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Bioware Does it Again!
By BlackFiend | November 14th 2000

Its rare to see such a great game, but when you get a sequel, it usually doesn't stand up against the first-in this case, its not true.

Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn is by all accounts one of the best CRPG games of all time, but there are some problems with it, as with ANY game, and we're here to give you the scoop.

The game is on four CD's, you have 3 different ways to install the game. I chose to install the whole thing, which will give you much faster load times during the game.
Score
 Star Star Star Star
Genre
    Roleplaying

Developer
    BioWare

Publisher
    Black Isle Studios

System
    Windows
 
Screenshots

Gameplay
The Story is extremely large, with hundreds of side quests which are optional to complete. The game starts off with you captured by an unknown Mage, and your party. He has been torturing you with different spells and such to see what kind of "Potential" you have. During the game, you manage to escape, and during the game, one of your party members will be taken, from there, you will start your search for this missing member, and along the way, encounter many, many adventures! You'll meet many new NPC's, and some that were in Baldurs Gate, and depending on which NPC's you adventure with will sometimes change the secondary story.

Although the plot thickens in Baldurs Gate II, and for those who didn't actually "get" what was going on in BG1, you'll be happy to know it's all spelled out for you in the first opening sequence: you are the son of the God of Murder. That's quite a title and considering you probably will spend most of your time doing good deeds, the whole story maintains a dichotic nature which nags you not only as a player; but as a CRPG character through the few dream sequences.

From the minute you enter the game, you'll notice the story is fast, furious and full of twists. While Baldurs Gate had it's own twists, they are nothing compared to what you'll see in BG2. Just as you begin to get "comfortable" in BG2 something crazy or unexpected happens. It could be a plot-changing conversation with someone in your party, a sudden event in an alley after dark, or a hilarious outburst of insults from one of your party members to a wandering NPC. Every minute you play this game something fun happens. There is no "groove" to get into like in many other games.

Overall, the game has quite a bit more personality than BG1 did. Primarily this can be attributed to the abundant interaction between group members. They laugh at each other, ask each other questions, and even get cross at one another. Sometimes they ramble, sometimes they ponder and Minsc (as usual) is just a goof. It all draws you into the experience much better than BG1 did. No longer do you really feel you've got just a band of 6 avatars on the screen. They seem like real people with real problems and hopes.

Quests are much more complex now, although the Fed-Ex quest does still exist. In fact the scope of some quests are so large and involving that you will suddenly be horrified that you've got 5 other unfinished quests in your journal. I have come to the point where I'm certain I cannot complete them all because I'd run out of time. I'm guessing I'll have to play the game again to hit them all.

Ingeniously woven into one quest is the new "Stronghold" feature in BG2. Depending on your class you will, at some point, become a "Lord", "Arch-Magi" or some other grand title that sees you inherit a large chunk of land or other valuable piece of real-estate. In my case, after a long quest I agreed to take over a Keep as Lord to prevent it from falling into the hands of a rival faction which would have laid claim to it had the girl I was with (who was on the quest) been forced to marry. It is your duty to do whatever it takes to keep your concern going... whether interviewing actors as a Bard, or driving out enemies from your farmlands as a Fighter. This depth is incredibly pleasing.

The new class Kits in BG2 are exciting. I didn't think they would make much of a difference, but they do. Not only do you have more freedom to be unique in the game, but the NPCs now have much more personality because of their variety. For instance, one NPC that joined me early in the game wasn't just a Thief. He was a Bounty-Hunter. He swung a Katana, talked like a samurai and enjoyed a good fight. The Monk I play is also very unique, full of talents, and even has monk-like avatar animations. Getting away from the "Fighter, Thief, Mage, Cleric" homogeneity is very refreshing.

Dialogues are more plentiful in BG2... and well done with voice-overs quite often. David Warner plays your arch-villain and it's just cool to hear this guy talk. There are some BG1 voice-overs thrown in for nostalgia.

Pathfinding? We all know how bad the pathfinding was in BG1, and how it was "improved" in IWD. Well, the pathfinding is still not perfect, but it IS much better. In fact it's acceptable, and the faster your rig, the higher you can set the pathfinding script.


Sound & Graphics

Although the Infinity engine is still being used in B2, it doesn't feel as archaic as it was in the other titles. The OpenGL 3D support is welcome and that alone has stopped my computer from chunking in most scenes. But by far and away the best improvement has to be the higher screen resolutions. I have played in 1024x768x32, even though it isn't "officially" supported. But the 800x600x32 on my 19" monitor is absolutely perfect. I no longer feel like I'm playing through a microscope.
The removable GUI sections, and the full screen option are also excellent, and the sound scores in Baldurs Gate II are brilliant as well. But that is to be expected after seeing what they did with Baldurs Gate. Ambient sounds are a little better than Baldurs Gate, although many utility sounds (like opening containers etc.) have not changed.

All voiceovers are top notch, without exception. And compared to Baldurs Gate there are quite a lot, so if you are into CRPG's, or even just like a great game, you should seriously think about buying Baldurs Gate II!

 

Higher resolutions & supports 3D accelerator card for enhanced special effects for spells, lighting, and the fog of war.

Still uses 2D sprites and pre-rendered background scenery.


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