The expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate reveals an evolving level of skill and design philosophy in the game’s development team. This is a focused effort to engage the player in a different way than the original, and it largely shines as a result.
While the main draw for players may have been the increase in the level cap, Tales of the Sword Coast offers some compelling combat content that puts much of the original game to shame. There are three new areas to explore and clear, in addition to a new town. These range from a simple mage-filled maze, an island with mysterious inhabitants, and a multi-level tower filled with traps and puzzles. All are rewarding, both in the sense of being fun and in terms of giving fantastic loot and experience.
The centerpiece of Tales of the Sword Coast is Durlag’s Tower, a new dungeon that appears in the southern part of the map. Despite its proximity to some early game areas, the challenges here are for high-level players. The upper floors of the tower are filled with traps and monsters making up a classic but compact RPG dungeon. The lower floors are more puzzle based and populated with powerful foes that you’ll be hard-pressed to defeat without considered tactics (or save scumming).
You don’t actually need to complete any of this content to beat Baldur’s Gate, considering that the final battle was designed for a party without access to the expansion, but its contents are rewarding enough to make it well worth your attention. Tales of the Sword Coast is a preview of things to come, and has a lot of aspects of what made games like Baldur’s Gate II so great.