By ChernobylCow 9 Comments
Baldur's Gate II stands as the reigning king of epic fantasy roleplaying games. Not even heavyweights such as Oblivion will ever be able to measure up to its level of character detail and grand adventure. But for some of we have nearly exhausted that well of wonderful gameplay and a simple new roll of the dice at the character creation screen just won't cut it. However, even though the Bioware designers never intended it, a small community of dedicated Baldur's Gate fans have created numerous mods of various types. I've done some tinkering and experimenting with these surprisingly easy to use mods and I have created a small breakdown of the cream of the crop, for me at least.
You're welcome to explore on your own for other mods. The three pioneering websites are:
Pocketplane (a still thriving community that releases regular updates including foreign translations of their mods)
Gibberlings3 (another community that I have not spent as much time with but has numerous unique NPCs, kit packs, and more).
Weidu (the guy that designed the installer that nearly all of these mods used. He hosts the famous Tactics mod and his famous Solaufein dark-elf NPC)
If all you're looking for is a deeper challenge. Look no further. The Tactics mod's goal is to increase the difficulty of the game by adding new layers of challenge that should create a more rewarding experience. I have completed an entire BGII run with the Tactics mod and I am never going back. It's the ultimate DnD combat experience. The creator has done their best in order to eliminate the usage of cheap player tactics such as cloudkill spell from off screen or casting buffs right next to a dragon before you attack him.
For instance: TorGal, the troll that has captured the De'Arnisse keep is even stronger now with a new Yuan-ti mage squad. He hits harder, his trolls aren't instantly slain by cloud kill, and he also holds the Flail Head of Cold. So if you want the Flail of Ages, you'll have to contend with him. He is a doozy. You will also see improvements to Bodhi, Irenicus, improved Undead and Golems, even more sinister Mind Flayers, as well as smarter Vampires and Liches.
The best part about the Tactics mod is that it is completely compartmentalized meaning that you only install the pieces that you want. So if you're interested I suggest you check out the Read Me info to find the specific changes. This mod is a great overhaul to many of Bioware's wonderful combat encounters.
David Gaider, the design director for Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, was left a bit dissatisfied with the final battle in ToB. This was mostly due to time constraints since the expansion needed to be released in a relative hurry. There were also scripting and story sequences he felt would've been great to include. This is by no means what Gaider would consider the ultimate cut, but it is a nice alternate director's view.
The PC's Slayer form will upgrade at various experience points, Imoen and Sarevok have new dialogue events, Melissan's AI is upgraded and to quote Gaider: “she's practically a demigod”. The Demigorgon at the core of Watcher's Keep is now beefed up. He was ultimately toned down for the expansions retail release.
The changes are numerous and interesting and the readme has several quotes from Gaider. I suggest you check it out if at all interested. It adds a new layer of depth to all of Bioware's excellent combat encounters.
At Pocketplane you'll find two excellent NPCs that I will vouch for having included them in my party for a complete playthrough of Shadows of Amn. Kelsey and Keto are two superb NPCs that were purposefully designed so that you would not be able to distinguish them from the official characters. They feature numerous lines of a dialogue and inter-party banter. Some lines are fully voiced and Keto the bard even has unique music. Kelsey is a romanceable male that was created partly as an alternative to that asshole Anomen for female protagonists. He even has some pretty grueling arguments with the priest. He's a sorcerer with a mercantile background who will chime in with his own perspectives on new places that you visit and actions that you've taken. Keto is a light-hearted bard. She's not romanceable but a great addition to her party. You might even be able to help her take part in a bard's competition if you stick with her. I hands down recommend these two characters if you've exhausted all of the other NPCs in the game. Sometimes Mazzy just won't cut it, you know?
Dungeon-be-Gone is a humorous mod that allows veteran players to skip the tutorial dungeon that Irenicus has imprisoned you into. It's silly and a little “out of character” but a trans-dimensional bard will definitely be able to help you get outta there quickly if you so choose. He'll even give you all of the nifty crap you'd have found along the way if you'd actually done the dungeon.
Hopefully my selections have piqued your curiosity and you're thinking about another run through Baldur's Gate II. Trust me, these mods are all top product. Using the Weidu installation process they are very easy to get up and running you just need to know your installation path for Baldur's Gate II. I suggest you read the READ ME's included with each mod and the notes on the respective websites because the designers often give solid information as to why they chose their design changes and their ultimate goals for their mods. Happy adventuring!
Additional Mods (added 6/23/10)
User Vermy81 recommends this install: "My personal favorite is the widescreen mod which will bring BG1,BG2, Planescape and the Icewind dales up to widescreen resolutions so I can play BG2 on my 1080p widescreen display and not have it stretched out all kinds of ways." Many gamers choose this as their only mod install at all for Infinity Engine games.