The Lord of Murder shall perish,
but in his doom, he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny.
Chaos will be sown from his passage.
- Prophecy of Alaundo
In Baldur's Gate, you left the sanctuary of Candlekeep and your protector Gorion. In your quest to avenge Gorion's death, you stop the mad schemes of your half brother Sarevok. In the process, you learn that you are the child of the deceased god of death, Bhaal. In Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (SoA), you are captured and "studied" by the sorcerer Jon Irenicus. His experiments provide more insight into your terrible, untapped power. But Irenicus and his mad schemes come to a violent end in the bowels of hell.
When you return to the world a wave of chaos washes over the Sword Coast. Five of Bhaal's children hunt the rest of the Bhaalspawn. The death of each child brings their dread father closer to life. And when that happens, the world will be washed with blood.
As a child of Bhaal, what part will you have in the Prophecy of Alaundo?
Baldur's Gate 2 Expansion Pack: The Throne of Bhaal (ToB)
That is the story behind the expansion pack and the conclusion of the Bhaalspawn story. Originally planned as a third game in the series, Bioware Corp. has decided to release TOB as an add-on.
TOB does not significantly alter the game mechanics of Baldur's Gate 2. The interface is treaked here and there to make it more user-friendly. For example, with a click of a button, characters will both mage and cleric spells can sort through the two types of magic more easily. Active contigency and spell triggers can be viewed after you cast them.
The experience point cap is boosted from 2.6 million to a whopping 8 million! This translates into character levels from 34 to 40, depending on class.
TOB adds only one new character class to the mix: the Wild Mage. This is a unique spell caster who will work well with those players who like to gamble. Wild Mages can cast spells as any other mage, but they have a 5% chance of having the spell explode into a wild surge. This can lead into spells simply fizzing out, a 200% boost in effectiveness, or other truly bizarre occurrences.
Instead of creating a bunch of new character classes, Bioware updated the existing classes with new high level abilities. Warriors can learn skills such as the deathblow or whirlwind attacks. Rogues can set more specialized traps and learn assassination skills. Priests can cast Quest spells, such as summoning Devas and Elemental Princes. Mages learn powerful 10th level magic such as Comet. None of these skills are essential for finish the game; in fact, some such as the warrior's Deathblow, have limited uses because of the high level playing arena. However, they add a lot of spice and are nice rewards befitting high level characters.
And if your characters are still too weak for your liking, a multitude of items and artifacts are available. By talking to the Imp, Cespanar (ToB's version of Jar Jar), you can update or build magical artifacts such as the Holy Avenger +6 and Blue Dragon armor.
High level characters with high level abilities need high level challenges to flaunt their prowess. ToB adds a rich assortment of creatures to keep you busy. Solars, fire giants, devas, and more dragon varieties are introduced. However, there are few new monster graphics; most of the new creatures are beefed up variants using existing sprites.
The Add-In and the Add-On
TOB gives you two quests to complete. The first is the Add-In: Watcher's Keep. This is a massive, multilevel dungeon romp that can be accessed at any time while playing either Shadows of Amn or Throne of Bhaal (more on that later). It is a place filled with traps and powerful monsters. And if you get through it, you get to take out your aggressions on Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. While he is no demilich, he'll still give you a good run for your money!
The Add-On is the main quest of Throne of Bhaal. You can import your characters into this quest regardless of where you are in BG2. Characters will be beefed up to two million experience points (if needed) during the transfer. Once your characters start ToB, they cannot return to any area from SoA except for Watcher's Keep. You can still transfer ToB characters to SoA, but they will have to start from the very beginning again.
You can recruit any NPC from SoA who made it through alive. One more NPC has been added; you can now recruit your thought-to-be-deceased half brother Sarevok (it's complicated). New speech are added for the existing crew (one example is at the end of this review), giving you more incentive to replay the game with different combinations of characters.
ToB is a very straightforward quest divided into three chapters (8, 9, and 10). Your search for the five Bhaalspawn will land you first in Saradush, a city under siege by the invulnerable fire giant, Yaga Shura. Other exotic locals in your itinerary include the Forest of Mir, a monestary built into a mountain, and return visits to the Underdark and the Abyss.
Side quests are kept to a minimum as you move quickly through the action packed story to its ultimate conclusion. This is unfortunate as the side quests were the best part of BG2, but the main quest is interesting enough that you don't notice this omission much.
Since everyone in the game wants your Bhaalspawn head on a pike, you will spend most of your time in ToB fighting. While battles are scaled based on the difficulty level and your main character's level, encounters are still very tough for a party of six level 20+ characters on the normal setting. The AI is improved a bit; CPU opponents use their items and abilities more often and more effectively. However, the difficulty is bolstered by delivering tougher opposition and a lot more of them in this go around.
There are multiple endings to ToB based on your decisions after the final battle. To give the series a sense of closure, ToB gives you a final farewell to your current party members and tells you of their stories after the Bhaalspawn saga -- a very nice touch on Bioware's part!
Between Watcher's Keep and Throne of Bhaal, expect around 35-40 additional hours of gameplay (about 10 for the Add-In and 25-30 for the Add-On). The expansion pack requires a minimum 500 Mb of hard drive space on top of SoA (800 Mb for a full install). The game ran very cleanly and only crashed twice. Unfortunately, both times it happened during the end stages of major battles!
Imoen: Minsc, I want a hamster.
Minsc: Oh, a hamster! Well, you need to have food, shelter, and a little wheel... I hear good things about the wheel.
Any fan of BG2 must get this expansion pack. The quests are well worth your time and money. The new additions give you many more options to play with. The new character dialogues help further develop your NPC's personalities and increase the replay value as you get a new experience with different travelling companions. If you enjoyed SoA, you cannot miss with Throne of Bhaal.
Those interested can cut and paste the link below to read my review of Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn:
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