Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn Review
P233, 32MB RAM, 750MB HDD, 4MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 01, 01
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Branislav "Bane" Babovic
When I first got my hands on the original Baldur's Gate, back in 1998, I must admit I was completely overtaken by it. I could not leave it for days to come, as I am somewhat of an addict concerning CRPGs. Fortunately, I managed to use this time-consuming addictive hobby and even make some money off it, working as a game reviewer all these years. Indeed, some really good titles wore the magic letters "AD&D" in the past, but none of them could be compared to Baldur's Gate. Well, OK, maybe one - Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Those of you with less imagination and experience may just pass a comment "yet ANOTHER RPG in the Forgotten Realms setting". Baldur's Gate II (BGII) is in fact much more. It is all you may have desired from an RPG, a real jewel, elven song of excellence, and a true paradise for all RPG players (Whoa, I hope you don't plan to have a one handed fiesta with the box cover, or do you!? - Ed). As you might have concluded from this introduction, I have no intention of being objective and I'll praise the game as much as heavenly possible.
The ads promised a lot, but they were not true to reality. BGII is actually much better than it was advertised (Ahhh, this is too much - Ed). The game is veeeery long (Now this definitely sounds like a porn movie one-liner! - Ed), and it will take about 200 hours to finish the story with a fighter class character. And when I say "finish the story" I mean just doing the major quests and ignoring the plethora of details and sidequests. There are few games that actually managed to surpass their prequels this much. BGII is something truly spectacular, and you just have to have it regardless of weather you are a hard-core RPG fan or merely like the genre...
We all know how it started: The hero is a descendant of Baal, the Lord of Murder. After he defeated his brother Sarevok at the end of Baldur's Gate, he saved Sword Coast from the potential war with Amn region.
The story continues several months later. Our Hero awakens in an underground dungeon. Jon Irenicus, a seemingly insane sadistic wizard who performs ludicrous experiments on his prisoners, imprisoned him. Our hero is imprisoned with several of his friends from the first BG: Imoen, Jaheira and Minsc (with his hamster Boo). Irenicus is quite thrilled about the fact that he can actually "play" with a child of the God of Murder. You and your friends clearly have to escape from his clutches before the experiments get out of control.
Once you gathered some basic equipment, you can beat several guards up, and escape from your prison. The first impressions and scenes you get from BGII are far from captivating. I was quite surprised and disappointed when I saw the little dungeon and its simple mechanisms and puzzles. But, as soon as you break free, the sights and sounds of Athkatl will overwhelm you. You really will feel like someone who just broke out of a prison. This is where you get the first taste of what's coming. You'll have to fight Irenicus, but at some point during the fight some strange wizards appear kidnapping Irenicus and Imoen, who lost control and threw a couple of spells at one of them. Imoen and Irenicus were taken god-only-knows-where and it is up to you to find them. This is all a scripted sequence, and you assume control at the end of it.
This game will give you all the enjoyment you could get from classical Pen & Paper AD&D Roll-Play. Infinity engine has been modified to make even more events in the game dice-dependant, giving you full reports of what it's doing with the dice in a bottom window. Any action you might now undertake will depend on the dice roll, making the computer act mach like a real GM.
Character creation is one of the most important elements in any RPG where you determine traits that will follow your character all through the game. BGII features three new classes, a lot of new sub-classes, and even some new races. I found the Half-Orcs to be most fun. They're big green and nasty, and anyway, who wouldn't like to be the Incredible Hulk? Half-Orcs are exceedingly strong. The game also features character fine-tuning enabling you to create truly unique personalities; i.e. the fighter class now features several kits: Berserker, Wizard slayer, Kensai... My Dwarf, ToGrim Bane became a Wizard Slayer. That made him highly spell resistant and gave him big to hit bonuses against all sorts of spell casters and a possibility to dispel protective spells of his targets while hitting them. Unfortunately, that also made him unable to use any magical item apart from weapons and armor. My choice of kits proved to be quite interesting and challenging. All through the first part of the game Jaheira had to baby-sit the poor dwarf and heal him constantly in combat, but once he grew stronger and found a magical armor, he had no problems of going in to battle alone.
Everything you can desire in an RPG;
Somewhat slow multiplayer mode, and nothing else!