Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Review – The Last Gasp of a Dying Breed

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Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear
Beamdog

I must admit that I’m a proud undercover role-playing geek. “How can you be proud of something that makes you want to be undercover about it, Ian?”—I can hear you all collectively asking right now in your noggins. Well, what I mean by that is that I’m proud, in a self-congratulatory way, that I was able to hide my rather fertile geekiness so well—it’s a testament to my personal stealth abilities. I definitely must have the skills of a level 20+ Rogue.

As a youngster, I’d frequently hang out with some of the “cool” people at certain times, and then go and hang out with my comic book-slash-role-playing buddies afterwards, after I made sure that the coast was clear. I played all sorts of role-playing games, but the only one that really stayed constant with me was good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons. So, it goes without saying that when Baldur’s Gate arrived on the video game scene, I jumped on it so fast that you could practically see a smoke trail behind me, just like the ones left behind by many of the Looney Toons cartoon characters when they’d dash off somewhere.

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I remember spending many a lazy afternoon thumbing through my beloved, spiral-bound Baldur’s Gate manual as if it were a D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide or Player’s Handbook. At the time, Baldur’s Gate was pretty cutting edge, presentation-wise, and its writing was out of this world. Of course, I had to play its sequel, Shadows of Amn, which was equally as impressive as Baldur’s Gate in every way. Those memories will forever occupy a special place in my memory and remain a benchmark as to how immersive a video game can truly be.

So, imagine my sense of glee when I’d first heard that a new expansion to the recent release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition was coming up, titled Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear. I looked forward to once again forming a party of interesting characters, outfitting them with powerful gear and potent weapons, and sallying forth on the next grand adventure. When I found out a little later that Siege of Dragonspear takes place between Baldur’s Gate proper and Shadows of Amn and that your characters started off at level 7, I was even more ecstatic because that meant that I could transfer my pre-existing party from Baldur’s Gate directly into Siege of Dragonspear. And that’s exactly what I did, well sort of…

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The first thing I noticed was that although indeed I did export/import my mighty adventurers over from the Enhanced Edition, they showed up for the festivities naked. No, I don’t mean that in a birthday suit manner but rather as in with none of their gear. I tried to transfer them over multiple times but to no avail, so I just had to grit my teeth and forego their hard-earned equipment and re-equip them with new stuff. Although I’ve heard that many other gamers have experienced various glitches and bugs with Siege of Dragonspear, the loot-less transference was the only one that I witnessed and was something I could bear.

Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear begins where Baldur’s Gate ended, with your party still in Sarevok’s dungeon. From there you must mop up his remaining lackeys, and then the main adventure commences. You manage to be the nearby city’s heroes and get to enjoy a quantum of solace, and then you learn of a new threat emerging in the north in the form of Caelar Argent, otherwise known as The Shining Lady. Backed by the Flaming Fists, your party once again sets off to fight for the forces of good and save civilization from the malevolent malcontents.

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Which brings me to the writing. Is it as good as the original Baldur’s Gate? I’d say it’s a mixed bag. In some areas, Siege of Dragonspear is on par with the epic-ness of the original narrative, in others, downright silly. Some of the plotlines are revealed in hammy fashion, and while interacting with NPCs, you’ll find that many of them are really condescending and perpetually wise-cracking. I don’t mind a little lippy-ness here and there (I’m as sarcastic as they come) but full-on sass parades without much respite can get a little tired sometimes. There is also an inordinate amount of Social Justice Warrior rubbish and identity politics blather, which really doesn’t belong in the Baldur’s Gate gaming world, or any other game for that matter.

The actual storyline and the game’s structure is also very linear, much more so than Baldur’s Gate. Although there are some opportunities for branching out and exploring a few new areas, there just aren’t many. On the flip side, this more restrictive facet of Siege of Dragonspear’s storytelling allows for tighter, more focused writing. In other words it’s a trade-off: Less poking around, but more depth— narrative-wise.

While I used to be a big fan of the Infinity engine, that was a full fifteen years ago. Yes, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition bumped up the visuals somewhat, but you’re still basically looking at the same game with a slightly shinier paint job. Luckily, this means that the game runs pretty smoothly and can be ideal for playing on a decent gaming laptop (I enjoy portable gaming myself). You’re still basically looking at aging, pixilated spell effects, and your characters are still performing two or three frame movements with their weapons when they “swing” their swords, maces, and other such arms.

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There is, however, a much larger body count. That is to say, there are more people and monsters on the screen at once than ever before. This makes cities look more bustling and vibrant, and bands of enemies more intimidating. Well, unless you’re packing a wizard with some serious area-of-effect spells. Then you can just push a button and watch him spray a cluster of bright, shiny pixels at a cluster of enemies and watch them explode in heaps of similarly bright and shiny pixels.

Overall, I found Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear to be a decent adventure, but only for nostalgic folks or for curious younger gamers who never got the chance to play a Baldur’s Gate game, and are curious about experiencing one of the original icons of computer role-playing games (CRPGs). Oh, and it’s got multiplayer, too.

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That being said, there are plenty of superior hack & slash titles on the market right now, including Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin, and Grim Dawn (granted, the latter being more of an action RPG). These other games have great backstories as well, just as the original Baldur’s Gate had, and they don’t have any of the annoyingly preechy SJW rhetoric, so it’s hard to recommend this game to anyone beyond die-hard fans.

SCORE: 61%

Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is the perfect game to play on an upscale gaming laptop, such as this one:

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