[In a continuing series on game narrative reviews, The Guildhall at SMU student Mitch Crossley looks at Baldur's Gate II, detailing how player choice and well-realized characters benefit in game storytelling.]
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn picks up where the first Baldur's Gate left off. The plot in Baldur's Gate II cannot be adequately explained without knowledge of the events of Baldur's Gate I. In Baldur's Gate I, the player takes the role of an avatar of the player's choosing. The player character is an orphan, and the ward of Gorion, a scholar in the library town of Candlekeep. The player character hurries out of town, where Gorion is killed be a man in armor. The player character then embarks on a series of quests, like solving an iron shortage, to find this man in armor. As the player discovers, the man in armor is the player's half-brother, and the player's father is Bhaal, the god of Murder. This is where the first game ends.
When Baldur's Gate II starts, the player is locked in a cage in an underground dungeon, held by a sorcerer known as Irenicus. Once the player escapes, they are in a very non-linear world, but there are several events that must happen in order to complete the game. As the player escapes, Imoen, the player character's childhood friend, is taken into custody by the Cowled Wizards. The player character must side with either a band of thieves or vampires in order to find her and get her back. To do this, the player character travels through several exotic locations such as an underwater city and an island city-state. In the process of retrieving Imoen, the player character's soul is stolen by Irenicus, and it is revealed that Imoen's soul was stolen by Irenicus' sister, the vampire Bodhi. After this revelation comes another: that Imoen is the player character's half-sister, and also the daughter of Bhaal. Once Imoen is retrieved, the player character must hunt down and kill Irenicus to get his soul back. This mission leads the character to an elvish city, where the player kills Irenicus. However, because Irenicus has the player character's soul, they are both dragged down into Hell, where the player character must defeat Irenicus again.
Throughout the player character's journey throughout the world, several NPCs can join his or her party. Each of these NPC has a detailed back-story and intricate side-quests, but only the plot-related characters are listed here.
The protagonist, and the child of Bhaal, the god of Murder. This does not necessarily equate the character with evil acts, however. The player is completely in control of the actions he or she takes throughout the course of the game. The player character's half-sister is Imoen. The attributes and traits of the player character are created by the player at the start of the game.
Imoen is an orphan, like the player character, and grew up in Candlekeep as well. Imoen is a thief, and an aspiring mage as well. She is peppy and inspiring, as she was in Baldur's Gate I. However, after suffering days in a wizard's prison, her personality is darker. The vampire Bodhi has taken Imoen's soul for herself, in order to become a god.
Irenicus is a powerful sorcerer, and he is insanely ambitious. The player character it at the mercy of Irenicus at the game's start, and chases him down for the rest of the game, trying to guess the mage's plot. Irenicus plans on stealing the player character's soul, which contains part of the soul of a dead god, and using that soul to become a god himself. Once the player character escapes Irenicus' prison, he makes plans to use Imoen's soul, instead. The player finds out later that Irenicus is an elf, but was kicked out of his society because of his dark ways. He is known as "the Exile" to the elves that remember him.
Bodhi is Irenicus' sister, who has become a vampire. She resides underneath the graveyard district of Athkatla, and she leads a coven of vampires. She offers her services to the player character to find Imoen, but it is a trap intended to aid her brother. Once Irenicus has stolen the player character's soul, she inherits the soul of Imoen, in order to become a god herself.
The Shadow Thieves are an alternate faction wanting to help the Player Character find Imoen, but their interests are in money alone. The Shadow Thieves run the Docks District of Athkatla, and control the nefarious crime life of the city.
The "magic police" of Amn, who arrest Irenicus and Imoen as the PC leaves Irenicus' dungeon. The first half of the game is spent trying to recover Imoen from their hold, but it is revealed later that Irenicus as taken charge of the order from the inside.
The elvish city where the game wraps up. This is the city that Irenicus and Bodhi are banished from before the game starts. The leader of these elves is Ellesime, who helps fight against Irenicus in the game's penultimate battle.
A bounty hunter from a far-away land, who joins the protagonist's party even before the player escapes the dungeon. Yoshimo is dashing and witty, and has a ruthless sense of efficiency. At the same time that Imoen is rescued, it is revealed, if Yoshimo is in the party, that he was a plant from the beginning, by Irenicus, to make sure that the player makes it to that point.