Baldur's Gate II

Bill Dungsroman 02/10/2003 

Sum The Game Up In One Word

Baldur's Gate: Shadows of Amn (BG2) is long. It should have been two or three shorter games. "But Bill, a lot of the game is optional." Fuck you. You know what else is optional? Paying my electric bill and wiping my ass, neither of which I'm any more likely to give up as I will playing through every nook and cranny in an RPG. This game has a lot of neat bits, but who gives a shit about those? Black Isle Studios (BIS) fucked up plenty in making this game. What about the stuff that nearly kills it?

Oh Christ, Do I Really Have To Roll My Character's Stats?

Thanks to ‘realistic' stat rolling and a multitude of class options, you too can embark on an epic journey as a wimpy, stupid, na´ve, ugly, clumsy fruit. The gods themselves do tremble.
I love creating characters for RPGs. Stats Fag, that's me. Except for the part where I have to roll my characters primary stats. That part opens up a mini-quest to find the cheat to give him all 18's ASAP. Compared to BG1, there are several more classes to choose from. I hate that. BG1 had the perfect amount. Paladin: check. What's this "Undead Hunter" horseshit? "The Cavalier prefers up-close combat, as he feels it is more honorable." No, he doesn't. Nobody is that dumb; where's my +3 Crossbow of BIS-Games'-Missile-Damage-Is-Unbalanced? I like modifying a base character class throughout the game, like in Fallout, not pick some esoteric clod from a seemingly random list and finding out halfway through that I really don't like his useless bonuses and I fucking hate his disadvantages. I could import my character from BG1, but the gayness of that transcends even my significant queerness. There's that stupid pantaloons quest you can do (the only benefit of playing the same character all the way through), but it's so screamingly gay it makes me want to hurt small animals. But I chose to be a Cavalier anyway, since the game has a bug that lets Cavaliers illegally use slings. Obviously, the wide and varied character class choices are to encourage replay. This game takes several months at least of exclusive play to finish, never mind the expansion. Who the hell would want to replay it? Note to BIS: people like to play other games. Also, you get to choose your character's voice set, from a variety of stupid options. What happened to the generic-but-serviceable male voice from BG1? I picked Pointlessly Asshole Guy over Guy Who Goes RAAAHR! A Lot.

Yay, They Ported All The Characters I Hated From BG1 Into The Sequel

Your stalwart compatriots from BG1. Imoen's still whiny, Jaheira is still bitchy, and Minsc still has his stupid rodent. They're all uglier.
A decent opening movie sets up the beginning of the game: you, the former Hero of Baldur's Gate, are imprisoned by some fruity wizard in his dungeon. So, the point of having my same character from BG1 was – what? I start the game utterly naked and without any equipment anyway. A dopey in-game cut-scene (all of which are stupid. Any drama these scenes might have had is robbed thanks to your characters performing recycled animations from the actual in-game engine) advances the plot a bit further. Your nemesis, Jon Irenicus, is voiced by none other than the esteemed David Warner. Getting Sark from Tron to voice your baddie counts as a coup in my Big Gay Book of Coups. He easily gives the best voice acting I've heard in an RPG, which as we all know isn't saying much. Then, Imoen shows up. Well, she ends up being vital to the plot, and they've upgraded her into a thief dualled to a mage, so that helps. Imoen was at a dead heat with Jaheira for Most Deaths In My BG1 Party. Speaking of Jaheira, she's slightly less obnoxious with less patronizing sound bites and multi-classed to a fighter/druid. BTW, which idiot at TSR/WotC made up these random multi-class restrictions? I'd really love to know why a fighter/druid can't use a hammer. I wanted to give Jaheira Crom's Faeyr, the second-best weapon in the game, but I couldn't. And Minsc. Who doesn't love Minsc? Me, for one, I killed him naked and weaponless in a dark alley in BG1 to be alone with his sexy wizard, Dynaheir. Everyone's portrait is uglier. Fortunately, a slew of other NPCs are available. Less than half are easy to find, but you can pretty much be whoever you want to be and there will be enough fighters, priests, thieves, and mages to complement you. Of course, the stats of these clowns are "real" in an RPG sense, which means nearly all of them have a 9 and/or 10 in a couple of traits. Which is forgivable, but when you see that mages have INTs of 16 and fighters have STRs of 15, then maybe you, too, will help yourself to some 18s. Not that it really matters; with a billion ways to cheat – I mean exploit – the game, who cares what stats you or your idiots have?

