Baldur's Gate 1 vs Baldur's Gate 2: BG1 vs BG2

BG1 vs BG2

Let's begin with a conclusion: BG1 is better than BG2. Low level AD&D campaigns are eo ipso superior to mid-point and epic ones. BG1 is about open-world exploration, scouting and survival whereas BG2 is about bulldozing the opposition, from Chateau Irenicus to the Throne of Bhaal.

What I mean is, in BG1 we only have a few spells, items and abilities and that means we have to use them wisely if we want to survive whereas in BG2 -- even at the beginning -- we have too much at our disposal; there are just too many ways to easily win. Each level-up in BG1 is meaningful. That THAC0 gain, that HD gain, that spell slot, those thief skill points. Not so in BG2.

BG1 did everything better than BG2. Moreover, the campaign was developed in parallel with the Infinity Engine, making it by far the greater creative, technical and organizational achievement by then-fledgling developer, BioWare. As with Fallout 1 vs Fallout 2, it is a complete joke to cite BG2 as a greater achievement than BG1.

BG1 was seminal: it sparked the greatest era in cRPG History. It is the 2nd best D&D cRPG ever and the 4th best cRPG ever whereas BG2 is a monstrous distortion of the gold standard in classic AD&D adventuring set by BG1. In comparison to the original, the sequel is a ludicrous grotesquery. BG2 is what happens when developers listen to fans: the reason BioWare threw in romances and long-winded banter.

The only cRPG that is more overrated than BG2 is Morrowind.

BG2 recycled so much from BG1 (as sequels often do), but it didn't add much substance on its own. It didn't invent anything, it didn't innovate a damn thing [1]. It is bigger and more feature-packed, but worse off for it. BG1 proves that less is more.

Therefore, one should play Baldur's Gate 1 before Baldur's Gate 2 in order to understand the differences between the two games. As it pertains to cRPG Design, BG1 and BG2 are vastly, vastly different games. And as it pertains to Baldur's Gate 1 OR Baldur's Gate 2, the answer is quite obviously Baldur's Gate 1 since it comes first. Earth-shaking newsflash, I know.

Those who think BG2 > BG1 are those who began with BG2, which is akin to:

  • Watching Empire Strikes Back before the first Star Wars,
  • Reading Dune Messiah before Dune,
  • Reading Two Towers before the Fellowship of the Ring.

Who does that? These people don't realize that the Bhaalspawn Saga is officially a trilogy, with Throne of Bhaal being its third installment.

These people recommend newbies skip BG1 and go straight to BG2, which akin to saying skip the Fellowship and only read Towers and Return of the King. What? Only ignorant people would make such a recommendation to newbies. They spoiled the trilogy for themselves by rushing their way through it -- no doubt consulting wikis and walkthroughs every step of the way -- and now they want to spoil it for everyone else, too.

To be sure, a matter for zoology.

And while you think about that, think about this: For those coming off Baldur's Gate 1 Original, the sequel was a major disappointment. It whisked us away to prison, took almost all of our gear from us as a result, arbitrarily enforced a Baldur's Gate canon party, and killed off some companions and wrote immersion-breaking dialogue for others, such as "I remember you; aren't you dead?" Well, no. That companion didn't die or leave the party in my game. They survived a sweeping adventure that spanned the length, breadth and depth of an entire region. 80 hours of gaming doesn't lie.

Did you spend the three Wisdom Tomes on Jaheira? Well, they're wiped. Because Jaheira is now a different character. All the companions are. It doesn't feel like a proper continuation because our BG1 adventuring party is not available to us. They have been modified, removed or simply killed off in order to furnish an arbitrary narrative -- one whose basis and build-up pales in comparison to the original's.

BioWare didn't respect the choices made by the player in the original. Instead, their preference was to wipe the slate clean and funnel the player down a linear path of cutscene after cutscene and intrusive banter after intrusive banter in order to appeal to a casual new audience over the one that got them to where they were in the first place.

[1] Some rando forum scrub once cited the wall trap in Spellhold as being a great feature of BG2. Unknown to this rando forum scrub, is that the wall trap was first added in Durlag's Tower of Tales of the Sword Coast for the original BG. I've seen this a lot in the past few years: newbies and other ignorant people crediting BG2 for things the original BG invented. That is because they haven't played the original BG, but that doesn't stop them opening their stinking pie holes, does it?


I would have rewritten the main plot of the BG2 campaign. BG2 would have started in the Cloud Peaks mountain range south of Nashkel, and had the party journeying to Athkatla in Amn. 

Let's not pretend that it would have been difficult to make a grand campaign wherein the player was never kidnapped by Irenicus BG2, one in which Irenicus didn't even exist. Irenicus is an inferior villain to Sarevok BG1, to be sure; take away his VO and he's nothing

How does it even make sense to put Irenicus and/or Imoen on hold in order to continue exploring Athkatla after making a lousy 20k for the guild, which can be done in Chapter 1 / Waukeen's Promenade? What is all that "content" in the countryside for? In Baldur's Gate it makes 100% sense: we are lost with only suggestions of what to do; we are trying to find our footing in the world, trying to survive. We are not lost in BG2, we know exactly what needs to be done because the narrative literally tells us, so what's the delay?

And while you think about that, think about this: the Shadows of Amn plot is little more than a marathon-length diversion from the real story of Baldur's Gate, which is that of the Bhaalspawn, Bhaal-lore and the Prophecy of Alaundo. And as a result of SoA's incompetent narrative, Throne of Bhaal is an epic banality, a rush-job.

Also, imagine thinking BG2 writing quality is on-par with BG1 writing quality. BG1's dream sequences are far superior, as are its chapter sequences, dialogue and correspondence:

People go on about Mage duels in BG2; well, BG1 invented them, not BG2. The duel with Davaeorn is still my fave Mage duel in the Saga, not only due to the limitations imposed by low level parties, but also because he employs pre-buffing to avoid being backstabbed and Dimension Door to teleport about. 

Most BG2 Mages are just standing around unbuffed, waiting for a chunking, and BG2 cut out Dimension Door due to its sequence-breaking potential and ability to break through BG2's boring, forced narrative. So now -- if they survive the backstab opener (which they won't unless they're Stoneskinned, which is rare) -- Mages just stand there like fools casting spells; they have almost no mobility of their own; they go invisible with Shadow Door and reappear in the exact same spot because they want us to give them that chunking. Sad. Even Dark Side of the Sword Coast did more for spellcaster mobility.

