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Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
BGII cover
Developer(s) BioWare
Publisher(s) Black Isle Studios, Interplay
Series Baldur's Gate series
Engine Infinity Engine
Platform(s) Windows, Macintosh
Release date(s) Sep 24, 2000
Genre(s) Computer role-playing game
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: T (Teen)
USK: 12+
ELSPA: 15+
OFLC: M15+
Media 4 CD-ROMs
System requirements 200 MHz CPU, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB video card RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 7.0, 800 MB available hard disk space, Windows 95
Input methods Keyboard, mouse

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, developed by BioWare and released September 26, 2000, is the second computer role-playing game in the Baldur's Gate series, which takes place just a few months after the events of Baldur's Gate. It is based on the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system but mixes in some elements such as the new monk, sorcerer, and barbarian core classes introduced in the 3rd edition. The story is set in the Forgotten Realms, the most popular D&D story setting. It has sold over 2,000,000 units and is widely regarded as one of the best role-playing games of all time.[1]

An expansion pack for the game was released in 2001, entitled Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal.

GameplayEdit

Baldur's Gate II, like its predecessor, is played from an isometric perspective. The player controls a party of one to six characters. The player must create the main character from scratch, or import their character from the original Baldur's Gate, whilst the rest must be recruited from within the game world. Players can, by exploiting the game's multi-player function, create more than one character for a party. This does not by any means compromise the integrity of the story, although secondary characters will not talk or interact in the manner of normal NPCs except as far as the rudimentary interaction of combat and spell casting allow.

Throughout the game, the player must make crucial choices, some of them vital to the character's development. One of the important choices in the early game, indeed one that eventually becomes essential to progress, is whether to ally with the law-disregarding Shadow Thieves with charismatic Aran Linvail at the reins, or the more secretive and disturbing vampires and their enigmatic leader, Bodhi. Other important choices include who the player enlists within their adventuring team, and when. Potential duels, bickering, romance and quests can all result merely from who is allowed to join, and who is turned away.

Shadows of Amn, much like the first installment, focuses much more on interaction with the world rather than slicing one's way through it. A player may still decide to do so; the game permits even attacking townsfolk, merchants and guards. For those who seek to become a part of this world, though, the game offers much. It adds to the first with many more sophisticated concepts, a stronger story and characterisation, and new ideas. One of these is that the player can "manage" an actual stronghold which depends solely on the selection of their character kit at the beginning of the game. For example, as a fighter class, the player may successfully complete the quest at the d'Arnise Hold and begin to take over the stronghold in their control. It adds an interesting element to a game that already strongly breaks away from perpetual combat. Similarly, a mage may take over a magical Planar Sphere, whereas a thief character may choose to manage the other branch of the thieves' guild in the Docks district. A mod available also allows a character, regardless of class, to adopt all the different strongholds, but within the original game itself, only a multiclassed character can potentially manage different strongholds.

Prominent charactersEdit

Name Race Class(es) Alignment Voice Actor
Adalon Dragon Silver Dragon Lawful Good Diane Pershing
Amaunator Avatar Divine Lawful Good Frank Welker
Aran Linvail Human Shadow Thief/Mage True Neutral Cam Clarke
Artemis Entreri Human Assassin Lawful Evil
Bodhi Vampire Undead Chaotic Evil B.J. Ward
Drizzt Do'Urden Drow Ranger Chaotic Good Jeff Bennett
Ellesime Elf Magic user Lawful Good Kath Soucie
Firkraag Dragon Red Dragon Chaotic Evil Jim Cummings
Jon Irenicus Fallen Elf Mage Neutral Evil David Warner
Kangaxx Demi-lich Mage? Chaotic Evil
Lilarcor Sentient sword Two-handed sword Chaotic Neutral Jason Marsden
Phaere Drow Cleric Neutral Evil Charity James
Renal Bloodscalp Human Shadow Thief Lawful Evil Maurice LaMarche
Ribald Barterman Half-Elf Fighter/Mage Chaotic Neutral David Prince
Rillifane Avatar Divine Chaotic Good Maurice LaMarche
Saemon Havarian Human Swashbuckler/Mage True Neutral Jeff Bennett
Solaufein Drow Fighter/Mage Neutral Good Michael Gough
Chap5dameadalon

Adalon the Silver Dragon.

Several characters from the first game make a comeback, some of which are NPCs who can (re)join the player's party. These are Imoen (who has become dual classed to a Mage/Thief), Minsc, Jaheira, Edwin and Viconia. Because Baldur's Gate II does not check the status of these characters at the end of the first game, they appear even if they perished in the course of the previous adventure. The designers make light of this, often prompting the player character to ask: "Aren't you dead?"—which can be disconcerting, if they did not die—if they survived, the player is given the opportunity to ask the ubiquitous "Can you remember me?", which often gives the much needed excuse to fill in backstory and give new players a sense of what has gone before. Also, the game assumes that the six-person party at the end of the game included the main protagonist, Imoen, Minsc, Dynaheir, Jaheira, and Khalid.

