APP OF THE DAY: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition review (iPad)
There's a danger in taking well-loved games and properties, updating them and putting them on platforms they weren't originally intended for. The iTunes App Store is strewn with retro titles or homages that fail to capture the excitement of the originals - sometimes because of a bad port, sometimes because of the touchscreen mechanics, or simply because the concept itself has dated drastically.
Overhaul Games' effort to rejig one of the greatest role-playing titles of all time has thankfully swerved any such potential pitfalls and, instead, offers one of the most captivating games available for the iPad, new or old. It is...
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
We're suckers for a spot of RPG action here on Pocket-lint. We love a bit of Fable, Mass Effect has floated our boats, Skyrim has had us lost in a magical land for days on end. But what all of those games share is that, as deep, enriched 3D adventures, they are unlikely to make a welcome transition to a mobile platform any time soon.
Instead, to get a full RPG experience you perhaps need to look into the annals of the genre, to a time when the graphical needs could be met with the processing power of a tablet. Basically, it's time to think isometric.
And, of course, if you're going to head down that route, why not go back to the daddy of all isometric role-playing games, Baldur's Gate - still the greatest there was and ever will be... Probably.
Overhaul Games (with distribution by parent company Beamdog) hasn't just ported the original PC classic onto the iPad (and devices), however. It has taken the first in what turned out to be a very profitable franchise, included the excellent Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, and reworked the graphics on an enhanced version of the engine. Plus, it has added a few new characters, a new adventure in the form of The Black Pits and numerous other improvements in order to give the most complete version of Baldur's Gate known to man.
What are, perhaps, most impressive though, are the touchscreen controls, and how they seemlessly fit the format. Tap to move, tap to select, pinch and zoom all work. The menus and options frame the play area, and it all feels intuitive to use. There are moments in the heat of battle that you may tap on the wrong opponent or character, but first, that's what the pause button is for, and second, you can really zoom in. Really.
You can also zoom right out - more than on the original game - so a wider view of the map can appear on screen at the same time.
Other than these improvements and alterations, the strength in Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition comes in the superb storytelling that's been there from the start. The quest is epic, with more side adventures than you can shake a magic staff at and, because at its heart it uses the Dungeon's and Dragons rulebook and stats, there's a heritage there that few can match.
It's also refreshing that, unlike with many modern RPGs, you get a full party to command. Your main character is the one that drives the story, but you'll find you can only progress with a healthy, well-balanced mob of characters. And yes, alignment is a passe personality rating system, but at least you know where you stand with a chaotic evil NPC.
We can't shower any more glory on Balder's Gate: Enhanced Edition that Overhaul Games hasn't already. It is the game our iPads were waiting for. And it's positive proof that you can play more than mere one-note casual games on a tablet.
If there's one caveat, it's that the extra content will cost you as in-app purchases. And on top of the £6.99 initial outlay to boot. But boy, are you getting a lot of game for your bucks.