Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition [$9.99] is a faithful port of the classic AD&D computer game, and that in itself is an impressive thing.  Overhaul Games put a lot of work into this one, massaging the antique codebase, agonizing over the implementation, adding a new tutorial and arena-brawling in the Black Pits.

Fans of the original Baldur's Gate have been drooling over this one since it was announced, and we were pretty jazzed as well. When the game hit, players with anything older than a 3rd generation iPad had problems that varied from minor irritations to unplayable crashiness, but the new patch seems to have fixed those issues for nearly all iPad 2 / Mini users, and greatly impoved original iPad performance (results still vary).

As someone started playing AD&D in gradeschool but somehow missed Baldur's Gate the first time around, I was dying to finally get my turn. I came in overconfident, and I went down like a first-level Wizard in melee combat.

The learning curve on this game is crazy steep, even in you play the (new) tutorial first. Even being familiar with AD&D, I had a lot to learn about the real-time with "almighty pause" (you can give orders while paused) gameplay. I'm still not sure if my auto-pause settings (pause whenever X happens) are optimal. This will be heresy to true fans of the game, but there were times when I yearned for the turn-based combat of the "gold box" games.

AD&D itself is part of the challenge. I'd almost forgotten that an unspecialized AD&D Wizard can only cast one spell per day at first level. Of course, the faithful implementation of the AD&D ruleset is one of the major appeals of Baldur's Gate, so critiquing the AD&D system would be unfair.

One of the things I generally appreciate about classic games is the clarity of their art. This is not the case with Baldur's Gate. Part of the problem may be that I was playing on a Mini, not a Retina iPad, but the game often made me feel Mister Magoo, and if it wasn't for the red circles around enemies and the magnifying glass "highlight things you can interact with" button, I would have been completely lost.

Perhaps most crucially, the game doesn't feel like it belongs on a touchscreen. There's a lot of scrolling around to do that would be easy enough with a mouse, but becomes tiresome when it's swipe-swipe-swipe, and if you fail to pause when something important is happening off-screen, you're screwed. I wish there was a way to have the display autoscroll around your character/party, but Baldur's Gate just wasn't designed that way.

Also, some of the hotspots are fidgety. I've walked through doorways only to find that I tapped the wrong spot and the next room won't load unless I step back and try again, and trying to tap around the doorway never seemed to help.

I assume that these flaws are the result of  the game's antique codebase. There are, however, smaller elements of the control scheme that Overhaul truly could have done better.

Implementing some sort of gesture as a touch-anywhere pause would have been immensely helpful, the equivalent of the hotkey that PC gamers had back in the day. A way to toggle the "magnifying glass" on would have been very helpful: as-is, you have to hold it down. As soon as you let go, the highlighting disappears.

There are also places where the dynamic lighting really is insufficient, including parts of the new tutorial. The game menu has a graphics option, but it has been disabled: the only thing you can do is leave the game and crank up the overall brightness on your device. I can't help but think that that Overhaul could at least have left in or added something like the old "gamma correction" brightness crank on PC games of this era.

Despite these flaws, this is still Baldur's Gate on your iPad. If that's what you're after, you'll climb the difficulty curve, (re-)adjust to AD&D's quirks, and scoff at my petty complaints about the graphics and UI. We are talking about an epic fantasy RPG, renowned for its plot, characters, world, and innovative system. This is a game that changed CRPGs forever.

Ultimately Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is a flawed but admirable port of a game that fundamentally isn't touch-friendly. If you're still on the fence, just know that this game requires commitment. There's gold here, but Baldur's Gate keeps its treasure for the dedicated and does not tolerate dabblers.

TouchArcade Rating

  • jar0d

    I love TouchArcade but I have to say that I am a bit surprised about this review. It's not the review itself but the decision when to release it.

    As you mentioned in your email TA was pretty excited for this release. After the release the opinion in the forum went south and there was no sign of a review or an info whatsoever.

    I'm not saying you did the devs a favor with your review itself or the release of your review but you could've done this way earlier in my opinion. Especially if you consider how hyped this game was.

    • MidianGTX

      Maybe they wanted to play it properly. N64 magazine used to hold all reviews until the game was complete. These days you play for five minutes and you're an expert.

      • araczynski

        true, but his points are valid whether he's played 5 minutes or 50 hours. he's not talking about the story, he's talking about the fundamentals that haven't been properly ported: the controls, i don't think you need to waste 5 hours of your life to determine whether they suck or not for you.

  • Kaimen

    Amazing review, thank you. I guess Josh and his guys will fix it all.

  • LCD Dreams

    Most of the issues mentioned are either fixed now with the recent update or will be fixed in future updates. BGEE is just an amazing game. I've been playing on my ipad 2 since day 1, and it's been awesome!

