Tag Archives: AD&D

Menzoberranzan, PC

An RPG with a funny name, based on the AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Menzoberranzan is a 1994, first-person, party-based adventure game developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc.

Continue reading Menzoberranzan, PC

Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, PC

Released in 1994, Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession was developed by DreamForge Intertainment for Strategic Simulations Inc. and was distributed by US Gold in the UK.

I remember it well because I reviewed it for PC Player magazine back in the day.

Continue reading Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, PC

To Infinity And Beyond: The Infinity Engine Games

The Infinity Engine by BioWare is synonymous with great RPGs. You think Infinity Engine, you think Planescape: Torment, or Baldur’s Gate. Or Icewind Dale. All great level-grinding adventures and all published by Interplay in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

When Canadian developer Beamdog (founded by ex-BioWare staff) set out to remake the Baldur’s Gate series – and remake the Infinity Engine in the process – they set out to make gaming history for a second time, by revitalising these good old games and hoping they’d be hits again. And to all intents and purposes they succeeded. And are still succeeding.

The new engine is a veritable mouse wheel zoomfest, and having the larger play window makes the game feel so much more epic than before. Yes, there are some people who prefer the original versions – and that’s fine with me – but these newer incarnations feel sleek and modern and grand. You can see so much more of the great buildings and landscapes. It makes a difference.

There is one anomaly, though. Icewind Dale II – the only Infinity Engine game yet to be given an enhanced make-over – is in limbo (at the time of writing), apparently because the original source code is missing. Boo. Whether it will ever get an enhanced remake or not is unknown, which isn’t great because I have a soft spot for Icewind Dale II… Never mind.

Listed here are links to all the individual Infinity Engine games on this blog – plus the enhanced versions, in chronological order.

Baldur’s Gate (Dec 1998)Baldur's Gate PC 040

Developed by BioWare and Black Isle Studios
AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset; Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Planescape: Torment (Dec 1999)Planescape Torment PC 28

Developed by Black Isle Studios
D&D custom ruleset; D&D Planescape campaign setting

Icewind Dale (June 2000)Icewind Dale PC 21

Developed by Black Isle Studios
AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset; Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (Sept 2000)Baldur's Gate 2 Shadows of Amn PC 36

Developed by BioWare
AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset; Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (June 2001)Baldur's Gate 2 Throne of Bhaal PC 78

Developed by BioWare
AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset; Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Icewind Dale II (Aug 2002)Icewind Dale 2 PC 053

Developed by Black Isle Studios
D&D 3rd Edition ruleset; Forgotten Realms campaign setting

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition (2012)Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition PC 15

Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition (2013)Baldur's Gate 2 Throne of Bhaal PC 24

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition (2014)Icewind Dale Enhanced PC 64

Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition (2017)Planescape Torment Enhanced Edition PC 111

Baldur’s Gate II: The Black Pits II, PC

The Black Pits II: Gladiators of Thay is an arena combat-based add-on for the Baldur’s Gate II series, given away free with the Enhanced Edition in 2013.

It’s sort of a Spartacus-type story, where you begin in a gladiator school and work your way up to the top by killing with swords, and magic, and anything else you can lay your hands on.

You can play the game with a single character, and give yourself a serious challenge, or you can add five more characters, and have a party of up to six. Combat is the usual Infinity Engine clicking, and is therefore not that challenging. Where combat does become challenging, though, is in getting your spellcasters to cast properly. Not a particularly easy task if you’re new to the Infinity Engine, but simple enough if you’ve had some practise with the game.

Every round of arena combat that you win will net you a pot of gold, which you can use at the various shops found dotted around the rest area. Buying new weapons and armour, and also magic items and potions, gives you an edge in the next round of combat. There’s also an interesting escape conspiracy storyline going on too, plus a variety of smaller side-quests. Of course your enemies get more difficult with every round of combat. Initially it’s all too easy, but by round five you’ll start to get some larger monsters, or spellcasters, set against you. And that’s when it gets interesting. I would say that aggressive spellcasters are your greatest enemies. Well, combinations of enemies will later cause you problems.

Overall: The Black Pits II is a decent little add-on.

The Black Pits II is a fun addition to the Baldur’s Gate II series, and Baldur’s Gate fans will probably get a decent kick out of it. I didn’t quite understand what was going on with levelling though. The characters I was given were rarely awarded any upgrade skill points. No one I had could pick any locks either. Or maybe I just didn’t understand the joke?

More: Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn on Wikipedia
Steam: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, PC

The second of two Baldur’s Gate II titles, this one released by Interplay in 2001. Throne of Bhaal is a real-time Role-Playing Game, based on the BioWare Infinity Engine, and it completes the main plot of the Baldur’s Gate series of games.

Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal uses a licensed Wizards of the Coast Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) 2nd Edition ruleset, set in the Forgotten Realms fantasy world.

After generating a party the game begins inside a city under siege, with the occasional gigantic explosion going off nearby, due to incoming artillery fire. Which is quite exciting for about five minutes. After which it’s just annoyingly loud. Moving onward is then a matter of talking to the right people. These are usually found by initiating dialogue with various characters that you encounter as you explore. As the story progresses you’ll then find a temple and a quest to kill off a local giant and his crew. Plus many more quests which are there for the taking.

In terms of an overall package: there’s a multi-levelled dungeon, called The Watcher’s Keep, to take on; a higher level cap; a further, refined Infinity Engine; and a lot of new weapons and items to play around with, so a lot of good content in Throne of Bhaal. Not to mention a storyline that ties itself up (if you’re following it). This so-called “expansion” could be the best game in the series.

There are so many Infinity Engine games available in total that it is easy to dismiss them as “mainstream” adventure fodder, but every single one remains close to their hardcore tabletop RPG roots and are decent enough and entertaining level-grinders in their own right. This final Baldur’s Gate game pushes the series about as far as it can go on that front and is well worth a play.

Both this, and its predecessor – Shadows of Amn – are available together (alongside The Black Pits II) in Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition.

Note: These grabs are from the enhanced remake, first released in 2013.

More: Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal on Wikipedia
Steam: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, PC

Part one of a two-part Baldur’s Gate II series, first published by Interplay in 2000. Shadows of Amn uses an updated version of the Infinity Engine to provide isometric, real-time combat and adventuring.

Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn uses a licensed Wizards of the Coast Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) 2nd Edition ruleset, set in the Forgotten Realms fantasy world.

The game carries on the story of the same character from the previous game (“Gorion’s Ward“), but this time wandering around looking for quests in the kingdom of Amn. The game of course allows you to generate a party of up to six characters at the beginning, and the generation process is uniform and user-friendly across all the Infinity Engine games.

The interface is much nicer than the first game – it’s been noticeably upgraded – and this refinement makes Baldur’s Gate more enjoyable to play.

A second Baldur’s Gate II game – an expansion, really – came out in 2001, entitled Throne of Bhaal. Like its predecessor, Baldur’s Gate II proved to be a big hit with gamers and is fondly-remembered by many level-grind enthusiasts.

Both this, and its sequel – Throne of Bhaal – are available together (alongside The Black Pits II) in Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition.

These grabs are of the enhanced remake, released in 2013.

More: Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn on Wikipedia
Steam: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, PC

This Enhanced Edition of Icewind Dale brings the Infinity Engine up-to-date, with nice zooming and screen movement options, and clearer icons, so playing the game has never been easier or more fun than this.

And does Icewind Dale succeed as a remake? Yes it does. On many levels. Number one: the game feels a lot less clunky to play than the original. Number two: Icewind Dale is significantly different to the Baldur’s Gate games that it is worth playing in itself. Number three: the game is a great challenge, requiring tactical prowess during combat in order to survive. Number four: it’s also an item-hoarder and level-grind fanatic’s wet dream – there’s just so much stuff in the game. Number five: Icewind Dale‘s inventories are different to Baldur’s Gate‘s inventories, although the basis of the game is the same: talk to people using a multiple choice menu system to find quests that you must complete to gain experience. The usual ‘Fog of war’ and day and night cycles are present, as they are in every Infinity Engine game, new or old.

While none of the wonderfully-drawn original graphics are disrespected in this remake, it is a bit disconcerting that the graphics go blurry when zoomed right in. Why Beamdog didn’t use a different kind of interpolation in their engine I don’t know. Other than that fault, though, I think the enhanced Infinity Engine works brilliantly. Having a mouse wheel and a middle mouse button (to ‘drag’ the screen into view) speeds up gameplay no end.

Personally, I think I might even rate the Icewind Dale games above the Baldur’s Gate games, because they’re different to the ‘generic’ medieval fantasy style of Baldur’s Gate, and because the interface is slightly better, IMHO.

Levelling-up your characters seems to take a while. I think I played for seven hours before I got my first characters to level two, and even then the game didn’t seem to apportion them any extra skill points to spend. So not quite sure what to think of that.

The Enhanced Edition also features the Heart of Winter expansion pack, which is played separately when chosen from the main menu. It’s another set of landscapes to explore and quests to fulfil, based on the tribal clans of Icewind Dale.

Click: See grabs from the original version of Icewind Dale.

