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So I finally played Baldur’s Gate 2 – review

Content of the article: "So I finally played Baldur’s Gate 2 – review"

For better or worse, BG2 was a mammoth of a game. I could probably write pages about it. Someday I'd like to break it down and really dive in, but I don't have that in me at the moment. For now, I'm just going to lay out a somewhat lazy, very subjective review with bullet points.

The bad:

  • Characters: I'm sorry, but I'm not into it. Companion dialogue is like a teenage drama novel, often quite one dimensional and annoying. I didn't feel compelled to get to know them in the way I did for companions in Planescape or Pillars 1. The main bad guy is also a huge edgelord with very cliche dialogue.

  • Humor: It has a "lol so random" style of humor from the early 2000's that has not aged well. Some of it is dangerously close to breaking the 4th wall, which pulls me out of the experience. I know this is sacrilege, but Minsc is particularly offensive in that way. Stuff like "Butt-kicking! For goodness!" made me shake my head with second hand embarrassment. I ended up kicking his butt to the curb early on, though maybe I'll like him more when I go back and do his quest.

  • Mechanics: The game's systems are very obtuse and frustrating at times. Granted, I'm not a number cruncher and I don't like minutia, but I can tolerate a lot if the game excels in other ways. BG2 really pushed my limit in that way. There are so, so many spells and abilities. 2E is also just…kind of terrible, and it isn't always clear how things work without having to do a ton of homework first. Also, FUCK the pathing and walk speed. The Enhanced Edition desperately needed improved pathing and an out-of-combat Fast Mode.

  • Miscellaneous: This isn't a huge deal, but it throws a lot of characters and quests at you early on. Like, I just wanted to walk around at my own pace and get my bearings, but the game wouldn't let me. Just BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM…a zillion things all at once which is pretty overwhelming and confusing.

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The mediocre:

  • Main Narrative: It gets the job done but it isn't remarkable. It certainly doesn't have much to say – just a bad guy doing bad stuff who needs to be stopped. I guess I would have liked some more mature political or philosophical themes to grab onto.

  • Music: Good music is a huge draw for me so I was a bit disappointed, but I can't call it bad. It did seem to have a lot of variety though which I liked. Pillars 1, for instance, had fantastic music but hearing the same songs over and over started to get to me.

The good:

  • World: Since it's pretty much pulled straight from DnD, it is extremely fascinating. So many creatures, races, religions, locations, philosophies, factions. I live for that stuff. Diving into that was fun as hell, and I found myself thinking about it a lot while doing other life stuff.

  • Graphics/art style: They hold up surprisingly well. The art is gorgeous and there's a lot of it. I was always excited to enter a new area because I knew I'd be gifted with some unique art. It's stylized in a way where I can easily imagine myself being there. Much better than other old games that strove for realism but ultimately failed.

  • Quests: These are generally pretty great. There's tons, with lots and lots of variety, often with multiple options to solve them. Even fetch quests tend to have a twist that makes them enjoyable, or some interesting lore to dig into. I tended to like the individual quest stories a lot better than the main story.

  • Roleplaying: Being a DnD game, it unsurprisingly excels here. There are so many options to craft your character. It feels like you can be almost anyone / do almost anything and make that work without the game pushing back against you for it. I rarely felt like there wouldn't be a path for X kind of character.

  • Combat: This is pretty tightly connected to the 'mechanics' category, but when I wasn't confused out of my mind or struggling with the frustrating pathing, I did enjoy it quite a bit. There are many different types of combat encounters, with unique enemies in unique locations. Each one was like a new puzzle to solve that often took me many attempts. Finally figuring out an encounter and nailing it was pretty damn satisfying.

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Ultimately, I had a good time with BG2. Was it the greatest RPG of all time? For me, well…no. The good stuff was enough to keep me going 'till the end, but I kept thinking about how much better it could be – how much more I would have enjoyed it if the music really soared, if the characters were more compelling, if the mechanics were a bit streamlined, if the story had some bite to it, etc. There were a lot of sore spots for me, where if they hadn't been there the good stuff would have been that much sweeter.

In the end, from the perspective of someone who just played it in 2020, I'd probably give it a personal score of, idk, 7.5/10? <5 being mediocre>. I don't expect that to go over particularly well, but there it is.


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