Back in the late 90s or early 00s, I used to play a game called Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. It was in the style of a Diablo game where you took control of a warrior from a list of classes and dashed around roughing up fantasy folk for new loot. I loved it and recently bought it again for the PS2. Now the original is being re-released, this time on the PS4, in the form of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.
What I didn’t know, which is perhaps obvious to many, is Baldur’s Gate comes under the Dungeons & Dragons banner, and to be frank; my knowledge of D&D is a bunch of teenagers who rode an ill-fated rollercoaster, later being harassed by a one-horned demon. Ask your parents. Anyway, all this dice rolling and warlocks beating orcs is out of my comfort zone. I’ve read Lord of the Rings. Does that count?
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is a little different from what I was expecting. While Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance was more arcade-like in its approach, this iteration goes back to the D&D roots from the outset, makes references to D&D rules. Now I’m further out of my depth – I’m thinking Dark Souls type stats – what do I need to wield a bastard sword so I can cut some folk in half?
Delving into the Baldur’s Gate universe, one can create their own character, as one would expect. The selections are quite in-depth, but familiar classes we’ve come to expect in an RPG. Types include archers, fighters and paladins. There is an abundance of sorcerers, shamans and necromancers to some degree too. In fear of being unpredictable, I went for a paladin as in these type of games, I like a tank that can heal. A refreshing little quirk here was that when creating a class, there are additional subclasses, in this case, a dark paladin. Furthermore, there was then the option to have the character a law-abiding evil-doer or a chaotic one and the choice of a bio for the character. Mine used to be in a boy band. This was all before even playing the actual game.
The introduction got me relatively excited about the game until the game began. For an enhanced edition, the graphics were a let-down, as were the animations. Sure, this came out in the late 90s, but there isn’t any reason why it couldn’t be sharper or, dare I say – redrawn. It’s quite hard to see these visuals even on a large screen. Options are in place to zoom in on the dialogue and other areas, but you’ll regret it as the pixels up close don’t look great.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is a 2D game in an isometric style. To move your character, and later party, they can be controlled by directly moving with the analogue stick or clicking points of interest. The same applies to speaking with NPCs. When encountering enemies, you click on them for your character to attack. It isn’t turn-based so just await the outcome, but the stats are taken into account – similar to how dies are used in the original D&D game. I’m not entirely sure how it works, I’m basing it on scenes from Stranger Things – there’s maths involved, but the game does everything for you, thankfully.
Being a dirty bugger, I like a good old grind and Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition gives you plenty of opportunities to build up the levels of your character and respective party. It isn’t the same as a modern RPG however, as Baldur’s Gate has a level cap and you need to get to a higher level to be effective in Baldur’s Gate 2. At the start, levelling up is a little slow. There is an abundance of side quests to complete, which are quite troublesome to keep track of. As can be expected of a game like this, completing these quests is a sure way to improve on your party, though exploring the wildness is a decent bet as killing an onslaught of beasties will always improve your character in time.
Experience points are distributed through the whole party after killing said beasties or completing quests. This, of course, sparks the debate of how many to have in your party. The bigger the party, the more the XP are distributed, the less gain per character. You’re safer in numbers but less likely to increase your stats that quickly. Go solo (are you mad?) or have a smaller party and you’ll get a good portion of XP to share, but the challenge will be harder. Should your level go up, it doesn’t mean you will instantly be able to distribute points. Sometimes a stat is automated, other times you can improve on your weapon proficiency (there are many to choose from) or skills such as detecting traps or lockpicking.
The controls are a little confusing. It’s not a turn-based strategy, but at the same time, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition attempts a few different gameplay variations. In enemy engagements, the game pauses, and you have a few options, but the general outcome is to attack them by clicking the sword (attack) icon on them. Press the option button, and the game resumes with all members of your party attacking unless you give them individual commands. Setting their formation is also an option too, should the strategy element persuade you. AI is ok. I didn’t really encounter many issues other than a few tight spaces where if you have a large group, there’s always some idiot blocking the doorway.
In real life, I’m sort of a minimalist, but in the gaming arena, I’m a hoarder and will loot everything. I wasn’t too keen on the setup here. For example, if you have a party of six, whatever action you take, the leader will carry it out. Loot a fallen enemy by taking all their weapons and pocket money, and you won’t be surprised to find that your main character can’t carry any more. But, look at your other members and all they have is their spectacles, testicles, et al… and lots of free slots. What I had to do was manually switch to another character with L1 or R1, pick up the loot, then either switch back to my chosen character (I want them to lead, seeing as I created them), press R2 then highlight all of my entourage. If you don’t select the party, they’ll stay put, you’ll get halfway along the screen and be told you can’t go anywhere without them.
On one occasion I was raiding a tower and inadvertently switched to my main character only. I was able to traverse each level of stairs, but I couldn’t get my team to follow me. I had to manually switch to each individual, walk them up the stairs, then change to the next, rinse and repeat. When they were all together, I pressed R2, selected them all, then was slaughtered by some ghosts. Meh. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition would be better suited to remain on the PC or perhaps a touchscreen. It’s good to have the choice to play it on the PS4, but in my opinion, if you’re wanting to play a similar RPG that is more user-friendly, try Neverwinter or even better, follow the yellow brick road and try Torchlight 2.
I couldn’t help but think I was playing a PC game on a Pentium in the 90s. It has that same mechanic of the map being blacked out, and as you explore, parts of the area are revealed (each area is a tile of sorts with various assets – y’know, trees, wolves and castles), and that is oddly satisfying. My issue was the graphics and overall user-friendliness. The presentation isn’t great, and while this game is huge, a lot of the time it’s difficult to see where you are, and the character sprites are, dare I say, ugly. Graphics aren’t everything, but this looks dated visually, in every way. The voice acting is good, but it’s also the repeated dulcet tones coming from your party, moaning each time you’ve asked them to move a bit that gets on my nerves.
Important to note, though; Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is fantastic value when it comes to content. Aside from the two standalone titles, you have the expansion packs for Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, The Black Pits and Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Throne of Bhaal and The Black Pits II: Gladiators of Thay. Phew! I couldn’t give you an idea of how many hours it takes to complete. There are easily 100s of hours in these games and no way I have scratched the surface considering all the side quests and expansions. Even if you only concentrate on the main stories, you’ll never get everything done for the first time. Take, for example, the achievements you can earn. A bronze is up for grabs for killing an NPC or show them mercy for a different trophy. You can’t have both, so if you’re looking to get 100%, there are at least two playthroughs to be had and like I’ve mentioned: it’s a big game. There is definitely a market for the Baldur’s Gate series, but I think for an enhanced game, this will mostly cater to those who played the original will all the mods, or those looking to dip their wick in a weighty RPG.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
If you’re a fan of the classic D&D style of play or traditional RPGs, this is a no-brainer, and you’ve probably played an iteration of this already. For everyone else, the lengthy, repetitive side quests may put you off, and if you’re all about the looks department, you will be disappointed.
- Plenty of content. This is not a speed run title
- Remains true to the classic RPG skillset and rules
- A good variety of characters to include in your party
- In-depth customisation of your character including sub-classes
- In terms of nostalgia, this will hit the buttons for fans of the franchise
- Looks awful – both character sprites and the improved animation
- While good performances, the repetitive element of the voice acting gets irritating
- The controls can feel counter-intuitive at times
- You take a bit of a back seat in combat, and depending on your difficulty level, can get incredibly arduous
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a regular PS4.