More: Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition on Wikipedia
Steam: Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, PC

When Canadian company Beamdog/Overhaul Games decided to remake the Baldur’s Gate games, they began by remaking BioWare‘s Infinity Engine – the engine that underpinned the entire series. Calling their new improved version the “Infinity Enhanced Engine“… (A snappy name, I’m sure you’ll agree…), they then set about importing all of the original assets from Baldur’s Gate; remaking stuff where necessary; and created a whole load of new content in the process themselves, eventually releasing it through Atari as Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition in 2012.

While that might sound like they rushed it – they didn’t. The initial contract negotiations alone (between the D&D brand owners, Wizards of the Coast, and Baldur’s Gate‘s owners, Atari) took 14 months. And, while the Enhanced Edition isn’t perfect, it is quite a brilliant repackaging and reworking, and is a wonderful RPG in its own right.

All the menus and inventories have been modernised, without removing what made them good in the first place. And of course the higher resolution gives a much wider view of the world in the main window. The updated ‘side bars’ have buttons to the area map, the journal, the inventory, the character statistics, spellbooks, and options (access to saving and loading) on the left. And – depending on context – there are other buttons too, like the ‘rest party’ button (represented with a closed eye with eyelashes), the ‘pause’ button, and ‘Quick Save’ and ‘Help’ buttons. On the right are the character portraits of your party members, plus – at the bottom – the essential ‘select all party members’ button, the party AI on or off button, and the ‘labels on or off’ button. The updated interface is quite excellent, and it is made even better in my opinion if you switch on ‘Scale Interface’ in the graphics options (it’s off by default).

Whether you’re playing Baldur’s Gate again, or playing it for the first time, there are a number of good reasons to play this game. It’s very atmospheric (the music is especially good), involving, challenging, tactical, rewarding, and pretty much harmless in terms of ‘risk of wasting life doing’.

If you like RPGs you’re almost certainly going to get something out of any of the Infinity Engine game remakes, even if you’ve already played the originals.

More: Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition on Wikipedia
Steam: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Icewind Dale, PC

Icewind Dale is the second Infinity Engine-based RPG, developed by Black Isle Studios and released by Interplay in 2000. It’s based on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, with a 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset.

Story-wise, Icewind Dale is centred around a quest to save a besieged fortress from an evil priest, called Brother Poquelin. But just getting to the evil priest plotline is an undertaking in itself…

Technically, this game is very close to Baldur’s Gate in terms of visuals and gameplay, except that there seem to be far fewer trees. The explorable world is represented as scrolling, 2D backdrops, and you explore with small animated characters who are largely controlled by AI, and who scurry around doing things to your mouse-clicks.

At this stage of CRPG evolution the Infinity Engine preferred to be played at 800×600 resolution by the looks of it, and it therefore looks a bit clunky by today’s standards. With Icewind Dale II the interface was improved even more, which gives it the edge in the series in my opinion.

An enhanced remake of Icewind Dale was released in 2014. These grabs are from the original 2000 CD-ROM version – not the remake.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icewind_Dale
Steam: Icewind Dale on Steam
GOG.com: Icewind Dale on GOG.com

Baldur’s Gate, PC

Baldur’s Gate was the first game to use the BioWare Infinity Engine and was released by Interplay in 1998. It is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, with a 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset, and is therefore a fantasy RPG adventure with castles, magic and monsters in the grand sense of the fashion.

To be even more specific: this first Baldur’s Gate game is set in The Sword Coast region, along the western shoreline of Faerûn. A ‘fog of war’ hides any part of the map you haven’t yet explored, which is a feature of every Baldur’s Gate game.

Gameplay is tuned to adhere to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition role-playing rules and is mostly played in real-time. During combat, though, you are at least allowed to pause the game and prepare your characters for action. You can even have the game do this for you when combat engages.

There are around 25 different Non-Player Characters (NPCs) who you can meet and get to join you at certain points in the game. Various quests await as you play a young man on a journey into adulthood via the method of solving mysteries. Not to mention: the cleaving of many monster (and human) skulls.

Anyone who’s ever played either a Baldur’s Gate game (of which there are quite a few), or an Icewind Dale game – or any of the Forgotten Realms/Infinity Engine games – will recognise many of the character portraits. A lot of the characters are canon and appear in every Forgotten Realms-based game.

As well as the essential single-player game, there was also a multiplayer side to Baldur’s Gate. In it you could play the single-player game, with quests and suchlike, alongside friends who were online an could connect to the same game.

Baldur’s Gate definitely broke new ground when it was first released, and it was a big commercial success, but there have been so many Infinity Engine games since then that it now looks a bit dated. It’s not my favourite Infinity Engine game, but is still good gameplay-wise.

An enhanced HD remake was released in 2012, and which is still available to buy now through the usual outlets. These grabs are from the original version as played on CD-ROM back in the late Nineties.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldur%27s_Gate
Steam: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on GOG.com