BG2: Shadows of Amn
Estimated release: 2H 2000
Spit 'n Shine
One of the bigger general knocks on the original Baldur's Gate was that, while large and interesting, the game lacked final polish. BioWare has taken strong steps to remedy this criticism with the sequel by offering a variety of gameplay and graphical improvements.
Baldur's Gate 2
First and foremost, among the improvements that we noticed was the updated graphics engine, which is now capable of displaying 800x600x32bits officially, and 1024x768 unofficially (the high resolution tends to ruin the scale of the graphic user interface). Speaking of which, if you find that the GUI gets in your way, you can now play in full-screen mode with the entire screen covered by the map and your characters. BioWare has also implemented limited 3D acceleration, to help take the load off of the CPU.
Next on the eye-candy menu is a stunning set of new animations and special effect graphics. Characters and monsters have all received major overhauls, with more frames of animation and significantly more detail. The new animations include the ability for a major gameplay feature that was missing in the original, namely, dual-wielding. Basically this allows fighters and other warrior-related classes to use two weapons at a time. Yes, that's right, you get to do the Drizzt thing.
Other Gameplay Improvements
The list of improvements is huge, way too big to go through in detail here, but we'll focus on the most important ones.
The new 2,900,000 experience point cap will allow characters to gain another 7-10 levels from what they were able to in the original's expansion pack, depending on class. The classes, too, have been expanded upon. There is now a wide variety of kits and three new classes, although two are really just major kits. The barbarian and sorcerer are 3rd edition classes put in as warrior and wizard kits, respectively. However, the monk character was sufficiently different from any other class to be included as a brand new class option period.
BioWare has also implemented 35 new monsters, all with new animations - done by BioWare itself or shared by Interplay's Black Isle division which is also doing Icewind Dale.
More indoor action
The developers have tried to make the game much more accessible to mainstream players by simplifying the campaign and improving character scripts. So does this leave out hardcore players? Hardly. After a talk with the lead designer on BG2, we were thoroughly convinced of the difficulty and quality of the optional side-quests. These quests will offer up super-monster, such as liches, demi-liches and other Big Bad Things (guess).
The rewards will make all the fighting extremely worthwhile. Not only will your characters gain massive amounts of experience, they will also give you awesome new weapons or parts of weapons that you can quest for - get a piece here, a piece there, maybe discover the weapon's name and then find a special smith to put it together for you.