Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn


Developer:    Black Isle

Publisher:    Interplay

Released:   2000

PC Requirements:    Windows 95/98: Pentium II 233 (Pentium II 266 or faster recommended), 32 MB RAM (64 MB RAM recommended), 800 MB hard drive space, 4x CD-ROM drive (8x CD-ROM drive recommended), DirectX certified sound card.




by Drrizt

Ok, so this is my first review, so please don't bash it too hard, ok? And if you find faults in my spelling or grammar it is due to the fact that I do not have English as a native language. One more thing: This review is intended for players who have not yet played BGII, so that is the explanation as to why I write as if it had just been released sometimes.

Where to start the review of such an immense game? Probably with a small history lesson. As you all probably know, in 1998 a game known as Baldur´s Gate was released by Interplay. This game struck down in the world of PC Gaming and you could quite say it almost resurrected a genre which many had believed dead for many years. (Only a few other RPG´s had been released lately that had been successes, amongst them the Fallout games)

Now, to get back to this prequel, it captured the crowd or RPG-Players quickly with its extremely well-written story, immense world, its well-implemented D&D system and its own magic. As of now, we all know the story of the Bhaalspawn, who fought his/her way through the swordcoast, wreaking havoc (to quote a sage in a very red robe with a pointy hat) and ultimately finding and slaying the murderer of his/her own foster-father.

But what happened after the incidents at Baldur´s Gate, where the heroes left Sarevoks plans of war as much of dust as himself? After a few weeks of celebration, the party of adventurers, and now close friends and companions now traveled south from The Gate (Nickname for Baldur´s Gate). One fateful night, however, dark figures emerged from the shadows, as they quickly and swiftly captured the companions.  And this is where Baldur´s Gate II: The Shadows of Amn begin.

The whole game begins as usual, with the creation of your character, where you can choose from a multiple number of classes, including sub-classes (that are specialized in a certain area), which I found most refreshing. The creation of the character is very easily handled and the interface is quite user-friendly, with helpful bits of information where it believes it is needed. Once the character creation is done however, the game starts, and to contrast the earlier game, this game actually *tingles* with darkness even in the beginning.

You and your companions (who Interplay chose to be Imoen, Jaheira and Minsc, for an unknown reason, but I am glad since that was the party members I used in BG1) wake up in a dirty dungeon, confused as to where you are, why you are here, and it does not get any better by the fact that you are in the clutches of an insane, cold, emotionless mage, but this is where I will stop writing spoilers for all you who have not yet experienced this. However, I can safely say that you escape (I think I can safely say this, wouldn't be much of a game otherwise, would it?) from this dungeon, and once you have done that, one of the big main quests of the whole game begins. After this, you are all on your own, and now it is time for You to experience the Shadows of Amn.

The game is very non-linear, as a matter of fact, one of the reasons I have already played through it and the expansion six times, and still intend for it to be more. This non-linearity means you can go practically wherever you want to go, when you want to go there (if you have the location, that is).

As is the tradition of RPG´s, there is also the usual bunch of followers who you can drag around, of which five are old friends (or foes), and there are nine new ones. What makes this matter so interesting though is that the NPC´s are no longer, simply a portrait with some sounds and special abilities along with them, but they all have their own minds, and own opinions.

Half of the game's replayability and joy IMO lies in the conversation that these NPC´s can have, although most often they just bicker with each other. (remember, some people just don't fit in with other people. For example, a Paladin of Torm might not like being the presence of a Drow Sharran Priestess, of which this is the most famous example of hostility between NPC´s)

As I already have said, the NPC are very in-depth characters, and that makes it so hard to kick them out sometimes (there is one person in the game I never have the heart to kick out, mainly because of guilt, but also because of the fact that I found her quest, and also romance most interesting to play). Yes, you read it correctly, your character can even romance certain NPC´s, and this is an extremely refreshing part of RPG´s in my opinion, whereas before it was simply restricted to simply being NPC´s. What makes this even more interesting and amusing is the fact that if you have these NPC´s in the same group, this is a thing they will often argue about, so you have to be careful about putting the party together.

Now for some more technical questions, of which the sounds and the graphics are of most importance.
As for the sounds, they are usually top-notch, with very well-made chanting effects, magic effects and such. What I really must give credit to Interplay in this review however, is the voice acting. It is amazing. And that is not an understatement, since all of the NPC`s (except Nalia perhaps) have voices that fit perfectly well with them, and the main evil character´s voice is just downright chilling. And the narrator (who also played Sarevok) is performing just as well as in BG1, probably making even the most experienced RPG players shiver.
The music is as in BG1 made by Michael Hoenig, an excellent composer of epic classical music. If you find this game in the collectors edition, I suggest you buy it, since you get the soundtrack CD then, which is worth listening to.
Although the engine might seem old by now, the graphical effects still play very smoothly, and I can see no big flaws in the visuals of the game, I actually quite enjoyed them, especially at night, and then I am especially pondering the Docks District. If you see Mae´Vars guildhall from the outside by night, you will know what I mean when I say atmospheric. The shadows might just be painted there, but it still looks very much impressive to me.

Now when I have almost drowned Baldur´s Gate II in a veritable ocean of praise, I must unfortunately take up the less pleasant aspects of the game as well.
Foremost, I am thinking of the fact that you must gather the entire party before entering a new area. This is totally illogical and does not serve anything but being annoying.
And the party AI I must say is sometimes quite dumb, even if it is very much improved from BG1, with party members running off of their own, getting killed in traps, setting enemies upon the group and so on.
I have actually encountered very few bugs, but one which was to say the least, very annoying, was a bug that sometimes randomly during the gameplay removed all the items, or just a random item from a character. Now probably a lot of you will say "you probably used them in a quest or just dropped them". Well, before you go finish that sentence, let me tell you suddenly I noticed Nalia´s signet ring had gone missing, which is bound to her, and cannot be removed, a bit like Ewdins necklace. This has only happened a few times of all the times I have played through it though.

But as it is time for me to continue on with newer RPG´s like Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind and Icewind Dale II, Baldur´s Gate II is in my opinion the best RPG, and probably the best PC Game I have ever played, and it will always have a place in my heart, no matter the new up-coming games.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Sounds: 9/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Story: 9.5/10
Replayability Value: 9/10

My Rating: 9.5/10

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