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Baldur's Gate II

(Boss Fight Books #8)

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Upon its release in 2000, BioWare's PC role-playing epic Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn was hailed as a paragon of its genre and named "RPG of the Year" by IGN, Gamespy, and Gamespot. A game like Baldur's Gate II requires not just a master wordsmith but a dungeon master. Enter award-winning novelist Matt Bell, author of the surreal domestic novel In the House upon the Di ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published June 22nd 2015 by Boss Fight Books
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  193 ratings  ·  32 reviews


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LemmiSchmoeker
Aug 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Matt Bell
Instead of the expected background information about the game, this is mainly an autobiography interspersed by a (often tedious and shallow) retelling of the game's story with some insights about the methods used for characterising its various people and creatures. Bell apparently hasn't given much thought to how explicit the story should be described, so there are many spoilers - including every major plot twist - but details are often shyly left out or just hinted at in passing.

I didn't know M
...more
Jan Pospíšil
Jul 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
This is not a book about Baldur's Gate II. This is a book about the author's writing career and how he's trying to overcome his shame of enjoying fantasy and games. Congratulations on coming out, I guess.

So who's it for?
A) It spoils the story of the game from beginning to end, so if you haven't played it, tough luck.
B) If you did play the game, the book offers very little actual content related to the game itself, no luck either.

If you want to read about Matt Bell and about an obscure ancient g
...more
Cale
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
I forget when between reading Boss Fight Books that these are rarely really about the game, and more about how the author interacted with the game. That's definitely the case here, as Baldur's Gate II is used as a foundation piece for Matt to write about his experiences writing and being ashamed of his interest in fantasy as he became an adult, and a 'real' writer. Besides not really sharing his embarrassment at reading 'juvenile' literature, Matt ends up coming across really pretentious, especi ...more
Ryan Werner
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Bell does what I do with wrestling, what most nerds do with the things they hyper-focus on, and gives it a cerebral twist. This book about Baldur’s Gate II is an apt mix of recapping the game itself and dissecting it in a way that justifies an interest that has continued beyond, through puberty and adulthood and Rush albums both good and bad.

Bell shows the humanity that lies between the lines of any RPG. The actions of our character, Gorion’s Ward, are set up as a series of choices in a system
...more
David Dinaburg
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
But if you’re reading this, maybe you already know this story. Maybe you have your own versions of everything I’ve told you.

Maybe all along you’ve been saying, That isn’t quite right.
I smiled at this moment, revamped my score upwards a star, refigured what I had gotten from this book. Because earlier I had found myself saying, “That isn’t true. That isn’t what happens.” And that is the best part of the book—“Yes, yes,” it seems to say, “You played the game your way, your memories and mine diff
...more
Peter Derk
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting blend of fantasy role-playing and fiction classes taught by Gordon Lish. Worlds collide here. My big piece of advice, if you are setting out to read this one having never played Baldur's Gate, read a little plot synopsis and character bios first. My big struggle was keeping track of the characters and what was going on.

Okay, this isn't my favorite of the Boss Fight Books, but that has a lot to do with me and not the book.

Confession, I played about an hour of Skyrim last night. I wou
...more
ignus
Apr 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful.
As was the case with Boss Fight Book on Shadow of the Colossus, this one is also a narcissistic read. This time around, it's not about how some guy loves a game so much he went on to work for the company that published it. Instead, we get multiple long sections where the author boasts about his experience writing books, his childhood memories and how he interacted with the game. Also, he mentions multiple times the game is different for every person who played it. And that he's ashamed th
...more
Christopher
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic. I've never even played Baldur's Gate II, but I'm a huge fan of Matt's writing. And I played a ton of AD&D when I was young. Plus, I'm a lifelong lover of fantasy films, video games, and all sorts of dorky shit. I really enjoyed reading Matt's reflections on how RPGs (and D&D in its electronic, dice-based, book, and other forms) influenced his writing and his personal aspirations. I think many kids who grew up loving stuff other kids found uncool later struggle with how m ...more
Porkinsred6
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is a nice, light, afternoon read. Although I did enjoy it, it was not worth the price I paid for it. Matt Bell comes to terms with his own shame about loving fantasy novels, playing dungeons and dragons, and his continued enjoyment of video games. His confrontation with this shame is relatable for the first 15 pages, but not for 120. There is more to this book, including a great telling of the story of Baldurs Gate 2, and his own trials on becoming a writer himself. This in not a bad book, ...more
Mike Woods
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Glorious. Here's what I wrote on my blog:

Baldur’s Gate 2 (the book) is the best sort of writing, and an exemplary of the essay form: it enlivens the subject at hand, it places it in a broader context (here, the place of games in culture, and it gives insight into the mind of the gamer), makes creative analogies (writing as analogy to character creation in gaming), and, most importantly, it is reflexive, it gives insight into the author and invites our own reflection. The book is about the creati
...more
Otso Rasimus
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
The parts about Baldur's Gate had great insight. Sadly half of the book was about the author himself - something I wasn't interested in.
Brian
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Boss Fight Books tend to be somewhat self-indulgent, being as much about the writer as they are about the game they're writing about. Sometimes this turns out well, like Anthropy's excellent ZZT, but often I'm less sanguine about it. My favorite of this series so far was Bible Adventures, which was about the company Wisdom Tree rather than the author. And having recently finally beaten Baldur's Gate II, after 150 hours of playtime and 16 years after I first attempted to beat it, I was really not ...more
Chris Daviduik
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I may never play Baldur's Gate or its sequel to completion, and this book provides a way for me to relate to friends who swear by the series' perfection. As a game developer I also find it interesting to analyze and peer into the acclaimed games of the past, however, similar to the Chrono Trigger book I read prior, there is a little "new" here for anyone already familiar with the game other than perhaps a dose of nostalgia. If anything, reading a wiki on this series would provide just as much va ...more
Jesse Lehrer
Jun 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Bell does a decent job writing about his feelings around being a DnD fan but his consistent self-negativity gives the book a sort of insulting feeling that the ending semi-self revelations doesn't quite make up for. The scene where his wife picks him up from DnD and watches him play for a bit and then says she's not gonna fuck him for two weeks was particularly revolting and memorable. There's so much emotional energy around being an embarrassed fanboy it reads more like a personal journal entry ...more
Jason Adams
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I feel a lot of sympathy for Matt Bell. It feels like he is still working through some of the trauma of growing up geek. The confessional nature of his writing in “Boss Fight Books: Baldur’s Gate II” is touching to a fellow nerd. In the end, though, I am troubled on two levels. In the first place, it feels like he still has a way to go to trusting his “friends” to know and understand the real Matt Bell. On the other hand, I had assumed this book would have interesting details or backstory to one ...more
Catalin
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Very underwhelmed by this book.
I've read other books in this series (Jagged Alliance, Spelunky, Chrono Trigger) and all were much better than this one.

