First, my experience: I am a huge fan of the Baldur's Gate series of games. I bought them all the moment they hit the shelves back in the late 90s early 2000s, including the Icewind Dale and Planescape:Torment games. They introduced me to D&D and the Realms, two of my great loves.
I did not buy SOD immediately on release. I waited about six months due to the reported bugs and the bad reviews. I wanted to see if that stuff got cleared out. The bugs got fixed, but the reviews didn't. Beamdog had been diligent in reviving those games and making them better - they had done a good job so far - so I decided to give them a chance and I bought it.The Good
I thought the new NPCs I picked up were really interesting (Glint is my fav) and fun to run with. They also fleshed out some older NPCs which was nice too, especially since this is the last we see of some of them.
NPCs, Banter, and Interactions
The new NPCs are great and imaginative, with Glint being my personal favorite. Banter and interaction between NPCs is more organic and clean and happens more often. Love it.
Spectacles of Spectacle
This was such a cool thing to do. In particular, I enjoyed that the portal that opens to summon the creatures is the iconic PST portal graphic.
Caelar Argent and the Crusade
The actual character of Argent and her story was really good in my opinion. I will talk more about this later but I think she and her story suffer from being tied to the Bhaalspawn saga. I think in another game it would've had a chance to shine as it deserved to.Areas of Opportunity
Railroaded Plot and Interactions
As many have said, the writing is not so much bad as it is lazy for an RPG best known for its amazing choices and open worlds. The game is laid out so that you have very few choices and those you do get are "false choices" where every dialogue option leads to the same fate. While it's true that TOB, a similar expansion, is railroaded compared to SOA or BG, it still allows you to take on the areas in the order you desire and you can go back to areas you left if needed. SOD does not allow this.
On one hand, I was impressed that Beamdog got the old gang together to re-voice the characters, but the years have been long and in Warner's case, unkind (as they are to us all in time) and his voice doesn't really sound like Irenicus anymore. For the others, I'm not sure what the point in re-voicing them was since using their BG voices would've worked just fine. The only one that really bothers me is Warner - Irenicus is my favorite villain.
I liked Glint a lot except for the fact he starts hitting on you from out of nowhere, making sexual innuendos and without the slightest encouragement. In the real world, that throws off creeper vibes to me. I was never a big fan of romances anyways, so this is kind of jarring. In fact, most of the new NPCs seem to start hitting on you within literally hours of knowing you. Maybe I don't get out enough?
Prequels are hard - so hard in fact that in this writers humble opinion, they are not worth the effort. This game was supposedly created to fill a gap that didn't really need to be filled if it even existed. I always assumed that the "darker circumstances" that caused your "departure" from Baldur's Gate WAS the kidnapping by Irenicus. I never saw a "gap" to fill. That said, some of the things that supposedly happen or don't happen in this story mess with the continuity of BG2 SOA.
Since the events of Dragonspear weren't part of the original games, it doesn't figure into BG2 SOA or TOB at all. This means the story is pointless as far as the story-arc of the bhaalspawn. It was fun the first play because it was new. Now I feel like it's a chore I have to do before getting to the REAL fun of BG2 SOA. That's not fun.
One Hit Wonder
All of the above serve to make the game a one hit wonder. I played it because I liked BG - I liked it because it strikes the nostalgic chords - but when I was done it had almost zero replay-ability. You can only play this expansion one way, so any re-play is just a step by step re-tread of what you did last time. Not that interesting.
This game would've been SO much better had it been expanded out into a full standalone Infinity Engine game that had nothing to do with the Bhaalspawn. If it had just been "The Siege of Dragonspear," a brand new game with a dozen or more zones, dungeons, and a town or two, it would've been pretty good. Maybe the railroading would've disappeared in a large game like that.
Final score for SOD - 3/5 not great, not terrible.
Personal recommendation: buy it but buy it on sale and realize you're only going to get one good play out of it. Treat it as a "what-if" if the continuity bothers you.