PlotEdit

In the beginning, the player finds out that their party were ambushed by assassins of some sort and taken captive into a mysterious dungeon. The player character awakens in a cage being experimented on by a mage, Jon Irenicus. As Irenicus prepares to perform more "endurance" experiments on the captured player character, he is interrupted by a jailkeep golem servant. The golem reports a commotion in the upper levels of the dungeon, and Irenicus is forced to depart as a band of Shadow Thieves raid his underground complex. Also kept in the dungeon are old friends Imoen, Minsc and Jaheira from the first Baldur's Gate game, who will make the player character's escape from the prison very easy if they are all conscripted. Missing from the first game are Minsc's witch companion Dynaheir and Jaheira's husband Khalid, both of whom were killed in Irenicus' captivity, greatly distressing Minsc and Jaheira. As the main characters seek their way out of the dungeon, they encounter Yoshimo, a thief from far away country Kara-Tur, who presents himself as a captive of Irenicus. On the way out, evidence is found for Irenicus' longing for an unknown woman, as he has gone so far as to clone her. When the player character finally escapes the underground complex, he finds himself in the city of Athkatla. Irenicus is using his magic to fight the thieves at the entrance to his dungeon, when Imoen, angered by what Irenicus tells her about unlocking her inherent power, casts a 'magic missile' spell on him. As unlicensed magic is banned in the city of Athkatla, both Irenicus and Imoen are seized by the powerful mage organization called the Cowled Wizards and sent to be imprisoned in a distant detention center, Spellhold.

As the party wanders through the slums of Athkatla, a man named Gaelan Bayle offers to introduce them to associates of his who can rescue Imoen for the price of 20,000 gold. Through a series of optional quests and adventures, the player character travel Athkatla and the surrounding lands in order to raise the sum required. These missions take the player through areas like the sewers of Athkatla, secret compounds in the Docks District, a multi-level tomb in the graveyard, a troll infested keep, a shadowed, forgotten temple, a rural hill village, druid groves, a large dungeon that is ruled over by a particularly vengeful dragon, the town of Trademeet, and the outer planes themselves, battling classic AD&D creatures like beholders and dragons, as well as the Demi-lich Kangaxx. Throughout this time of free adventuring, the character is troubled by disturbing visions of Imoen, his heritage and the taint that lies within him.

When the player has 15,000 gold or more, at any given point, a mysterious woman named Valen approaches them, and offers to introduce them to her mistress, the vampiress Bodhi. The player can ally with either Aran Linvale's Shadow Thieves, or with Bodhi's vampires to gain their trust (however, if the player is a Thief, Bodhi will repent from offering him/her to join her, arguing that the player is "too similar to his superiors"). They may also elect merely to continue adventuring. Eventually, the player must work for one faction and destroy the other; though the raid on Bodhi's lair only results in her retreat and the survival of several vampires.

Meanwhile, Irenicus breaks out of his cell at Spellhold, and kills his captors. With his new base at Spellhold, he continues his experiments on Imoen.

With the help of Saemon Havarian, a swashbuckling captain who apparently works for both Linvail and Bodhi, the party gains passage to the small island which holds Spellhold. In order to gain entrance into the magically sealed Spellhold, the party can follow a number of contacts and leads in the nearby port town of Brynnlaw. However the player character manages to infiltrate the asylum, they are greeted by a lone mage who gives the player character a tour of the insane inmates, until Imoen is finally found. Irenicus then reveals himself to be the lone mage, and that he had planned for the players to follow him all along. He captures the party with the help of a drug that either Yoshimo or Saemon (if the player did not bring Yoshimo in the party) slipped into their food.

The main character wakes up and, in the course of Irenicus's experiment, finds himself or herself in a dream, standing outside the childhood home of Candlekeep that represents the mind. The voice of Imoen urges the player character to "seek within," and as the main character approaches the doorway to Candlekeep he is met by a demon which demands a toll, a part of his soul, in order to let the player character pass. In the heart of Candlekeep, Imoen stands, asking the player character to bring the demon Bhaal, in order to vanquish him. When the main character defeats Bhaal, Imoen screams as the dream fades. The main character awakens to find his soul removed, and Imoen has suffered similarly; their souls were claimed by Irenicus and Bodhi, respectively.

Bodhi decides to give the player character a slim chance at survival, so that she can hunt them and Imoen through the asylum. Eventually this necessitates a showdown, where the player character involuntarily, as the result of the loss of his soul, becomes an avatar of Bhaal--the slayer--and scares Bodhi into retreat. The slayer also attacks, often killing, other party members. Some party members find this disturbing, while others, such as Viconia will be impressed.

