Of all the old-school games I’ve imagined someone porting to Apple’s iPad, Baldur’s Gate falls somewhere between StarCraft and Ninja Gaiden Black near the bottom of the “doable” list. Not because I don’t have fond recollections of playing developer BioWare’s Dungeons & Dragons-based roleplaying love letter on a giant IBM ThinkPad running Windows 98, sitting at my half-folded dining room table in a tiny one-bedroom apartment a few feet from a noisy window-box AC unit.
“Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, watch it, I’m huge!” said the game’s most memorable party member (and BioWare’s perfectly wrought vehicle for some occasional lighthearted genre deprecation). That’s the line I remember best, anyway, though you’re probably more familiar with “Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!”
But yes, it looks like someone’s going to try to turn Baldur’s Gate into a tablet game — someone named Overhaul Games. Their last (and as far as I can tell, only other) game was MDK2HD, a PC-based upgrade of BioWare’s old 1997 third-person shooter about a mad scientist, robotic six-legged dog and janitor in a weird pelican-headed super-suit who save the world from alien invaders. How’d that one go? It’s hard to say, because only a handful of sites have so far reviewed it (it came out late last year). Game Chronicles gave the port high marks and “absolutely” recommends playing it. GameShark, on the other hand, said the port was glitchy and bogged down, performance-wise, at high resolutions. Critics…what can you do?
The iPad port of Baldur’s Gate, officially dubbed Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, runs on an “upgraded and improved” version of the Infinity Engine, which the original PC game used. Overhaul says the iPad version will include the original game in full, the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion pack and “never before seen content including a new adventure and new party member.”
Enticed? I am, though mostly for nostalgic reasons. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to wrestle with the old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition ruleset. You know, back when a character’s armor class — their combined skill and materials defensive rating — actually improved as the integer rating fell below zero and plummeted thereon.
But I’m sure reacclimatizing to that system will happen fast enough, as learning BioWare’s particular implementation of the ruleset did back in 1998. My real concern is the touch interface. Will our fingertips be precise enough to navigate a more than a decade-old point-and-click PC interface? As you can see from the shot of someone playing up top, that interface doesn’t appear to have changed an iota. And what about finessing character selection or combat tactics (the game played in continuous time, but each character’s actions were premised on AD&D’s six second turns)? Unless you’re playing hooked up to one of Apple’s wireless keyboards, the iPad doesn’t do hotkeys. Sure, you could always play Baldur’s Gate mouse-only, but how many people actually did?
We won’t have to wait long for an answer: The game hits Apple’s App Store this summer, and it looks like Overhaul’s also working on an iPad version of the series’ even more beloved sequel, Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn. You can keep tabs on the game’s progress at the new official Baldur’s Gate site.