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Baldur's Gate II

The game you didn’t think could get any bigger now has an additional 40-50 hours of gameplay. Yes, Baldur’s Gate II, less a game and more of a life-sucking machine, has an expansion pack coming out this summer. However, there aren’t enough global changes to make the game worth replaying from the beginning, so you won’t have to cancel your cable or put a stop on your mail.

From the sound of it, the folks at Black Isle originally wanted the Baldur’s Gate series to be a trilogy, but the limits of the aging – and still good – infinity engine prompted them to scrap a third installment and finish out the story of the progeny of Bhaal in an expansion. Upon completion of the main story line, your character gains the ability to transport him or her self to their new castle/place-of-residence in a pocket plane, and from there they can continue the adventure. So unlike Tales of the Sword Coast, BGII: ToB adds to the tale as well as adding a high-level dungeon crawl.

Perhaps the most significant item-of-note is that the experience point cap has been raised to eight million. That means characters can reach up to 40th level. Such high levels could be reached with the Icewind Dale expansion, but Icewind did not have the vast array of high level spells and combat. Here, not only have new super-bad spells been added, but characters also begin to get different class specific skills around three million experience points.

In addition to the new 100+ items, Saravok is also now available as an NPC and can join your party. Also, once in the pocket plane, you can warp in any of the possible NPCs. Did you leave Keldorn in the sewers? Not to worry. You don’t have to track down were you left people. Also added is a new wild mage class. For every spell these guys cast, there exists a chance that the spell will go awry in some fashion: becoming less powerful, more powerful, or warping into a different spell entirely. This class looks like a novelty include and probably wont appeal to many.

While, ostensibly, BGII: ToB has been designed as an end to the story, it appears to me that this expansion really adds a bunch more hack-n-slash to an already combat heavy game. You’ll meet more and smarter dragons – dragon AI has been modified to defeat many of the already proven dragon-killing tactics. Also you’ll get to fight some super bad monsters like Demigorgon.

When I spoke to people at E3 about this game, most looked incredulous and said, "They’re adding more?" BGII was huge and, upon reflection, seemed to me overly linear in that combat was often the best or only response to many of the game’s quests. 50 more hours of combat may not appeal to everyone and, to be honest, I’m hoping that the story is compelling and includes more than just bigger fights. However, the fact that Throne of Bhaal ends the series and allows god-like levels of play ought to entice fans of the game to plunk down some cash and get back into it.

Matt Blackburn

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