Splendid game! But not as good, as BG1.
When I first installed Baldur's Gate II, it's difficult to explain how excited I was. By this time, I considered BG1 to be the most interesting computer game of all time, and I guess I could enumerate few more people who said the same. Obviously, sequel of any kind was highly desired. And again, Interplay/BioWare has not let me down.
First, the massive number of quests. Player rarely finds himself wandering with no apparent reason. There are no "empty" locations in this game. On every map we can find some interesting NPCs, some unique items and, of course, quests.
New monsters. BG2 offers you beasts we desire to slay - dragons of various kinds. Although very difficult to kill, battle with them is really a great fun. But there are other interesting monsters one of which is an exceptionally strong lich Kangaxx. The battles are also balanced. Players starts with characters on 7-9lv (highest experience level available in first part of game) and approaches far more difficult monsters than those in BG1.
Graphics is another magnificent element of Baldur's Gate II. Although the game still uses Infinity engine, the quality of locations, characters and spells has increased. We can also use higher resolutions, unofficially to 1600x1200.
There are few, serious flaws, which make the game worse, then BG1.
First one is the overwhelming number of sidequests. Sure, it is the essence of the game no to roam freely in pointless locations, but to solve mysteries, rescue princesses, kill dragons etc. But at some point we are thrown into situation, when we enter a new location to complete one quest and before we meet the NPC we want to talk to, we encounter three other characters, each one asks us for a favour. Then, we are suddenly given few other new quests when we try to complete one of those three new. At some point, player gets really confused.
"Empty" locations is another problem. We all remember those woods, mountains, fields etc. which filled the map between Candlekeep and Friendly Arm Inn or between Beregost and Nashkel. There was nothing interesting in there - just some pointless dialogues or pseudo-quests like saving a dog. But it was this pointlessness that made these woods interesting. Player never knew what lures there - it could be a pack of wolves or perhaps a really interesting quest. And if we were in a hurry, we could just rush to the opposite side of the screen and ignore everything else. Perhaps it was a waste of time, but at least we had a choice. In BG2 every location has its purpose. I really could use some "fresh air" and listen to the wind while traveling through bushes and woods. Too bad I can't find it here.
Another disadvantage - experience level. In BG1 we start our adventure with dagger and 10 gold coins. Band of 10 kobolds is a lethal threat to our party. Later, we become stronger, but our strength is reasonable. In BG2 we fight dragons and demi-liches. In Throne of Baal we battle demons and it is Elminster himself that wants to get out of our way. Isn't it a bit too much? Doesn't player become epic? I guess that's too much just for a game.
The Bottom Line
You want a very good RPG game? You like D&D? You want to see some nice story, not just massacre on the screen? Go get yourself this game!
Just keep in mind that nothing is perfect and so is BG2, especially if you are familiar with its prequel.