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iPad Game Review: Baldur's Gate 2 Updated Review
      #47699 - 02/12/15 06:18 PM

Baldur's Gate 2 (BG2)is a massive Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game that came out in the 90's. It has been resurrected for the iPad with all of its awesomeness intact, and thanks to a recent patch, is better than ever.


Gameplay

If you took up video/computer gaming for the first time in the last 10 or so years, then you missed some truly epic software that came and went before you booted your first device. Some of these games offered close to 100 hours of gameplay, came with glossy, 200 page+ printed manuals, and sucked you into their worlds for weeks at a time. For those of us who braved computer games before the current plug-and-play era, Baldur's Gate 2 resides somewhere near the top in our nostalgic memories. The good news is, the game is completely intact, and even includes the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack as well as The Black Pits II (endless combat without all of that story to get in the way). You begin your game with an experienced character; either one created by you that immediately levels-up to the appropriate point, or one that you import from Baldur's Gate 1. If you intend to do the latter, it's important to point out that THE ONLY way to do this is by directly importing a character from the BG1 app, so make sure you don't delete it before you start a new game. This surprised me because both BG1 and BG2 support file transfer within iTunes, unfortunately, nothing shows up in BG1 for export, and character files imported into BG2 don't show up for use in the game. Anyway, on to the gameplay...



The learning curve for this game is steep for the uninitiated. There are no tutorials, and, of course, no paper manual to refer to, so it will be sink or swim for those new to the game. Fortunately, the game can be paused at any time to give you a chance to explore spells (even in combat), different attacks, weapons, etc, and decide who you want to attack and how. If you are intimidated with too many choices in the early stages of a game like this, rest easy because the opening chapter is completely linear. Once you burst free of the prison, you will find yourself in a completely open world to explore, and likely have a pretty good hand on how the game is played. Of course, there is an overarching story that will pull you forward, but you really can do things in any order or any way you like, and it's impossible to make irreversible/game-ending mistakes. On this note, remember to save early and often so you can experiment with different strategies and game choices as you play. There are dragons to slay, people to save, companions to recruit, and treasures to find. Ah, the treasures... Probably my favorite part of the game is questing, searching, and forging epic equipment. There's a ton of it, some of which comes close to unbalancing the game due to their awesome power, so if you intend to dive into this game, take some time to read some of the many BG2 game guides available on the internet. The fact that so many of them still persist 15 years after the game's original release is a testament to the fans' devotion to it.



In the PC/Mac versions, the game makes extensive use of mouseovers, which is a programming trick that allows the cursor to give interactive feedback based on what it's hovering over at any given time. Of course, there is no way to offer this feature with a touch interface so remember to pause the game before attempting to talk to someone/search something/walk through a doorway because when you do, the cursor will change to let you know what is about to happen. If you mis-tapped, you can simply tap again until you hit what you're aiming at. If you don't pause the game before you do this, your party will wander all over the place in an attempt to perform whatever string of commands you're giving them. This may sound amusing, but it is actually quite frustrating, unfortunately. To help you out here, there is a button on the lower right side of the interface (just above the group party selection button) that will illuminate treasure on the ground, areas to search, and doors. USE IT!

Baldur's Gate 2 has recently (02/15) received a massive patch, which addresses most, if not all, of the bugs that had been holding me back from giving it top marks. They have also added iPhone support, which is most welcome for those of you (like me) who don't always have my iPad with me these days.



Graphics

Baldur's Gate 2 is a 15-year old game, based on 15-year old graphic technology. The entire world is rendered in 2-D, most of it painstakingly hand-drawn. This gives it a rich, organic feel, but it's sometimes to figure out where you can walk, and where you can't. Fortunately, the computers of the day had enough horsepower to manage 3D spell effects, which really spruces combat up quite a bit. Also, your characters' appearance will change depending on what they are wearing, and what weapons they are holding; which I love, of course.

Sound

The music and sound are both top-quality, and really immerse you into the game. It's the voice acting, however, that brings this game alive. The villain in the game (Irenicus) is voiced by none other than veteran actor David Warner, who delivers his lines with the force and skill of a classically-trained Shakespearean player. Although lacking Mr. Warner's pedigree, the other characters are also very well-done. In fact, it's the only game I've ever played where I didn't scramble to turn-off voiceovers and in-game chatter.



Conclusion

Baldur's Gate 2 is still as much epic fun as it ever was (I've played it a total of 3 times over the last 15 years), but the faint-of-heart may find the sheer depth overwhelming. Baldur's Gate 2 succeeds on the iPad (and now iPhone), thanks to the recent update, and will leave you wanting more. This is epic, old school gaming that will keep you busy for close to 80+ hours per playthrough. It is, not, however, for those who like their gaming in bite-sized chunks and easily accessible. There is very little hand-holding here, but for those who are looking for a game that will swallow them whole, it doesn't get any better than this.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics: - 4 - They're dated, but the quality still comes through.
Sound: - 5 - Fantastic voice-acting, a solid sountrack, and excellent in-game sound effects
Controls: - 4 - BG2 is very well maintained by Beamdog, and almost all of my interface complaints have evaporated thanks to the recent patch.
Gameplay: - 5+ - An epic D&D RPG from yesteryear that pulls the pants off of every other RPG on the App Store and gives them all swirlies.

Playing Hints and Tips:

When rolling your character, spend some time re-rolling until you get some good high numbers. It is VERY difficult to raise stats within the game and if you get impatient, you'll regret it. I spent 40 minutes, but your mileage may vary. Because you begin this game with experience, consider playing a dual-class fighter/mage or thief/mage. Nine fighter levels before you switch to mage will make your character a lot more playable, and a lot more interesting. Thief/mages are also a good choice (6-7 levels of thief) because you absolutely need thieving skills, but they make terrible fighters on their own. This way, you won't have to bring a thief into your party at all, and you'll never miss the experience points from those thief levels. Save early and save often (multiple save slots) so you can go back and redo something if necessary.



App Facts:

Developer: Beamdog
Release Date: January 15, 2014
Price: $9.99
Buy App: Baldur's Gate II

Reviewed by Tom Slayton









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