  • jerseydvd

    I found that playing with a stylus helps accuracy greatly.

  • SoyGreen

    I'm in the "I got a few hours in and got too frustrated to be excited to keep playing because of the damn touch controls" camp. Exactly what you mentioned - going through doors - is what DROVE ME NUTS!

    It was at least 50/50 for me that it would be a problem and I'm kind of a completionist and I like to go in every house/door I can in games like this. So when doing something so simple - like going through a door - was the constant source of frustration - I just kind of lost my excitement for it. I need to update it and try it again here - just to see if it any better.

    I played it when I was younger - but never really got into it - life was too busy when I came out - so I've always wanted to play it... OH FINE! I'll go update it now then! 🙂

    • brando

      An easier way to get into doors is to highlight the group icon and pause the game. Then select a door you want to go into, if a single circle is displayed, unpause the game and your entire party will advance through the door. I use to have the same problem with the damn door issues. This helped me greatly, and I hope the developers fix this in an update soon.

      • SoyGreen

        Ahh thanks! I'll try that tonight. I'm clearing off stuff right now to do the update... damn me for only having the 16gb version!

      • JagerBombS

        I was with you on the controls and quit. I just re downloaded post patch and its a million times better! I'm finally enjoying it and its amazing.

  • araczynski

    so sounds like i should leave my fond memories of the game well enough alone. as a side note, this is definitely a game that you'd want the real ipad for, not the mini.

  • Gregory Osenbach

    Someone remembers the gold box games! I hope and pray all the time that whoever now owns SSI will allow iOS ports of the Gold Box series. I had them all and beat them all when I was younger and would love to revisit them!

    • PumpkinEater78

      So it isn't just me!! Every once in a while, I do keyword searches of SSI etc. to see if anyone hasn't brought one of my/our beloved Gold Box games to iOS.

      Too bad having at least two paying customers in the bag is not attractive enough to convince any developers to hop on board...

      • fr33z33

        Make that three. I actually played through half of pool of radiance on my 3G on an NES emulator. The user experience was a torture, but the game still retained its charm

  • SmugPugD

    Playing on an iPad 4, and although the door thing was an issue, the rest of it felt like a pretty faithful adaptation of the original. That said, this is a really OLD game, and not for everyone. I really enjoyed it, though, until I hit one of the version 1 bugs. It's much better now. I don't think a mini could do this game justice, honestly. There is almost too much scrolling on a full iPad. I can't imagine playing on a smaller screen.

    • fr33z33

      Since there's no special layout/screen size going on for iPad mini, the amount of scrolling is exactly the same as on the larger counterpart. The texts might get a little too small at times, but overall, the graphics should look even less blurry.

      • darkness767

        Is the mini good for other games as well and also how much Storage you have

  • ratsinheat

    Touch Arcade (TA)has to have good money. Why don't they pay for decent writers? The reviews are consistently written in high school rhetoric. I'm not referring to slang terms but sloppy writing skills. What is AD&D? Maybe fleshing that out the first time it was used would have been useful. Please, TA, hire an editor. This is one of many issues keeping you from greatness.

    • JBRUU

      The writing is far above the pathetic mess your average HS student would write.

      Have you seen what kind of minds the public school system in America is turning out?

      • Bool Zero

        Misgivings and defenses don't discount the point of his post which has some merit of truth. Don't get me wrong, I like this site for the forums and watchful eye on app related news, but I agree, the writing is far too chummy and loose to consider professional. I don't want to read a review like it was written by a pretentious scribe from the New Yorker, but I also don't fully trust a review that feels like it was written by the "dude" at the local game store either. The writing on this site is, at times, lackadaisical and his comments illuminate to some of those (perhaps opinionated but still valid) perceptions that he proposes.

        All in all, the style of writing is very "dudebro" on this site... Not that that is a bad thing catered to a (younger) crowd that enjoys that casual review bereft of the finer points a typical game review would ensure to touch on, but it can sometimes make the difference between the average peruser considering the site and its reviewers as credible or disposable. Unfortunately this is why there seems a lack of credible sites period when it comes to mobile gaming in general (or gaming in general for that matter!). Most of these sites seem to be run by well intentioned enthusiasts rather than (no offense meant) professionals.

        No disrespect meant to the reviewers here... I still like the site, but I can see where the other poster is coming from.

    • Jay

      "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"

    • Bool Zero

      +1 for an editor, and a review outline to boot!

    • MartianLM

      I thought something similar about the acronyms. thankfully I knew what AD&D meant, but despite having been a gamer for 30 years I still can't for the life of me work out what a CRPG is (I know what RPG is of course)... "Crawler" (as in dungeon crawler) perhaps?

