To be completely honest, I agreed to take a Siege of Dragonspear appointment at GDC out of sheer curiosity. After all, it isn't very often to see a new expansion to a series that barely made it to the 21st century.
And that's exactly what Beamdog's Seige of Dragonspear amounts to: A chunk of content meant to bridge the gap between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2. If you haven't been paying attention, over the past few years, Beamdog has essentially made it their mission to make Baldur's Gate playable again on modern machines—Windows 98 games don't always play nice with newer OSes. These Enhanced Editions aren't just simple ports running through emulation shells, though: In order to make the most of their efforts (and also because no archival materials were avaialble), Beamdog essentially recreated these games from scratch, including a few quality of life adjustments to address some of the original's minor annoyances. In short, it's not surprising to see a developer so devoted to Baldur's Gate take part in expanding its universe even further.
In a nutshell, Siege of Dragonspear exists to give players more Baldur's Gate, though you don't necessarily need experience with past games to enjoy it. And while, at first glance, it doesn't look much different from the series late-'90s/early-'00s roots, taking a closer look reveals a myriad of changes to make Baldur's Gate less intimidating for new players. As someone who cut their teeth on Japanese RPGs, I balked a bit at the series' complexity back in the day. The rich nature of Baldur's Gate hasn't changed, but it feels much more approachable this time around. A built-in UI editor allows you to configure the interface however you want, and Siege of Dragonspear communicates information to the player in a much more organized way—similar to how quests are handled in a modern MMO. With a handful of friendly tweaks, Beamdog has managed to update Baldur's Gate without disrupting the overall feel of Infinity Engine games.
Of course, if you're a Baldur's Gate veteran, you'll likely get much more out of Seige of Dragonspear than a newcomer. Taking place between the two core games, Dragonspear allows you to import your party from a finished Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition save—making it possible for 1, Siege, and 2 to be a contiguous experience. By far, though, the biggest new addition for Dragonspear comes in the form of massive battles, which weren't really possible with the limitations of older hardware. During my hands-off demo, we quickly jumped into one of these encounters, and I came away genuinely impressed by the many sprites clashing on screen. In another, more modern move, Siege of Dragonspear places more weight on player decisions, so completing quests or taking certain actions can have a great effect on how these massive battles play out.
It seems a little reductive to call Siege of Dragonspear simply "more Baldur's Gate," but I'm guessing fans of the series would jump on it based on that description alone. That said, I'm genuinely impressed with how Beamdog has kept new players in mind with their various tweaks and enhancements—there's even a "story mode" that makes players invincible during combat so they can just soak up the narrative. Above all, it's refreshing to see a developer invested in not only preserving the legacy of a classic series, but extend it as well. If you've been itching to return to the world of Baldur's Gate, Siege of Dragonspear releases for Windows, iOS, Mac, Android and Linux on March 31st.
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