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Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal Review
PII233, 32MB RAM, 560MB HDD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 20, 01
|» All About Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
Throne of Bhaal reached our computers only several months after it had first been announced. If you are a Baldur's Gate fan, you surely know that the Throne of Bhaal presents a great finale for the Bhaal Spawn, or in other words, it spells your character's destiny.
The expansion pack for Baldur's Gate named Tales of The Sword Coast added some new location on the existing map and delayed the fight with Sarevok. Expansion pack Throne of Bhaal for BG II: Shadows of Amn functions much the same. After you install it it merges with the original game and offers you two possibilities; you can play the adventure before or after the fight with Jan Irenicus. It will grant you access to a new dungeon called the Watcher's Keep, which is definitely one of the hardest dungeons in the entire serial. In connection with Bhaal's throne, you will also be able to explore several other new locations including the town of Saradush under siege (and you're trapped inside), the fortress of Fire Giants, Drow and Dragons' lair and so on... The developers claimed that Throne of Bhaal should give you about forty hours of active gameplay, but believe me; it will last far longer as it features some really hard adventure moments.
The other way to play it is to go through the expansion only, but in this case you lose the possible bonuses you might have gained when finishing Shadows of Amn. I had to choose this mode as I simply couldn't find the save game with my dwarf Wizard Slayer with which I finished BG II. I was especially attracted to the new Wild Mage character kit, so I chose him to finish the Throne of Baal.
The main difference between the ordinary and Wild Mages is that the latter suffer the so-called Wild magic surges which cause random effects, which can be either good or bad (both for you and your enemies). For instance if you wanted to cast the Incendiary Cloud spell, it can easily happen that you cast Dragon's Breath instead. There are several ways to control spell-casting. The spell chaos shield will maximize the positive effects of the selected magic and almost neutralize the chance for casting to go wrong. On the other hand, you can induce a wild magic surge yourself by casting the Nahal's Reckless Dweomer. In this case, you can expect a cow o land on your head if you cast anything after that.
After the initial chitchat and the fight on the Grove of the Ancients you will find yourself on your Abyssal Pocket Plane. This is your base you can return to at any moment, and from any location or area -- kinda like your universal keep. Of course, you shouldn't forget that you can only exit the pocket plane into the location from which you entered it. This is where you meet an old acquaintance - Sarevok, who can now become a member of your party! This is an interesting twist, you cannot argue with that. Apart from this, you can use the two Fate spirit stones to summon any friendly NPC from BG II to join your party. I chose the same party I had in BG II: SoA: Edwin, Imoen, Minsc, Viconia and I took Sarevok as a fighter back-up (in time I realized that he is the strongest fighter you can have in the BG serial, but his chaotic evil alignment can cause some trouble in good parties). Apart from them, I also summoned a familiar, which turned out to be a rabbit, thanks to the True Neutral alignment I chose for my Wild Mage. Getting the rabbit wasn't too bad as it can steal, detect traps and become invisible and so on. On the other hand, it is a bit spoiled and requires food all the time. Still, with Imoen who has great characteristics for a mage and can easily be turned into an excellent thief (which was her initial role) with only a few magic augmentations, I did not really need the rabbit too much.
In your pocket plane, you will also meet an interesting character named Caspenar. He is your private butler and is there to help you with enhancing and forging magical items - the Shiny Ones. Caspenar is one of the nicest creature in the game with his screechy voice and sarcastic remarks ("Ooo, big weapon, this. You over-compensating maybe?"). He will be of great assistance to you throughout the game in creations of magical artifacts, just like Cromwell the dwarf used to be in the Shadows of Amn. After a couple of words of welcome, the party sets off...
The basic plot continues the story of the serial - somebody wants to kill you because you are a Bhaalspawn. That someone is now an alliance of five other extremely powerful Bhaalspawns who wish to eliminate any possible competition. Black Isle announced that you can gather 8 million EXPs which is really a lot, as your characters become god-like when they reach the fortieth level. I only wander how this will reflect on the Neverwinter Nights, which should be able to allow you to import characters from BG II.
High-level demigod characters, lots of AD&D monsters and interesting story ending;
The story ends here, no more Infinity engine based games, a few bugs.