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Five new adventurers arrive at Baldur's Gate after the defeat of Eldrith the Betrayer in Baldur's Gate 1. Each has a background to explore and allies within the city. Despite being told that there is no work for adventurers, they quickly find themselves sent on quests and eventually recruited by Jherek, the Harper from the first game, to take on a new evil.
The graphics and sound are excellent once again, and the water effects spectacular. There was one issue on a level: normally you can't run off edges, but on this level the game suddenly changes to characters dying if they run off an edge. We also had a character actually get stuck in a terrain feature and be unable to move, and another be resurrected at a save point only to appear under the floor which forced us to restart. In some fights you will find you have an extra opponent: the camera, which is extremely frustrating.
The cut sequences are good, but later in the game some of them develop odd timing issues with long pauses in conversations and between changed camera angles. The opening sequence is disappointing if you liked your characters from BG1. A quote from another player sums it up: "But those odds never stopped me before."
It is a shame you can't carry characters across from the first game. The character choice at the front was slightly disappointing. No archer or basic warrior types and, to be honest, none of the characters really appealed to me. There has been an attempt to give the characters more of a background than in Baldur's Gate 1, e.g. the cleric is donating to her church and the necromancer is trying to find out his past. This has been tied into the game mechanics with experience awards each time you expand on your past, but as the NPCs want money it is an expensive way to level up.
The level design is more complex than the first game with many hidden areas, different levels, and a world map feature, designed to add replay value. Unfortunately some of the areas are surprisingly small which can lead to disappointment when it takes longer for an area to load than for you to finish it. Also items can now be created and customised, which expands the range of options available to characters significantly. Loading times are generally very good, and the loading screens have enough content to keep players interested.
The multiplayer is again excellent, but unfortunately because of the structure of some sections if your character dies you may be sitting out for rather longer. In one case we deliberately killed a character off in the boss battle so only the faster character had to escape the traps which followed. Again you can resurrect fallen characters at any save point.
Most of the weapons from the first game return, and there are now levels of equipment including "fine" "remarkable" etc, which affect how good an item is and how far it can be upgraded. A nice addition is the ability to make magic items in the workshop, but this is a two edged issue. By the time we started Chapter 3, the characters had better items than any that were available in the shop.
The problem with the game is that the gameplay can get very repetitive. Each level is effectively run around and kill the monsters, but there is little variation, the puzzles are very basic, and the plot does not progress quickly enough to keep this interesting. Also, once you complete a level it stays completed - no new monsters move in in that chapter - which puts a very finite level on how much money and resources you can get, but also means if you get bad item drops your playthrough can be almost impossible. As the cleric I went through the entire game using two spells. The text on the loading screens is interesting the first few times you see it, but rapidly begins to repeat itself.
In all this game has surprisingly little replay value, especially as the optional dungeons are not randomly generated, but provide the same map with different enemies each chapter, and this does not change on replay. Replay value is limited to doing it all over again with another character to get a different backstory.
In summary, a good game with good graphics and sound, and an excellent multiplayer mode, but with surprisingly little replay value. I would give this five stars, but the real lack of replay value drops it to a four.
(An update of my CIAO review)