If the recent ports of early Final Fantasy games have shown anything, it’s that nostalgic mobile gamers are willing to pay a premium price for classic RPGs as long as the quality and content are there. Judging by such success, this enhanced version of Baldur’s Gate II is sure to prove lucrative for developers Beamdog and publishers Atari, weighing in as it does at a hefty £10.99. The sheer amount of content included here makes this a must-have title for anyone looking for a compelling experience and shows that mobile devices can compete with dedicated portable systems when it comes to serious games. However, caution must be applied before making the purchase as this is definitely not a game for everyone.
For those unaware of Baldur’s Gate, it is a high-fantasy series of role-playing games that is notable for its richly detailed setting, epic storylines and engrossing dungeon-crawling. This version packages the sequel, Shadows of Amn, together with the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack and a whole host of additional content, including a gladiatorial combat side-game and updated quests. The games are viewed via an isometric perspective, with players controlling parties of up to of six characters of various classes, either chosen from a predefined list, or created by the player themselves. Gameplay across all the games is a mixture of combat, exploration and questing and takes place in real-time, although this can be paused to slow down the pace, and there are extensive options for interaction with NPCs.
Despite its complexity, Baldur’s Gate II has ported well to the iPad and indeed, the game feels like a natural match for the touch screen interface. Although there are vast amounts of options and screens to wade through, accessing them is smooth and efficient. Combat and magic retain their depth and strategic elements, while switching between characters and carrying out actions is generally a breeze. However, the screen can get busy at times, resulting in noticeable slowdown and making it difficult to select items or characters with precision. This is particularly frustrating in combat, where the frequent small size of dungeons leads to unfair deaths and overly challenging battles.
Visually, the game is appealing, if somewhat old-fashioned in its style, which is of course understandable given its age. The cutscenes are dramatic and well-directed, while in-game graphics are simple but efficient, with atmospheric environmental design and surprisingly detailed character work. The muted palette may prove off-putting for those brought up on modern mobile games with their bright, vibrant colour schemes, but it is highly effective and creates an appropriately grim mood.
While the game is much lauded for its winding narratives and well developed characters, it is clearly showing its age in terms of storytelling craft. The script switches uncomfortably between traditional fantasy clichés and anachronistic modern phrases, and is delivered via voice acting of variable quality, with accents that again feel out of place and uneven. The dialogue is also interminable, bombarding the player with seemingly never-ending, pointless, or just plain ridiculous conversations. It often feels more like an interactive movie rather than a game and this renders the narrative sluggish where it should be fluid, tedious where it should be gripping.
Baldur’s Gate II comes with such a high reputation that it is difficult to review objectively and for many the attraction will not be obvious. This is definitely not a game for the typical mobile gamer, given its intricacy, its refusal to explain everything to the player and the patience required to get the most from it. For those unused to such games, it may not be easy to see beyond its dated feel and dig down to uncover its old-school charms. Unless you are attuned to its style, it is a hard game to enjoy, with an unforgiving difficulty curve, endless reams of dialogue, an overwhelming interface and gameplay that often isn’t that much fun.
However, for those prepared to invest the hours and the effort, the rewards are high, with multiple quests that will top the 300 hour mark to complete in their totality and storylines that define the word ‘epic’, while the new content adds value for those who have played the game before. From this perspective, £10.99 doesn’t seem so steep after all and as Baldur’s Gate II is considered a genre classic, this new mobile version will undoubtedly add to its appeal and reputation.
Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (Reviewed on iOS)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Epic compilation of classic RPGs, which have been lovingly ported and which show what can be done on mobile platforms. Although not for casual gamers due to its dated feel, overwhelming interface and clunky storytelling, Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition is a deep, expansive time-sink of a game that is worth the £10.99 asking price in terms of content. However, many gamers will find it hard to see what all the fuss is about.