Baldur’s Gate is a game that holds almost a spiritual importance to me. It’s a game that brought the world of Dungeons & Dragons to life in a videogame in a meaningful way for the first time. It was a game that offered so many difference character combinations, moral choices and hidden locations to explore that even after playing it ten times I felt like there was more to discover. And so, the chance to revisit my childhood on a portable device, one that I can comfortably play on public transport, in bed, or by the pool on a hot summer’s day was nothing short of irresistible.
The game itself also holds up very nicely too, though new players be warned – this is old school Dungeons & Dragons and that means a couple of things. Firstly, you’re going to have to deal with such abstract statistics as THAC0. THAC0 stands for “To Hit Armour Class 0.” At the time when Baldur’s Gate was originally produced, the Second Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game was on the book shelves, and this system was adopted for the game with few changes. One of the more difficult concepts to wrap the head around with the Second Edition game is the idea that the better the armour, the lower your Armour Class score.
There’s plenty of other examples of archaic gameplay conventions in Baldur’s Gate, and as offputting as they are for newcomers in this Enhanced Edition, I’m glad the developers didn’t try and modernise the mechanics. The deep strategy and relative realism to how fragile the human body is is compelling from the point of view of enhancing drama, and it means players need to play smart to see success from their actions.
The most compelling reason to buy the game is there’s the fact it’s on the iPad for the first time naturally, and the delivery both succeeds and fails. For the most part the interface is comfortably laid out and the chance of death-by-accidental-tap is almost non-existent. On the other hand, there isn’t a clear enough indication when you have tapped on an enemy. A couple of times I’d lost a round of combat because I had thought that I told my hero to slash at the troll, but he instead moved next to the monster and stood there twiddling his thumbs.
It’s also slightly problematic that the movement of the heroes is mapped to roughly the same touch screen command as the map scrolling action. A tap and swipe will move the map around, and this is fine, but often when I took my finger off the screen after scrolling around for a bit, the game would register that as a “tap” and send my party of heroes wandering off somewhere I didn’t necessarily want them to venture. It’s workable, but occasionally irritating.
Overall though these minor interface quirks that do very little to hurt the appeal of one of the finest RPGs of all time. Just comparing this game to Bioware’s later games (Dragon Age and Mass Effect, for instance), is revealing. It shows us that Bioware has lost a great deal of its ability to build open worlds where exploration is more important than quest completion, and it shows us just how unimportant the mechanics are to an RPG game. As long as the game is filled with such memorable characters (such as Minsc and his miniature giant space hamster pet), and as long as the dialogue hits all the right notes from humour to serious drama, then you’re going to have a game that fans will clamour to repurchase decades later.
- Matt S
Find me on Twitter: @DigitallyDownld
And on MiiVerse, too: WaltzIT