I'll end this intro with a specific item, but it's important to me. BG1 sound effects are far superior as well. The sound of steel-on-steel, warhammer on fullplate or dagger into flesh. The chunking sounds. All are much more impacting to the ear. It sounds like a battle.

A flail is a ball and chain, right? So when you swing it, you can hear the chain. Not in BG2, though. In BG1, you can hear the drawing back of a bow. Not in BG2, though. In BG1, you can hear the chain links of your armor rustling as you move around. Not in BG2, though. BG2 couldn't even get its soundscape right.

We're just warming up. Time to break things down a bit.


BG1 vs BG2: Campaign Design 

BioWare's representation of the city of Athkatla, the country of Amn, and the exotic locales that stretch out beyond the bounds of civilization (and beneath it), is impressive:

An undeniable highlight -- indeed, one of the few virtues -- of the BG2 campaign is how its second and third chapters offer non-linear exploration of a quest-dense urban hub, Athkatla [2], but the Prologue aka Chateau Irenicus, Chapter One, and Chapters Four to Seven are linear affairs, as is the Throne of Bhaal expansion campaign.

[2] But again, it makes no sense that we would explore it.

There's that word: linear. Both BG1 and BG2 have linear stories but the original's world is much more open for exploration purposes. Its cRPG world map is realistic in its layout (contiguous), in that we move from one area to another, in the required direction, in order to get to our destination, all the while under the threat of waylay and fatigue. It feels more like a journey, an adventure. It feels like the Fellowship; like AD&D. The player unlocks areas through natural exploration.

But in BG2, the whining NPC that runs up to us for help -- THEY unlock outskirt areas by marking our map. Then, we just click the map marker and get dropped off to our destination like paratroopers; rare scripted waylay aside, we don't work to get there. In fact, it's exactly like Oblivion's fast travel and that's not an exaggeration in the slightest.

In comparison to Athkatla, Baldur's Gate city was more impactful, more impressive (as anyone who played it when it came out knows), and once we finally reached the city after all the exploration in the wilderness, the campaign shifted into an entirely new, urban phase of political intrigue, yet still let us explore the wilderness whenever we wanted to.

We had to find the BG1 side quests by ourselves -- sometimes through rumors at the inn, sometimes there was no lead at all -- but BG2 sidequests find us. Our party is the center of the universe. The player must feel special at all times. The designer wouldn't want us to miss anything they spent time crapping out, so they shove it in our face to make sure we know it's there.

Not that BG1 didn't have its fair share of force-talking and hand-holding, but in BG2 we couldn't walk around Athkatla for 10 seconds without being spoon-fed by quest-givers and irrelevant assholes. It was intrusive and tiresome.

Sidequests were even forced upon us by way of scripted waylays. The design rarely leaves the player alone. It is nagging. The design of BG2 is NAGGING.

Also, Athkatla's areas don't even line up structurally. Try to picture Athkatla -- as a whole -- in your mind. You can't, because it's just a haphazard mish-mash with no thought gone into it. The map reflects that:

Athkatla Map

That is such a trashy, low-effort map.

Athkatla's areas are compartmentalized and completely separate, with no link to or visual suggestion of the others, just like the whole campaign.

Nothing is gradual in BG2. It's just, you're here now and now you're suddenly here instead. From city to forest, just like that. You didn't get tired, you didn't get waylaid, you couldn't walk off the beaten track and get side-tracked or lost in old ruins. Almost everything is announced and forecast beforehand. Again, no sense of landscape, journeying or adventuring. Rare is a sense of remoteness and mystery as well. 

This decadent design appeals to people with short attention spans, limited gaming aptitude and no gaming pedigree to speak of. They want to be led by the nose, they want to be spoon-fed and they want their hand held every step of the way. Woe betide anyone who gives them freedom to explore or discover something for themselves. YOU MUST SPELL EVERYTHING OUT.

Oh look, it's an actual city-representation with full contiguity and logic:

Oh look, an overworld that is almost wholly contiguous, free to explore and logical in layout:

BG1 vs BG2: Prologue

BG2 has a lengthy, unskippable and tiresomely over-wrought Chateau Irenicus whereas BG1 has the almost entirely skippable Candlekeep. In Candlekeep, nothing is stopping players foregoing introductory quests and tutorial dialogue and just bee-lining to Gorion's death and non-linear exploration of the Sword Coast. Perfect.

But in BG2, we've got cutscenes, lots of crap to kill (it's a freakshow) and many poorly-written and long-winded interjections to sift through that try hard to tap into our emotions, but never succeed in doing so. And Imoen. Suddenly she's got a lot to say, she wants to comment on everything in a morbid manner, and it's so damn boring that it sucks the life out of the game before it's even begun.

Then, once we finally reach the surface and the city, we have to watch another long cutscene followed by interjections from three companions in succession before we gain control of our party. And we don't get to choose what to do until we've been forced to accept the offer of the thief in the Slums. 

Can I start playing now? No, there is another cutscene...

(You know there IS another cutscene; that I'm NOT exaggerating, don't you?)

BG1 vs BG2: Wilderness Area Design

BG2 area design lacks variety. It is bereft of barren wilderness areas: 8 of the 11 Amnish outskirts areas are forests; 11 of the 11 are situated in woodland areas. On the other hand, BG1 hosts one dozen barren areas, not just forests.

Also, many of BG1's areas feature height-mapped terrain which not only adds visual variety but can also be employed for tactical purposes, such as avenue of approach. There are almost no examples of height-mapped terrain in the Amnish wilderness; mostly, it's dead-flat. And you know it's true.

Examples of barren areas in BG1. Note the height-mapping on the left and right.

More examples of height-mapped terrain:

Look at that gnoll fortress on the right. There isn't a single map in BG2 that comes close to that!

BG1 vs BG2: Reactivity

The sequel added a bit more in the way of cRPG reactivity though it's still disappointing how little of it exists in the Bhaalspawn Saga. For example, evil CHARNAME gets the choice of poisoning the Druid Grove or not, which won't be an option for Good or Neutral Charnames.

