Baldur’s Gate II is one of BioWare’s heralded classics. If you’re familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, you won’t have much of a learning curve for Baldur’s Gate II. It relies heavily on inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, from leveling to character class to party structure.
For a game released in 2000, there’s a lot of thought put into your options for a starting character. Baldur’s Gate II lets you choose everything from gender to race to class to your starting abilities. Many of your choices impact how other characters interact with you throughout the game. This includes potentially limiting your romance options later on.
At the end of the first Baldur’s Gate, you and your companions have been taken captive. You wake up in a cage being tortured by a wizard name Irenicus. He seems to know all about you and your heritage. He is keen to experiment on you until he unlocks your unlimited power.
His experiments are interrupted when a group of shadow thieves attack. You use the opportunity to escape with your friends. As you begin to explore his compound and the city around it, you learn more about Irenicus and his plans. Your goal is simple, even if your path isn’t: Save the world.
Irenicus is one of the most beloved villains in PC gaming history. This is due to how well written he is, along with some truly hilarious quotes. He could easily have been a black-and-white villain. After all, you see enough of him early on in the game to understand he’s a truly twisted individual. But as the story progresses, you start to see that every villain truly is the hero of their own story.
Speaking is a big part of this game, as well as reacting to events and people around town. The stats you choose for your character at the beginning indicate how good your character is at talking his or her way out of situations, persuading people to do favors, and even potentially helping you out on your quest.
The relationships you have with your characters can also vary greatly, from utter hatred to something significantly more than friends. BioWare is now well-known for its in game-romance options. But Baldur’s Gate II is actually the first game where they implemented that mechanic.
For a game nearly 20 years old, the graphics are genuinely impressive. Somewhere between two-dimensional pixel sprites and today’s graphics engines lies the genius of the designers of Baldur’s Gate II.
The screen is easy to navigate, thanks to the clever angle of the camera. There is also unique animation for each character in your party. Most games only so far as to animate unique sequences between differing classes and races. For example, an elven mage attacks with a different motion than a human warrior.
But in Baldur’s Gate II, it’s clear that your companions have sequences that are unique to themselves, separate from other members of the same race and class. Lightning arcs between you and your opponent during a fight, and you can see micro movements as each character speaks, moves and reacts.
The battle system is also brilliantly built, allowing you to make it as simple or complex as you want. You can give characters individual commands. For instance, you can assign your wizard to launch Magic Missile. At the same time, you can send a berserker to smash the goblins closest to you.
But if you’re more interested in story than fighting mechanics, you can also set default actions, allowing your party to simply follow your move. This will rely on their default attacks as you gang up on the enemy of your choosing.
You can also spend hours on side quests enjoying banter between your companions. It adds much needed depth to a game that could otherwise be considered a hack-and-slash.
Each of the characters on your team has their own backstory and set of quests you can voluntarily explore. The decisions you help them make on each of their quests can drastically alter their futures.
It’s rare for a sequel to surpass its original, but Baldur’s Gate II has rightfully earned that distinction. While the first game was fantastic, it was the first roleplaying game BioWare had built.
BioWare took what they learned and improved on it here with everything from storyline to character development to battle interactions. Having both games in your library is recommended, but if you’re only going to get one, buy Baldur’s Gate II.