Throne of Bhaal, an expansion pack
to Baldur's Gate II
, came and went. The above writeup is interesting for historical purposes
, but unavoidably vague
ful as its author couldn't play the game itself. Some specifics are in order.
In stark contrast to the feeble expansion to the first Baldur's Gate, "Tales of the Sword Coast", this one is massive. Naturally it's shorter than the main game - which is in the marathon range, though the 150-400 hour figures are inflated - but has enough for a few dozen hours, more than most entire games. Its storyline doesn't try to veil the fact that the player's out to hack and slash as much, but is still quite enjoyable and not without twists. The best part is that it tackles the main story arc directly, bringing things to a head, revealing the last mysteries and finally giving the mammoth story arc comfortable closure. It's an integral part of the saga and practically Baldur's Gate II½.
In terms of non-combat-y additions, it doesn't offer quite as much. There's only one new character, though his identity saves much. The protagonist is naturally importable or recreateable and the party can be freely made up of all survivors of the previous game, and the NPCs bring yet more hilarious banter. Most of the romances can advance further, too...
The only new class is Wild Mage, who packs a punch by using such powers that even he can barely control them, which can result in all manner of side effects; while nothing that has gratuitous gender-swapping can be bad I prefer my weapons of mass destruction reliable. A huge optional dungeon called the Watcher's Keep (plus an ability to highlight items), complete with Demogorgon, can be integrated to the main game by adding a Throne of Bhaal installation or just accessed in the sequel. There's no abyssal citadel, but the main character does receive a genuine pocket plane as a base of operations, complete with a endearing and/or enraging imp servant.
As for the combat... INSANE. The characters were already fierce at the end of BGII, and this loses all the stops. Experience level 20 is breached early. +4 and +5 items abound. The XP cap is raised from 2.95 million to a theoretical 8 million (!!), meaning that most classes max out at level 40. Those who find all three pairs of pantaloons here and in the first and second games will finally find out what they're good for. As if these weren't enough, characters quickly start gaining additional special abilites, one per each level up: Ten attacks for one round, shapeshifting into elementals, the skill to use any item for rogues, tenth-level mage spells and their cleric equivalents! The end result is clearly a frenzied orgy of destruction, which the game is more than keen to supply with new kinds of monsters and loads and loads of old ones. Those not too busy to notice will see that the action happens in an all-new area some distance from Amn, and that the game has its moments of irreverent whimsy without detracting from play. Much.
In summary, Throne of Bhaal's not quite as good as Planescape: Torment, but that would be impossible anyway. Those who wish to complete the Baldur's Gate series can easily miss the first game's expansion but will have to get this.