And another example: Charname Thieves won't be able to join Bodhi against the Shadow Thieves in respect to the Guild War. And that's about it. Whoop-dee-doo. There are almost no stat-checks in dialogue and most of the Charisma-based ones were devalued by gifting the player a ring that sets their Charisma to 18 in Chapter One, which is just stupid.

cf. Baldur's Gate reactivity.

Races, Classes & Kits

Here is what BG2 added:

  • One new RaceHalf-orc. [Baldur's Gate Races]
  • Three new base ClassesSorcererBarbarian & Monk. [Baldur's Gate Classes]
  • One new Specialist Mage: Wild Mage
  • 21 Kits: Berserker, Wizard Slayer, Kensai, Archer, Stalker, Beastmaster, Cavalier, Inquisitor, Undead Hunter, Priest of Talos, of Helm, of Lathander, Totemic Druid, Shapeshifter, Avenger, Assassin, Bounty Hunter, Swashbuckler, Blade, Jester, Skald.

The question is: Does this or does this not constitute a good addition to the Bhaalspawn Saga

No, it doesn't. With the possible exception of Monk and Barbarian (traditional classes), we could omit all of the above and nothing of value would be lost. What do Wild Mages and Sorcerers add that Mages and base Specialists don't already cover, for example? There are not enough differences between them to warrant their inclusion. The fun is in casting arcane spells, fullstop. 

Wild Mages are downright stupid.

Barbarian BG2 is more interesting than Berserker BG2. There is no need for Berserkers or Battleragers. Who ever thought Dwarven Fighters weren't tough enough?

What on earth are Wizard Slayer BG2 and Inquisitor BG2 doing in Baldur's Gate, lmao? They are useless and OP magebane garbage, respectively -- and boring as hell to play.

As it pertains to game balance, the Inquisitor is quite possibly the dumbest and most thoughtless class in the history of cRPGs, since its super-dispel completely bypasses the only strength BG2 cRPG combat encounter design can boast of: spellcasting duels. Which is why it's such a popular class choice for the above-mentioned casuals lacking in gaming aptitude, and bereft of pedigree. The Inquisitor sits one step up from story mode.

The Druid and Cleric kits are almost wholly dross, too. Just useless feature bloat.

That is what kits are, though -- feature bloat. It's an easy way for developers to say, "Look at all the features we added!" It is much easier to add kits than it is to balance a game. It is much easier to keep adding to something, to hang bell after bell on it, than it is to refine and improve the core experience by sending the garbage to the chopping block. It's like everyone in the studio had a stupid idea and no one had the heart to reign them in.

And while you think about that, think about this: Adding kits to BG1 completely imbalances a campaign whose combat encounters were not designed with such additions in mind, so kits are not only feature bloat but also power-creep (even in the AD&D supplements they were lifted from, kits are power-creep). But that's a problem for tasteless Enhanced Edition, Tutu, BGT and EET players to wallow in, and original game balance will forever elude them until they play the original as it was intended by BioWare.

Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that those who have only played BG1 in the BG2 engine have not actually played BG1. 

More accurately, they are not playing BG1 in the BG2 engine but rather they are playing the BG2 engine skinned with BG1 campaign assets: an abomination.
Note that BG1 and IWD1 were brazenly shoved into the BG2 engine by the Enhanced Edition. Not only that, but EE adds NINE more classes ON TOP OF the above-mentioned. BECAUSE MORE IS BETTER. Also, LOOK AT ALL THE FEATURES WE ADDED.

Experience Point Cap

The experience point cap (XP cap) has been increased from the humble 89,000 (BG1) and 161,000 (TotSC) to the epic 2,950,000 for Shadows of Amn, taking the party to 17th-23rd level depending on their class. Then, the Throne of Bhaal expansion further increases the XP cap to a whopping 8,000,000, meaning that characters reach levels 31-40, aka Godhood.

A lot of people are against epic-level campaigns because they get pretty crazy (I prefer low level ones, too), but let's face it: the plot takes Charname to Godhood so the XP cap must as well. The prime issue with the XP cap is that SoA characters may end up over-leveled due to ToB increasing the XP cap for SoA in addition. As is the case with almost every expansion ever made for an cRPG, the devs forget about game balance for the original campaign itself.

BG1 vs BG2: Companions

The Baldur's Gate companion pool has been reduced from 25 to 17; however, the companions are more fleshed out and offer more in the way of banters, interjections and personal quests. In a few cases romance is an option, too, but constantly being interrupted by the petty concerns of companions grows tiresome for people who just want to play the game. About to face off against a red dragon in its lair? Put that on hold: Aerie wants to cry on your shoulder about the loss of her wings; this currently takes priority over dodging dragonsbreath. The banter is annoying. BG1 and Jagged Alliance 2 hit the right balance as it pertains to banter.

Note that the deeper companion pool of BG facilitates themed parties. There are far more party composition options in BG. Veterans can also accept the "chunking" of a couple of companions, knowing that there will be other companions to fill in for them later on: Baldur's Gate No Reload Run. +8 companions makes a big difference in this mode of play.

I prefer more companions with less waffle. I wouldn't care if romances were never a thing: in the first place, it was the sad fanbase writing their own that "inspired" BioWare to include them officially for the sequel -- and RPGs were never the same again, as can clearly be seen by anyone who has eyes that can see, with the proliferation of what are essentially relationship sims that have little in common with the likes of classic Baldur's Gate and Fallou1 1, let alone AD&D.

This crew is chirpy enough. There is no need for walls of text:

BG1 vs BG2: Spells

In BG2, the spell ranges have been increased from 46 divine and 72 arcane spells to 126 divine and 200 arcane spells Baldur's Gate.

To top it off, we now have access to Contingencies, Triggers & Sequencers.

Arcane spells already scribed to the spellbook are also eraseable; that is, if you have reached your "spells scribable per circle limit" (modified by the Intelligence score) you may erase one of your (less useful) spells and memorize another, more useful one, in its place. I've never found the feature to be a life-saver.

Additionally, scribing spell scrolls to the spellbook now results in utility experience point rewards based on the level of the scroll. Along with the erase feature and the fact that there are some merchants who sell scrolls in infinite quantities, this opens up potential for abuse (though it is mindlessly repetitive so I doubt many players are going to engage in it).

Despite the amount of deadweight in the circles and the OP nature of spells in general, I'm all for more spells that facilitate experimentation and mix up encounter outcomes. I mean, an argument could be made that BG2 offers some of the most interesting spellcasting duels in the genre, and a lot of that has to do with its expanded arcane and divine repertoire. But again, BG2 didn't invent Mage duelsBG1 did.

