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This is a remake of the very popular BALDUR'S GATE II: Shadows of Amn published in 2000. It includes the THRONE of BHAAL expansion plus the new BLACK PITS II arena battle game. Like the original this utilises the rules of the TSR/WotC AD&D second edition role-play game which includes the characters and classes, weapons and equipment, spells, skills and abilities as well as the racial adversaries, tricks, traps and adventures.

SHADOWS of AMN is an atypical AD&D2 adventure where your character begins locked up in a cage, is helped out by their companion, and then between them they rescue 2 other characters from cages and slowly you build up your traveling/adventuring group, ready for an adventure of quests and combat across the land. The player's view of the game is overhead but angled rather than directly.

Having escaped the cages and the dungeon the group find themselves in the Forgotten Reams city of Athkatla, but as they emerge from the dungeon two of them, Imoen (your companion) and Jon Irenicus (your adversary) are arrested by the Cowled Wizards for using magic. They are both taken to Spellhold which is an asylum type place situated on an island.

The players need to raise enough money to get to the island and rescue Imoen before Irenicus escapes and continues his experiments. Here the player has to choose between the two guilds who offer assistance. This choice will play a major part in the characters futures. There are also many instances of choice, mostly in the question and answering of conversation between the player's characters and non-player characters. The player has one lead character and should they die then you will revert to a previously saved game.

Just following the main quest to completion will take almost 2 full days - hours-wise - and 5 complete days if you complete all the possible side attractions - this is as near to an actual tabletop pen and paper role-playing game as I have played in a non-MMO computer game.  As the party completes tasks they gain reputation which affects how non-player characters interact with them. Like the rpg, spell-casting in this PC game is powerful but can be time consuming; opponents can attack and disrupt casting and there is nothing you can do about it.

Characters gain  experience points in the same way as the tabletop version and thus gain levels and get more powerful
with the majority of the book-keeping being automatically recorded into journals, spell books etc available to the player at a single button click.

BALDUR'S GATE II is playable in multi-player mode with up to six humans (or extra-terrestrials) taking on the role of the party members. One of the humans has to control the leader of the party with the same consequences if they die as in a solo player game.

The pre-gen characters (listed below) are available for SHADOWS of AMN and THRONE of BHAAL.

ABDEL - Fighter and usually party leader (though the player can change this)
LESSA - Thief
DARIA - Mage
ROTHGAR - Cleric

Plus of course you can create your own character by going through the sequence:
Gender:  Male or Female 
Race:  Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Orc
Class: 12 Basic regular classes to select from.
Alignment: 9 choices though any are unavailable depending on the character's Race.
Abilities: The usual 6: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma (when creating your character you will be presented with a set of statistics as above but with numeric values up to 18. There is a dice reroll button which I suggest you use to get the highest overall total possible, and then use the plus/minus buttons to adjust your ability scores.)
Skills: Your character has a number of Proficiency slots and you can select the skills you want to fill them.
Racial Enemy: By selecting a natural enemy of your Race you get +4 when in combat against that enemy Race.
Appearance: You can change your hair style, colour, as well as select from 4 Female and 5 Male voices.
Name: Name your character.

BALDUR'S GATE: THRONE of BHAAL is the final Chapter in the Baldur's Gate series.  It is set in a number of new locations in Tethyr. There is a new level 40 experience limit, new high-level monsters, and new items. 

It adds the Watcher's Keep multi-level dungeon which completes the main plot which can be accessed from both the original Shadows of Amn game and the Throne of Bhaal campaign. It adds a new mage class kit, Wild Mage. All of the NPCs from the original game are available with the exception of Yoshimo. The game adds Sarevok, a new NPC, to the game.

The game-play is similar to Shadows of Amn and the original Baldur's Gate with the player controlling one major lead character and collecting party members along the way. There is also the multi-player mode for one to six human players.

Here is a list of the game's characters taken from Wikipedia: (if I hadn't cut n pasted I would only have typed the same list myself)

When all the quests have been completed and the Bhaalspawn killed, you have to go to the planar Throne of Bhaal for the final battle against Amellysan. Finally you have the choice of either ascending to the Throne of Bhaal or destroying it and returning to peaceful life as a mortal. If you choose to ascend, you have the option of either becoming the new God of Murder or becoming a deity dedicated to good and righteousness.

 

The BLACK PITS II
Create your party from the available pre-genned characters.
Alarion: Cavalier
Tyras: Berserker
Mireille: Sorcerer
Rurik: Fighter/Cleric
Vidania: Archer
Zeris: Blade
You can delete a character as you have the option of 4 other Pre-Gens. You can also create your own party leader using the Abilities sequence as noted above.

The Black Pits is an arena combat game that pits your party against a series of computer generated adversaries. There is a character A.I. which should let the characters attack and defend themselves with you controlling the party leader; or you can give attack orders to the party members separately.

To begin with you have to speak to Quartermaster Tartle and then to Dennaton who runs the pits. If you defy Dennaton you will be eliminated by the Winged Enforcer (Winged is pronounced Win Ged). Your party is taken to an ante room where there are Merchants. You are given an amount of Gold which you need to spend on equipping the entire party. It's no use spending it all on your Leader and nothing on the others as they will die quickly, so you need to carefully go through the possibilities and prices and (using pen and paper aside from the game) make notes of which weapons, armour and equipment each character requires and you can afford.

During the process of purchasing equipment and weapons there is, in my mind, one in-game omission, which is you only get to see the character's name while you are buying, not their class or proficiencies. This is another reason for keeping a pen and paper handy at all times during the game.

BALDUR'S GATE II: The ENHANCED EDITION is a super introduction to online role-playing in the style of D&D even though it is mostly predetermined as opposed to the freedom of an MMO. Building your party and then watching and abetting their growth in stature, level, reputation and skills is most satisfying. It is better played with a friend or two (or 3 or 4 or 5). The Arena game. Black Pits, in particular works better when you are not attempting to control all the characters.

BALDUR'S GATE II uses the Infinity Engine system: Wikipedia describes this engine as follows: (the following is a cut-down version)

The Infinity Engine was originally developed by BioWare for a prototype RTS game codenamed Battleground Infinity, which was ultimately re-engineered to become the first installment of the Baldur's Gate series. BioWare used it again in the subsequent installments of the series, but also licensed the engine to Interplay's Black Isle Studios.  It features pausable realtime gameplay. The engine uses a three quarters perspective with pre-rendered 2D backgrounds and sprite-based characters. Although graphically 2D for the most part, Baldur's Gate II added the use of OpenGL to accelerate drawing. Designed for six-character party-based adventuring by default, the Infinity Engine was the spiritual successor to the Gold Box Engine, and provided the basis for five Dungeons & Dragons licensed role-playing video games. It was succeeded by BioWare's Aurora Engine.  A free compatible game engine recreation is in development under the name of GemRB. It runs on multiple platforms, including FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, Android and AmigaOS 4

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015