Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (iPad) Review

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It's inevitable that much of a review about a touchscreen version of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition will center around the specific challenges of bringing this classic PC RPG to a tablet. While long-term fans will already know every last detail of the game's sprawling content and system design, it's enough for everyone else to know that this is a timeless fantasy adventure Modojobuilt around party combat, endless invisible dice-rolls and deep tactical group play. What unites both camps of course is the question of how this hardcore RPG translates from the keyboard, mouse and bigger display of a PC, to the very different touchscreen platform.

The good news is that this complex combat that blends ranged, melee and supporting roles together works surprisingly well on a tablet's touchscreen. Baldur's Gate isn't shy about throwing you into the deep waters of its mechanics early on, and while it's easy to navigate the game's interface and combat options, you'd be wise to spend some time in the first party combat scenario you're presented with. Here you'll learn the essentials of party positioning, skill use, and character archetypes, and every minute spent here will enhance the rest of your time with the game.

As well as a diverse array of characters, there are many icons vying for your attention, from backpacks to skill bars, to character profiles and spellbooks. The nature of the touchscreen means there are more of these icons to contend with than in the PC version. The developer's method for dealing with the thorny problem of collecting multiple party members into a single group, for example, is the rectangle-draw button which can be toggled on and off. It's a clever solution to a problem that soon rears its head in more complex combat, while another new button provides a quick snapshot of party member health with a single tap. That's not to say that the character control and interface is perfect. Party members will occasionally get stuck in doors, target selection can be a fiddly affair for individual warriors, and path-finding in general can be a little hit and miss. While there are tutorial components to the game, you must also come to Baldur's Gate with a willingness to explore its intricate and complex systems on your own initiative.

While many of the systems have been enhanced, visually this is a version of the game that has been given a little light polishing rather than a radical overhaul. But while the visuals may seem primitive by modern standards, this has never been a game about pretty pictures. Instead you'll be enchanted by the depth of written narrative, the voice-over work, and the outright moaning and infighting of your distinctive party members. And what about the new content that Beamdog has introduced to this gently buffed version of the original? As well as new characters and map areas, The Black Pits provides an arena-based experience of increasingly challenging enemy waves that grow in size and power. It's a neat "horde" addition to the core gameplay, and the developers have done a grand job of creating new voice-acting and content here that resonates perfectly with the original, core game.

With a steep entry price of $9.99, this probably isn't the game for anyone unsure about whether an unashamedly hardcore, old-school RPG is the right fit for them. If, on the other hand, you played and loved Baldur's Gate back in the day then you already know what to do, and let's be honest you've probably already had your money's worth from the last weekend alone.

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Download Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (iPad)


What's Hot: One of RPG gaming's finest moments brought competently to tablets, with a host of refinements and new content.

What's Not: A comparatively steep price for App Store gaming, and the controls are not entirely optimized for touchscreens. Party AI can be a little hit and miss.
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