Since my gaming rig died and the time to fix it is an unknown quantity at this time, I decided to continue my distraction with Baldur’s Gate 2 by getting the Enhanced Edition for my Macbook Pro. I’m actually quite happy that they had a Mac version since I’m at the point in my life where I feel that the PC has lost almost all its value. That said, I wanted to go into my experience thus far with the Enhanced Edition.
Just prior to purchasing the game, I did a little investigation just to see if there were any major issues. I think when it first was released, the Mac version had some issues with the installer. At this point, outside of a rather lengthy download, I did not experience any technical issues getting the game to run on my system. In fact, it went quite smooth.
Considering that the game itself is over a decade old, it should be able to run on most hardware. In the case of my Mac, there weren’t any performance issues. The game plays in, I believe, 800×600 resolution. On a Macbook Pro, this resolution can be difficult as the game is quite dark in nature already. I found myself squinting at times and often using the zoom feature that wasn’t in the original game to examine tiny items on the ground.
One feature that they added with regards to the display is the ability to play with full screen. It’s enabled by default but you can disable it and do other things such as watch a movie, read hints, check websites, etc. Previously, if had dual monitors going (like I do), you would get one side cut off and could not access that side without minimizing the program (as in the Windows side). So this feature is somewhat convenient. However, on a Macbook Pro, one side effect is that vertical scrolling on the screen becomes awkward. In these situations, you have to guestimate where to place your mouse cursor if you want to navigate around the area or use the map and/or cursors. That aspect isn’t really smooth and probably should be examined in the future.
Another consequence from the increased display is that you occasionally interact with NPCs who might normally be offscreen. For instance, during the Nalia Keep Quest, upon entering the 2nd level, Glacias will start a dialog with you, despite the fact that you’re nowhere near him (you’ll start at the stairs). When I navigated to his secret room, he did not initiate combat as he would in previous editions. Instead, I was able to converse with him and the charm spell he was under apparently wore off. I’m certain that this was an unintended bug resulting from the increased resolution. But that’s something I noticed in perhaps a few other cases.
A few areas seem a little different as well. For instance, the paladin hold in the Temple District is different in structure in the interior. It’s not a game breaker obviously but I was a little disoriented upon entering. As I continue to play the game, I will be on the look out for updates to areas like that.
Another alteration to the game seems to be the way cloudkill works. One of the more notorious manners for killing monsters in the older versions was to load up rooms with cloudkill spells off screen while monsters just suffocated to death. In this version, the cloudkill spell visually is different but monsters seem to react a little smarter. Here, they seem to actively pursue the caster. I’m not sure if this is a tweak to their AI, the result from the higher resolution (as described above) or both. Either way, I’ll have to test this part a little more to see if certain monster strategies are altered as a result of this change.
Of course, in terms of new content the major additions to the game are the new 4 NPCs. I believe 3 of them are from the other Enhanced Edition game and there is a new one. Thus far, I’ve encountered 3 of the 4. I will remark that the voice acting for two of them are decent but the one found in the inn sounds really shoddy. Quite honestly, I felt that the voice acting for Hexxat was….akin to a porn actress. No joke. When you first encounter her in the Copper Coronet, she starts droning on about treasure in a monotone voice that make most youtube videos seem like Hollywood productions with James Cameron as the director. It got so annoying for me that I pretty much tried to reject her in any manner possible. Not sure if she has some sort of aggro radius. But if I get within a certain limit of her, her dialog starts to repeat.
While I do embrace the idea of new content, I’m not sure at this point if I’ll try to pursue it. I read that some of their quests are buggy so I’m a little wary of straying from the main content from Shadows of Amn at this point. Honestly, I wish instead of adding content through NPC quests that the people over at Beamdog used some other mechanisms similar to how the Watchers Keep was introduced.
Another alteration that has been introduced into the game is the naming of a lot of magical items. Although most of the magical items still remain the same in terms of effects, I found it a little disorienting when I would peruse through a few shops’ item list to discover that many had been renamed. Some also were re-skinned. I honestly don’t know why they made the effort to change this aspect.
Finally, one other thing I decided to test out was whether or not the CLUAConsole was still working. Indeed, it still works. In fact, one thing I wanted to try was the various books/tomes that enhance your ability scores. So one major update in the game was allowing the ones for Wisdom and Charisma to work. This is such a huge modification since some of the perks of very high Wisdom and Charisma can do things like make one immune to certain mental spells or charm enemies. Thus far, I haven’t seen any major impact with regards to either ability score outside of Wisdom granting clerics and druids bonus spells.
However, something I am curious about is how this might affect human NPCs like Minsc. The thing with Minsc is that he suffers from very low intelligence and wisdom. So dual classing is impossible as he lacks enough prerequisites to switch to something like a cleric. With the barrier to Wisdom lifted, I’m wondering if he would be able to dual class to a cleric. That could make his situation very interesting since up to this point.
I would love to test other things in the game that may have come through the various patches the community had created. For instance, I’m wondering if Inquisitors and Rangers now can use Amulets of Power. Or if ranger kits besides the Beastmaster can dual class. I’ll have to play around a bit to see what I can and cannot do using the Enhanced Edition with regards to classes.
Of course, beyond the “canon” classes supplied through the original Baldur’s Gate 2, the Enhanced Edition has brought a few of the popular kits from Neverwinter Nights over like the Blackguard. One positive effect is that the number of party combinations significantly increases through this as well as the introduction of the new NPCs. While there are more exciting possibilities because of these new kits and NPCs, my feeling at this point is that I would prefer testing them at a later time. I think though one aspect is that the game seems to make evil aligned parties more favorable. Previously, evil aligned parties felt limited but now there’s some room for more possibilities. Maybe in the future, what I’ll try is creating a purely evil aligned party and determine what a good mix is.
Overall, I’m still going through the content but have been pretty impressed thus far. I do wish there was more content available and that the new makers will continue to put out extensions for the game. Probably, the one downfall in the AD&D universe is that the experience factor will end up being too limited without re-doing the core engine. But it is something that I think should be looked at, especially as the company continues to upgrade this series and hopefully the Icewind Dale series too.