Occasionally a great game will come along that is too good to miss out on. Last year, it was either Quake III: Arena or Unreal Tournament, depending on which series you liked. Some might say that the game you can't miss out on this year is Diablo II. Well, they're wrong. The game you can't miss out on is Baldur's Gate II. Stop reading and go out and buy it ... now. But, of course, if you're a little bit wary of the title, open up a cold one, kick up your feet, and prepare to read.
Baldur's Gate II is an RPG unlike any other I've seen for a long time. Okay, okay, I've seen it in Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, but not in Planescape: Torment. Now, some people think that AD&D is a game that worships the devil. That's not true. In my opinion, the people who truly believe that are people who want to play the game but are too scared to try it out. Anyway, Baldur's Gate II is one of the most interesting games this year and is on the fast track to sending RPG geeks like me to RPG heaven.
The game begins with the usual character creation. Character creation is a snap; it was for me anyway, having played similar games in the past. The manual defines all of the rules and regulations of character creation. Rules that I can't even begin to comprehend right now. I opted for a Lawful, Good, Cavalier. The Cavalier is part of the Paladin kit. The kits are new to Baldur's Gate II. The character kit allows for 3rd Edition Rules characters. Character classes include the Cavalier, the Bounty Hunter, the Stalker, and the Inquisitor, just to name a few.
The game begins in a dungeon of some sort. You wake up with a splitting headache and don't have a clue about where you are and how you got there. It is apparent that a battle is going on about you, because once you break free of your cage, you can see dead bodies littering the area that you are in.
The first chapter of the game allows you to build up your party's stats level as you make your way through these dungeons. Throughout the first chapter, you will gain bits and pieces of your memory that you have lost. For example, if you go into a room, you might stir up lost images of the past or feelings that you can't place, but you know you've felt that way before. And of course, the further you go in the game, the more you lose track of time in your real life. I sat down yesterday afternoon at about 2 p.m. to play this game. The next time I looked at the clock, it was 5:30. This game is addicting.
And of course, like any game, there are many nonplayable characters (NPCs) that you will meet along the way that can join your party. As a matter of fact, just about anyone will join your party, provided that you have enough room for them. It's a good idea to get a balanced party, of course. If you have a party of all good characters, then it might upset the balance if you get an evil character in the bunch. It might stir up some bad feelings among your party members. For example, in Chapter Two, an old party member fromBaldur's Gate, a Drow, is about to burned at the stake. If you save her, she'll join your party. However, not many people in the party will agree with your decision because she is a Drow and she's "evil." And of course, there will be many angry people in the crowd that was ready to see this woman be burned at the stake for her "evil ways."
If you have a "good" character, stealing will of course make your party lose reputation points. As a goof, I decided to cheat and get lots and lots of gold. And of course, I took all of that gold and donated it to a church. And once I had donated all of the money (999,999 in gold coins) to the church, all of my party members would say something like, "I am so glad that we are doing good things" or "I'm so happy that we have set out to do good." And if Minsc is in your party, he will spout off something like "Boo and I respect you for your wise actions." Boo is a hamster that can talk, but only Minsc can understand him.
No point in talking about graphics because, as can be expected, all of the graphics in the game are beautifully detailed, and all of the maps were drawn by hand and then digitized. Just look at Icewind Dalefor a good example of the quality of graphics in this game.
As for the quests, well, they are excellent, but if I talked about the quests in this review, then I'd take all of the fun out of the game for you, the player. Oh, and if you are still reading this review, go out and buy this game right this instant, valuable playing time is being wasted!
Final Grade: A
If you liked Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn:
Read: Any novel by R.A. Salvatore
Play: Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale
32 MB RAM
2 MB video card
For 3D, you need any 2 MB 3D card that supports OpenGL