Certain videogames throughout history have become cult classics. Of computer-based role-playing games, there are few known better than the Baldur’s Gate games. Originally released in 1988 for PC, the games hold a special place in many nerd hearts. When Beamdog sent out the review codes for Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II I was excited. I had heard so many great things about the Baldur’s Gate series and never got the chance to delve into them.
For this review the I played large portions of the Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, and spent time in the expansion content but did not fully complete the games. As Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II have been on the market for 31 and 19 years, respectively, I will forgo an analysis of their collective narratives. These have previously been completed and need not be revisited on this occasion. What I shall endeavor to focus on is the quality of Beamdog’s port to the Xbox One platform. My fellow Xbox Enthusiast writer Ashley also recently reviewed two additional Beamdog Ports. Check out her thoughts here.
To begin our review, we shall look at the graphics quality. In honor of the historic nature of the Baldur’s Gate series, Beamdog chose to update the graphics whilst maintaining a modern-retro style. The result is a clearly aged style which, while charming, is nothing exceptional visually. It’s pleasant, but simple by today’s standards. While this is not necessarily a negative, a bit more quality on the characters and character animations would have been nice. When playing on our 37″ televisions the graphics held up for the most part. However, a gripe I wish to highlight is the ridiculous text size. Even after adjusting the font size to its largest setting I still struggle to read it from our sofa eight feet away.
Perhaps my favorite part of the port from PC to console has been controller mapping. Building on the successes of other RPG games such as Blizzard’s Diablo III, Beamdog got the control mapping right with a few small exceptions. All of the buttons are mostly intuitive if a little persnickety to get used to.
My complaints revolve around Baldur’s Gate combat mechanics. Player movements are made by using either the driven/tactical movement systems. The ‘driven’ mode functions as a modern videogame navigation system using a single player to lead the group. Tactical movement, on the other hand, is a classic point-and-click system. While both work well, I prefer using driven mode as it emulates a modern RPG. The only major issue with the driven mechanics reveals itself when collecting loot. Trying to select dropped loot is maddening. I found myself switching modes to use the cursor just to avoid the frustration.
My only other major gripes revolve around the quick menu system of character actions. Each player character possesses a small number of programmable slots wherein quick attacks, spells, or special items can be used. Unlike its PC counterpart or other modern console RPGs such as Diablo III, Baldur’s Gate does not allow slots to be activated via triggers, bumpers, and buttons. To use a slot, players must pause, select an action, then unpause. While not difficult, it is clunky and breaks up the flow of the game.
But is it enjoyable?
With all of my grievances on record, the final obvious questions must be asked: is Baldur’s Gate fun to play? As a lover of all things Dungeons & Dragons I, despite the petty annoyances, had a great time playing the Baldur’s Gate series. There is a reason the Baldur’s Gate games have a massive following. Even after 30 years, the game is still very enjoyable. As a further value add, the folks at Beamdog have released their own entry into the Baldur’s Gate zeitgeist entitled Siege of Dragons. Adding 25 hours of content between the events of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, Siege of Dragons carries on the story in an honorable way.
So how does Beamdog’s port hold up in the end? Taking into account all of the factors above, the Baldur’s Gate ports are pretty good. The updated graphics serve to bring this classic tale to a new generation. All in all, while I have a few gripes about it, I think fans of Dungeons & Dragons and RPGs will enjoy this.