But as enjoyable as the new content is, there are plenty of missed opportunities here, not the least of which concern the game’s visuals. Quite possibly the only element of Baldur’s Gate that can’t stand the test of time, the game has graphics that are archaic and pixelated, with incredibly dated sprites. Releasing an “enhanced edition” of the game seemed like the perfect opportunity for Overhaul to put a new coat of paint on the visuals and update them, similar to what’s been done in so many HD re-releases. Instead, BG:EE basically just tweaked the visuals of the game so they would work with today’s technology; specifically, widescreen displays. Beyond that, there are no visual enhancements here.
There are no HD or improved graphics, and players aren’t even given the most basic of graphics options with which to tinker. Forget about being able to adjust gamma levels, antialiasing, or even the resolution. Literally, the only entry option the “Graphics” section of the menu is the ability to turn full screen on or off. That’s it. Sure, players can also now zoom in from the isometric viewpoint while playing, but with the dated visuals, what’s the point? It looks pixelated and awful since it’s just a blown-up version of a low-res image. Needless to say, this was a big-time missed opportunity.
Equally disappointing was the fact that, as mentioned, the Black Pits failed to tie into the main game at all. I love the combat in Baldur’s Gate, so the content itself wasn’t disappointing. The problem was that it was a standalone feature that couldn’t be enjoyed as a quest during the main campaign, and none of the XP or items carried over. Without it having any sort of bearing on how the campaign experience plays out, it gets old quick when you’re essentially fighting for nothing more than practice.
And while Overhaul boasts that BG:EE brings over 400 bug fixes to the original game, the achievement is somewhat lessened by the slew of new issues that are now present. UI problems, audio glitches that run rampant throughout the new cinematics, items that occasionally disappear from the inventory, and other quirky bugs like an NPC following me and repeatedly engaging me in the same dialogue until I outran him and exited the map are just a few of the new issues I came across in this playthrough. Updates are being released constantly — be warned, my first five or so sessions started with a lengthy, time-consuming update process — so hopefully many of these problems will be ameliorated in the future, but they’re frustrating to deal with nonetheless.
One problem from the original game that definitely hasn’t been fixed is the abysmal pathfinding. Given how slowly the characters walk, it can often take a long time to walk across an entire map, so you’ll often be tempted to click on your desired location and get up to take a bathroom break or grab a drink. Don’t bother, they’ll never get there. More often than not, you’ll come back to find one or more of your party members walking repeatedly into a wall, stuck in a corner, or walking down a dead end path in one of the game’s many sprawling dungeons.
From a technical standpoint, multiplayer was a weak spot in the original version of Baldur’s Gate, as games over Gamespy or the Heat network often proved unstable at times. With that in mind, though I didn’t spend a ton of time with multiplayer, it was comforting to see that Overhaul’s updates fixed many of the issues that previously plagued the game’s multiplayer functionality.
While the multiplayer mode does work well in terms of latency and maintaining connections, Overhaul has labeled it as still technically being in beta. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that right now, multiplayer sessions can only be initiated if you know the IP address of the host. Obviously, this is a poorly designed, generally inconvenient system — I was only able to test the multiplayer mode because my roommate also has a copy of the game — but it’s a situation that Overhaul says will be rectified in a future update. Eventually, Overhaul will host the sessions and players will be able to browse lists of all the open multiplayer sessions, a far more convenient (and traditional) method of multiplayer gaming.
That’s all good and well, but until then, multiplayer with strangers is out of the question. Just like the bugs and other elements that show the game’s lack of polish, this begs the question of what good the delay did. Cross-platform multiplayer (with the Mac, iPad, and Android versions of the game) was another feature that Overhaul touted, but this, too, is not currently available and will arrive in a later update. So what we have here is, in essence, an unfinished product. And that’s frustrating, especially after the game’s release was delayed in an ostensible effort to polish it up. Though I know not everyone may necessarily be of the same opinion, I personally think it would have been better for Overhaul to just take more time and iron out all the kinks and fully flesh out the multiplayer with a real matchmaking system before releasing the game.
But those complaints aside, the actual gameplay of my multiplayer sessions was enjoyable. Players work through the same campaign as the single player mode — with one player designated as the leader, at which all of the dialogue and story elements are directed — but permissions can be granted to other players for things like initiating dialogue or loot options.
Aside from the fact that I got to romp through one of the greatest RPGs of all time with a friend, I was also very happy to see that I was able to import my character (items, XP, and all) from my single player game and use him in my multiplayer session. It is worth noting, however, that multiplayer games are handled entirely separately from single player games as far as save games are concerned. So for example, a friend cannot join in on a game that you started in single player mode. You have to start a new game together in multiplayer mode, instead.