Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is an updated re-release of the 1998 AD&D classic, replete with additional characters and quests as well as some streamlined interface features. Made by Overhaul Games, it’s clear that a large amount of effort went into remaining as true to the original as possible while bringing it onto modern operating systems, but for gamers with more recent memories of the title it’s tempting to say that not enough has changed.
Graphically the game very closely mirrors the original, though the most obvious change is that the view of the world can now be zoomed in and out for a different perspective. Though zooming out does afford a more tactical point of view, pulling in closer to the action really only draws attention to the dated looks of the world. The older 3D cutscenes have been replaced by hand drawn art which actually lends itself better to the look of the world than what previously existed, while other bonus features like new character portraits and voice options are seamlessly integrated.
In addition to the original story there are a few extra quests and areas that are also nearly indistinguishable from the original content of the game. In a sense, while it is amazing to see how fluidly the new features have been woven in, due to the age of the game you’ll really need someone there pointing out each new element – otherwise it’s all too easy to assume that whatever’s new is just something you don’t really remember. Consequently, that makes it hard to get excited about this particular title as a unique product. Fortunately enough, in choosing a game to refurbish, it ends up being the source material that makes the strongest argument for recommendation.
Playing Baldur’s Gate, especially after all these years, strongly reminds you of something that modern games have lost: complexity. In the restoration of the game, care was taken not to dumb down the process or make things easier on the player and this actually ends up being the star of the show. For every gamer that ever spent an hour hitting “re-roll” on a character sheet, or once knew the definition of min/maxing, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is a breath of fresh air. In a time of Dragon Age and Mass Effect 3, numbers have faded so far behind the scenes that it almost feels like players are losing the true meaning of RPG, in favor of more action oriented, reflex based combat. While modern games may still have these formulae acting behind the scenes, Baldur’s Gate serves to remind you of what it means to fail your first invisible die-roll on a lock pick attempt, or what the true consequences are of negative modifiers to NPC reaction tables.
If you’ve played the original Baldur’s Gate recently, then you’re probably looking forward to this re-release already. Ironically though, those who are already the game’s biggest fans (and who have the best memory of the original) are the people who will be least served by this title. If it has been so long since you traveled through the Sword Coast that you can’t remember who Baal is, or indeed if you became a fan of Bioware during the reign of Commander Shepherd, then you are one of the gamers who will be most served by picking up this title. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is one of the best chances the latter group will ever have to get to know (or remember) the real roots of more modern RPGs.
For Official trailer click Read More.
From the description on YouTube;
“Serving as a prequel to the MASS EFFECT game series,”Red Sand” is set 35 years before the time of Commander Shepard and tells the story of the discovery of ancient ruins on Mars. Left behind by the mysterious alien race known as the Protheans, the ruins are a treasure trove of advanced technology and the powerful Element Zero, an energy source beyond humanity’s wildest dreams. As the Alliance research team led by Dr. Averroes (Ayman Samman) seeks to unlock the secrets of the ruins, a band of marauders living in the deserts of Mars wants the ruins for themselves. Addicted to refined Element Zero in the form of a narcotic nicknamed “Red Sand” which gives them telekinetic “biotic” powers, these desert-dwelling terrorists will stop at nothing to control the ruins and the rich vein of Element Zero at its core. Standing between them and their goal are Colonel Jon Grissom (Mark Meer), Colonel Lily Sandhurst (Amy Searcy), and a team of Alliance soldiers tasked with defending the ruins at all costs. At stake – the future of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy, and the set up for the MASS EFFECT storyline loved by millions of gamers worldwide.
RED SAND: A MASS EFFECT FAN FILM, starring none other than the voice of Commander Shepard himself, Mark Meer. Produced by the students and faculty of the Digital Video Program at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona.”
The film will debut on YouTube at 4:30 PM MST on Sunday, Oct. 7th, there will be a live chat on Facebook with questions and answers before and after the movie premier.
