Baldur’s Gate 2 review
Baldur’s Gate 2 is the sequel for BG1. Both are awesome computer RPGs and their combat system features AD&D2 rules. BG2 raised experience cap to reach more power and face dangerous enemies. It extended and improved the previous game to make it legendary.
Baldur’s Gate 2 is probably the best CRPG ever done and here is why:
- Everything is AD&D, Forgotten Realms. So it’s a known universe for those into pen&paper role playing. In any case, it’s a rich universe.
- Amazing story (I think it’s better than other modern RPGs). It continues the storyline of BG1 but you don’t need to play BG1 before. It’s divided in various side plots and the player get slowly into them. The thieve’s guild wars is the best example: you hear (read) and see things… until you take part and everything resolves.
- Gameplay is fun (if you don’t mind playing slowly). The battles are interesting, more than BG1 for sure, as you need to think your way out of some of them.
- Lots of spells and skills can be useful. Is a game that rewards thinking out of box, because a hard battle can be dealt by clever use of skills. There are many status effects, like immunities to magical weapons, normal weapons, low tier spell immunity, etc … and ways to dispel (if magical origin) or overcome them. Also, it’s more interesting than the typical “Fire 2” or the “Arrow” skills you can find on other RPGs.
- Also, lots of armors, swords, trinkets … all that fun stuff to equip in classic fantasy RPGs. Those also feel unique, more than just getting a upgrade like a “golden armor” or a “Masamune”, which is a cool sword name but it doesn’t mean nothing. Now check Lialcor, Carsormyr or Flail of the Ages and you’ll probably understand.
- Good amount of distinct enemies and some really memorable battles, like those against dragons, beholders, illithid / mindflayers, liches, vampires, Demogorgon and other monsters. Again, this is a huge leap over BG1.
- Some interesting NPCs. Who can forget Imoen, Minsc, Viconia, Edwin, Anomen…? Not only that, some NPCs have some cool reactions when they’re together, even serious conflicts.
- There are many customization possibilities for building a party. Also, your party members can join and leave at your will… and they could leave at they own will, forever.
- A big amount of sidequests, many of them related to party NPCs, so there is some character development, including real boosting/downgrading. Also, there is a lot of random banter and some romance possibilities.
- There is some role play and good/evil choices.
- Modding: the original game had lots of mods to add content and greatly extend it with new classes, quests, etc.
- Ambientation. Walking through Athkatla and other places has a vivid feel, thanks to the sound and the cool descriptions the games gives for you.
- Music. There are some epic and cool tracks in the sequel.
- Some weapons and armor can be forged and/or upgraded.
It’s hard to think about real flaws. I think this game is near perfection as a RPG, but still, there are some details:
- Too much focus on sidequest and companions. The protagonist quickly forgets the main plot, which is supposed to be important, to help other people everywhere.
- Overall game pace is slow. You’re expected to go slowly and be careful when exploring. Also there are many interruptions and it’s not uncommon to stop a quest to do another along the way. The fragmentation and postpone of quests is bad for narrative.
- Complexity without newbie babysitting: there are many spells, skills and stuff going on, but the game doesn’t explain everything. This means it’s not totally obvious when something affects something else, or what is really going to do that spell or how to overcome an enemy skill. It takes some time to understand how to deal with some stuff like vampires, mages, mindflayers, liches, etc.
- Good/evil party balance difference (game is designed for playing good party):
- playing as a good party nets you more experience and benefits than an evil party for most of the game. The evil choice turns to actually be a bad choice.
- low reputation (which is expected on an evil party) is pretty bad for both shopping and quest rewards.
- you can (and should) steal as a good party and there are no other “evil” deeds that are going to net you income.
- good aligned kits or classes are better.
- the only reason to play evil party is that the NPCs are actually better and more interesting in BG2.
- It’s not so difficult to overpower yourself and rush most of battles. Of course, you can raise to max difficulty level so…
- Graphics look aged. They’re better than other old school gems but the remaster could be better.
Why to play?
There is a big reason to play it. It’s a flawless gem, a truly great RPG. The game was also updated with the new Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition.
The replayability of this game is actually great. Even if there are no big branches or choices that affect the game story, just building good, neutral or evil parties and experiencing other character classes open a lot of replay value. And the game is fun enough you can happily play it again from scratch. I’m confident most of BG2 players have played it more than once.