      • Gabriel.Voyager

        Computer Role Play Game = CRPG

  • Pray For Death

    The new update alleviated all the touch control issues for me. I'm not sure if the update was taken into consideration in this review.

    • ianlogsdon

      Thank Christ, I put the game down within a week of release because of these issues and haven't picked it up since. Maybe I'll actually play it again.

  • Bytebrain

    What a shame the reviewer choose to play this game on an iPad mini...
    This game wasn't conceived with the mini in mind, it was ported to be played on the iPad's bigger screen.

    The majority of the target/touch issues that is mentioned was fixed in the latest update, and the game is great on the iPad.
    Yes, it's an old game, yes it's hard. But only if one insists to compared it to some modern RPG's where they hold your hand all the way through, this game actually require the player to read all the dialogue, think about stuff and not just rush into every fight or sticky situation.
    Hell, the game doesn't even stop you from wandering I to areas you have no chance of surviving because your characters are still low level.

    It's one of the biggest, most epic games anyone is likely to ever play, so if you're an RPG fan and haven't gotten played this title, go buy it.

    To the commenter about the reviewer not explaining what AD&D is, if you don't know what it stands for, or won't inconvenience yourself looking it up, this game is not for you.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Regarding playing on the iPad mini, if you listen to our interview with the developer that's their preferred platform to play the game on-

      • witedahlia

        Good to know. I only have an iPad mini and I want to get this game.

      • Bytebrain

        I stand corrected then, but I'll still maintain that the game wasn't developed with the Mini in mind, as it wasn't announced until shortly before BG:EE for the iPad was released.

        There's been a lot of posts on their official forums where iPad Mini owners complain about the text being too small to read and targeting with touch is even harder on the Mini.

        For anyone thinking about purchasing this amazing game, I would recommend iPad 2 and up. Not the Mini.

  • ProgPariah77

    As I've remarked elsewhere, BG on the iPad is hands-down the most epic RPG experience I've had on iOS. The initial release was problematic, and even now there remain issues that need to be addressed ... but for what it's worth, BG:EE (WITH the recent update) gets a solid four stars from this player. I eagerly await BG II (as well as future updates to BG), and hope for more ports of classic Infinity Engine D & D games to follow (as well as the buzzed-about BG III) from Overhaul.

  • himanshu modi

    Oh good to know that update fixes some of the issues... I miss most of the things that you could do with a mouse in this game on a computer, especially the indications that the game gave when you hovered mouse over friendlies, hostiles, and yes... doors!

    Tell me one thing... does the update address the swipe, swipe, swipe issue? One of things that I found most irritating on the iPad... A simple mechanism would be to zoom out... tap on an area again to zoom in.

  • zerilos

    I wanted to love it, but the controls were unbearable.

  • ProgPariah77

    Re: the "swipe swipe" issue: My workaround is as follows - Go to the map view. Tap on the region to which I want to travel. Back to regular view, tap on a spot within that region. My party will then begin to make their way there. Monitor the feed at the bottom of the screen in case they are attacked en route. If so, pause immediately, use map view to locate them, then engage attacker(s).

    Hope that helps!

    • fr33z33

      There's also an option to auto-pause when an enemy is in sight. Helps greatly with this method of covering distances within an area!

  • Jimjim1968

    A shame but I think I will have to pass on this. It sounds too much like hard work, and I hate hard work.

    • jonathanjk

      It is hard work, but it's enjoyable hard work.

  • nejakdivne

    THE game I am really hoping for being ported to IOS is Planescape: Torment. In my opinion the most imaginative game of that era. Several endings and very well written dialogues (not rarely spanning for tens of minutes of reading) with a lot of philosophical references make it one of the very best games I have ever played (being as old as Pacman).

  • John Dickerson

    I forgot how hard this game was. Controls are a little clunky. The worst part about it too me is the 1.9 GB size. So to update I need 4 GB free. I sure could use that new 128 GB iPad, maybe next year.

  • Gamer_Kev

    It makes me wonder why this game is as demanding as it is when the original was designed for hardware that was way below even what the first iPad is, but that seems to be the norm these days for classic games rereleased on iOS. I've been on the fence about this one myself as nothing I've read or seen about it has really convinced me yet that it's worth getting over the original, which I have installed on my Netbook.

  • jonathanjk

    As somebody who played it back in 1998 on a Pentium Two, I felt right at home with this on my iPad. It's perfect as it captures everything that I loved and hated with this game the first time round.

    Some gameplay mechanics have been improved while others that are maddening, still exist.

    It is a hard game, but you certainly feel like you have accomplished something as you progress. I speak as somebody who is about to finish Durlag's Tower again.

    The other thing to like is how long it takes, its length is book form rather than comic. I want a game that takes me months to play rather than demolish in a week.

  • Friv

    Playing on an iPad 4.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 3.5