Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review
If you've been lamenting the lack of a really meaty, old-school and gloriously geeky roleplaying game on your iPad, look no further than this semi-remake of one of the 1990s' true classics. There have been iOS games like Baldur's Gate, but the complexity and sprawl of this fantasy adventure is pretty much unparalleled on the app store.
Baldur's Gate was one of the earliest games by Bioware, now best known as the studio behind Mass Effect, and while its elves and kobolds are very different to that series' space marines and deathbots you can very much see the commonality. It's all sweeping, epic quests, dark destinies, choice about how to treat people and a huge world to explore with tons of optional diversions. BG is far more complicated than Mass Effect, however, requiring as it does some fairly painstaking management of a raft of character stats and a combat system that requires heavy tactical thinking.
If anything, this might be a little too much for iPad play. The need to regularly save manually requires a shift in thinking (especially as death or at least highly regrettable decisions are commonplace here), while the busy interface and tiny characters necessitates more precision-tapping than you may be accustomed to. While BG does a lot of good things that so many of today's more straightforward games have sadly dispensed with, it also brings with it some less likeable 1990s values.
This does make it a much harder sell to folk who didn't play it first time around than it is to those who grew up with Baldur's Gate and contemporaries such as Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. Do try and stick with it through those clunky interface archaicisms, though, because there really is an adventure of uncommon breadth, with some great characters (both serious and ridiculous) and massive flexibility in terms of your party of heroes and their abilities. There are dozens of hours of play to be had here - and well into the hundreds if you play it again with a totally different party.
On a purely technical level, the move to iPad is pretty impressive. While it's a long way short of the tablet's visual best – inevitably so, given this is purely an 'enhanced' version of an ancient game rather than a ground-up remake - it's surprising and gratifying to see a game which offered a resolution of 640x480 at release looking quite so sharp on the iPad 3/4's preposterous 2048x2848 screen.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, then, is about as essential as iOS roleplaying games get. Just remember to save regularly, for heaven's sake. Oh, and you'll need to find almost 2GB of space for it, too.
This remastering of one of the most revered roleplaying games of all time shows its age despite the enhancements, but that doesn't keep it from feeling like a true iPad essential. It's very expensive and it'll eat up a huge chunk of your storage space, but this is a game that offers weeks, if not months, of tactical combat, agonising choices and frenzied goblin-bashing.