Of course, that the game is really good doesn’t mean everyone is going to like it. It’s an old school game.
How to acquire
You can acquire the game, its Enhanced Edition, in gog.com, Steam or in the Beamdog store. It’s often discounted and totally worth every dollar even at full price.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn with its expansion Baldur’s Gate II: Trone of Bhaal. The game was originally released by Bioware in the year 2000. The expansion is like a second part, packed with new stuff and some challenges.
The BG2 ToB expansion allows you to continue with the same party you ended the previous BG2 SoA game and extends experience cap and skill tables.
There is a newer release (2013), a remaster called Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition, that updated the game to higher resolution and added few quests, NPCs and classes/kits. This also brought some bugs, mod compatibility issues and headaches, so it was seriously criticized because it seemed unwanted and unnecessary. Time has passed: many bugs were patched until 2019 and many mods got updated. This means they were probably right but also there is no reason anymore to complain as, in summary, the game update has brought some attention to it and it attracted new players, which is very good.
The Baldur’s Gate saga is surely a timeless classic and it will be played for many years to come.
After the Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition it seemed everything was done for a long time. But, surprisingly, in 2019 E3 we got some awesome news: there will be a Baldur’s Gate 3. This will be, of course, a truly modern game, with really good graphics, and it will follow newer AD&D rules. But still there is a lot to be known. Dragon Age was meant to be the spiritual successor to BG saga. Now that Baldur’s Gate III is here, will they be able to keep up to the saga quality and feel? Will this be a true Baldur’s Gate?
More info on BG3: https://baldursgate3.game/
Games like Baldur’s Gate 2
Well, it’s impossible to talk about BG and forget those other AD&D games. I’m not going to enumerate all (there are lots of them) but only those that are actually good (I played them many times):
- Icewind Dale 1 / 2. The Icewind saga is well known among Baldur’s Gate and Forgotten Realms fans because it shares the same engine and Icewind Dale is a well known location (thanks to Drizzt Do’Urden Dark Elf novels). The saga was more oriented over combat than story telling and the party consisted entirely of player characters. One big flaw (IMO) was the looting system. Otherwise it was great. Anyways, it was a fresh air after BG. Cold, but fresh.
- Planescape: Torment. Another Infinity Engine game, like BG. On the pure role playing side, this could be considered superior than BG2 because of the innovation and the better story telling. It was focused to story (as opposite to Icewind Dale). But there is no party, the gameplay is not so good and there is not so much replayability.
- Neverwinter Nights. Another great game. It was also more focused on storytelling but gameplay is fine. It actually has a solid fanbase that rivals the BG’s. Probably, the key of it’s success was the updated engine (Aurora Engine): it had a better multiplayer, improved graphics and it was more mod-friendly.
- Eye of Beholder 1 / 2 / 3. An awesome and very famous CRPG saga but this one was a first person (pseudo 3D) dungeon crawler, so it’s a distinct subgenre and a totally different experience.
- Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse. An rather unknown game but actually it’s good and it takes place on a very exotic fiction place: Zhakara (inspired on One thousand and one nights). It’s a arabic themed game. The plot is cool, the scenarios are interesting, good puzzles and the gameplay is realtime but it’s not too bad. I think Al-Qadim is an underrated RPG game, probably because developers reduced complexity on the RPG side and added a good dose of action-adventure instead (like Zelda), which didn’t pleased CRPG/AD&D players. Which kind of reminds me to what happened with Ultima 8.
- Dark Sun. Another unknown CRPG. This one is amazing and it has also an exotic AD&D campaign (like Al-Qadim). It’s a harsh, dark themed game. But it’s a true RPG, fully turn based and totally worth your time.
- Baldur’s Gate 1. The previous game on the saga is an awesome game too, but it had too much empty wilderness exploration (empty zones between actual plot or quest places) and combat felt weak when compared with BG2.
I’m not going to discuss now about other CRPGs or about JRPGs as there are lots of them. But if you’re interested on JRPGs, I can recommend Final Fantasy VIII. For other CRPG, you can try Ultima VII.
Baldur’s Gate II is for sure the best AD&D game. I also think it could be just the best CRPG ever made, as everything that came after is compared with that game o pretended to be the successor.