Playing Baldur’s Gate II when it came out in the early 2000′s was something of a formative gaming experience for me. While I absolutely loved the first one, and played countless games before it, it wasn’t until part two that I came to realize just how immersive and engrossing playing videogames could be. So I was a bit heartbroken when, because of befuddling legal vagaries, it looked like Baldur’s Gate II might not ever grace our little screens.
Thankfully all of that nonsense is behind them and Beamdog are planning to release part two. I got a chance to take the game for a spin and to see first-hand how one of the most beloved games ever made has made the transition to the iPad.
First a disclaimer. The copy I have is a beta version. This is not the version that will eventually ship.
You start the game making your character. You can either import a previously made character or create an entirely brand new one. I always love making new characters, so thats what I did. This version of Baldur’s Gate II gives you an enormous number of character classes to choose from and ways to customize him or her that everyone should be able to find something that works for them. I personally love playing monks, so I made a Sun-Monk, which is one of the variations for that class.
After you’ve gone through that– and making a character you’re happy with can take quite a while– you start the game. Baldur’s Gate II picks up pretty much right where the first one left off. Shortly after what happened in part one, our heroes find themselves taken captive and are held prisoner. It’s your job to escape your prison, find out who captured you and discover and defeat the new evils that plague the lands again.
I’m not going to get into the story here, but suffice it to say, this is a long game with lots to do. Playing the game, and the expansion that comes with it, could conceivably take you around 40 hours. It’s just that big.
Gameplay-wise, not that much has changed from the first. The combat, abilities and spell systems work the same and the same clunky inventory is here as well, but seems to actually work a little bit worse. Trying to figure out what the various items in your inventory do is a clumsy affair, and that’s being generous. And the fact that you have to pause your game and go to a different screen to figure out what your spells and talents do is really annoying.
Targeting things is still an issue, but thankfully it’s not as bad as in the first one. I only rarely had problems getting my party to target the right enemies, pick up items or enter rooms, so that experience feels a lot smoother. However, when you’re presented with dialogue options, things get hairy. In the very beginning of the game I made quite a few mistakes when talking to NPCs before I figured out a workaround. I’d really like to see devs take some time to develop an appropriate targeting system for these types of games. On the PC you’ve got a mouse; on the iPad you’ve got nothing.
Graphically the game looks just as good as it did back in the day, and it looks much better than the first one did on the iPad. Spell effects seem to be much more robust and your characters no longer break up into pixelated disasters when you zoom in close.
But my early build had quite a few graphical glitches. There’s sometimes floating and disappearing text, water looks weird and sometimes not all there, lots of black boxes where there should obviously be something, etc. I hope most of these bugs are nixed by the final build.
I also ran into a game-killing bug in a very early sub-quest in the game. You can theoretically get around it (by either not doing the quest at all or reloading constantly and hoping for the best) but it exists in my build, and I hope it doesn’t make it to the final release. Overall, the game does run a lot smoother, though. I never once had it crash on me, which is a welcome relief after the crash-party that was the first one.
So there you have it. Just a little taste of what playing the new game is like. I’m hoping that the finished product is much more polished than what I’ve been playing. I’ve been assured that a lot of the bugs have been squashed, which is reassuring. This has the potential to be awesome.