Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (Windows)

87
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.2
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Cor 13 (172702)
Written on  :  Mar 08, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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Summary

The end of the great saga

The Good

First thing to say: this game is more than just a regular expansion pack. By no means can it be compared to Tales of the Sword Coast. Throne of Bhaal is, rather, a separate small game that adds two new chapters to Baldur's Gate II, finally bringing the great story to its ultimate conclusion.

What I enjoyed most in Throne of Bhaal is the fact your characters get incredibly powerful. Even in the second game enemy mages knew more spells than mine. In this final episode, you can finally lay your paws on some pretty awesome stuff. There are all sorts of destructive weapons, special abilities for melee-oriented characters, and jaw-dropping spells for your wizards, which surely come in handy as you battle assorted dragons and other high-level foes.

A very cool feature is your Plane, where you can rest anytime and summon all those party members you might have missed in the previous game. You can return to your Plane any time and experiment with your party composition in any way you like. Also, while at the Plane, you'll find Cespenar, a hilarious imp who can make your weapons and armor more powerful. You'll have to gather all kinds of rare items for him, but it's well worth the effort.

There are some minor gameplay improvements. You can erase spells and then learn them again. This way, you can remove unwanted spells from your arsenal, and also learn spells two or more times, gaining experience points each time (you can erase a spell, then learn it again from a scroll). When leveling up, all your characters gain various special abilities, depending on their class.

Although short, the add-on consists of entirely new locations, including two towns and a few other settlements, as well as several colorful dungeons. Despite the overall linearity, there are still some side quests to be found. It also adds a huge optional dungeon with all sorts of cool enemies and rare items to Shadows of Amn.

The plot is fairly strong, with a few nice surprises thrown in and an appropriate climax in the end. There are three possible endings for the game, depending on your answers to the Solar that questions you throughout the game and the last decision you make just after defeating the final enemy. You also get to know what happened to the party members you took with you to the final fight (so be sure to pick the ones you like most, or at least those whose future really interests you). A key plot character from the first game can now join you in a rather unexpected twist, and your moral choices concerning him affect his fate.

The Bad

Throne of Bhaal is too linear compared to its predecessors. I understand that they just wanted to complete the long story and give the players the opportunity to do it in a straightforward fashion. Yet I think I'd rather give up one of the locations for more freedom in the way I tackle the main quest, and more optional assignments.

It may seem that I'm demanding too much from what was supposed to be a simple add-on, but I felt that they tried to extend the game's story at the expense of gameplay by making each location mandatory, requiring you to go through all the dungeons in order to have a full-length plot. Indeed, there is much dynamism in the story and that is a good thing, but if I had to choose I'd prefer more options for player-created content than events that occur just because the designers forced them on the player.

The Bottom Line

Throne of Bhaal concludes one of the most important sagas in the history of role-playing games, and does it with style and substance beyond the requirements of a mere expansion pack. It's not a full-fledged Baldur's Gate due to its streamlined nature; but if you ever wanted your favorite mage to hit dragons for D20 damage, you can't pass it up.