After a few months of rumors, EA and Bioware have formally announced that there will indeed be a Dragon Age 3. Being developed by BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal, Dragon Age 3: Inquisition is set to release in late 2013.
“The Dragon Age team has been working on Dragon Age 3: Inquisition for almost two years now,” said Aaryn Flynn, General Manager of BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal. “We’ve been poring over player feedback from past games and connecting directly with our fans. They haven’t held back, so we’re not either. With Dragon Age 3: Inquisition, we want to give fans what they’re asking for – a great story with choices that matter, a massive world to explore, deep customization and combat that is both tactical and visceral.”
Inquisition will run on DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine. No word on which platforms it will be coming to at the moment.
Bioware has announced that the Leviathan DLC for Mass Effect 3 will be released on August 28 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. European PS3 owners will have to wait an extra day as it will be available to them on August 29.
The Leviathan DLC will be first single-player DLC released for Mass Effect 3. It will take place during the campaign and players “will be thrust into the darkest corners of space where they will hunt a mysterious being rumored to be powerful enough to destroy a Reaper.” The DLC will contain uncharted systems and new areas on the Citadel to explore. Players will be able to interact with brand new characters, unlock the AT-12 Raider shotgun and M-55 Argus Assault Rifle.
The price was previously announced at $10 or 800 Microsoft points.
I feel that, more and more, consumers are coming around to the idea that video game developers and publishers shouldn’t lock content out to paying customers. Whether it’s in the form of online passes or horrendous day-one DLC, people are becoming more and more savy and less willing to buy anything that’s put in front of them. Despite all of this, though, plenty within the industry are willing to take any money they possibly can.
Bioware Edmonton Director of Online Development, Fernando Melo, recently spoke with Polygon about day-one DLC. To me, his comments illustrate many of the problems with the industry. According to Melo, if you have day-one DLC, it increases visiblity of a game, post-launch. Basically, you’re more likely to have more players buying more content.
This also, according to him, fixes a “problem” of allowing layers the choice of when they want to pay content.
We realized that the only way we’re going to cater that, and meet both demands, is to have it available day one…(b)ecause in that case, you’re making it available on their time. They get to choose when to pick that up. It’s not based on us, it’s not based on some first-party release schedule. It’s there, if they want to pick it up, they can, or if they want to wait to finish the game, they can do that too.
He went on to say:
The only way that’s going away is, fast forward a few years, where this is just normal…(e)very game is digital day-one, every game is an ongoing service, almost like an MMO, where at any given day, new content shows up.
Of course, this completely ignores that these are issues that publishers and developers created by introducing DLC. You could easily incorporate this content into the main game, especially since it’s done not much after the main game is finished. Of course, in the world where games are considered “services” that are specifically designed to bleed consumers dry, this will likely continue until consumers just simply stop buying this stuff.
I think it’s also notable that this comes shortly after CD Projekt RED’s Konrad Tomaszkiewicz said that DLC should be free because consumers are often over priced for limited content. Hey, if you want to get more people to buy your products, maybe you should try taking this stance.
This week on Talking About Gamers join Jason, Samantha, Addam and Kyle as we talk about things that bring out emotion in us. Jason is regretful of his purchase of XBLA’s Deadlight, Addam is freaked out by some recent indie horror games, Kyle is excited for The Old Republic to go free to play and Samantha is disappointed in the games available on the PlayStation Vita.
Staying on the topic of emotions we discuss the idea that graphics need to be photorealistic in order to convey them properly. Other topics for this week include our interest in a standalone Day Z game, the gaming industry’s fixation on Metacritic and the success of season passes and premium game services.
Thank you for listening and please enjoy Episode 143 of Talking About Gamers!
The Talking About Gamers podcast can be found in iTunes and the Zune Marketplace. You can listen to Talking About Gamers through Stitcher Radio. We appreciate any reviews or to provide direct feedback feel free to send an email to email@example.com. You can hit us up on Twitter at @talkaboutgamers and find us on Facebook as well.