Some BG2 enemies can instantly fire spell triggers/contingencies of their own such as the Mage-only "Tattoo of Power". These are unavailable to the player, and are triggered by scripts. Demons, Beholders and certain epic enemies also instantly fire abilities from scripts, and can do so infinitely (Death gaze, Beholder rays, and even conventional spells). None of these are limited to casting times oVancian spell slots. This was pioneered by BG1 through Aec'Letec.

Summoning Cap

Remember how in BG1 we could summon armies of skeletons, animals & monsters [pic]? Well, with the notable exception of Wild Surges and obvious exploits, summons are now capped at just five units. To make up for that a couple of summon spells scale with caster level such as Animate Dead & Spider Spawn. Plus, we can gate in demonic and celestial juggernauts such as pit fiends and planetars as well as summon powerful minions such as mord swords, invisible stalkers and elemental princes.

While a lot less fun it's a good idea to limit the number of summons, especially when we have the likes of a Planetar at our disposal flaunting a Silver Sword that inflicts on-hit vorpal at 6 ApR. 

Of course, Wild Mage BG2 and exploits allow us to break through the BG2 cap, anyway.

Find Familiar

Find Familiar BG2 is a first circle arcane spell allows Charname-only Mages, Sorcerers and Bards to summon an alignment-flavored familiar with a few tricks up its sleeve such as scouting and utility skills. In addition its master receives a one-off and permanent HP bonus equal to 50% of the familiar's HPs. A Pseudo Dragon, for example, grants us +12 HPs if summoned in SoA and +24 HPs if summoned in ToB. I advise keeping the familiar tucked away in the backpack because our spellcaster incurs a permanent one-point penalty to Constitution if it dies. Sorcerers should cast Find Familiar from a scroll rather than wasting a choice on it.

A pretty token addition to the Saga, aren't they? Most people just summon their familiar for the one-off HP boost, keep it tucked away in their backpack so that it doesn't die, and then forget about it. This is just feature-bloat. Neverwinter Nights 1 at least made familiars useful; we could also possess them. Go and play NWN if you want familiars.

I wonder how much time BioWare wasted coding familiars...

Rest Until Healed

In BG2, we can rest in order to have our HP pool fully replenished AND be cured of poison and disease (which is absurd).

A degenerate newbie feature that reduces the need for clerics and consumable use. As such I'm totally against it, optional or not.

Max HPs

In BG2, we can simply reduce the difficulty to below Core in order to force Max HPs and spell-scribing success. Here we have two more degenerate options that should not be options. 

You're basically writing off the main function of Potions of Genius in respect to the latter. Learn to buff and learn to deal with failure; it's part of the game and its balance.

Many people pretend they are too hardcore to take advantage of the above two options, but secretly do anyway.

Dual-classing Specialists

Dual-classing to and from Specialists is banned in BG2. Remember how we could dual-class Imoen to Conjurer or Xzar to Cleric assuming you gave him a Tome of Understanding? Well, we can't do that in BG2. Flavorless Generalists, only.

A side-effect of adding kits is that now players are deprived of a Core AD&D rule that they got used to in BG. That is lazy coding.

Inventory Management

Inventory management has been reduced with the addition of containers; namely, Scroll Cases, Gem Bags, quivers, and even a Bag of Holding. Calling up Inventory mode pauses the game by default though this may be toggled in baldur.ini.

I don't like Bags of Holding because they trivialize the encumbrance mechanic and inventory management. If we can't carry it with the additional inventory slots of six party members then we don't deserve to have it. Either sell some stuff off or do without. Plus, items placed in a Bag of Holding are largely forgotten and who can find anything in them, anyway?


Archery is not all-powerful in BG2. Elemental arrows have been nerfed; most notably, the Acid Arrows are down to 1d3 from 2d6. Detonation Arrows and Arrows of Dispelling are rare, too. Quivers for arrows and bolts are double-capacity.

Refer to Baldur's Gate archery for the many reasons why archery was OP in Baldur's Gate.

I don't see a need for nerfing arrows, but I'm not overly fussed by it because archery is still fun and effective in BG2.

BG2 Strongholds

In BG2, each base class has access to a BG2 stronghold upon completion of a certain quest, each of which offer a series of trivial quests that are unrelated to the main quest. These are ok for shits n gigs and a bit of extra cash flow, but not much else. 

Yep, these are basically mini-games that are not integrated meaningfully into the plot, and so I wouldn't care if they never existed, just like everything else in BG2 that is tacked-on (familiars, kits, romances, strongholds, HLAs).

To do strongholds right in AD&D takes a lot of planning. You need strong strategy and economy mechanics or it just comes off as half-assed, as in BG2. It would have been better to simply have one well-designed, plot-integrated stronghold for all Charnames, regardless of class.

 BG2 Crafting

Most players are on the lookout for components that may be forged into powerful items by Cromwell in SoA and Cespenar in ToB. BG1 offered crafting in the form of Taerom Thunderhammer being able to forge Ankheg Armor from an Ankheg Shell. That was it, and that was enough.

Does Crom/Cesp crafting really add anything of substance? Might as well just appropriately itemize the artifact in question instead of making the player hang on to bits and bobs and jump through annoying dialogue hoops during a magical forging process. 

Crafted items are better rewarded through quests that add lore and context to their components, as opposed to just randomly littering the campaign with them. For example, no reason is given as to why an enemy is holding one half of a mythical relic, other than he, she or it is epic.


The crafting of Flail of Ages in the de'Arnise Keep was well done, to be fair. But that did not rely on Crom/Cesp, which is what I'm criticizing.

BG2 Utility Experience Points

As if quest and kill experience point rewards were not enough, experience points are now also dished out for opening locks, disarming traps and scribing spell scrolls to your spellbook, as detailed in Utility Experience Points BG2. The last one can really add up and tilt the balance in our favor in the early going. Spell-scribing is also open to abuse: find stacks of spell scrolls and Memorize, Erase, Rinse repeat. (Some merchants sell infinite quantities of high-level spell scrolls.)

uXP is ok, though I would have significantly increased the XP for disarming traps and picking locks in order to add more value to having a Thief in the party; BG2 devalued Thieves in a variety of ways. How? By not making enemy traps deadly enough, by not flagging them as persistent until disarmed, by allowing the arcane repertoire to replace thief skills to a large degree, and by making almost every lock physically breakable (every plot-critical lock is definitely bash-able with solid Strength scores which all warriors will have).

