"Did You Know: Dragon Age: Origins is intended as a somewhat more serious spiritual successor to Biowares more famous Dungeons and Dragons games in the Baldur's Gate series. "

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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


One of the side-effects of the storyline and character importation ability is that the game picks up where it left off...both in story, and in difficulty. Anyone who played through BG, knows that by the time you got to to the city of Baldur's Gate, the game was so stinking impossible you permanantly kept your cursor over the position the load game button will be in when you open the options menu. Well, the difficulty of BGII picks up exactly where BG left off. When you have a chance encounter in your travels ("you have been waylaid by enemies and must defend yourself") the battles remind me quite a bit of the battles in Sarevok's Trading company in BG city, and any "mini-bosses" in your travels are like the Duchal Palace battles, or worse, the battle with Sarevok himself, or the assassins just prior to him. While you start out as your old character or as a level 6 or 7 character from the start, it didn't seem to help me too much. Fortunately, there is still time for tweaking the difficulty, and I'm sure they still have some tweaking to do (may want to head to the interplay development forums and voice your opinions as to if you like the difficulty factor). I have even been destroyed by small groups of trolls, so it is rather hard. This is one thing that has me wondering as to my future with the game, but I'm sure that it will be a welcome improvement to others.

Check out these new 3D graphics!
Sittin' on the dock of the bay....
I hope they like uninvited guests

It's the Little Things

Yet another feature of BGII is the annotated maps and journal. You can now have a section of your journal for writing in your own comments, or even write things in between the game-written entries yourself. This makes it nice to write down those mysterious little hints that never made it into the diary automatically. You may also annotate your map. There are some annotations that are written automatically, such as where the key shops are in towns etc., but you can add your own to mark the entrance of a level (no more searching for where the door is...yay!), and odd little mentions now and then. This is the feature everyone has been waiting for since the darn mine mazes in BG1.

Among the other graphics improvements is the high-res ability. Providing 50% more screen space (no more scrolling around for battles), 800x600 gives a much more refined, and larger view of the area. The game, although unsupported, also can handle 1024x768 if you force it in the config. On my little PII, 800x600 runs sluggish enough that I didn't bother trying out 1024x768, but for you Athlon and PIII owners, it's a definite must-do. Also, the character animations have bee refined quite a bit. Much smoother and many more frames, characters are much more life like. For the sake of speed, I dropped the frame rate and the animations down a bit, but on a faster system, you can have your graphics, and race-em too! The path finding is also greatly improved since BG, allowing a much higher number of nodes to be set. In many cases, you can actually click near the entrance, and the characters will arrive there rather than getting stuck in an alley or something. While they did get stuck a few times, namely in tight corridors, in general you'll save hours of frustration.

Help! I'm being held down by green feelers, and I can't get up!
The global map screen
I'll take that as a no
More dark mage battles

Again, the storyline will take you through many unexpected twists and turns, new odd, unsettling sights and events, and just complete mysterious environments. Surely, if nothing else, BGII is probably the lengthiest game to date. While Interplay boasts 800 hours of gameplay if you do all quests, I'm sure there are some of you out there who will be able to breeze through it in a month, but from my personal experience with the first three chapters, if you're an average gamer (average means somewhere between "how do I know if it's an enemy?" as their status meter slowly drains, and "Man, Quake Done Quickly goes so slow"), or if you just like taking the scenic route and seeing everything Faerun has to offer, count on at least 1200 hours real-world time. I doubt you'll find another game on the market this season that can actually last you the entire season...whether for better or worse, that depends on your patience. Baldur's Gate took me a total of about three months playing off and on (ok, we'll pause for those of you who are still snickering in the background...), and I breezed through the first three chapters in two weeks. Baldurs Gate II is easily double the size, in terms of play time. Gone are the long wilderness sections containing nothing, and now you just have quest after quest thrown at you (literally hundreds of them in the game), and each one takes you a few days. To be terribly honest, while the first three chapters of BG1 took me two weeks, I'm still in chapter two of Baldur's Gate II. There are simply so many areas to explore and people to talk to, it's painful to think about. I find myself confusing real people with those I have spoken to in the game. Not to mention that, while not quite as in-depth in terms of being able to interract with every object you see around you as games like Fallout and Ultima 7, you can interact with far more than you could in BG1, including bar tables, counters in shops etc. (though I'm not one for stealing from shops or tables.)

Baldur's Gate II promises to be a welcome addition to every RPG enthusiasts collection, and quite possibly the best RPG ever! Preview copies of games tend to be very unstable in most cases, because, while painfully obvious, it is an incomplete game still too early for beta testing, let alone stable release on strange systems. Baldur's Gate ran frighteningly smoothly, aside from the occasional crash now and then due to attempting to use something that doesn't exist yet. Honestly, the preview copy was more stable than a lot of retail release games have been lately. If it's this stable now, I don't have any worries as to how it will be by retail release. Baldur's Gate II the game is likely to be released this September, and can be pre-ordered now. I know I can't wait to review the final product when it's released, though I'm sure that doesn't help you too much, as you try to calm down as you load BG yet again in anticipation for Baldur's Gate II.

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