Baldur's Gate II has been ogled from afar for the better part of this decade by players of the past. Despite countless mods that revitalize the original game, few modders have been so ambitious - and even fewer successful - as to port over content from BG2 into an existing, higher-tech engine. So when it was promised that the mod would be produced for Dragon Age: Origins, the entire BioWare community stood by with bated breath. Everyone knew the routine: a group of ambitious modders enters the scene with little grasp for how large the undertaking is, only to mysteriously vanish weeks later. That was not the case with Team BGR (Baldur's Gate Redux), who have now just put the finishing touches on the first 'module' of the BG2R mod. Exiting a ten month long development cycle, the Irenicus' Dungeon Module is fully available for free download (PC copy only).
Players will find themselves once again in Irenicus' Dungeon, instantly greeted by the original game's cinematic and voice-over, re-created cut-scenes, and those agonizing magical experiments that were so horrifyingly cast upon our hero. The camera zoomed in on my nemesis and panned carefully around his most noticeable feature: the scars. Yes, you remember them well. Maniacal laughter reverberated from within the walls of the dungeon, vibrating further down the bars of your cage; that's what we felt like when playing the original Baldur's Gate, and staggeringly, the same powerful feelings were summoned forth by a remake using the Dragon Age engine. The cut-scenes, tailored by film student Tom Uram, flow beautifully with the sound effects and music. I found the events to be sequenced exactly as they were in the original game, so veterans will instantly gain their footing within their graphically-enhanced bodies. In addition to existing Dragon Age resources, the team had to include new creatures, rooms, props, textures, icons, and models to fully simulate the BG2 experience. Class kits, alignments, and player voices have not yet been integrated.
Room positioning and descriptions are satisfyingly accurate, especially given the unique restrictions of the Dragon Age engine. The lore and dialogue of Baldur's Gate 2 are large contributors to its cult-like following, and thankfully, it was all transcribed manually into the mod. Even those pesky goblins and their bows have returned to the damp, squeezed corridors of Irenicus' Dungeon, stripping you of every last potion and hit point possible. The level design encourages players to enter offshoot rooms in hopes of finding spots to rest or loot, commonly resulting in an encounter with puzzles and their associated bosses. The boss fights feel just as challenging as they did the first time around, only this time, you can see the whites in their eyes - and it's not just the pixels blurring! I struggled almost as much as I had years ago, but a few quickly-discovered balance exploits eased my passing within the underground complex. I'm told the few remaining balance issues are being worked on presently, so keep an eye out for future updates.
As is fitting with all the hardware-software combinations these days, I experienced sporadic crashing and graphical artifacts: pools of blood were represented by reflective red squares, entering camp in certain locations caused hard-crashes; exiting camp in other locations caused perpetual load times, and in one room, my characters were levitated off of the floor an extra foot. The large test effort prior to launch discovered similar issues only on one other system, so your chances of encountering them are rare. After all, it's not like the mod costs money to try - right?
I had a chance to ask Team Lead Mike (mikemike37) about his involvement in the project, "I had to get involved. By combining the most characteristic elements of Baldur's Gate 2 with Dragon Age, players get the benefit of both." I asked on his thoughts about purists, Mike told us that "No conversion would make everyone happy. It's not an identical port, but that's not what we wanted. Purists have played BG2 dozens of times - if they want to play it again, there's nothing stopping them from dusting off those discs."
Get the mod for Dragon Age: Origins here!