Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition could have been great, a tribute to a classic RPG and a promise of things to come for the franchise and for party-based RPGs in general. Its creators clearly had their hearts in the right place in trying to update Baldur's Gate for a newer generation, that's hard to deny. It's also hard to argue with new characters, quests, areas to explore, and a new adventure, all of which are, for the most part, competently done, if ultimately non-essential.
The clue’s in the name. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition isn’t a remake of the famed RPG classic; instead, it acknowledges the many improvements modders have created over the years while seasoning the content with some worthwhile content additions. 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.
But outside of these tweaks it’s still Baldur’s Gate. You still get to pick a team of six (or fewer, if you fancy a stiffer challenge or are just a bit of a hermit) characters and travel to classic fantasy-world places (forests, dungeons, medieval towns and castles), doing fantastic things (summoning monsters, hitting nasty things with big swords). The core of the game then, remains true to its 1998 incarnation, and that’s a good thing.
Since I first played Baldur’s Gate all those years ago, RPGs have morphed beyond all recognition into a genre driven by action and story, mutated to the point where the line between them and even frantic shooters has become blurred. Many of the modern games are brilliant. But this Enhanced Edition is a gentle reminder that just because the model they left behind is old doesn’t mean it has no value. Stat crunching is good. Slow paced combat is good. Dungeons & Dragons is good. And combining all three seamlessly together remains very good indeed.
Nevertheless, frustrating as these problems are, none of them derail the game. After all these years, it still stands up as gorgeous, engrossing, witty and bloody-minded RPG - and a difficult one, compared to the games it has sired. This is a faithful enhancement that hasn't diluted or modified the original game to bring it in line with modern tastes. There are no achievements to unlock, few second chances and plenty of completely unfair challenges to stumble into. I firmly believe everybody who loves RPGs should play Baldur's Gate; that's a given. The real question is, should you buy it in this enhanced form?
So far as the interface goes, my quibbles may seem many but they amount to little. With the exception of the blasted hidden doorways mentioned above, the developers have sidestepped all the obvious ways that the new interface might have harmed the game. Even better, they’ve taken advantage of the touchscreen to make Baldur’s Gate play better than ever in a lot of crucial ways. In my first hour of play my stance evolved from skepticism, to cautious optimism, to outright exuberance. BG:EE for the iPad works, and if you’re like me that’s all you need to hear.