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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

 

 

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Faqs and Walkthroughs

The epitome of the word "sequel"

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.

Verdict: 95%

Bottom Line: Computer roleplaying games rarely get this good. Definitely the best RPG of its kind.

 

                                                                                        - Toma