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December 15. 2012 9:49PM

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club: A true classic never goes out of style or loses its appeal


 

It's a testament to just how good a video game is when it can be released 14 years later and still hold up.

The original Baldur's Gate came out in 1998 and was an immediate hit for developer Bioware and publisher Black Isle Studios. Now, Baldur's Gate is back in an "enhanced edition" from Overhaul Games.

The original is hailed as one of the greatest fantasy role-playing games of all time. It spawned a sequel, Xbox and Playstation versions, as well as several more games built off the same engine in the Icewind Dale series.

The game is based in the forgotten realms setting of the Dungeons & Dragons universe and uses the second edition rules of the tabletop RPG.

Players start by creating their character. Those characters can be anything from the classic D&D stable - thief, fighter, cleric or wizard. Many of the specific offshoots, such as rangers, druids and bards, are also available.

There is a good deal of customization available. Players can choose everything from race (all the D&D standards are there - elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc.) to hair color and clothing details.

Once you've built your character, the story kicks in and you start your adventure by leading your mentor, the wizard Gorion, out of Candlekeep, a giant fortress that acts as a massive library.

You are accompanied by your friend Imoen, who is a thief and decent archer. As the game progresses, you will encounter numerous other characters that can join your party, up to a maximum of six, including yourself.

This allows you to build a party balance to your liking. All this allows for interesting interactions between characters who might have opposite alignments morally.

Each of the characters have their own specific voices, as well. Some of them are amusing. The ranger known as Minsc is a fan favorite, along with his pet hamster named Boo.

The story itself is excellent. It offers a nice mix of combat and other interactions in a large world. You can also encounter famous D&D characters, such as the wizard Elminster and the fighter Drizzt.

So, just what is new in this enhanced edition? Overhaul Games boasts that there are more than 400 new features, chief among them are new characters that can join your party and a new adventure called "The Black Pits."

The game has also been updated with an improved interface for modern computers, along with various tweaks to the graphics. The game is available for direct download from beamdog.com for $19.99, or for tablet devices such as the iPad.

I don't have a tablet, so I got it for PC, but I have heard from friends that the interface on a tablet device can be a little tough to get used to.

I played through the original game when it came out and I am enjoying revisiting it again. It really is a classic.

If you never played the original - or loved it the first time - do yourself a favor and download it now. Check out baldursgate.com for more information.

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Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes or at www.3nerds.us. His e-mail address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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