Platform : PC
Developer : Bioware, Black Isle
Publisher : Interplay
Format : 4 CDs
System Requirements : Pentium II
or equivalent 300mhz, 128MB RAM, 1.1GB HD
Reviewer's Machine: AMD Athlon
"Thunderbird" 1.33ghz, 384MB RAM, GeForce3
The epitome of the word
I'm sure there's not one person out there who
doesn't know the Baldur's Gate name. After all, it is one of the best selling
CRPGS out there and not without good reason. While the original BG was good, I
can't say that I completely enjoyed it. Frustrations set in during the first
few quests and I ended up using a teleport cheat to warp to the juicy parts of
the game. Fortunately, I'm happy to say that Baldur's Gate II is a different
story. Gone are the long, boring dialog trees and unimaginative quests. This
game lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses it in every way.
The story continues from the original Baldur's Gate, following Sarevok's defeat
you are captured by Irenicus, a twisted magician who is curious to discover the
powers of your lineage. Now, if you played the original BG, you should remember
that you are a child of Bhaal, the infamous Lord of Murder. Irenicus performs
his cruel experimentations on you, eager to take advantage of Bhaal's powers.
With your last ounce of strength, you break out from your cage and gather your
comrades. Jaheira, Minsc, Imoen, and few others from the original game reappear
in the sequel and they're the same as they were, but with a few changes in
appearance and such. The game's plot opens up after you spring from Irenicus'
dungeon and your party sets off to discover his agenda. The overall tone of the
story is much more serious than the original. Your epic adventure starts in the
huge town of Athkatla, and you know when we say 'epic', we mean it. Baldur's
Gate II is no stroll in the park. It's more like a road trip from, say, Oakland
to Oregon (for the geographically challenged, it's a 24 hour plus drive). The
game boasts over a hundred unique and interesting quests. It took me a week to
finish most of the side quests, but I'm pretty sure I left a good number
untouched. Quests are no longer of the repetitive "FedEx" variety. The quest
log has also improved by a wide margin. It is much less vague than it was in
the original, for example, a quest called for me to visit the Harper Hold, but
I've never even seen the place, but thanks to the improved log, it denotes the
precise location (West Docks District). Characters and NPCs also prompt you
with reminders about major quests, so you're always on track. The map has also
improved, it is more like Planescape: Torment's automap. You can now mark
locations on the map and notations on important areas are automatically placed.
Whoo, that's a long list of improvements, but they don't stop there.
Baldur's Gate II still uses the infamous Infinity Engine, but now the game
packs new hi-res artwork, capable of resolutions up to and including 1024x768.
Spells have also been bolstered, as they now support 3D acceleration for some
truly vibrant and colorful effects. A ton of new spells have also been added to
BG's already huge grimoire and a host of new items as well. Character
pathfinding has improved from the original, however, it is still far from
perfect. Characters still get lost during long range travels and sometimes they
stop at obstacles even if there's a way through. While this can be easily
remedied by monitoring your guys, it gets annoying when you have to keep track
of all six of them when they're scattered all over the map, but this is a small
concern. As you can see, Baldur's Gate II fulfills its duty as a worthy sequel
to Baldur's Gate.
Character development is better than most as usual. BGII adds a new race, the
Half-Orc and several new character kits, such as the Kensai and the Undead
Hunter. You can import your character from the previous adventure, but he or
she will take some adjustments (for the sake of difficulty balance).
Specialization and high rolls are imperative in this game. Since you are not
able to add or subtract from your ability points, you'd better be satisfied
with your character or you'll have a tough time going through the game.
Gameplay-wise, BGII is just like the original. It's still based on the 2nd
Edition AD&D rules, just like BG. Now I'm no hardcore AD&D fanatic, so don't
ask me to explain how the rules work. General mechanics are the same, kill
monsters and split the XP between your party members. As with AD&D CRPGs, there
is no mana or magic points. Spells are learned through scrolls and in order to
cast them, you must memorize them. Combat is real-time, but can also be played
turn-based (the game basically pauses the game everytime it is a character's
turn to act). The game world has expanded immensely, making the original BG
look Lilliputian in comparison. The city of Athkatla itself is full of
interesting quests and locations. For the first time ever, I was actually
excited to go on a quest. The quests are pretty straightforward, so you barely
feel misinformed or confused. Most of the quests also boast blood-pumping
battles. Some battles may be a bit too difficult, but this is where tactics
come in. This is one BGII's tastier features. You feel like you're really in
the game because everything YOU do matters. A buff fighter with 19 strength
cannot take on a mage with Protection from Magical Weapons in effect, because
he won't even scratch the man's tunic, but if you use your spell caster and
cast Breach, you can beat that mage to submission. I had a huge problem
defeating the dragons (yes, the game has four dragons) and in order to avoid
the beast's wing buffet, I placed myself behind him while my two other fighters
engaged him in the front. While they were blown away, I was happily slicing him
up. Even with a humongous amount of side quests, the plot-related quests remain
clear to the player. Character dialog and prompts will keep your mind refreshed
of the main quest, so you don't get lost and start complaining.
Baldur's Gate II is what sequels should be. Sequels are supposed to surpass
their predecessors and BGII has done just that. I never thought the game was
going to be this good. I expected nothing but the same stuff I already faced in
BG, but Baldur's Gate II is everything I've ever wanted in a CRPG and more.
Don't buy the original, the sequel will fill you as much as the first one would
and then some.
Highs: Involving and
intricate story, improved graphics, and tons of gameplay.
Lows: Pathfinding still an issue.
Bottom Line: Computer roleplaying games rarely get this good. Definitely the
best RPG of its kind.