Still, I have to say I was drawn in by the game's wintry setting, its ancient castles and caves, its snowy mountains and mysterious caverns. Castle Maldurek from the expansion was particularly impressive in scope with its many puzzles and tough enemies. I'm immensely grateful for Beamdog for having created an enhanced edition of the game because I doubt I would have powered through the game's original version with its set of decidedly vanilla classes. The sequel, on the other hand--that I may well play, enhanced edition or no. I'm intrigued by the changes it introduced by adopting 3rd edition D&D rules. I'd definitely like to play it before attempting Neverwinter Nights, which of course was the first of the Forgotten Realms RPGs since the original Baldur's Gate to not be built in the classic Infinity Engine.
Speaking of Baldur's Gate, I've also completed Beamdog's enhanced edition of it with a different co-op partner (the one with whom I play games on a regular basis, in fact) and was as usual very pleased with it. Sadly, I didn't get the opportunity to experience a lot of the game's added content save for a sidequest involving Neera the wild mage. I may well go back to it and play through content I missed at a later time. Of course, playing through the original saga in my mind served only to prepare us for playing the Baldur's Gate II Enhanced Edition which for some reason I had not yet played.
As I have discussed previously on this blog (admittedly, probably close to two years ago now), Baldur's Gate II is possibly my favorite game of all time. This most recent playthrough is only reinforcing that opinion. Particularly pleasing is the fact that I no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of attempting to get the original version of the game to run on modern hardware. Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition works right out of the box and seems optimized well for modern PCs, although it is of course not without its fair share of bugs.
Although I really enjoyed playing Icewind Dale, replaying Baldur's Gate II really drives home what it is about the game that keeps me coming back over and over. I've always been intensely engaged by games driven by an ensemble cast of characters. Baldur's Gate II's myriad character sidequests keep me endlessly entertained--and these characters are mostly pretty interesting and occasionally hilarious. The game's emphasis on creating a likable cast of characters combined with an excellent combat system and a healthy amount of exploration and quests really melds together to create an engaging, memorable, and endlessly replayable experience. For this particular playthrough, I'm playing a half-elf skald. I've never done that before and it's working out great.
I could easily become burned out on the Infinity Engine if I keep this up, but for now I feel pretty ready to finally play through Throne of Bhaal.