Yes, I Will Accept Thy Quest. Yes, I Will Accept Thy Quest. Yes, I…Jesus, Don't You Idiots Have Anyone Else To Help You?

The opening dungeon teaches you the interface (which isn't bad), sets up the story, and bores the hell out of your backtracking ass while you marvel at the Infinity Engine's piss-poor pathfinding. At least a moving character can "bump" a stationary character aside, but if he hits another moving character on the road from A to B, he'll detour through Points C through Z with brief stops in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, happily uncovering monsters along the way.

Outside the first dungeon, the game kicks into high gear. That gear would be the one that imposes a head-spinning number of quests upon you in short order. It's almost as if BIS was overcompensating for the head-nodding pace of BG1 by throwing quests at you faster than a meth addict explaining to a cop why his tail light is busted. After a short segment that sets up the next part of the main story, you are more-or-less encouraged to explore Athkatla, the marble-mouthed name of the main city (think Baldur's Gate City from BG1, with its multiple areas). Personally, I would immediately find a couple of trashcans or empty market stands to use as a storage closet. You'll never make it through this game without having a storage shed, and legitimate ones don't appear until halfway through the optional part of the game. Wandering the streets of Athkatla rapidly becomes ponderous, as nearly every square foot of the place is teeming with hopeless dipshits who have something for you to do to earn some coin. The problem here isn't in the variety or sheer number of quests that you can partake. It's that you can't swing a dead cat without some fruit walking up to you and demanding you take it, without any goddamned way of knowing what the quest will entail. Isn't there a better way to get quests than simply go to a new area and be accosted at every turn? Most quests start simple enough: "Go protect my land from yon evil beasties," and the next thing you know, you're ass-deep in some dungeon, running out of arrows, with no inventory slots left to hold anything. Or, just as likely, going next door and finishing the quest in five minutes. Good luck guessing which is which. This game is supposed to take 200+ hours to finish, and it's practically forcing you to reload simply to get your shit together. What's more, many of the optional quests are a lot more fun and challenging than the stuff that's part of the main storyline.

You can't even cross the fucking street without having to save some fruit's kingdom from evil invading hordes, or whatever. Good luck figuring out the quest journal.
Now, enemies in the game are supposed to "scale" relative to your party's experience, but all I can say is, if there is a quest to kill a dragon or lich, then by God there will be a fucking dragon or lich there, no matter what friggin' level you are. And lest I be accused of hyperbole, you can find yourself accepting quests involving dragons and liches your first day in Athkatla. Everybody wants you to do their respective quest right away, but it isn't clear which ones are on a time limit and which ones aren't. A mage bails from my party in a couple of days, while this other poor little bastard sits on my doorstep waiting for me to get around to saving his misbegotten town. It gets to the point where you arrive at a new area (or an old area at some unknown point in time), occasionally watch some stupid in-game cut-scene, and then some fruit makes a beeline towards you and you groan to yourself, Oh, what does this asshole want? What makes all of this even funnier is that, just like in BG1, the game doesn't automatically rest your party when you travel for days at a time, so you're exhausted by the time you reach somewhere. Often, it's a monster-ridden hellhole where you can't even properly rest. Even Daggerfall rested me automatically, what the fuck?

Now, most of the quests offered to you are entirely optional, and you can come back to them later in the game (in a none-too-obvious manner. Basically, the middle chapters of the game have you in Parts Unknown where you cannot get to the rest of the map.), or ignore them outright and the plot will still progress. So you can opt to not do a lot of them, in which case I must ask you why the fuck did you buy this stupid game if you aren't going to play it all, you idiot? Go buy Morrowind if you want a game that doesn't want to be played. Then again, the storyline pushes the limits of absurdity if you do play the whole game, since you'll either be (seemingly) wasting your time when one of your friends is imprisoned, or farting around in distant lands while Irenicus plots the destruction of the world. Oh well, since when did an RPG plot not meander along?

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