For fans of the Mass Effect franchise, the ability to create your own personal Commander Shepard lies right at the heart of its appeal. But no matter how different your Shepard looked from others or how different your choices were, there were two constants. If you played as a female version of Commander Shepard, Jennifer Hale gave life and voice to your character. If you played as a male Commander Shepard, Mark Meer was your man.
Meer’s previous voice work has included parts in franchises like Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age and Neverwinter Nights. But he is now best known for lending his talent to the iconic role. We decided to have a little chat with Mr. Meer and ask him what he thought about the controversy surrounding the Mass Effect 3 ending and more.
Q: As someone who personally invested so much time and talent into the Mass Effect franchise, what were your overall feelings regarding the original endings?
A: Overall, I didn’t have a problem with the original endings, but I suppose I was privy to some information that not all fans were. Stuff that seemed clear (from my perspective, anyway) caused some fans confusion. Not everyone liked the fact that some things were initially left open to interpretation and/or speculation. They wanted more closure.
Q: Did the backlash over the original ending catch you off guard?
A: I suppose it wasn’t surprising to learn that fans were heavily invested in the series, emotionally. People really connect with their individual Shepards, so the end of their journey is incredibly important to them.
Q: Do you think Bioware took the right steps by further expanding on the ending through the Extended Cut DLC or do you think this might set a dangerous precedent for the medium?
A: I think the precedent had already been set. In previous interviews, I’ve mentioned the Broken Steel DLC for Fallout 3. I personally didn’t object to the original Fallout 3 ending, but I certainly enjoyed that DLC! Bethesda, like Bioware, was responding to fans’ input and concerns.
Q: Bioware has always produced great single-player DLC for the franchise. I would consider some of the DLC for Mass Effect 2 to be some of the best DLC ever. What can you tell us about any upcoming single-player DLC for Mass Effect 3?
A: I don’t think my NDA with Bioware will allow me to share any juicy tidbits, but I will say I’ve greatly enjoyed the DLC I’ve recorded so far, and the upcoming stuff seems very interesting indeed…
Q: The lovely and talented Jennifer Hale is the voice for the female version of Commander Shepard. Are there any specific lines of dialogue you have heard from her performances that got you thinking, ‘Crap. Why didn’t I deliver it that way?’
A: Ha – It really was an honor to get to play the same character as Jennifer Hale – I was a fan of hers even before I landed the role – mostly from her work in DC and Marvel cartoons. So finding out that she was playing the female version of Shepard was a real thrill – she’s one of the best and busiest voice actors in the world!
Q: Did you all ever get to go over dialogue together or were your recording sessions separate altogether?
A: Given the logistics of recording actors with conflicting schedules in several different countries, dialogue tended to be recorded in separate sessions.
Q: What upcoming games/projects should we expect to hear/see you in?
A: I’m currently working with Beamdog on the Enhanced Editions of the Baldur’s Gate games. It’s kind of like coming home, since the Baldur’s Gate games were some of my first work in the industry. I also just found out that The Irrelevant Show, the national sketch comedy series I do for CBC Radio, has been renewed for another season. And I recently filmed a new sketch comedy TV series called Tiny Plastic Men, which will be airing on Superchannel here in Canada this fall. It’s from the same production company that did my last show, CAUTION: May Contain Nuts.
[Note: Here are some examples of his work]
I also recently worked with some students from Arizona’s University of Advancing Technology on Red Sand: A Mass Effect Fan Film. It’s a short film set several decades before the first Mass Effect game, during the discovery of the Prothean ruins on Mars. I play the role of Col. Jon Grissom (who will be familiar to readers of the ME novels). The whole purpose of the project is to showcase the skills of the students in UAT’s program – they’re a talented bunch, and were great fun to work with. I believe they’re planning to have it done by the end of August.
Q: What do you want to share with fans regarding the future of the Mass Effect franchise?