Weapon Proficiencies

General Baldur's Gate weapon proficiencies have been removed and replaced with specific entries; f.e, there is no longer a Large Sword proficiency. Instead, Large Sword is broken up into specific weapons such as Longsword, Bastard Sword, Katana, Scimitar & Two-handed Sword.

This is a completely unnecessary ruleset "balance" change that could easily have been addressed by not going overboard on epic itemization for munchkins.

Weapon Styles

Weapon Styles have also been added, the most powerful of which is the Two Weapon Style aka dual-wielding, which when combined with +ApR weapons (such as Belm BG2) and Improved Haste BG2 bestows an epic attack rate aka ApR straight out of the blocks.

Nerfed Grandmastery

Also, the weapon proficiency table was nerfed in BG2. I didn't like how the proficiency table was nerfed: Fighters are "cheated" out of Grandmastery in BG1 (due to the XP cap) and when they finally reach GM in BG2, it's nerfed? This caused me to become butthurt. I would much rather a campaign balanced for True Grandmastery rather than fail with all this +ApR nonsense.

The exclusion of TGM is an arbitrary and unneccessary choice that flies in the face of AD&D rules. Note that BG2 is the only IE game brazen enough to exclude TGM: even Planescape: Torment employs it properly as shown in my Planescape: Torment Guide. Embarrassing.

Let's think about it: there is no reason for 10 ApR. The BG1 max of 5 ApR is impressive enough. The animations look correct at 5 ApR and their accompanying weapon sounds are not lost (the sound of drawing a bowstring, the sound of the chain and ball on a flail). 10 ApR is just munchkinism.

High Level Abilities

At epic levels (usually around 3,000,000 total XP) each base class gains their own BG2 HLA pool to make selections from during the level-up process.

There are 43 HLAs in total. Some of them are obscenely OP, such as Set Spike Trap, others are of questionable utility, and others yet are utterly uninspiring and indeed useless. HLAs feel tacked on because they are. What rubbish cRPG Design!

There are far superior ways to grant epic powers. For example, by expanding Bhaalspawn-power modals and/or awarding permanent build-based benefits offset by penalties -- through quest resolutions and dialogue choices.

HLAs are just another example of feature-bloat.

Extra Thief Skills

Stealth has been separated into Hide in Shadows & Move Silently skills, and two very powerful skills have been added: Detect Illusion & Set Traps.

I'm not against the added skills though DI and ST are too powerful. For a rundown on the basics refer to the Thieving Baldur's Gate.


Tired of gibberlings, xvarts, tasloi and kobolds? Well, you will be excited to learn that the sequel introduces goblins and orcs from Icewind Dale 1! Hah! But you will also be pitted against dragons, demons, devils, giants, golems, illithid, beholders, drow, vamps, high level mages and liches, some of which were borrowed from Black Isle.

However, relatively speaking, the BG2 enemies are not as lethal as the likes of BG1 Greater Ghouls, Greater Wyverns and Crypt Crawlers.

Spam of Illithid & Liches

Indeed, the city of Athkatla suffers from illithid-spam and lich-spam. Hilariously, BG2 liches don't even have phylacteries!

Liches without phylacteries!


Since there are several illithid encounters in and around Athkatla (Windspear + The Hidden + Alhoon), how the city's population hasn't been enslaved and devoured is anyone's guess. It makes no sense, and none of it was explained. Maybe BioWare should have scrapped romances and strongholds and allocated those precious dev-cycle resources to explain how the illithid and liches haven't taken over Amn? 

Moreover, generic liches can also spawn in several areas as a result of combat encounter scaling. That's how common liches are in BioWare's grotesque distortion of Realmslore... there really shouldn't be generic liches in any cRPG whatsoever, fullstop.

Lich-lore receives zero respect in BG2. Even BG1 modders did a better job before BG2 came out.

Anyway, I guess we should be thankful that BioWare didn't include tarrasques...


Keep an eye out for Baldur's Gate 2 items that confer blanket immunities; that is, when equipped they bestow (f.e) mind shield or freedom status. Also be on the lookout for BG2 weapons with on-hit elemental damage (to bypass Stoneskin) and on-hit negative status effects. The Flail of Ages BG2 & Celestial Fury BG2 are prime examples: their respective Slow & Stun effects are devastating and bypass MR. The flail is also no-save meaning there is no way for the enemy to resist its crippling Slowing effect.

Demi-gods need to wield godly weapons and have access to godly items, but BG2 still went way overboard. The Robe of Vecna BG2 being available in Chapter One is a prime example in that its casting time buff gives us an unfair advantage over every rival spellcaster in the campaign, one that we didn't even have to work for beyond getting some cash-flow going, which is dead easy to do thanks to loot that is thrown about like confetti. 

BG1 had far superior itemization balance, overall; for example, it felt rewarding to find that Large Shield +2 deep down in Durlag's Tower. It felt rewarding to find a magical weapon of any kind because the iron taint was causing weapons to break in our hands.


Unlike BG1 waylays which drew randomly from preset pools of potentially lethal monster arrangements, area transition ambushes are entirely scripted, and largely benign, in BG2. Waylays in both Athkatla and its outskirts are not so much about offering up a challenge as they are about giving the player gold, several arcane scrolls and magical weapons. And even a highly rewarding quest in one case.

On the other hand, the reward for overcoming a waylay in BG1 was that we didn't get killed.

BG1 waylays included Ogre Mages, Basilisks and Wyverns. Repeat after me: Basilisks. Indeed, there are even Greater Basilisk waylays.

Also, between the The Lion's Way and Friendly Arm Inn, it is possible for our low-level scrubs to be waylaid by several archer-bandits sporting 2 ApR each. BG2 waylays are a joke compared to all this.


This is one thing BG2 got right. But improving the pathfinding routine is just a logical engine enhancement that is par for the course when you don't need to build an engine in parallel with a campaign. All units benefit from a movement speed increase, too.

The movement speed increase makes it easier for us to close in on archers and mages. How is making enemy ranged attackers weaker an improvement to cRPG combat encounter design?

