Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/24/00 | Genre: RPG
Bioware has strengthened it's claim to the RPG throne with Baldur's Gate II. In one word or less BGII rocks. BGII is emblematic of the reason we all got into RPG's in the first place (those of us who admit it). We all wanted to be the hero, slay dragons, kill the bad guy, and get the girl (or guy). After you make up your own character from a large variety of classes and races, or import your existing Baldur's Gate I character you are knee deep in RPG excellence.
The story line revolves around the point that your character is the offspring of the deceased god of murder, Bhaal. From the beginning of the game a certain Jon Irenicus wants to "help you unlock your power." Irenicus felt it necessary to lock you up so he could help your character better. Your character does not want Irenicus' help nor does he want to be locked up. The first chapter of the game means helping your character escape from his evil clutches.
The plot of the game is really up to you. You can have the game last for days to weeks depending on how many side quests you undertake, and there are plenty. There are dragons, trolls, vampires, and more evil (or misled) denizens for you to tangle with on many levels and locations. The key factor here is that the game is just fun. From Trademeet to the Windspear Hills you will encounter non-player characters willing to help or begging to be killed. No matter how involved you get, it is just fun to play.
The game is played from a 3/4 top down view and this is perfect for the game. The engine uses Dungeons and Dragons rules, apparently a conglomeration of second and third edition rules, and takes place in the popular "Forgotten Realms" campaign setting. The graphics are great for what the game is. It was not meant to labor your computer like a first person shooter on overdrive but the magic spells and the occasional disemboweling of a critter are outstanding and well rendered enough to justify the graphics requirements. Background locations are varied enough to keep you interested and portray their purpose well enough so that you know what the building is supposed to be without being told (i.e. a butcher shop looks like a butcher shop, dungeon like a dungeon, etc.). The backgrounds are so interesting that I found my self wishing for even more interactivity in them.
The monsters and characters are well rendered and varied. The monsters are greatly varied, they aren't just the same skin with a different color that can plague games like this. Dragons are incredible, they are huge and powerful; they dwarf your entire party and take up most of the play area (in 600 x 800) and if you can kill one successfully on your first try put away the hint book.
Baldur's Gate II has great graphics, excellent game play and dragons it lacks almost nothing. If I was going to nitpick I would have to decry the path finding of the AI characters in your party, they can wander at times. Your character will do almost nothing unless you tell him or her to. My last nit to pick would be that dragons may be too hard to kill, yes I am whining.
The problems I found were very minor and took nothing away from game play. Baldur's Gate II is a must-buy. I reiterate, BGII rocks.