After being stranded on PC along with Minesweeper and PowerPoint for the best part of two decades, classic role-playing game Baldur's Gate is finally heading to PlayStation so it can be played while you're sat on your couch in your pyjamas, controller in hand, just like God intended.
A young orphan who witnesses the death of their kindly foster father at the hands of a proper baddie is thrust into a nefarious plot in which the very fate of the world hangs in the balance. Sounds like the perfect setup for a massive RPG to us. Or two massive RPGs, as it happens.
The Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Pack is a bundle of both Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, along with all of the various accoutrements and expansions for said games. There's so much content here that you could quit your job and you'd probably still not manage to finish it all by Christmas.
But don't start typing up your resignation letter just yet. Baldur's Gate might have been big back in 1998, but so were Semisonic, and now they can't get a song on the radio for love nor money. The big question, we suppose, is whether or not Baldur's Gate is worth playing for the first time in 2019?
Since it was originally released, the subsequent twenty years has seen many games inspired by Baldur's Gate, and many of those have built upon it and in some ways improved upon it, and so going back can leave you feeling like the game is a little antiquated. There are no waypoints, the quest log isn't particularly intuitive, it's hard to differentiate between NPCs because many of them kinda look the same, navigating the map can be cumbersome, and what you're supposed to be doing is sometimes not as clear as it should be.
But it didn't take long for us to be won over. After a few hours we managed to acclimatise to a 1998 mindset, and the uglier aspects of the interface were balanced out with charming characters, a well told, sprawling narrative, rewarding exploration, a rousing soundtrack, and challenging combat that kept us on our toes.
As you travel the world of Baldur's Gate trying to solve the murder of your foster father, you'll meet companions of various ethical persuasions, who can join your party and aid you in battle, as well as offer access to skill sets you may not have depending on the character class you chose. Hire a thief and you can use them to break locks, allowing you into rooms or treasure chests you may otherwise not get into. But acting nefariously may also upset the more upstanding members of your party, and if you're proving to be too much to stomach, they may just up and leave.
Exploration is frequently rewarding, with many quests, characters, enemies, and loot being well off the beaten path. Taking your time to search out every nook and cranny of a map rarely leaves you wanting, and some of the most fun we had with the game was a result of stumbling across a quest tucked away in the middle of nowhere.
Occasionally, as you wander the map the game will pause as combat is initiated. From here you can move your characters individually or as a party into more advantageous positions, or you can choose attacks or spells to see off the opposition. Once you unpause the game you'll see your attacks play out, and you can then pause and unpause whenever you like while you make decisions.
During your adventures you'll fight all manner of enemies from fantastical, mythical beasts to fantastically drunk morons in taverns, but you'll rarely be involved in a scrape that doesn't at least offer a moderate challenge. It's tense like real time combat, but with the time to think afforded by turn based games. It's also tough, and frequently unforgiving.
Purists may sneer at the thought of taking the challenge down a notch, but Baldur's Gate's extensive difficulty options could be key to how much you enjoy the game. For genre veterans, the normal setting provides enough of a hurdle without being too spicy, while if you bang it up onto the highest setting then combat is tougher than a Wetherspoons steak. On the easy side, you can take it right down to "Story Mode" which basically means that you can't die, and you can enjoy the narrative without having to worry about the fisticuffs.
And the story is well worth the price of admission. While the Baldur's Gate games do occasionally adhere to fantasy tropes, and the writing - at times - is old school in the way that certain characters are portrayed, this is a well told, epic tale that delivers right up until the credits. You'll meet a diverse cast of characters, some upstanding while others sketchy, and the many, many quests you'll be involved in run the gamut from saving a village from an evil, shadowy beast, to solving a serial killer case, to finding yourself poisoned and having to hunt down your assassin - and the antidote - before it's too late.
We'd be telling you porky pies if we claimed that we'd seen every facet of these games during our time with them. The first Baldur's Gate is huge, offering a plethora of side-quests, extra companions to meet, choices to make, loot to find, and monsters to vanquish. We saw the story through to its conclusion and found it to be a satisfying fantasy yarn, but for people who want to explore everywhere and find every secret, you'll be investing well over sixty hours.
Baldur's Gate II offers a similar amount of content and an equally compelling narrative, while The Siege of Dragonspear is shorter, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. There are also some other expansions in here - The Black Pits and The Black Pits II, which are more of a combat-centric arena mode rather than a fully fledged story, and Throne of Bhaal, which acts as the final chapter in the Baldur's Gate series - at least until Baldur's Gate III comes out. We're talking hundreds of hours of content here, people, and multiple Trophy lists, too.
The Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Pack offers incredible value for money, with hundreds of hours of role-playing game action spread across two main games and various expansions. While players unfamiliar with the series may find the presentation or the sometimes finicky navigation unappealing, the narrative remains compelling, the characters engaging, and the combat challenging. More than that, it's the first opportunity for console gamers to play two of the greatest RPGs of all time, and it shouldn't be skipped.