Page 1 of 21998's "Game of the Year" and "RPG of the Year" award winner, Baldur's Gate, brought such a revolutionary mix of graphics and gameplay that people have been in an uproar to see a sequel ever since. The game provided every RPG and AD&D fan alike a means to escape to the world of Faerun, an intricate world set in the Forgotten Realms setting. Over the years, people have fallen in love with this world... a world where gods have been cast from the heavens and magic is the essence of life. They've grown accustomed to its people, learned of its environment, and have ultimately nurtured in the hope that the world would survive the forces of evil that continually plague it. For these very reasons, people wanted more of what Baldur's Gate was. They wanted a sequel, and two years later, BioWare has delivered to us what we craved. Does it live up to our expectations? Let's find out...
There really is something to be said about BioWare's Infinity engine. We've been exposed to the engine for several games now and I think that many of us have taken the graphics for granted. When I sit back and really look at BG2's detail, magnified by the higher resolutions now offered, it brings back the feeling of appreciation I had when I first played the original Baldur's Gate. Since then, a large number of refinements have been made to the engine and interface. Some have been subtle, but some have brought the eye candy and playability to a much higher standard, thus keeping us all coming back for more.
I really feel that BioWare has breathed life into their Infinity engine more than once. With Baldur's Gate II, they've brought even greater detail to the world of Faerun, without the demand of high-end video cards. From the chaotic dungeons of Spellhold to the magnificent gardens of Suldanesselar, one can really lose scope of the real world. They've accomplished what every game on the market hopes to obtain: immersion at its finest.
Probably the most overlooked elements of the game, the sound effects and music in Shadows of Amn contribute to almost every aspect of the game. With a good sound card and surround speakers, dungeon excursions really come to life. For instance, while traveling through the caverns of the Underdark, the music will create an ominous feeling to the place, giving you the sense that you are not alone. The enhancements to gameplay are simply fantastic.
The sound effects are of equal quality. The only drawback that can be found are that some of them have been used in BioWare RPGs previously. For instance, some of the character speech, such as inn and tavern patrons, has been reused. This is hardly a complaint, however, since I would much rather see them work on other aspects of the game than to have spent time refining some of the unimportant dialogue.