Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Review
It's filled with high adventure, epic battles, and plenty of surprises, and it's got a good cast, a good story, and more of all the elements that have made the series successful.
The Baldur's Gate series of fantasy role-playing games has consistently exceeded the highest expectations of even the most discriminating players. Back in 1998, the original Baldur's Gate almost single-handedly salvaged the role-playing genre from obscurity--its setting in the popular Forgotten Realms universe of Dungeons & Dragons, its combination of deep role-playing and tactical combat elements, and its epic scale all contributed to its remarkable success. Some months later, the release of the expansion pack Tales of the Sword Coast tided over fans waiting for the true sequel. When that sequel finally arrived last year, it actually turned out to be even better than the original in every respect. Tighter pacing, a better story, and an even greater attention to detail made Baldur's Gate II easily the best role-playing game released in 2000. Now, the entire series draws to a bittersweet close with the release of the sequel's official expansion pack, Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. Billed as the final chapter in the Baldur's Gate storyline, this full-sized game lives up to the standards set by its overachieving predecessors. In fact, in some ways it's even superior to Baldur's Gate II. It's filled with high adventure, epic battles, and plenty of surprises, and it's got a good cast, a good story, and more of all the elements that have made the series successful.
Throne of Bhaal begins shortly after the events at the end of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Your main character has learned much of his heritage: He is the progeny of the evil god Bhaal, also known as the Lord of Murder--and he isn't the only one of his ilk. In fact, you learn that the other Bhaalspawn such as yourself are waging a fierce battle against one another, in an effort to achieve the same level of power as their father. At the beginning of Throne of Bhaal, you are thrust in the center of this conflict. Even more so than in Baldur's Gate II, in Throne of Bhaal, the game does a distinctly good job of convincing you that your player character is legendary, mostly in how other characters will respond to you, often with fear, reverence, or contempt.
Last year's Baldur's Gate II is a huge game, and while Throne of Bhaal isn't quite as expansive, it's still very substantial and will take you at least 30 hours to finish. Likewise, there are more than enough new features and content in the expansion to encourage you to play through it multiple times. Specifically, Throne of Bhaal appends three additional chapters of gameplay onto the seven chapters of Baldur's Gate II. In addition, it lets you venture into Watcher's Keep, a dangerous high-level dungeon. The expansion pack raises (and virtually eliminates) the experience-point cap for player characters, such that most character classes can reach an experience level of 40, which is near-godlike status in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You gain all this experience mostly by completing various key quests throughout the game and, of course, by winning battles. What's more, all the character classes can now gain access to certain high-level skills that make them extraordinarily powerful. Besides all this, Throne of Bhaal also adds a lot of new magical items and spells to the game, some welcome new features to the interface and the gameplay, an interesting new playable character class kit, and an old foe who'll actually join your party if you'll accept him.
The conflicts and encounters in Throne of Bhaal are plentiful, highly varied, and impressive for the most part. Much more so than in any previous Baldur's Gate game, Throne of Bhaal makes plentiful use of excellent voice acting to convey the dramatic situations at hand. Most of the key characters you'll encounter speak all their lines convincingly, and portraits of these characters are often displayed to further heighten the sense that you're facing real adversaries. In particular, the drawn-out battles with some of the other Bhaalspawn are very intense. At other times, you'll have to stand against entire armies of enemy warriors or face small groups of immensely powerful foes who're as legendary as you. In any case, most all the combat in Throne of Bhaal is meaningful, epic, and very challenging. Still, it's worth noting that while the gameplay has been optimized somewhat since Baldur's Gate II, you might find that many of the battles tend to slow down on slower machines as multiple spell effects flash across the screen. Furthermore, the combat can sometimes be frustrating, as it invariably revolves around erecting powerful magical defenses for your party and breaching those of the enemy forces. All the defensive and countermeasure spells can be a lot to consider, and the difference between success and failure in combat will typically be in how well you anticipate these. Fortunately or not, a trial-and-error approach with battle tactics can eventually see you through the more difficult fights.
- Player Reviews: 39
- Game Universe:
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (PS2, GBA, XBOX, GC),
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (PS2, XBOX),
- Baldur's Gate (PC, DC, MAC, MOBILE, PS),
- Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast (PC, MAC),
- Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (PC, MAC),
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC, MAC),
- Baldur's Gate: 4 in 1 Boxset (PC),
- Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (PC, IP, MAC),
- Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (PC)
- Number of Players: