I know that it isn't fair to blame Beamdog and Skybound for ruining October, but here we are all the same. I've already gone to hell and back again trying to rearrange my time in a way that it would afford me the opportunity to play through both Disco Elysium and The Outer Worlds, two mammoth RPGs launching on October 15 and 25, respectively. What I hadn't anticipated was that four legendary games – from three iconic studios – would launch on console in this same window of time, officially marking October as the 'Season of the Time Intensive RPG'.
Enhanced Editions for Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment are hitting Switch, PS4, and Xbox One on October 15. That alone should send a tingle up your spine; we are looking at a handful of the greatest and most influential role-playing games of all time being given a refresh, another chance at life, and placed into your hands. If you are currently tingle-less from receiving this news, squinting at the screenshots of these titles thinking that they look like relics of the '90s, well, you're not wrong – but you've got some catching up to do all the same.
That's part of the challenge behind this creative endeavour for Beamdog and Skybound Entertainment, the developer and publisher partners working to bring these collections to console in October complete with new features and systems and bundled with all available content; is it possible to bring in new fans to old games? "These brands are iconic, aren't they?" considers Ian Howe, CEO of Skybound. "I think they can stand up on their own… and I'm not saying that we don't have a lot to do, but there's just so much history and legacy there."
There is history, and certainly a legacy, but that can often get overlooked by whatever is new and shiny. Baldur's Gate is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, for instance, while its sequel, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, will be celebrating its own in 2020 – and still the BioWare faithful would rather expend their energy lambasting Anthem rather than reminiscing on two titans of the genre. Meanwhile, Black Isle's Icewind Dale was one of the best RPGs of the new millennium, whereas Planescape: Torment is long considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, and still they struggle to hold a space in the conversation around modern RPGs.
What was once old is new again
You can look at games like The Outer Worlds, Disco Elysium, and effectively any other RPG landing in 2019 (and beyond) to see shadows of these legacy titles in there, somewhere, hiding in the code, art, and writing style. The impact of Planescape and Baldur's Gate, in particular, implanted lessons upon generations of game makers and players that have been subconsciously absorbed and subsequently replicated. If you're yet to play either of these games, you'd only need to spend a few hours with each to immediately make the connections from past to present.
Howe, who has himself spent close to 30 years in the industry, understands only too well how important these titles are – the goal for Skybound is to ensure that players of all ages and experience properly understand the care and attention that has gone into these Enhanced Editions. "I think any younger player who's really coming into that space for the first time. they are going to encounter these IPs very, very quickly," he says, noting the challenge is turning that chance encounter into something more substantial. "So I think our job is just making sure that the audience is aware of what we are putting together; especially with things that we are doing, and with the additional features that are going to be included, that for me is the number one goal. I just want everyone to know what we are working on here."
What Beamdog and Skybound is working on here is editions that should look attractive to new and old players alike. The Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Pack comes with the first two games in the series, along with all of the DLC and fully-restored quest content; if that weren't enough, it also comes packaged with Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, the 2016 expansion developed by Beamdog itself as a "love letter" designed to bridge the first two games in the series.
Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition has been given a refresh, a cursory look over to accentuate its best features (don't mess with perfection!), while Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition lands with all of its expansions. All games also benefit from a raft of quality-of-life improvements, as well as options to reduce some of the more obtuse Dungeons & Dragons rulesets that might be unpalatable to a newer audience better acquainted with modern RPGs.
As Howe is keen to emphasise, it's about providing packages that can suit those that remember these games fondly, yet still appeal to those that have only read about them. "When you're talking about brands like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, you already know that there is a huge audience for those games. However, there's also an expectation from that audience around what those games should be."
"Working with Beamdog, you know, it gave me great comfort. The people involved on the Beamdog side have been involved with these IPs for years and years – they understand fully what the fan bases are expecting. I'm super excited to be working with them; the team is an absolute joy to work with, and I genuinely mean that, they are lovely people and that's not always the case in developer/publisher relations," Howe laughs, adding, "this is very much a partnership and a collaboration, we are trying to do the best things that we can for these IPs."
Next month, a bunch of weird, amazing old RPGs are coming to consoles and that's something you should absolutely be excited about that. While you may immediately be drawn to larger, more prominent games this Holiday season, it's worth remembering that there will be a handful of legendary RPGs waiting for you that still play as good as they did back in the day. You don't have long to get through them all either, because Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition lands Dec 3… no, it's okay Beamdog, I didn't like having spare time anyway.
Vote for your favorite games of the year and most anticipated games of in the 37th Golden Joystick Awards 2019.