Review: Siege of Dragonspear13 Mar 2018 5
Review: Siege of Dragonspear
Released 08 Mar 2018
Whaelar the Wise: What say ye, traveller? Will you return to the Sword Coast, to Baldur's Gate: The Siege of Dragonspear?
Gorion's Ward: "Baldur's Gate? Where is that?"
Have you never ventured to Baldur's Gate? Then you are in the wrong place, my friend. Although it has been many years since its story was first told, along with its sequel it remains among the greatest interactive stories.
'Stories' is really the key word there, since Baldur's Gate builds on the best traditions of the past by giving you an expansive world to explore. You will find that though the trunk of the tale is a straightforward fight against an evil lord, the real meat of the story is in the additional quests and characters you will encounter.
You can get there now through Beamdog's Enhanced Edition of the 1998 game, which added some welcome features (widescreen resolutions, pretty good touch controls), some interesting new options (new classes and difficulty levels), and some unwelcome but easily-avoidable additions (new characters). It's not perfect, but it is the best and easiest way to experience this classic and influential game.
And though the engine driving the game is now twenty years old (old enough to leave Candlekeep itself!) it is still capable of presenting great beauty, especially in its Enhanced Edition which increases the detail. On smaller screens it may be too small, but for those will a full-size tablet, it will be perfectly playable.
Likewise, the rules governing its combat are over thirty years old. You may be somewhat confused by Armor Classes (is a negative good or bad?) or some of the more esoteric skills and stats, but there's a lot of meat there for someone who really loves optimizing their party.
But if you haven't been to Baldur's Gate before, going to Dragonspear at this time would be unwise. Were you to journey there now, without having record of your previous adventures, you would be dropped into Chapter 7 of a tale that only just crested its climax, with unexpected secrets already revealed and the great evil already defeated. You would have a bevy of strange abilities and a party of unusual people that you seem to have strong relationships with, but whom are strangers to you. Although Dragonspear is a standalone expansion on mobile devices, it depends on bringing in characters from the Enhanced Edition for the greatest enjoyment.
So if you have not travelled the Sword Coast to Baldur's Gate, go! Now!
Gorion's Ward: " I am ready to confront the Siege of Dragonspear."
Whaelar the Wise: You will feel a rush of nostalgia when you (rather conveniently) reform your party. All your favourite characters return, and most of them speak with the same voices too. The combat is still challenging, unless you want to use Story Mode to make your party invincible. You will find the world and the dungeons more crowded than before as well.
But the story told here you may find lacking. Where Baldur's Gate gave you a broad world and a seemingly infinite number of ways to play in it, Dragonspear moves from set piece to set piece in a disappointingly linear fashion. Your party is required to follow the camps of the Flaming Fist as they journey to face Caelar Argent. And while Caelar makes a more compelling villain than Sarevok, the charm of Baldur's Gate was in its freedom. Likewise, you will meet many new characters on your journey in addition to the ones you have known before. But (and perhaps this is only the rosy lens of nostalgia) they are not as unique and charming as the others.
You may also find bugs. I once found myself stranded in the very first dungeon when the only person who could let me out vanished inexplicably! It can still be difficult to tap on the tiny remains of combat with a finger to pick up useful items, and it can be slow to look up their information.
At the same time, be wary of what you may have heard from other people regarding this adventure. An attempt to expand the boundaries of the storytelling permitted in these lands has resulted in an intense political backlash from conservative factions. In truth, there is nothing in these pages that will upset any reasonable person unduly. However, a concerted effort on this minority faction has resulted in lower-than-accurate public consensus regarding the game.
Overall, though, the Siege of Dragonspear is a tale well told in a form that remains compelling, if showing its age. If you liked Baldur's Gate and its sequel, you will probably like Dragonspear too, though it does not reach the heights of its venerable predecessors.