In BG2, when have you ever said to yourself, "Damn, those archers are mowing my party down!"



Everyone likes cRPG dungeons but Watcher's Keep is mostly a bunch of small, interlinking areas whereas Durlag's Tower has sprawling subterranean labyrinths with landscape consistency. Durlag's Tower is superior to Watcher's Keep in terms of presentation, exploration, atmosphere, writing and cRPG itemization.

Lore Descriptions

Compare a +3 weapon lore description (BG) with a +5 weapon lore description (BG2).

World's Edge BG1 (SW2H07, two-handed sword, BG: TotSC): THAC0 +3, 1d10 +3 slashing.

This is a legendary weapon of heroic proportions, especially among the far-northern tribes of barbarians. Champion after champion has wielded this blade against countless enemies, and the blood it has spilled could fill a small sea. History will not admit that such a blade could be forged and each consecutive owner seems to tie its origin to whatever creation myth they believe. The most grandiose of these tales is that of a great chieftain who sailed to the cliffs that supposedly bordered the world. There he reached into the void, and his will shaped the blade from nothing. Whatever the truth, in the right hands this sword is a fearsome thing.

Gram the Sword of Grief (SW2H17 [basic], SW2H18, [upgraded], two-handed sword [craft], BG2: ToB).

This is one of the many weapons of the great hero Siegfried. The blade is particularly sharp and well balanced, and in a certain light one can see the faint image of a serpent within the hilt.

THAC0 +5, 1d10 +5 slashing, on-hit 10% chance of 2d12 poison, on-hit Level Drain save vs. death at -5, 5% MR.

Siegfried's fearsome blade is even more powerful with the Heart of the Damned set into its pommel.

Literally any twaddler, any hack, could churn out that Gram "lore" (if you want to call it that) while drunk. Foebane, Blackrazor, Angurvadal and Usuno's Blade have two-sentence lore descriptions. Two-sentence lore decriptions for epic ToB wields. 

Now, compare Varscona BG1 (a +2 longsword from BG):

Blades of this type were long used by Sharran priests during the sacrificial rites of "Feast of the Moon" ceremonies. Legends say that, when she passed on, the remains of this sword's wielder were mummified and the blade was placed within her chest as a symbol of power. In the first stage of a long forgotten ritual, she was to have been exhumed in a season, born again in some new form. Unfortunately, cult wars killed the few that knew of her existence; her tomb became a prison where she was forgotten, and there she developed a rage that bordered on insanity. Her grave was eventually found, but it was deserted and gave no indication of her whereabouts. Some venture to say that her anger was so concentrated, she became one with the very blade of her weapon. Regardless, after hundreds of years surrounded by constant hate, the sword harvested a power of its own. It is now exceedingly deadly in combat.

BG2 even gives Celestial Fury BG2 — the best longblade in the IE games — NO LORE! The weapon has... no lore, no history and no reason for being. It's just THERE with a generic item description.

BG1 vs BG2: User Interface

BG2 added to Baldur's Gate UI functionality but its UI is aesthetically inferior to the original. Here's an excerpt:

Paperdoll comparison: If you think the one on the right looks better than the one on the left then you have appalling aesthetic taste. For the sequel BioWare actually reduced the paperdoll's size and made it blurry. The Helm of Balduran looks pathetic and the large shield looks just awful.

You know, there's a reason why people prefer the BG1 artwork: it's because the sequel's paperdolls and character sprites suck ass.

BG1 vs BG2: Sprites

BG1 and IWD1 spritework is far superior to BG2 and IWD2 spritework. As with the paperdolls, if you want BG2 and IWD2 sprites reverted to their superior BG1 form, you need to mod your game. The only thing BG2 added was increased size of sprites. Oh, and those cool smoketrails? BG2 omitted them.

BG1 vs BG2: Icons

BG1 icons are far superior to BG2 icons because they are cleaner, sharper and better designed. The screencaps posted below prove this without a doubt.



BG2 Wasted Dev-Cycle Resources

Quick recap on what I perceive to be wasted dev-cycle resources:

  • Kits, romances, strongholds, familiars, crafting, HLAs. The amount of development time that would have gone into employing this CRAP, I don't want to imagine.
  • Too-frequent interjections, long-winded banter and companion quests
  • Redoing the UI panels (original stoneskin remains superior)
  • Redoing the icons, spritework and paperdolls (originals remain superior)
  • Redoing incantation sounds and other sounds (originals remain superior)
  • Breaking up weapon grouping proficiencies into specific weapon profs 
  • Hand-crafted, scripted waylays instead of random ones drawn from preset pools
  • 800*600 resolution: Since FoW is locked to 640x480 and the UI wasn't refactored for 800x600 like it was in IWD2, it's utterly useless.
  • As I said in Infinity Engine, the addition of OpenGL in the sequel was a failure. 
  • Dual-wielding (too many animation frames need to be drawn; going the route of IWD1 would have sufficed)
  • Too many unique-looking areas that would have taken ages to model and render (that provide no sense of consistent landscape or journeying, and make all areas special, such that absolutely none are: themepark. 
  • Way too much dialogue
  • Way too many cutscenes
  • Overdone VOs
  • Unnecessarily large and sweeping campaign

In order to gain an appreciation for the original Baldur's Gate that is sadly lacking among ignorant forum-goers and "community members" in 2022, I kindly refer the reader to my Baldur's Gate 1 Review.

BG1 vs BG2 Fallout 1 vs Fallout 2 NWN1 vs NWN2


  1. Oh my, what a wonderful write-up. I just couldn't help but smile when I was reading this. This is just beautiful: in-depth, but no nonsense. Funny thing is that I recently had to explain myself *again*, why I prefer the original Baldur's Gate to its sequel, or the abomination that is EE.

    It makes me sad that it's so widely accepted that BG2 is regarded as the holy grail of cRPGs. What is it that this game does that so many players are almost worshiping it? I thought about it for a while and I think that this may be connected with the "emotional" approach of BG2. A lot of characters and quests are related to emotions: Irenicus regarded as the best-written villain, because he's a sad emo, the same for Imoen and emotionally focused romances. Everyone is sad and everything has to be dark and edgy, which has nothing to do with the quality of writing. Yet, the sequel is seen as such an amazing piece of writing.