A: Again, NDA’s prevent me from getting too specific about the future. I just want to say thanks for playing – you are ALL Commander Shepard.
Q: Did you personally play through all the games?
I’ve done two complete playthroughs each of Mass Effect 1 and 2. I played about four straight hours of Mass Effect 3 at Bioware one afternoon right before the release, but I’ve been too busy to get back to it until very recently. I tend to like playing games like Mass Effect in 8 to 12-hour stretches, and those have been in short supply, lately.
Q: Paragon or renegade?
My first playthrough is always renegade. That way, when I do my paragon playthrough, I feel like I’m redeeming myself for beig such a jerk the first time around.
Q: Fem Shep or Male Shep?
Male Shep – Jennifer is fantastic, of course, but I’m too much of a geek to resist playing as myself.
A: Renegade: Soldier. Paragon: Vanguard
Q: Love Interest?
A: Renegade: Ashley, then Miranda. Paragon: Liara, then Tali.
Q: Favorite squadmate?
A: I tend to favor the more exotic/alien squadmates. Wrex rarely left my side in Mass Effect 1. Legion, Mordin, and Grunt were favorites from Mass Effect 2.
Q: Least favorite squadmate?
A: No offense at all to Raphael Sbarge (whose work I thoroughly enjoy and who I hear is a great guy). but I killed Kaiden on both my Mass Effect 1 playthroughs. My Renegade was romancing Ashley, and my Paragon was far too much of a boy scout to sacrifice a lady… I still wouldn’t classify him as my “least favorite”, but I obviously didn’t have much interaction with him after that.
Q: Favorite game of the trilogy?
A: Mass Effect 2 was my favorite to play… until I started on Mass Effect 3.
SPOILERS UPCOMING IF YOU HAVEN”T BEATEN MASS EFFECT 3!!
Q: Destroy, synthesize or control?
A: Again, I haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 myself yet, but I have seen the various endings, before and after the Extended Cut DLC. Before the Extended Cut, I’d say Destroy was my favorite ending. After Extended Cut, I’m leaning more towards Control.
Bioware has announced that the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3 will be available on June 26 on Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 in North America and July 4 for PlayStation 3 in Europe at no additional charge.
For those unhappy with the ending of Mass Effect 3, this DLC “does not fundamentally change the endings, but rather it expands on the meaning of the original endings, and reveals greater detail on the impact of player decisions.”
Its description on the Mass Effect 3 official website is as follows:
The Extended Cut expands on the endings of Mass Effect 3 through additional scenes and epilogue sequences. It provides more of the answers and closure that players have been asking for. It gives a sense of what the future holds as a result of the decisions made throughout the series. And it shows greater detail in the successes or failures based on how players achieved their endings.
Here’s an interview with Mass Effect 3 Executive Producer Casey Hudson, Lead Writer Mac Walters and Community Manager Jessica Merizan to discuss what fans should expect and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the DLC.
Commander Shepard’s quest may be over for most players but the battle for the galaxy still rages on thanks to Mass Effect 3′s cooperative multiplayer mode. The multiplayer has already been augmented with maps, characters and weapons and now details have leaked about what is coming next.
The leak points to the next group of multiplayer maps being set on Earth in Rio, London and Vancouver. In addition to new locales it is rumored that we will receive six new human classes: Destroyer, Paladin, Demolisher, Slayer, Shadow, and Fury. The pack will also add the Pirahna Assault Shotgun, Acolyte Pistol and Typhoon Light Machine Gun.
Can you believe it’s almost that time of year again? The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest event in the gaming industry, is set to begin on June 4. What started out as nothing more than a way for publishers to show retailers their upcoming products in an attempt to win shelf space for the upcoming year, has turned into a all-out spectacle full of big game announcements, non-stop trailers, opportunities to catch whatever flu is hot at the moment and booth babes. Lots and lots of booth babes.
