome, this review will be less about the content of the game itself and more about how well it works on a tablet.
The first thing I noticed off the bat is that the game tosses you right into the deep end. I usually forgo any training options in games, but that was a mistake here. After only a minute or two, I quickly found myself lost in the massive menu system. Even for long time fans who have the interface down cold, I think it will be a little bit disorienting to just jump right in. When I realized that I had no idea how to do anything, I decided to stop and head in to the training option from the main menu.
I think it says something about a hardcore game when even the training segment is kind of difficult to make it through. There's a little stumbling around that you will have to do in order to feel comfortable, though I picked it up after a bit. But it's cool that they expect you to be on board and on point. I don't think I would have liked it if Overhaul decided to gloss things over and point you constantly in the right direction. So you better learn what those icons mean and remember it, or else those Hobgoblins are going to eat you.
For newbies like me, I recommend putting in some extra time with the combat training options you have. The more comfortable you are with how to position your characters and maximize their abilities, the better time you'll have out in the wilds of the Sword Coast. Though even when you have the hang of things and are hours into the story, get used to seeing the animation screen of that hand wasting away into dust, because it will be popping up often. There's a lot of dying in Baldur's Gate, especially early on. I learned real quick where the Quick Save button was and made liberal use of it in my adventures.
But the high learning curve and difficulty are part of what make this game so much fun. It's nice to see that there can really be hardcore games translated effectively over to the casual iOS environment. When I was deep into it, going through a dungeon or equipping my party, I didn't even notice that I was gaming on my iPad. Overhaul lived up to their name in coming up with an effective way to cram all that point and-click RPG density into a tappable interface.
That's not to say that everything is perfectly streamlined. Perhaps inevitably, there are complications and new bugs that have presented themselves as part of the challenge in getting this game to work. For one, the simple act of selecting things and moving your characters around can be a pain sometimes, especially when you're trying to enter or leave rooms. I got used to it after awhile, but it was only after several instances of having everyone crammed around a door, with me continually poking around them in a futile effort to find the sweet spot that would get me out of the damn shop where I was trapped.
I also noticed a few glitches while loading saved games or coming back to the game after hitting the home screen, with random sections of the screen getting blacked out. It's also a battery KILLER compared to some other games. None of this is make or break, though. In a way, the rough around the edges quality of the game pairs nicely with the pixelated, dirty look of everything. But hopefully Overhaul will fix a number of these issues with future patches. Patches? Hey, it really is like an old PC game!
What remains intact though is the game itself, which is evidence enough why the developers took it upon themselves to shoulder this huge project. The story, voice-acting, distinctive characters and environments -- it's all top notch.
As such, it's priced that way, with a hefty (for the App Store), price tag of $9.99. But the guys at Beamdog know their audience. And apparently they know that there are also plenty of gamers like me out there that have been waiting for the opportunity to try their hand with one of the classics. Despite the glitches, I can recommend this to anyone who's been wanting to try it out. And if you're one of the original fans, well ... you don't need any convincing.
App Store Link: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition for iPad | By Beamdog | Price: $9.99 | Version: 1.0.2007 | 1.70 GB | Rating 12+