The player eventually escapes with Imoen, killing Yoshimo if he was in the party, and fights Irenicus until the wizard is forced to retreat to the Underdark.

When the player next stops to rest, another dream sequence will occur. In it, Imoen, with a darker and more menacing tone, commands the main character to use the power he or she has to kill his or her enemies. In the dream, the player transforms into the Slayer, an avatar of Bhaal, and easily cuts down Sarevok, Bodhi, Irenicus, then Imoen. At this point they gain control of their slayer transformation, a powerful ability, though it costs a party's reputation merely to indulge in its dark strength. Even good characters who cherish their standing may sometimes be tempted, or even forced into using the transformation by a strong adversary.

The player can take two routes in following Irenicus to the Underdark. Either by trusting Saemon Havarian, who will need a ship to guide the player character, or by going through a direct portal to the Underdark. If the player trusts Saemon, he or she must commandeer the ship of the Pirate Lord of Brynnlaw, and deal with the pirate lord himself when he comes after the player. As a reward, Saemon gives the player the blade of a Silver Sword. Once on the sea, the ship is boarded by a band of Githyanki who seek the Silver Sword, which was stolen from them (Saemon Havarian quickly blames the Player for stealing it and teleports away). A fight breaks out, and the player's ship is sunk. The party reaches the underwater city of the Sahuagin people, and is given the choice of helping either the insane King Ixilthetocal, or his rebelling son, Prince Villynaty, in order to procure a rope which allows the party to climb down to the Underdark. Alternatively, one can just slaughter both sides of Sahuagins and take the rope.

The party reaches the Underdark, and meets up with a silver dragon named Adalon. Drow have stolen her eggs and she will help the party reach the surface if they recover them (it is also revealed that Jon Irenicus travelled this way). She turns the party into drow, in order to help them infiltrate the House Despana of the nearby city of Ust'Natha, which is planning to use the eggs to summon a demon. After completing a few sidequests for the young Phaere Despana, in order to gain her trust, the player learns of her wishes to overthrow the Matron Mother Ardulace. Phaere recruits the player to switch the dragon eggs with artificial eggs, and deliver the real eggs to her. The player has several options, such as going ahead with Phaere's plan, reporting Phaere to the Matron Mother, or, if he or she spared the life of a drow named Solaufein, give Phaere his artificial eggs and keep the real eggs. No matter the route, Matron Mother Ardulace must die for the player to escape the city, and depending on his or her actions, the player may have to fight with her, Phaere and/or the demon. A particularly amusing result occurs if artificial eggs are given to both the Matron Mother and Phaere. If the player returns the eggs to Adalon, she will open the way to the surface, but if the eggs are destroyed, she will attack the player, forcing them (assuming they survive) to seek an exit without her aid.

When the party reaches the surface, they encounter the army of the elven city of Suldanessellar, which is guarding the Underdark entrance in order to keep the drow at bay. While the elves were fighting off the Drow, Jon Irenicus sneaked into Suldanessellar and magically sealed the entrance to the city. In order to gain access to Suldanessellar, the player must retrieve the Rhynn Lanthorn artifact from Bodhi, who still resides in her base in the city of Athkatla. The player can recruit the aid of a few factions before the assault against the vampires. The paladins of the "Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart," the adventurer Drizzt Do'Urden's party, and the Shadow Thieves are all potential allies. Once the party faces Bodhi, if the main character is in love with a person in his or her party, Bodhi abducts and turns that person into a vampire, and the player must cure his or her loved one. Once the player defeats Bodhi, Imoen's soul will be restored.

The party proceeds through Suldanessellar, and learns more about the early life of Jon Irenicus. He was once an elf of high standing, in love with the elven Queen Ellesime, but he and his sister Bodhi attempted to absorb the Tree of Life's power, almost dooming the elves. They were stripped of their elf-hood, and thus their immortality. Irenicus's solution is to steal the player character and Imoen's partly-divine souls. As Irenicus holds Ellesime prisoner, as he attempts to perform the ritual at the Tree of Life again, the main character confronts and kills him. The main character is dragged into hell upon Irenicus's death, as Irenicus still holds his or her soul, and the rest of the party follows. After undergoing five trials in hell, each of which may be solved by either good deeds or evil, and which can confer different benefits and powers depending on that choice, the main character finds Irenicus, who transforms into the Slayer and summons powerful demons. When the party defeats Irenicus, they return to life and are honoured by the elves of Suldanessellar. Irenicus, still in hell, is surrounded by a horde of devils, who promptly charge and knock him into the fiery pits of Hell. A mysterious council of 7 cowled men discuss the main character's growing power, but one member suggests that "The spawn of Bhaal is doomed. There is no escape." The camera then reveals the emblem of Bhaal on the table.

