Game Reviews

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

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Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

I'm old enough to remain stunned by the modern marvel of miniaturisation. That a card smaller than my fingernail can store thousands of times more data than my first computer still astonishes me.

And the fact I can now run, on my wafer-thin tablet, an immense role-playing game that once demanded cutting edge hardware is a source of considerable wonderment.

Unfortunately, the execution leaves something to be desired.

Baldur's Gate II is based on the second edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, a mechanical behemoth that will be second nature to gamers of a certain age. Those unfamiliar with the system, however, face an uphill struggle to learn it, faced with a minimal tutorial and no physical documentation.

Singing Bards

If you're happy with the underlying rules then Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition remains one of the richest, most breathtakingly detailed and engrossing role-playing experiences around. Indeed the more I played it, the more I felt the original was years ahead of its time.

In terms of story, side-quests, inventory, and overall playing time it's the equal of vast modern edifices like the Witcher series.

The plot is intriguing and compelling, helped enormously by a truly repulsive antagonist - one of the most memorable in the history of gaming. Party members interact with you and one another through well-acted soundbites. The chilling laments of thief-wizard Imoen and the amusingly deranged ranger Minsc are particularly good.

Combat deserves a particular mention: the combination of tactical role-playing and real-time strategy was ground-breaking when it first appeared and still feels fresh now.

Everything unwinds before your eyes but at any point you can pause and issue new orders. It takes a great combination of skill and planning to defeat the toughest enemies in the game.

This new edition allows you to make the most of melee with a new Arena mode for dedicated brawlers, and the graphical overhaul of what was originally quite a smart looking game leaves it satisfyingly sharp on Retina displays.

Clumsy Warriors

So, given that the game itself is so enjoyable, where are the problems? They all stem from a simple source: the attempt to control a very complex game through the limitations of a touchscreen.

This was something we highlighted in our review of Baldur's Gate on iPad. The developer took that on board, and made some improvements. But these are wiped out by the vastly increased number of spells, powers, and items offered by the more powerful characters in this sequel.

If you're a magic user you have to decide what spells from your selection you're actually going to have at your disposal and you need to pick them during combat. And every treasure haul requires you to inspect your new baubles and compare them against your existing loadout.

Items and spells are represented by icons and there's a lot to remember: far too many to internalise. On the PC this was no issue - a quick right-click would bring up all the details you needed. On iOS you have to press and hold to access this information, turning the entire process into a tedious slog.

Wise Wizards

And that's the issue with Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition in a nutshell. It's essentially playable via the touchscreen, but too often its comparative clumsiness thwarts your intended goals. Thieves stumble into traps you're trying to disarm, warriors attack the wrong enemies, and without cursor prompts you walk past unnoticed doors and treasure chests.

Players dedicated enough to learn to compensate for these issues by endlessly saving the game, diligently using the feature that highlights interactive elements, and patiently learning what all the icons and effects mean will be rewarded with a satisfying experience.

But this was originally a PC game, and too often it feels as though it should have stayed that way.

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

An incredibly rich and detailed experience, but the control requires far more finesse than a touchscreen offers, and the experience is often as frustrating as it is fun
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.