It seemed like the author couldn't decide if this was a book about the game (which is one of my favourite games if all time) or about his personal life. So expecting a book very focused on the game and its history, the "personal" bits seemed out of place and were off-putting.
Grant
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was hoping this would be about the making of the game/behind the scenes type of a book. It was not. It was primarily an autobiography of Matt Bell, and his struggle to accept that he is a nerd. It wasn't terrible. It just wasn't what I wanted it to be. That's partially on me for not reading any reviews.
Pam
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, games
I always forget that boss fights books are more personal memoir than game analysis.
Eric
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great overview of the game, highlighting how different playthroughs could offer different experiences but also noting the bottlenecks the games forces players through.
Drew
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As ever, this might not be the sort of book that appeals to you if you don’t know the game – but, also as ever, I’d encourage readers who are even a little curious (because they’re intrigued by the hamster and armored man on the cover [Minsc! and Boo!], because they like Bell’s work, because of something else entirely) to pick this up and give it a try. It’s about a videogame, yes – but it’s also about a writer coming to terms with his love of fantasy, of geekery, of the things that formed and m ...more
Tim Paggi
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
More than a description of Baldur's Gate 2 (although this book does explore a good amount of what made the game so groundbreaking), Matt Bell's quick 33 1/3 style book focuses more on Bell's own personal narrative of growing up fascinated by D&D and the effects role-playing had on his imagination and literary identity through adulthood. People who've spent hours playing BG2, but don't generally admit it in public, will relate the most with Bell's story. ...more
Alexander Nachaj
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not as in-depth as the other books in the series that I've read, but a satisfying read nonetheless.

Well-written and introspective, this is more of a recounting of Baldur's Gate II and a journey with the author from start to finish, peppered with the occasional side narrative of his journey as an author.

Still informative, but feels a bit incomplete without the interviews and behind-the-scenes analysis of other excellent Boss Fight entries like "Bible Adventures" by Gabe Durham.
Yune
Dec 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, games
I'm a sucker for discussion about some of my favorite computer games, so an introspective look on one guy's experience with Baldur's Gate II was just up my alley, if a bit brief.

Yes, there are heavy spoilers; this is for reminiscing about the fun you had with the same game, with a winding detour through Bell's writing efforts and struggle to find fantasy a legitimate interest.

Reminded me of Bissell's Extra Lives, actually, which is a good thing.
Tom Fassbender
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you didn't grow up playing D&D or have ever played Baldur's Gate, you may not enjoy this short work, essentially an extended essay, on growing up geeky, writing, storycraft, and video gaming. But I found it to be an interesting analysis of one man's relationship to D&D and how it affected his life. ...more
Graham Oliver
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Echoed so many of the things going on in my head with regards to video games: their limitations, my shame, the unique satisfaction possible, storytelling potential, etc etc. Loved this, even though it gave me no desire to replay BG2.
Matt
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
The author's personal story was interesting, but didn't always mesh very well with the game exposition. Some worthwhile thoughts though on how players react to lush or sparse stories, visual effects, etc. Love the series!
Chase
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Quick, fun look at a gamer's life, a writer's life, and how certain experiences can tie the two together. Wish it were longer.
Sam
May 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
Dude needs to get over himself.
Aznable
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I short, gripping read covering life, a video game, nerdom, and writing.
Mark Argent
May 28, 2017 added it
Shelves: 2017-read
i remain unconvinced on the subject.
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Matt Bell is an American writer. He studied at Bowling Green State University. Currently, Bell teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University.

Matt Bell’s next novel, Appleseed, is forthcoming from Custom House/William Morrow in 2021.

Other books in the series

Boss Fight Books (1 - 10 of 27 books)
  • EarthBound (Boss Fight Books, #1)
  • Chrono Trigger (Boss Fight Books, #2)
  • ZZT (Boss Fight Books, #3)
  • Galaga (Boss Fight Books, #4)
  • Jagged Alliance 2 (Boss Fight Books, #5)
  • Super Mario Bros. 2 (Boss Fight Books, #6)
  • Bible Adventures (Boss Fight Books, #7)
  • Metal Gear Solid (Boss Fight Books, #9)
  • Shadow of the Colossus (Boss Fight Books, #10)
  • Spelunky (Boss Fight Books, #11)

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“What does it mean to still be ashamed of interests that so many other people openly celebrate? What does it mean to still be ashamed of the part of myself that has, in so many ways, bought me my entire career? If I had not been a fantasy reader, a video game player, a D&D dungeon master, I would probably not be a writer or an editor or a professor.” 1 likes
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