/ Black Isle
ESRB Rating: T (teen)
Review By: Chris Johnson
Published On: October 2000 at GA-RPG
Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign of Dungeons & Dragons,
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn continues the story of one of the
offspring of Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, which just so happens to
be the character you create at the beginning of the game. The game
picks up several months after the death of the main villain in the
original Baldurs Gate, Sarevok, in which time the city of
Baldurs Gate has been saved from a war with Amn. The plot
essentially revolves around your main character's continued struggle
to understand the potential of his / her power. Your actions have
consequences in the reaction of NPCs and party members to you in
the form of dialogue options given to you. You do have the ability
to import the character you played in Baldur's Gate or the expansion
Tales of the Sword Coast should you wish, and this feature adds
a nice touch that most gamers should appreciate that played the
original with save files intact.
So has the team
at BioWare delivered another role-playing gem, or has the sophomore
jinx caught up with the team? You can find out in our in-depth review
of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn below, Enjoy!
Gate II plays similar to previous offerings published under the
Black Isle Studios banner for their D&D licensed games. The
biggest difference is the size of the game, and the nice mix of
combat and quests. The introductions of a number of new character
kits (about 3 per class), weapon proficiencies, classes, and even
a new race have been implemented well. Also, the use of the D&D
2nd edition ruleset is very good as usual. Players are able to cast
spells up to 7th level priest and 9th level wizard. Your characters
start with 89,000 experience points, which equates to characters
from levels 7th to 8th. The experience cap in the game is set at
2,950,000 allowing you to level your characters to a low of 14th
(druids) all the way up to 23rd (thieves& bards). The rest of
the character classes fall somewhere in between. Remember that 2,950,00
is the hard cap for experience point gain, so if you multi-class
then your lump sum total of experience points will never exceed
interface is pretty easy to use, and not very difficult to learn.
The available options for your character can be found at the bottom
of the screen, with more information displayed on either side of
the screen. Nothing more complicated than a few clicks will accomplish
anything in the game, and the action can be paused at any point
with relative ease as well. The game does stay paused now while
you're digging through your inventory, which is a significant change
from past titles.
high level of combat in the game is very challenging and similar
to Icewind Dale, but much improved over the original Baldurs
Gate. Combat occurs in real-time, while each character does have
a delay for their next attack round. Through the correct use of
the pause button, players can effectively make the combat seem like
a turn-based system. Projectile weapons are still effective, but
not nearly as much. Melee weapons appear beefed up, perhaps this
is because of the higher quality of magic items found in the game.
Although the use of melee or projectile attacks are definitely not
lacking in punch, Baldurs Gate II favors the mage in most
cases. Conjuring appears to still be the top school of magic due
to the high saving throws major opponents have, and for the nice
variety of creatures you can summon forth to do your fighting for
with previous Infinity Engine titles, a great journal is automatically
updated as you progress with interesting information and quest
entries. These entries are triggered by accepting / completing
a quest or finding out something interesting from a NPC, and
are separated by chapters. There is also a working map that
gets put together as you make it to more areas, which makes
travel easier especially later in the game. Speaking of maps,
the running speed to get around these has been increased from
Baldur's Gate, and the path finding AI, although far from
perfect, is better as well. Unfortunately, you are not able
to run in this one like you could in Planescape: Torment.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn offers up the familiar 2D
isometric 640 x 480 resolution of past Black Isle efforts,
but also adds the much talked about support for 800 x 600
resolution. Higher resolutions are available with a program
called BGConfig; basically this program allows you to adjust
many facets of the game including the graphics. At 800 x 600
the higher resolutions show off the artwork better, but the
character avatars seem a bit too small for my tastes. At higher
resolutions than 800 x 600 the game looks odd, so I wouldn't
suspect many will try them more than once. As was the case
with Icewind, the addition of 3D lighting effects using the
OpenGL API is a welcome addition for a little extra eye candy,
primarily for spells. The artwork is attractive, as would
be expected for any BioWare / Black Isle Studios title, and
there is an increase in dynamic backgrounds over past Infinity
Engine games. The interface from Baldur's Gate has been given
a new look, but the most part is almost identical to the original.
A nice variety of attractive looking character portraits simply
put the bow on a package that is sure to please most any gamer
in this regard.
The overall sound quality of Baldur's Gate II is superb. The sound
effects and background music both hit their respective marks, and
only add to the gaming experience. The character voice-overs for
the narrator and many of the major NPCs were nicely done, and the
voices available for your main character are decent. BG2 also features
three-dimensional sound quality support for those who own sound
cards that support EAX, which includes a really nice echo effect
in dungeons as well.
Baldurs Gate II is made with a focus on the single player
game, with a variety of settings to adventure through. The settings
vary from the Elven Forests of Tethir, the Cloudpeak Mountains,
the Underwater cities of the Sahuagin, the pirate isles, the Astral
Plane, cities of the Underdark, and even the Abyss (essentially
hell). The few puzzles in the game aren't too high on the difficulty
scale, and that feeling of what you need to do next is pretty straightforward.
