One of the best RPG games to come out in years
One of the best things about the game are the character personalities. The characters in your party chat back and forth every so often with interesting things to say, similar to Planescape's
characters. They each have their own personality and the interactions between them really draws you in. Few games really make use of that interaction, but it is one of the most successful ways to make a RPG game great. You can also improve your relationship with each character in your party by making dialog choices they like and giving them gifts. Eventually, you can even get some romantic dialogs with them. That's been seen in a variety of games, but it's still a great addition to the game.
Another nice quality in the game are the NPC characters. They all have really good voiceovers and I haven't yet seen the same face among the named NPCs, which helps to make them all unique. The variety in the voices was really done well and helps to make it feel realistic.
The graphics are very well done and there are many "cutscenes" where the graphics take on an almost movie quality while still using the characters from your party, including what they are currently wearing (minus any helmets). The cutscenes, if you want to call them that, are usually not too long yet they help to fill out the story really well.
The story is perhaps the best part of the game, though so much comes together to make it great that it's hard to really choose one quality. So far, I have only played as one character (a dwarf noble warrior). As that character, I went through a very interesting and somewhat unique introduction storyline that got me out into the world. Each of the characters you choose from have their own unique introduction and I'm looking forward to trying them all even if I may not play through them all once I get past the introduction story. What makes the story so good is how well it is put together. Everything including the side quests seems to fit together seamlessly without gaps and holes that you often see in large worlds like this one. Even when you decide to go to another location before finishing one you're working on, it all still seems to go together nicely.
The game uses a codex system for storing information about the game that you can then look up again later. This helps so you don't have to keep notes or remember everything that you see. It shows information about every creature or enemy you come across, notes and books that fill in story background or quest background, and even information about any special spell combinations that you find in the game.
There is a tactics section for your party that helps you to create a way for each of your party members to react on their own so they do what you want them to without your guidance. It is set up really well and lets you create a limited number of tactics for each character, such as change between ranged or melee weapons based on what weapons are being used against them, automatically healing a character when their health gets so low, or shapeshifting when surrounded by a certain number of enemies. There are a lot of different kinds of tactics you can set up based on your play style or what you're currently fighting against. You get a certain number of tactics slots automatically and gain more by spending skill points and leveling up. I recommend not increasing tactics slots too much on your main character that you always control as you won't generally need them. I made that mistake without realizing what I was doing until later on. It helps to read the manual before playing, I suppose. Heh.
The character classes each offer some useful additions to your party and a nice variety in how you play them. It might be difficult finding the "right" main character to round out your party the way you want, but you also can't really choose a "wrong" character class either. One thing to note when choosing your classes is that the Mage is also your healer and the Rogue can really be useful for locked chests and doors. You will get both a rogue and mage not too far into the game, but won't have them to begin with.
There really isn't anything that I'd consider bad about the game. That said, be careful about leaving the starting areas of the game. I was unable to complete some things within the Wilds because I didn't finish it before the large battle happened and it won't let me return there now. I'm sure the same is true for the other characters you can play. Most other places do let you return later, but the starting areas seem to be locked after you leave them. Whether or not that changes later in the game, I'm not sure.
Some encounters do become very difficult even at Normal difficulty and make you either use "boring" strategies (such as running in circles while the rest of your party uses ranged attacks) or else leave to another area and then come back later after leveling up some more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does sometimes get frustrating. Of course, some of those difficult situations are made much easier by taking direct control of all characters in your party and using certain combinations of spells and skills.
One thing to keep in mind about the party AI is that it won't do everything for you unless you really work on the tactics for each character. Default tactics are okay for most easy fights, but for the harder fights, you'll have to either handle each character manually or else take time to set up the tactics really well. It won't just do the best attacks for you like some games. I'm not sure that is really a bad thing about the game, but if you expect it to do it for you, you're going to consider the AI to be bad.
The Bottom Line
Overall, if you like games like Planescape
, Baldur's Gate
, and Neverwinter Nights
while having more control of the camera similar to a game like Morrowind
, you will probably really enjoy this game. It is a huge game offering hours and hours of enjoyment even before considering playing as another character. I definitely recommend the game to all RPG fans as a must-have game. I rarely make such a recommendation for games, but this is one of the best as far as I'm concerned. It seems to take the best qualities of the different RPG games out there and include them all into one great game. And beyond the main game, you can also download additional content for the game that adds new areas as well as new items. Keep in mind that some of those downloadable items won't be available in the game until you get further into it. And if you haven't downloaded them yet, you will see it in the conversation dialog when you come across a quest that is for those new areas.