    The thing is that when you disassemble both games and compare the ingeredients like you just did, it's clear where BG2 has failed to deliver as a sequel. Though still, all I hear is "Locations in BG1 are empty, party-members are too quiet and interface is outdated", or the best one "There are almost no dungeons and no dragons in an AD&D game". I think of such arguments as silly. I sometimes wonder if BG2 actually somehow fooled the players to believe that it's more than it really is.

    Anyway, on the positive side I'm currently re-playing the original Baldur's Gate yet again - this was supposed to be a one day playthrough of just the beginning on my brithday, but I had so much fun that I decided to continue. I rolled once again with the unconventional party: Charname as elf cleric, Canderous (cleric from the training party in Candlekeep), Montaron, Kivan, Viconia and Eldoth. This gives me 3 clerics, no high-HP front-line and a bard instead of a mage. I'm currently about to enter the Cloakwood mines and being waylaid in the Cloakwood is sometimes deadly when being cought out of position and without spells since you can get attacked several times in a row. I'm playing without TotSC expansion and will add it once I reach the Final Save point. It is a challenge and I have to think differently about the encounters and positioning, but I'm having a blast with so many cleric spells.

    1. The fanbase is parroting what they have read over the years from vocal fans of the past, walkthrough writers, "journalists" and BioWare's 2000 PR.

      In the past few years, these parrots have proliferated in their echo chambers; they are like flies multiplying in the marketplace.

      From what I can see, the blind fanaticism for BG2 is as fervent and ill-informed as it's ever been.

      That's one reason why I made a blog: so that my views wouldn't get lost in the shuffle.

      I agree that BG2's tone appeals to dark and edgy but shallow sensibilities; certainly, parts of BG were emotive and dark (dream sequences), but they weren't edgy, morbid or fake. The core narrative of the original was firmly grounded.

      Of the two, BG1 is truer to the tone of AD&D Realmslore. To be sure, its writing is head and shoulders above the twaddle BG2 is riddled with. I've remarked upon that a few times before, but maybe I should add a section on the writing differences to this post, too, since the contrast is stark.

    2. We can draw a parallel with Fallout 1 vs. Fallout 2 as well.

      Fallout 1 is clearly the superior campaign, but forum-goers devalue Fallout 1 whenever they can simply because Fallout 2 is bigger, more feature-packed and has a few QoL features that the original lacks.

      It's not enough for these forum-goers to simply express a preference: they must devalue the original in the process.

      Also, their complaints about the originals are symptomatic of bad taste, ignorance and short attention spans.

      Anyway, at least I supply a counterweight to the nonsense being spouted on public forums. Not sure how effective it'll be, but my viewership has been doubling in recent months.

    3. I noticed the same thing with Fallout vs Fallout 2. Just because it's bigger, doesn't mean it's better + all those cultural references and jokes. I watched a Fallout 2 review recently and the reviewer summarised the problem with that game quite well: it's a bunch of ideas clumped together in the vein of "wouldn't it by cool if...". To me the game became an incoherent mess and lost its identity in the process.

      As for BG2 there's a document called "Anatomy of a sequel" written by Ray Muzyka in 2001 and there it's really visible that when making BG2 BioWare made two major mistakes in my opinion: 1) They listened to the fans - the ones that were vocal it seems. 2) They drew incorrect conclusions from the first game, i.e. avoid random dialogues - that was one of the things that made the world alive in BG1.

      They made the sequel on purpose player focused to the point that actually nothing matters apart from the player - this may also be the reason for its popularity, it's an ego-centric affair. When I think about the Amnish society in BG2, I know nothing about the situation. It's like the world is frozen in time, or it's a player's sandbox to play in. In the original there are things that concern normal people: the iron crisis, the bandits, the conflict between Amn and Baldur's Gate city.

    4. Fallout 2 also has flat-out vulgar references that put me off. Still, I rate it top 5 due to its expansion of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L ruleset, and for maintaining non-linearity, open-endedness and reactivity within a larger framework.

      I think BG2's biggest mistake, at least as it pertains to the preestablished fanbase, was how it wiped the slate clean and diverted from the core narrative, only to rush it back in with ToB.

      If they stuck with the BG formula (extending it, refining it), instead of trying to make a "better" than or different game to BG, they could have succeeded in making a masterpiece sequel.

      But instead, they wasted a lot of dev resources on non-core features, as enumerated in my write-up. Trimming the fat and concentrating on core is key.

      I don't think BioWare knew what they had already achieved with BG because of how they went way off-course with BG2. Maybe commentators didn't praise them enough when BG came out.

      It is easy to envision a superior sequel built on the BG engine, with minimal extensions and tweaks. TotSC & DSotSC show what the original BG engine was capable of: a lot, and enough.

      It is also easy to envision how a sequel campaign could have been made, with the player keeping their party composition, equipment and wealth. We could have continued immediately after the death of Sarevok, starting in the Temple of Bhaal in the Undercity. Anything can happen from there.

      I think a lot of devs and gamers under-appreciate strict continuity in a series.

  2. Once BG2 came out, I generally tried to play through both games in sequence, so I tended to not even think of them as separate games. If I do so, I have to agree with many of your crticisms of BG2. However, I think it helpful to keep in mind that BG2 was necessarily going to be different, and harder to get right, on account of being meant for high level characters ("Epic" level in anachronistic 3E jargon). Balancing high level D&D combat tends to be rather nightmarish, and though far from perfect BG2 did this better than most. This also explains some of the issues with the game, e.g., it was hardly going to be as focused on open world exploration as BG1 since it is hard to have epic level characters randomly wander the countryside and just accidentally stumble on foes who are a reasonable challenge for them in a plausible way (not that BG2 entirely avoided this sort of thing with Liches hiding around corners and such).

    The games also complemented each other well I thought in that it was quite pleasant in BG2 to remember how far your epic level hero had come from struggling to survive against wolves and hobgoblins and other such trashmobs, or in BG1 to look forward to the days when you would handily dispatch dragons and liches in the sequel. Unfortunately, as you point out, BG2 somewhat undermined this aspect by not respecting BG1 decisions and enforcing a canon party. The number of possible companions in BG1 worked against them here, as it would have been very hard to allow for and provide dialogue for all the possibilities. Possibly it would also have been impractical to get the voice actors for all the BG1 characters back as well.