You might find yourselves lost by the number of things you can end
up getting involved in very quickly, but the journal system takes
those worries away as it is one of the best Ive seen to date
for a game. A few times you might find yourself heading to a walkthrough
like this great one at Sorcerers
Place, but you will not need to do this very often. The flow
of the game is nice, and the sheer size of the game is very impressive
should you wish to do it all.
The story is much
better than what you found in Icewind Dale, but is a bit simpler
than Planescape: Torments. Dont worry about having to
read a book in this one to finish. The combat while fun and challenging
was pretty difficult at times. Save early and often is the best
advice I can give you. Strategy plays a key role in all these fights,
so make sure you develop yours early in this one. Hide in Shadows
and Invisibility spells are some of the best in the game to explore
an area so you can get your party set for what they are about to
NPCs Imoen (thief / mage), Jaheira (fighter / druid), Edwin (Specialist
Mage Conjurer), Viconia (Cleric), and Minsc (Ranger) from the first
game in the series make an appearance in Baldurs Gate II,
and a whole slew of new NPCs make their debut as well. You have
new characters ranging from the lovable gnome inventor Jan (thief
/ illusionist) to the axe crazed bloodthirsty dwarf Korgan. Although
the game still favors those who are of neutral or higher alignment,
there is the option to play a party that is primarily comprised
of evil aligned characters. A total of 16 that can travel in your
party are in the game. Should you do a lot of side quests, you can
meet all these NPCs fairly early in the game. Each of the NPCs bring
a unique personality to your party, and their own quest or two that
you can help them out with. A lot of interaction with your main
character and other party members is guaranteed, and there are four
NPCs (three female and one male) that your character can romance.
The quality of the NPCs in Baldurs Gate II is much improved
over those in Baldurs Gate.
quests in the game are abundant, and your character can become involved
in many fairly quickly. In fact, if you played the game a few hours
a night, you could easily spend three to four weeks in the large
town of Athkatla alone without leaving the city gates. These side
quests can range from fairly simple ones like finding an item for
a NPC, to conducting an investigation on a religious cult in the
area. Most side quests in the game are layered in that they build
up to a final conclusion that might be totally different from what
you began with. For instance, the aforementioned cult investigation
will eventually become one in which you are asked to rid the area
of the cult after you find out exactly what these deviants are up
to. A large number of the side quests are fairly linear where the
decisions you are given will just end the quest if you deviate from
the path. However, there are larger side quests that have multiple
endings. The one thing to keep in mind when doing large amounts
of side quests is the reputation of your party. You dont want
to be acting like a Paladin solving all the problems of the land,
while playing with evil aligned or even neutral party members if
you become too extreme. The same goes in the other direction, only
it seems about 10x more extreme. Those party members that feel your
reputation is unacceptable will simply leave your party, and a bit
quicker than they would in the original. One reason for this change
is to help do away with people running to churches to buy back their
reputation through donations, although it is still possible if you
Gate II: Shadows of Amn comes with full multiplayer support that
allows for up to six different people to join a game, i.e. the six
members of your party in the single player game. Supported connections
include LAN, the Internet via a TCP/IP connection, and direct connections
(two players, head-to-head, cooperative mode) via modems or serial
cables. It should be noted that there is no difference in the single
and multiplayer versions of the game. The person that begins the
game must stay logged in for the session to continue.
to my gripes about this aspect of the game in Icewind Dale, the
multiplayer experience is the worst aspect of BG2. However, due
to the sheer volume of people who are playing the game in comparison
to Icewind, it is much easier to find a good game to join up with.
The network connections and services provided are not actually flawed
in any way, but is very apparent that, as was the case in past Infinity
Engine games, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn offers a far superior
experience as a single player game than a multiplayer one.
An extremely fun and addictive title that is sure to keep you highly
entertained from start to finish. You just will not get a better
modern day RPG experience on your computer than what you will get
out of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. The size of the game, the
amount of replayability, the isometric engine (which I prefer),
the artwork, etc. It just all adds up to a must play experience
on your PC.
- Does it advance
the genre? Yes. It's the best Dungeons & Dragons game made
to date for the PC.
- Does it offer
anything new? Yes. It combines the strong aspects of the original
title and other D&D titles published since then with its own
unique features as well.
- Does it offer
a decent amount of gameplay? Definitely.
- Is the
product relatively bug free? Yes, very stable for me.
Some have had problems however.
- Does the documentation
thoroughly explain the game? Yes, great manual.
- Does this game
have any features to keep it from getting outdated? Yes.
- Is the game
worth the retail price? Absolutely.
- Is the game
Great artwork, attractive spell effects, nice soundtrack / sound
effects, a multitude of magical items to be found, the new character
kits, great storyline, large gameworld, replay factor high,
Party AI pathfinding, although improved, still needs some work.
There are some install issues that a few people are having,
but once you do get it installed then it works fine on most
we loved about Baldurs Gate has made its way into the
sequel and much much more. The attention to the finer details
of the game is apparent and much appreciated. The volume of
quests, beautiful artwork, colorful NPCs, new character kits,
and variety in settings all add up to one hell of a game in
our book. Where the original failed to keep some gamers interested
from beginning to end, Baldurs Gate II succeeds. Thank
you Black Isle and BioWare. Its good to see a few developers
continuously making games of such high quality. The Dungeons
& Dragons license couldnt be done prouder by anyone
else on the PC.