We live in interesting times. The Baldur's Gate RPGs are amongst the most well-loved, well-regarded and influential the PC has ever seen, but surely they're now a relic of an ever more distant past? Along with most things that we consider legendary, they have begun to fade into the past and, like weathered statuary, are slowly losing their definition. We remember them fondly, but indistinctly, imperfectly. We forget the rough edges. Beamdog's Enhanced Editions were well-curated, well-preserved museum pieces. Classics polished for one last, albeit glorious, hurrah.
Or that's how it was until last night, when Beamdog announced they have been both working on a new expansion for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, as well as planning to bring the rest of the series back into sharp relief. The expansion's called Siege of Dragonspear [official site], a name that may sound familiar to those well travelled in the Forgotten Realms. It features a new shaman character class, scores of new maps, new companions, and what Beamdog's grand magus Trent Oster says is "at least twenty-five hours of adventuring."
It's been nearly a decade and a half since Throne of Bhaal brought the Baldur's Gate saga to a climactic conclusion, but Beamdog won't be picking up from where that story left off. Instead, they're filling in the blanks, inserting Siege of Dragonspear between Baldur's Gate I and II, elaborating on the ambiguous and indistinct "dark circumstances" that bridge the two games, previously unwritten happenings that drove an apparently very heroic player out of a city where they were previously considered a saviour.
Siege of Dragonspear will also come with a quiverfull of extra features and interface improvements, including new a hardcore mode, an easier story mode, inventory highlights, cute little hit point bars hanging over characters and a whole lot more. At an elaborate evening reveal in Edmonton, Canada, Oster reminded players that they won't have to turn any of these features on if they interfere with their purist tendencies. All these changes won't just come with Dragonspear, they'll be built into all the Enhanced Edition titles that Beamdog have been working on. In other words, Dragonspear isn't just a new game, it also represents a series-wide update.
Beamdog say that the scale of Dragonspear means it will be much larger than the expansions made for Baldur's Gate I and II, Tales of the Sword Coast and Throne of Bhaal, and writers Amber Scott and Andrew Foley reckon that over 500,000 words of dialogue, description and flavour text have wormed their way in. This is certainly going to be substantial.
Perhaps most importantly, Minsc is back, and the slightly unhinged ranger will be joined by many of the other most famous NPCs from the first Baldur's Gate. Beamdog have recruited voice actor Jim Cummings and many of his colleagues to reprise their roles, as well as as Mass Effect composer Sam Hulick to provide instrument-based noise.
Oh, and if you're as old and leathery as I am, the name "Dragonspear" may ring a bell or two with you. Dragonspear Castle was the subject of a Second Edition Dungeons & Dragons module way, way back in the day. Yes, says Scott, some inspiration has been taken, but there's a lot here that's new.
I'll have much more to tell you about Siege of Dragonspear very soon, including choice words from writer Amber Scott and Beamdog co-founders Cameron Tofer and Trent Oster.