Anyway, I am a self-pronounced pessimist, cynic, and skeptic: I typically see the glass half-empty, expect disappointment over satisfaction and do not believe what people tell me. Combine those characteristics with someone who loves video games and the media frenzy that E3 causes every year (not to mention my envy for those who get to attend while I stay home), and you get someone who views the entire event as cause for a few modest hopes amidst a week’s worth of smoke from a very large factory blown directly up my ass.
So if this wish list does not strike you as particularly positive, then just think of me as the scorpion that stung the frog halfway across the river: I can’t help it; it’s in my nature.
My top 5 hopes and expectations (or lack thereof) for E3 2012 are:
No announcements from Microsoft or Sony about next-gen consoles
This one is about money, plain and simple. I am broke and cannot afford a next-gen console right now or for the foreseeable future. The more time it takes the next-gen consoles (not counting Wii U, which I am not particularly interested in) to arrive, the more time I have to accumulate some wealth so that I can afford them when they get here.
Blowouts. The more, the better
“Blowout” may be the wrong word here, I’m not sure. I don’t mean a sports blowout when one team prevents the other from scoring any points. For me, a blowout in the context of video games means a huge amount of information about a game in development given to you all at once: a lot of screenshots and/or video footage, a summary of the game’s story, and a thorough explanation of the gameplay. For example, almost every cover article Game Informer magazine has ever published is a blowout. A few blowouts that I’d like to see in particular at E3 2012 include Doom 4, God of War: Ascension, Grand Theft Auto V, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Insane, and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. (Have I missed any of these? I haven’t been a Game Informer subscriber for almost a year…)
[UPDATE: I've just learned that Game Informer featured The Last of Us as a cover article earlier this year. Damn!]
The Last Guardian release date
This year’s E3 makes it three years since The Last Guardian was announced. I didn’t actually expect it to be released in 2009 when the announcement was made, but I was hoping we’d get it in 2010. Well, it’s 2012 now, and not only has The Last Guardian still failed to materialize but project lead Fumito Ueda (already an industry favorite for his work on ICO and Shadow of the Colossus) left Sony in December. While he is still under contract to complete his work on The Last Guardian, his quitting the company casts a long shadow (pun intended) over the game.
No playable demos at E3 OR all playable demos available online
This applies to E3 in general more than it does E3 2012. Press conferences, announcements, trailers and gameplay footage are easy enough to find online once they’re revealed, but playable demos at E3 are another story. Knowing that those privileged E3 attendees get to play a game that I don’t have any access to makes me a few shades greener than the Incredible Hulk every single year. It isn’t fair for those of us who can only view the event from afar. I would rather the convention have no playable demos at all than any that attendees can play and I can’t. Either that, or I should be able to download the same demos they’re playing in San Diego. If I can’t have my cake and eat it too, then those going shouldn’t either.
A new ending for Mass Effect 3 and a galaxy-sized mea culpa from BioWare
At first, I tried to be ambivalent about Mass Effect 3’s ending. I really did. I tried to accept that the hard choices and harsh realities of the Mass Effect universe were reflected in the final decision and that the bizarre deus ex machina of the whole thing was inspired storytelling. Then I played it again from the beginning, and the blinders were lifted. I hate Mass Effect 3’s ending. I loathe it. I abhor it. I detest it. I despise it. BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka’s statement in April about “extending” the ending will not satisfy me. The ending is too bad to be fixed by a few new cutscenes. Answering a few questions about what happened is like dipping a rotten apple in caramel: no matter how you flavor the outside, the inside is irreversibly damaged.
I don’t want an extended ending; I want a new ending worthy of the series. And because of the damage done, I also want an apology. I want an apology worthy of or greater than Sony’s apology about their “external intrusion” last year. I want every BioWare executive who okayed that excrement of an ending to sit side-by-side with their lips puckered so that all of us who hated that ending can line up on a conveyor belt in front of them, pull down our pants, and have them kiss our asses one-by-one as we roll by. Oh, and a free copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a machine optimized for playing it, and a pre-paid lifetime subscription. That would be a start.