    1. I always treated BG1 and BG2 as separate games after my first import, when I discovered that party composition, equipment and player choices in BG1 were given only token acknowledgement in BG2, or none at all.

      The many differences in design, rules and writing meant I didn't anticipate BG2 while replaying BG1 either.

      As it pertains to rules, the profs, skills and spells I worked hard to assign and scribe in BG1 are not imported, but are cheap chargen selections in BG2, instead. And the mechanics for those are different, too. Moreover, we can pick a kit based on our unkitted class, and if we dual-classed to Specialist Mage, that's nerfed to Generalist. What are we even importing? A set of six numbers. My BG1 characters are more than sets of numbers. Over a period of 80 hours of game-time or more, I assigned their profs, skills, and spells one by one.

      DSotSC employs level 40 rules and epic-level spells in the BG1 engine as well as high-level combat encounters. Indeed, it's easier to kill Firkraag in BG2 than it is to kill the Forest Dragon in DSotSC. Even though DSotSC was a seminal quest mod that wasn't honed and perfected, it worked under BG's world design as far as I'm concerned, and I've often replayed it because all original systems remain intact, but just at higher level.

      The sequel I'm imagining would be nothing like SoA but rather an extended ToB with a much slower build-up, in which the party assails the armies of rival Bhaalspawn (many more areas on approach to strongholds, more ways to get to strongholds). In that way, it would make sense to encounter random patrols of giants, drow and half-dragons within a more open-world structure that gives a sense of landscape and journeying, of moving in a certain direction towards a destination instead of just getting it map-marked and dropping in like paratroopers. For example, the dev resources that went into the Underdark could have been modified and repurposed as an extended approach to Sendai's lair.

      The reason the number of companions in BG1 worked against BioWare in BG2 is because the devs CHOSE to turn the companion mechanics into relationship sims, with lots of emphasis on VOs for banters, interjections, romances and personal quests (and cutscenes). I really doubt that VO talent would have been hard to re-source at that time: many of the same actors came back for BG2 and ToB. A few even returned for Siege of Dragonspear, 16 years after BG2 came out. In cases in which the original VO talent can't be re-sourced, one could go for approximation-talent or written dialogue only. There was a ton of unvoiced dialogue in BG1, afterall. BG2 as well.

  3. Yes, disappointingly little of what one built up in BG1 is imported, though, among a few other things, any Book Ability Score increases on one's own character are retained, so from a pure power-building perspective, imported characters are going to be more powerful than those created from scratch in BG2 (I tend to obsessively powergame if I do not control myself).

    I do not know if VOs not being available was an issue or not, just speculating that it could have been in particular cases. And certainly that would be something that could be worked around in any case with enough determination to do so. Also true that the problems involved would have been greatly simplified by making a game less focused on banter/romance/etc. Even so, if the companions are going to have ANY dialogue adding more of them or a variable set could have enormously complicated things.

    It is true that the way they ended up telling the story was weird, with the main plot of BG2 being focused on what amounted to a side-story, while the main Bhaalspawn plot got dealt with briefly in a short epilogue. It might have worked had ToB been a full-fledged BG3 game rather than a small rush-job expansion. I am not sure what I would have preferred instead, since I would probably have wanted at least a few more twists and turns than the ToB story offered. One thing that disappointed me in BG2 story-wise was how they made Imoen another Bhaalspawn. It made sense that she had a secret past too (Candlekeep is not an orphanage, so presumably they would not be raising just any random person), but making her another Bhaalspawn was boring and predictable. Perhaps making her the child of a Celestial Entity intended to be a destroyer of Bhaalspawn (or something like that) would have made for a good plot twist.

    1. Stat increases from stat tomes carry over, yes. Bhaalspawn powers also carry over even though they are based on current rep in BG1, not alignment. Also, we can begin with 161,000 XP in BG2 instead of 89k if TotSC was installed and we earned it. On the other hand, we are bumped up to 89,000 XP in BG2 even if we didn't earn it in BG1.

      I think it is notable also that, in BG2 chargen, not only is our BG1 arcane spellbook overwritten with new spell selections but our spell range is nerfed in the process as well (for the first few spell circles, we can only select fewer than half of the spells we could conceivably have scribed to our BG1 spellbook).

      (You probably know all that but I just thought I'd type it in anyway). :P

      I'd wager that 25 companions in a sequel that maintained BG1's mechanics would have far fewer variables than 17 companions in BG2 with its bloated banter, interjections, romances and personal quests. Thus, I don't see +8 companions presenting too much of a problem if, from the outset, BG2 was going to be developed with them in mind, and without the bloat.

      What I like about your own Swordflight is that the PC is carried over properly through the entire series, with all stats, spells and abilities intact, and that not only is equipment carried over in each instance, but some of the crafted relics are also upgradeable in subsequent installments, resulting in a unique and special experience, one that I don't think any commercial RPG series of that size, scope and quality can boast of. I would have liked to have seen both the equipment upgrades and the chapter-spanning reactivity expanded upon, but I understand your reasons for not investing too much time into it.

    2. Most of the chapter-spanning reactivity in Swordflight, such as it is, has gotten put off to the later chapters when one returns to Calimshan and starts re-uniting with previously met characters. And it is indeed complicated allowing for all the possibilities, even with fewer characters (though more dialogue) to worry about than BG1. On top of that default "canon" options have to be included anyway for the benefit of people who did not play the previous chapters or did not preserve their database. So I have some sympathy for the BG2 devs. :) That is not to say they could not have done more than they did.

    3. By Calimshan do you also mean Calimport? :P

      If that's the case, I see two main advantages:

      • From what I can tell from the feedback you've received, most players consider Calimport to be the highlight of the series. Also, I've always thought there was something to be said for returning to familiar places, in which players invested lots of game-time or began their adventure. As was the case in Baldur's Gate: "Your journey has come full circle."

      • Revisiting pre-built Calimport (or parts of it) could cut down on area-design workload since the framework/layout already exists. This would free one up to concentrate on reactivity, scripting and other content-creation.

    4. Yes, the player will eventually return to Calimport.

      Re-using areas certainly can cut down on the workload somewhat, though I am not sure how many I will actually re-use. It is a big city and there is more to it than appeared in Ch. 2. Furthermore, at least in NWN, making areas is actually one of the less time-consuming parts of the process. Writing dialogue and play-testing encounters tends to consume a lot more time (at least for me).


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