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 Home -> Previews -> Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn By John "Award" Del Percio, August 23, 2000
Developer :Bioware
Publisher :Interplay/Black Isle Studios
Release Date :3rd Quarter (poss. September
Demo Available : No
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

What's Old

Every square inch of the game should feel like you never left it. That's not to say that nothing has changed, but in general you should find everything right where it should be (though it took me a few minutes to find the quarrels for my arrows, but that's another story...). The interface, while a bit nicer looking, is the same as it used to be, and the graphics are the same beautiful pre-rendered artwork you've come to love from the Bioware Infinity engine. The well orchestrated music comes back for a return, but there seems to be even more emphasis on the music then in BG. Some of your friends from BG1 return to join you, or at least speak with you, and have their same wonderful personalities (yes, Boo is back too). What is one of the most demanded, but rarely found, features of any sequel is the fact that you can import your Baldur's Gate character into BGII, and start just where you left off. This makes it act a bit like an expansion pack, which is a good thing. I did not take advantage of that feature for this preview, though, as I felt like test driving the Sorcerer. But you didn't come to read this preview to find out what isn't changing, now did you?

Rather small house for the Mayor
Noble estate in Trademeet
Typical dialogue
Strange things happening...

What's New

First, I should start out by saying, that everything looks so much better and well polished, that while you can tell it's the same game, it looks like there are about six years difference in their making. The interface doesn't look like floating buttons anymore, and looks like it actually serves a purpose. The in-game renderings look much more photo-realistic, more detailed, and nowhere near as flat. While still on the Infinity engine, there is also the inclusion of 3D graphics if you have an accelerator. What's the 3D for if everything is pre-rendered? Spells, spells, spells. With the inclusion of over 300 spells (and yes, it does get rather confusing after a while), there are a lot of graphics that need tending too. As you can see from some of these screenshots, the 3D accelerator really makes things look nice, with completely 3D monster heads and smoke for summoning, magical lights for healing and other spells, and tons of other graphics.

Speaking of spells, that brings me to three other points. First, those of you who read my Icewind Dale review, know my feelings toward the AD&D spell system. BGII gives me a way to bypass that, with the inclusion of the Sorcerer class. Among many other new class types and multi-class types, the Sorcerer is a Wizard who specializes in quantity and not quality. Sorcerers have no use for spell books, and learn only one spell per spell level during level-ups. While they can not learn every spell in the game at a single time (you have the option of all the spells in the game, but only pick a limited set of them), you have one advantage over the Mages, you can actually cast the spells you have. Mages get a few spell memorization slots as they increase in level, and must memorize and learn them, A sorcerer gets so many casts per level spell per level. It's a nice treat to decide what of the first level spells you have you'd like to use. If a Mage learned all five spaces as "magic missile", if he gets an enemy resistant to magic, you try to run back to an inn very quickly. With a sorcerer, you have "X" number of first level casts, and "X" number of spells, so you can cast strengthening or defensive spells if you find your magic missiles to be useless. Another interesting point about magic is the scrolls. We all love our scrolls, but anyone that played up their Mages would know, you can easily fill three characters with your many scrolls. BGII introduces the scroll box (must be purchased in a shop) to hold your scrolls and important letters in, all while keeping a nice tidy inventory (also note that a gem bag also exists to store your gems and jewelry that you find in your travels.) Another point about BGII is that magic has much more importance than in BG. More characters learn more spells, (even Minsc starts picking up a spell or two), causing every battle to look like the old Gorion vs. Sarevok battle from the beginning of BG.

Trademeet has a bear market. No, really!
Troll attack in the Druid Forest
Mage battle at night time
Every merchant city has it's slums

Yet another splendid feature of Baldur's Gate II is the new hidden interface. Looking at some of the screenshots here, you'll notice that there is no interface in some of them. No, that's not some previewers trick, or hidden console command, you really can hide the interface, or each portion of the interface (right, bottom, and left) seperately. Ordinarily, I'd say this is a rather useless feature, except with the game pause feature in all of the Infinity engine games, it makes it useful. When you pause the game, just as all the allegience circles will show up (red for hostile, blue for neutral, green for friendly), the interface will pop up during pause too, as well as for dialogs and shop trades. This proves particularly useful when combined with the 800x600 or higher resolution to see even more of the screen, not be obstructed by a large interface, and allows you to be even more immersed in the game, yet still have everything at the touch of a button during your tactical battles (and believe me, all the AD&D games battles are extremely tactical!)

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