Selected creditsEdit

ReceptionEdit

As of the beginning of 2007, Metacritic ranks the game as the sixth on its all-time best score list, with a collated score of 95. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a perfect "freshness rating" of 100%.[2] Baldur's Gate II was also inducted into Gamespot's "Greatest Games of All Time" list.[3]

TriviaEdit

  • The game is dedicated to the late Daniel Walker, graphics designer of Baldur's Gate.
  • Division Director Feargus Urquhart makes a cameo appearance in the game near the circus tent at Waukeen's Promenade.
  • In the Adventurer's Mart on Waukeen's Promenade are paintings showing characters from the old Dungeons & Dragons TV series. Clicking on the pictures provides text that implies that every one of them died horribly.
  • In the cage near the circus on Waukeen's Promenade are a moose and a squirrel. They are perhaps a reference to Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden makes two appearances in the Baldur's Gate series. In Baldur's Gate, the cheat code "Cheats:DrizztDefends();" spawns Drizzt, who will defend the party while the cheat"Cheats:DrizztAttacks();" spawns a hostile Drizzt. The player can also encounter him in the forest and help him fight a pack of gnolls. Later, in Baldur's Gate II, the characters encounter him and his party at a certain point of the game, when the player can choose to have him help the group or fight them. If the player character is an elf named 'Drizzt' with low reputation, then the real Drizzt will challenge him for the honour of his name. Drizzt will also initially be hostile if the player character had killed Drizzt in the original Baldur's Gate and imported that save game, or if the player character was imported with any of Drizzt's items.
  • The game features two hidden bonus merchants[4], Deidre who sells items associated with Black Isle's Planescape: Torment game (such as "Dak'kon's Zerth Blade" and "Vhailor's Helm" which are both references to characters the player would meet in that game) and Joluv who sells items linked to Icewind Dale (such as "Axe of Hrothgar" and "Jerrod's Mace," again referencing characters from the Icewind Dale game). However, none of the Planescape weapons retain their unique abilities (such as Dak'kon's Zerth blade increasing in damage as the player/NPC allies' levels rise). Additionally, "Deidre" appears as a shopkeeper in Targos in Icewind Dale II.
  • Many minor NPCs in the game and its expansion were named after members of the suggestion forums provided by BioWare. Examples include Gromnir, Draconis, and Yakman
  • Biff the Understudy makes a cameo appearance as an understudy for a play, and is booed from the stage. Biff was a character from the first game who appeared when a character who was needed for a conversation was dead. Biff would speak the lines of the absent or deceased NPC, the intention being to prevent plots or quests (and in some cases, the game itself) from breaking. It was possible to crash the game if Biff was filling in for one of the NPCs that could be recruited into the party, as this could result in recruiting Biff.
  • The player can encounter some NPCs from the Dragonlance world, even a Knight of Solamnia, and is able to help them get back to their realm if the main character is a mage.
  • Jan Jansen, who is notorious for talking endlessly about nothing, is a parallel to Yon Yonson who is most well known from a nursery rhyme that appears in Kurt Vonnegut's book, Slaughterhouse Five.[citation needed]
  • The Cult of the Unseeing Eye in the Temple District is a reference to the movie City of Lost Children.[citation needed] One of the cultist in the game utters the lines from the movie.

NovelizationEdit

There is a novelization by Philip Athans based on this video game. The novel focuses solely on Abdel, the last of the Bhaalspawn, as does the sequel. Bhaal's essence in the man's heart makes him prone to violence, as is seen in the sequel, when he starts to eat his enemies, not physically, but can rather conjure up a great spirit inside himself, the avatar of Bhaal, the long-dead Lord of Murder.

These books in the novelization series are:

  • Baldur's Gate by Philip Athans
  • Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn by Philip Athans
  • Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal by Drew Karpyshyn (based on the game expansion to Shadows of Amn)

ReferencesEdit

  1. "About Bioware". BioWare. http://www.bioware.com/bioware_info/about/. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  2. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, rottentomatoes.com
  3. The Greatest Games of All Time: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn - Features at GameSpot
  4. The bonus merchants were a part of the original game, but only those who bought the special edition versions of Baldur's Gate II would get an additional CD with, among other things, the means to unlock one of the two bonus merchants. It did not take long until the files needed to unlock the merchants were shared on the internet, and with the latest patch for Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, one of the merchants has been unlocked. It is possible to find the means to unlock both merchants here.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


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fr:Baldur's Gate IIhe:באלדורז גייט 2

pl:Baldur's Gate II: Cienie Amn ru:Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn fi:Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn sv:Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn zh:博德之门II:安姆的阴影

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