A few days ago, Obsidian’s modular Roleplaying game Neverwinter Nights 2 was released. NWN is well-known for its overwhelming amounth of fan-made modules and even whole Community Packs. This is the result of BioWare’s powerful Aurora Engine toolkit, which came packaged with the game. So actually it’s not that strange the game gets so much attention - take a look at UT2004’s numberous modifications or Total Conversions: with UnrealEd this is all possible.
BioWare’s previous critically acclaimed Roleplaying game, Baldur’s Gate II, did not feature any toolkits when it was released in 2000. BG2 used Planescape Torment’s and Icewind Dale’s Infinity Engine to render scenes. (Acutally the Infinity Engine was first used in BG1, released in 1998. Black Isle did Planescape in 1999) Thanks to BG’s widely accepted “Best RPG Game ever” state, fans started engineering tools to hack the file system used by this engine. Various File extractors and speech decompilers started showing up and before you know it, complete Conversions for Baldur’s Gate became available! Let’s dig really deep and list a (short, can’t possibly list everything) couple of popular modifications for Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, and for the expansion pack, Throne of Bhaal.
Addendum - I didn’t import the URLs of all the modifications as of 2018 because when I wrote this, Baldur’s Gate II: enhanced edition didn’t exist yet and a lot of mods have matured, moved or simply died. Just “Google it” and you’ll manage to grab a download link.
The Kelsey NPC Project is probably one of the most complete BG2 modifications to date. You’ll not only be able to recruit a new joinable character, but he’s also as good as fully voiced and has many bants with all your favourite BG2 NPCs. Kelsey comes with some custom made items (don’t worry, nothing overpowering here) and has quests throughout Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal. Want something more? No problem, you can even romance with Kelsey! As a Neutral Good Sorcerer, he dislikes most chaotic Evil characters - especially Korgan. Kelsey does not have amazing stats but works surprisingly well as a spellcaster cannon. Be sure to try him out.
Saerileth is a bit an unusual NPC modification. As most other characters, Saerileth comes with voice acting, many many banter interactions between other NPCs and her own quest. The quest is not very balanced though and her voice might get very annoying after a while. Nonetheless, this powerful Paladin of Tyr might be a good addition to your team. Be warned she stronly dislikes a bad reputation and will eventually leave if you break her hart. Yes, a romance is possible.
These two NPCs made by Weimer might be worth checking out since they have been created with something completely different in mind. Solafein is a Chaotic (Good/Neutral) Drow Fighter/mage who will banter twice with each other party member. You can pick him up in Ust Natha and he plays a big role in the Underworld - most BG2 players are already familiar with this chapter. If you’d like something completely differnet, there’s Valen, a Chaotic Evil Vampire Fighter/Thief who accompanies Bodhi in her hold at the Graveyard. As you know she also plays a (less important) role in the main story but both characters were not able to join your party before.
Nope, Yoshimo is not new. But everyone who misses this talkative Bounty Hunter can always use a little trick to keep him from dying in the main plot. There are also some modifications available which weave Yoshimo’s revival into the game, instead of ruthlessly hacking him back in as he won’t have any further dialogs in Throne of Bhaal for instance.
Xar is also not entirely new: evil parties could already hire this mad Necromancer in Baldur’s Gate I and now he’s back. After the Xar quest in the Docks District you are given the option to recruit him. Xan has an extensive friendship path with the PC, banters with every Bioware NPC, a vast amount of interjections, character reactions and other scenery dialogue. His soundset and banters are fully voiced. He can also fall in love with you as long as your protagonist is female (I hope…)
The Unfinished Business modification lets you play quests which were initially present in the game but were thrown out during the final release. There are over 20 components available (all of them can be installed separately), such as the kidnapping of Boo, the Suna Seni/Valygar Relationship, the restoration of the Crooked Crane Inn, many left-out encounters and items, restored original portraits, you name it. Read the full overview here.
As the orignal mod description says: The Quest Pack contains a number of components designed to add additional adventures throughout Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal. These components include general AI fixing, creature & area improvements (Beholder Lair, Tiwsted Rune e.a.), and some minor fixes and tweaks regarding encounters and spells. Be warned though: Installing quest pack together with Unfinished Business may result in unwanted compatibility problems. Read the manual to install every module in the correct order and you’re fine.
Since Baldur’s Gate II is a direct sequel to Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast ant its expansion, some players might as well wish to play everything in order. The sad part about manual installing all games is BG1 utilizes the older version of the Infinity Engine: you won’t be able to play on higher resolutions. Instead, try this modification: it allows players to go from BG1 all the way through Throne of Bhaal using the BG2 Infinity Engine. There are even some special modifications available only for BG:T such as the BG1Tutu Enhancements. Do not forget to consult the mod manual this time since many modifications do not like one big Baldur’s Gate install, although it is perfectly possible to for instance install Kelsey (once you’ve reached Athkatla that is)
The Refinements modification aims to correct several “mistakes” made by the BioWare development team. It improves many BG2 (ToB) features such as completely new High Level Abilities Tables (HLA), fixes the shapeshifting nerf and adds a new kit into the game: the Sword Angel, a noble fighter which focuses on spiritual abilities. There’s also an option available to turn Imoen into a Swashbuckler/Mage instead of the regular Thief/Mage thing - she’ll get a bit tougher but less rogue skill points.
The Divine Remix aims to rebalance and change several aspects of divine-magic-using classes (clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers) in Baldur’s Gate (via Baldur’s Gate Tutu) and Baldur’s Gate II. The mod originally began as Cleric Remix. The most notable change to the spell system is the proper implementation of spheres. Like arcane magic and its school system, divine magic can be broken into spheres such as animal, necromancy, protection, etc. And finally, druids are able to pick another alignment than True Neutral, as long as it has the keyword neutral in it. Clerics can pick special kits which gain innate abilities relevant to their chosen deity.
Tired of playing Baldur’s Gate II? You know all possible ways to defeat enemies and bosses? Well install this great modification and be prepared to get kicked in the ass bigtime again! Tactics does what the title says: it adds some serious tactics to most encounters. The enemy AI has been greatly improved, enemy spellcasters now act just like you: buffing, protection seeking, and then firing away. Bodhi, Irenicus, Bhaal, the Sahuagin City, Torgal, Golems (auch!), the Undead, … - you name it, they’ve improved it. There have even been added some very challenging encounters such as the Acid Kensai “Kuroisan”.