iPad Game Review: Baldur's Gate (for iPad 2 and newer) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Baldur's Gate is an iOS remake of a classic role playing game from the 90's. It features 80 hours of scripted gameplay, online (limited) multiplayer, and an authentic old-school RPG experience.
If you're a gamer over the age of 25, you've likely played, or at least heard of, Baldur's Gate, the RPG masterpiece from BioWare and Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). This was an important game because, while there had been many computer role playing games before it, none of them had managed to turn the D&D tabletop ruleset into a playable computer game. So, does Baldur's Gate hold up to the multitude of great role playing games that came in its wake? Absolutely; this is still an amazing game, even 15 years later.
First of all, Baldur's Gate doesn't play like a port. The touch interface is responsive and accurate (with the exception of some targeting bugs that have yet to be squashed by the developer), the graphics have been enhanced for high resolution devices, and the menus have been cleaned-up and streamlined a bit. One of the nicest modifications is the inclusion of pinch/zoom capabilities; a very welcome feature, indeed. Although the developers made significant modifications to the interface, thankfully they left the actual gameplay alone, so what remains is a magnificently updated classic, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation, and rediscovered by those who fell in love with it a decade ago. When you begin a new game, you will be faced with a staggering amount of options. If you're a seasoned player, dive right in, secure in the knowledge that whatever you craft will not be a cookie-cutter character. For those of you new to the genre, I recommend beginning by selecting one of the pre-made characters. All of them are well-balanced, and completely playable through the entire adventure. Why a pre-made character? Do you remember when I described the character options as "staggering?" Well, if you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to create a character so inept that you won't be able to complete the adventure (think: Don Knotts as Aragorn). Once you begin, you will see the story arc unfold, meet new party members, fight enemies, learn skills, and save the world. Trust me; 80-hours of gameplay will go fast, and you'll be wishing there was more when you're done. Thankfully, there is more, in the form of The Black Pits, a combat adventure that throws you into increasingly challenging gladiatorial battles, where only the strongest survive.
Baldur's Gate for iPad comes with the Sword Coast expansion built into it, and also features multiplayer via direct IP connection. Unfortunately, this requires you to open some ports in your firewall, and is less than user-friendly as a result. Fortunately, Overhaul Games is busily working on an update that will not only fix the interface glitches, but will also add a friendlier game matching service.
The visuals of Baldur's Gate are excellent. The game supports retina displays on capable devices, and the game world looks crisp and clean, although zooming in completely will reveal some pixelization. The spell effects are colorful and varied, the characters are smoothly animated, and their appearance changes depending on how they are equipped. We can repeat the mantra: It's all about the gameplay until we are blue in the face, but there's no substitute for a visually beautiful game to really immerse you in its world.
The music and sound effects hold up well from the original, but it's the quirky voices of your companions that steal the show. Even 15 years later, hearing a big brute of a fighter give battle commands to his pet hamster (Go for the eyes, Boo! GO FOR THE EYES!!!!!) still brings a smile to my face.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
There are a number of characters available via IAP, and also some character portraits. None of these are essential to enjoy the game.
In spite of a few interface glitches, and primitive multiplayer support, Baldur's Gate for iPad is still a masterpiece, and is not to be missed. Seriously; stop reading this and go buy it.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Retina-enabled and updated for modern devices. Sound: - 5 - Everything sounds better than ever, especially the fantastic voices of your party members. Controls: - 4 - Combat is a bit glitchy at times. An update is planned, however. Gameplay: - 5 - A computer RPG high-water mark. You will get lost in here, and develop a surprisingly strong attachment to your character by the end.
Playing Hints and Tips:
If you want to play a magic user, start as a fighter and go dual or multi-class (dual is better). All character classes can get some benefit from starting as a fighter. Spend some time rolling stats for your character. Spending 30-60 minutes doing this up front will make a HUGE difference as you play. Don't ignore charisma! If it's low, characters may not join your party; if it's too low, it will even affect dialogue.