Welcome back to our pwnRank countdown of the top 100 games in 100 days! Glad you could join us on our fifth week of review madness!
Crawling into spot #80…
Every time I hear someone talk about how video games can’t tell immersive stories, develop meaningful characters, and all that nonsense, I want to hit them in their word-hole with Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn. You hear that sort of crap a lot less these days, but it’s still a criticism that get’s (unfairly) leveled at video games all the time. What someone is really saying when they start down that path of conversation is that they never played what is, by any reckoning, Bioware’s stone-cold masterpiece from September of 2000, Baldurs Gate 2.
Roleplaying Done Right…
Within minutes of the games opening, you’re tortured, experimented on, rescued, fighting for your life, and then arrested. And that’s before you even figure out what the hell is going on. There is no way to do justice to the over 300 hours of gameplay Bioware somehow managed to pack onto a couple of CD-ROMs in the limited space we have here. If you’ve played it, you know that’s true. You’ve heard the sneering disdain in the voice of Jon Irenicus, still one of the best villains in the history of video games, as he taunts you at every turn. You’ve roared along with Minsc the Ranger and Boo, his miniature giant mutant space Hamster who always goes for the eyes, as they charge into battle. And I’m not going to try to put that in print because I’d just screw it up. Suffice to say that this game captured, (and held) my attention for a full year. With no multiplayer, no mods, no nothing. Know how many other games have managed that? Zero.
Not to say that there aren’t some problems. The UI and inventory system are clunky and cumbersome. Pathing is a continuous issue, and the AI of your NPC party members can make you want to pull your hair out. If you play a party with a lot of spellcasters, get ready to hit the “rest” button after every fight to replenish your spells for the next encounter. No mana bars here, folks. Spells are one and done, just like in regular Dungeons and Dragons. That works fine on a tabletop. In a video game it’s just a gigantic headache. The graphics were above average for their time, but they don’t hold up well against even your lower end iOS games of today.
Should You Still Play This Game And Ignore Everything I Just Said? Dear God, Yes.
Here’s the thing though; in the end none of that winds up mattering. You’re too busy building your fortress, smiting evil, solving the mystery of your lineage, and flirting with saucy Dark Elf Priestesses (and no, I am not making that up. Your potential romances, for men and women, are easily the most entertaining side-plots of the game) to care. It drives me crazy that this is only ranked at #80. Obviously I was somewhat impressed with this game, so I’ll leave it with a killer 5 out of 5.