For many geeks/nerds/artist types out there, the game of Dungeons and Dragons is a big past time. With some imagination, you and your friends can create and shape a world full of magic, monsters and wonder. Now taking a game such as that and making it into a video game may seem tricky in 2000 a team at black isle studios did the impossible, they created not only a fantastic dungeons and dragons game, but crafted what is (in my opinion) the greatest role playing game ever conceived. Some may disagree with that statement, but they have to admit, the game is still extremely good.
Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of dungeons and dragons, Baldur’s Gate 2 tells the story of the lord of murder, Bhaal, and the mortal children he left behind. Naturally, you character is one of them. Anyway, you begin the game in the Lair of Jon Irenicus, a mad wizard with insane power. Believe me, this guy is scary, cool and unrelentingly powerful. Naturally, you spend the first hour or so escaping his compound. Once you leave, then the world opens up and gives you free reign to explore. For starters, the main city of Athkatla is enormous and filled with all sorts of magic, monsters and a healthy dose of corruption, which you can either help spread or destroy, your choice. But outside of Athkatla, there are rolling hills, plains, forests, ruins and castles to explore and, for the most part, they are free to explore when you want.
This freedom is the greatest aspect of Baldur’s Gate 2, you feel as though there are hundreds of choices to pursue, despite the main story leaning you towards a certain direction. I should also note that after the second chapter, you will be forced to follow a specific series of events before freedom is given back to you, so make sure you have done as many quests as you can before you end the chapter, trust me, you will know how to end it. Fortunately, some of the best moments in the game occur when you are following the main story. Such as the battles in Underdark or the final confrontation with Irenicus. Speaking of the story, its phenomenal. It is unpredictable and Irenicus is constantly making moves against you, which makes it feel dynamic and gives a sense of urgency.
Next is the gameplay, it is similar to the first Baldur’s in that you control a party and each different character class gets his/her own set of skills and abilities. However, unlike the first game, the variety is greatly expanded upon! Not to mention, you start the game at level 7 which makes you feel pretty powerful from the start. But don’t think you will be able to destroy everything from the onset, there are many beings in the Realms more powerful than you. Also expanded is the enemies list. You will fight everything from evil dwarves to a troll that wants to cook you, but it doesnt end there, you will encounter doppelgangers, dragons and some wicked demons. And each encounter with them is interesting, sometimes there is more to a fight than meets the eye.
Speaking of the eye, I must comment on the graphics. They aren’t the best of the time, but the world feels so alive. People are walking through the markets, random fights break out, and there are laws that must be upheld. I also must comment on the spell effects, they are simple but brilliant, the battles can turn into a dazzling spectacle of lights and sounds as enemies are hewed asunder and magic missiles rain out all over the place!
The sound is also very admirable as well, the music is epic during the battles and calm whilst walking the country. Unfortunately, the music and sounds are recycled a lot throughout the game and it can become old over time. But that’s to be expected when you sink 100+ hours into a game inst it?
Now its time to move onto the expansion, Throne of Bhaal. My words cant really describe it but I will try. The developers striped away a lot of the open world freedom of the original for some of the most amazing set pieces I have seen in a rpg. Not to mention, the level cap has increased dramatically and the action becomes even more intense as the game goes. Thought some of the fights in BG2 were crazy? Well, they are childs play compared to Throne of Bhaal. You can go the entire game of BG2 without fighting a dragon, but Throne makes you fight several, and there are stronger foes than that. It is insanity! Because of these enemies, the game feels a bit more difficult than before, which is welcome as BG2 isn’t the trickiest game I’ve ever played. The story, unfortunatly, isn’t as strong as the other one but what is there is still well executed. Besides, the story isn’t what Throne is all about anyway, its more action oriented and is focusing on a giant war between Bhaal’s children, or at least the power hungry ones.
All in all, BG2 and Throne of Bhaal are amazing gaming experiences with loads of variety, fantastic settings and an spectacular story that is begging to be played through multiple times! Not only is Shadows of Amn one of my personal favorite games, but I feel that it is the best RPG ever made!! And it is followed up by one amazing expansion, fantastic stuff.
Throne of Bhaal: 9/10