The crowning achievement to the king of role-playing games
Written: Aug 13, 2001
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Gameplay, graphics, sound,... well, pretty much everything.
Cons:Not many, aside from one annoying imp.
The Bottom Line: This expansion to the best role-playing game of the year has done the impossible: it made the game even better. A worthy ending to the Baldur's Gate-series...
Hail to the king!
If there’s one computer role-playing game that has had a steady grip on the genre’s leadership since 1998, it must be Baldur’s Gate. Three years ago this game single-handedly rescued the role-playing games from oblivion. Its success was mainly because of a good mix of the Forgotten Realms-universe (known from the Advanced Dungeons&Dragons novels and tabletop games), deep role-playing elements, an excellent tactical combat system, and a story of epic proportions. A little while later, fans who had completed the game were satisfied with the expansion Tales of the Sword Coast, while awaiting a true sequel. When that finally appeared, many people – including yours truly – was surprised to find it was better than the original on practically all counts. It had a quicker pace, a stronger storyline, and even more attention to detail, making Baldur’s Gate II the best role-playing game of 2000.
Now it appears the series has reached the end with the official expansion Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. Announced as the final chapter in the Baldur’s Gate-legend, this expansion succeeds in satisfying our high expectations – in some ways it’s even better than Baldur’s Gate II. The game is filled to the brim with exciting adventures, epic fights and non-stop surprises. You will meet fascinating characters, and get an engrossing story and more of the same elements that have made the previous instalments a success.
Throne of Bhaal begins shortly after the end of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Your main character has learned a lot about his heritage now… SPOILER ALERT! Do not read the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t played the previous games and would like to find out who you are for yourself… You are a descendant of the evil god Bhaal, affectionately known as the Lord of Murder. Apparently you’re not the only one walking the earth, because daddy Bhaal has gotten around quite a lot, so many half brothers and sisters are also roaming the world. And they’re all looking to kill each other (though I had the feeling they were looking for ME in particular) in order to claim daddy’s power. SPOILER END
From the start of the game, you get thrown in the middle of this conflict. More than Baldur’s Gate II, Throne of Bhaal manages to convince you that your main character is truly legendary, going by how other characters treat him.
It really is an expansive game, and though Throne of Bhaal isn’t as big as the original – after all, it’s only an expansion – even a die-hard gamer as me is hard pressed to complete it; I don’t think it can be played in less than 30 hours, and most people will take quite a bit longer. Of course there are more than enough novelties and extras that make it worthwhile to complete the game more than once.
Throne of Bhaal adds three chapters to Baldur’s Gate II’s seven… and it also lets you enter the Watcher’s Keep, a dangerous high-level dungeon. The expansion has raised the experience points limit for player characters, enabling them to reach level 40 – a level that was close to being a god in the original tabletop role-playing game. You earn this experience by completing most of the main quests, and by winning the numerous fights. The characters can also get high-level-skills, making them exceptionally powerful. New spells were added, the interface was tweaked, there’s a whole new playable class, and you’ll see an old enemy again, who can even become part of your team… if you let him, that is.
”One ticket to Loadgamesville please”
The encounters (read: fights) in Throne of Bhaal are numerous, quite varied, and pretty impressive most of the time. Especially the exhausting fights with your… “family members” are very intense. Other times you’re up against whole armies of enemy soldiers, or small groups of unimaginably dangerous opponents, who will be happy to give you a single ticket to the “load game”-zone. Sometimes the fights got a little bit on my nerves though – all too often it came down to putting up a powerful magical protection for my team members, while trying to break through my enemy’s. All those offensive and defensive spells became a little bit too much, though winning and losing often depends on how well you react to the enemy. It takes some trial and error to figure out the best way to survive certain fights…
You get to use your high-level skills early in the game, like the fighter’s Whirlwind-skill, causing his attack ratio to increase drastically, or the magic-user’s 9th or 10th level spells, including “Black Blade of Disaster”, and “Dragon’s Breath”. You start acquiring these skills every new level starting around level 20. Since your characters gain at least ten levels during the course of Throne of Bhaal, you’ll probably learn most of these special abilities. And yet all of these skills won’t get you through the confrontations with exceptionally strong opponents in one piece. Luckily you can count on some new magical items… After discovering a stronghold in the beginning of the game, you’ll be able to use the services of a small (and highly irritating) imp, who will take a close look at your inventory and combine the most powerful items you have. This way you can make the best items in the game even better.
Dare you enter Watcher’s Keep?
The game’s structure runs smoothly alongside Baldur’s Gate II’s epic personality. The expansion is really divided into two parts: Watcher’s Keep and… well, everything else. Although you can start exploring this dungeon whenever you like, the main story in Throne of Bhaal is followed rigidly. Both parts have been equally well developed: Watcher’s Keep is a gigantic, multi-level dungeon with something interesting in every room, so nothing like the labyrinth-like dungeons in other games. The main story brings together a lot of key elements in the series, and I got to meet some characters I thought I’d never see again. The perfect balance between role-playing and battles should be an example for the genre.
Chaos will frighten your enemies… and friends!
There is much more to tell about Throne of Bhaal. The new non-playable character is an excellent addition to the existing group, and the fact that he’s a great warrior is a nice bonus. The new “wild magic” player character, whose chaos magic is often surprising (and disastrous) is fun to play. Especially in multiplayer mode, where other players will “enjoy” the results…
Graphics are marvellous, although I do have to admit that if you don’t have a very powerful computer, the game sometimes slows down in fights, especially when there are a lot of spectacular spells being cast.
More than any previous Baldur’s Gate-game, this expansion uses convincingly spoken dialogues. Most characters you meet will play their part as well as any good actor would, and most of the time a picture comes “attached”, so it gets even more personal. Throne of Bhaal is accompanied by an impressive musical background that follows the events on screen perfectly, making the game even more atmospheric.
Baldur’s gate still rules
If you’re a fan of Baldur’s Gate, you won’t be disappointed in this last (or is it?) addition to the series – on the contrary. The game does what I thought was impossible: it improves on its predecessor in many ways. When I finally finished this game – and let me tell you, that was no mean feat – I looked back upon the hours and hours I spent playing it and smiled. Throne of Bhaal’s ending gave me a sense of completion, a sense of accomplishment… a satisfying end to the Baldur’s Gate-legend. Perhaps the king of role-playing games is now retired… but for now there’s nobody who can push him off of his throne.
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