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11 June 2015 @ 09:25 pm
Dorchadas plays Baldur's Gate II, Part II: Escaping the Dungeon  
First: After playing for about twenty minutes, I switched the resolution from 1920 x 1080 to 1440 x 900, which strikes a good balance between being a higher resolution than the original and making the environments look good while not making everything so huge that interaction becomes a pixel hunt. It does mean the screenshots here are a bit jumbled, however.

The game's intro doesn't have much to go on. In Baldur's Gate, you saved the Sword Coast from the attempt to plunge it into war, and then you got jumped in your sleep when you went off to do even more heroic deeds and taken away. Mr. Time For More Experiments shows up while you're in a cage and talks a lot about untapped power and potential and unleashing your abilities, but his experiments seem to be mostly just blasting you with fireballs and seeing what happens. Then a golem warns him that intruders have entered his base, he teleports away, there's some confusion, and Imoen shows up and lets Chiyo out of the cage.

Imoen: "Wake up, you! Wake up! Come on, we have to get out of here!"
Chiyo: "What...Imoen? What's going on?"
Imoen: "He messed with your head too, huh? All I know is we were near Baldur's Gate and got jumped. I don't think I want to remember it all. He's been... doing things... to us. Chiyo, we have to get out of here!"
Chiyo: "Doing things? What do you mean?"
Imoen: "Come on, Chiyo, don't make me think of it. He did the same to you, I think. I heard you screaming like it, anyway. "
Chiyo: "We'll get out and then we'll figure out what's going on."
Imoen: "Good, because I don't know if I could get loose again if I had to. Not with the pain in my head... It isn't like a normal pain. Chiyo, it's on the inside, like my bones made a little dagger and it won't go away. Don't look at me like that, it just hurts, all right? Must have been the noise. There was a fight... assassins came after our captor, I think. There's people dead all over and the fighting is still going on. I could hear it. Are you going to get moving or do I leave without you?"
Chiyo: "We won't get far on our own. Is there anyone here who can join with us?"
Imoen: "Minsc and Jaheira are just northeast of us, trapped in cells sorta like yours. We should free them and then find some gear. We should look in that room to the west first, west and just a bit north. I think I saw some weapons in there. It's a room off the corner of this one. I don't think it's our gear. They probably sold our best stuff, but anything is better than nothing. Now let's go!"
If you've played the first game this is great, at least if you're like me and played every single time with Imoen in the party. But while in Baldur's Gate she was cheerful and happy-go-lucky and HEYA IT'S ME IMOEN, here she's withdrawn. Haunted, even. She talks about seeing things in the shadows out of the corner of her eyes, and death being beautiful, and how she won't go back, no, she'll die before she goes back, we have to get out of here. This, much better than Experiments Man casting spells on you, sells what happened to you all in the time after you were captured.

No argument from me, Imoen.

Jaheira and Minsc are in cages nearby and the game lets you decide what to do with them. I was a bit disappointed at this, because in previous playthroughs they were always in my party so it made sense for them to be here, but last time I played Baldur's Gate I left them at the Friendly Arm Inn the whole game. Where was Coran, or Branwen? I guess it would have required too much effort to write all the dialogue for every possible character, but it was a bit jarring since apparently Chiyo ditched everyone she had been hanging out with in favor of the C Team after I killed Sarevok.

I let them out of the cages, of course, because there's no way I'm facing the dungeon with just Chiyo and Imoen.
Minsc: "AHHHH!! Minsc will be free!! These bonds will not hold my wrath! Butts will be liberally kicked in good measure!!"
Chiyo: "Minsc? Your mighty warrior spirit must find these bars unbearable!"
Minsc: "Time is short for talk that is small! Release me! I will rain beatings down upon all who have dared touch me and...and...Dynaheir! She will be avenged!"
Chiyo: "Dynaheir? There is another trapped here?"
Minsc: "Trapped?! Her spirit...her spirit is trapped in a cage created by my failure. I was to guard her, but she...she... They...they killed her as I watched, you see? I know not who they were, but......but I will redeem myself!"
Imoen: "Minsc, that is horrible! I am so sorry for you."
Minsc: "I won't cry for the dead! I won't! Ok, maybe a little, but I will staunch the flow of tears with righteous fury! Lullaby and goodnight, evil! Minsc will make you pay! Will you help me? We must join together once more, and our fury will be such that bards will run their quills dry! Yes, ink will be scarce where e'er we go!"
Chiyo: "I will try and free you, but I don't know how to open your cell."
Minsc: "I do not know either. The bars have no lock at all, they are smithed together. I am proud that they feared me enough to imprison me permanently!"
Chiyo: "Permanently? That's going to make this difficult."
Minsc: "But you will keep looking, of course! You would never give up, I know this! A hero always succeeds and a hero never stops short of his goal!"
Chiyo: "He also needs the key or switch! I don't know where they are!"
Minsc: "You... have brushed me aside with your words. You won't help... Boo can see it now! You do not intend to cut my chains! You only intend to yank them! I will make sure you do not live long enough to abandon more friends! I will... I will... I will do all of this as soon as I get these bars open! RRAAAARRGH!!!"

The bars shatter.

Minsc: "The bars! They bend and twist with my berserker strength! Minsc and Boo are free! Now you will...now... Ooooh, you are a smart one. I understand now! You said what you did just to get me mad! Mad enough to break free! You are as smart as Boo sometimes! Now we can resume our adventures together! There are friends to avenge and villains to smack about the face and neck! Right Boo?"
Chiyo: "Together we shall make our enemies answer for our fallen."
Minsc: "Answer they will, and my sword shall be the question! We shall have fistfuls of sweet, sweet justice, and our enemies will be stains beneath our feet! What...yes but...but...alright. Boo tells me that I am raving again. I did not notice a difference, but I shall heed his words nonetheless. Come, we must go now. Yes, Minsc and Boo and you, together again. Beware villains! I will force justice down your evil, evil throats!"
Chiyo: "Ahh, I see you still have that...rodent. Dare I ask how you have kept it hidden from our captors?"
Minsc: "Don't ask questions better left to aged sages. Boo is quick and evasive and there is ever so much of Minsc to search, there is no hope of getting us apart."
Imoen: "Eww, I... really don't want to think about that too much."

Jaheira requires less subterfuge:
Jaheira: "Quickly, we must get out of here before whoever did this returns. I swear, traveling with you is never dull."
Chiyo: "Do you know why we are here? Any clue would be helpful."
Jaheira: "I'm sure we could navel-gaze all day about what brought us here, but it shall certainly prove pointless if we do not remove ourselves from immediate danger. I know not who has entrapped us here either, but I would rather not find out simply waiting for them to return. We are at a disadvantage in this place. I will recount what led to this if you wish, though I think I have little to offer that you do not know already. My husband Khalid and I have traveled with you for some seasons now, and the places we have seen number too many to name. Your...unique heritage has proven a magnet to adventure, for better or worse, and your foster father was right in directing us to watch over you. We remain in your company as friends more than guardians, and our exploits together have left the land for the better. We have earned many enemies, but we have dispatched them all. Whoever has trapped us now is certainly powerful to have done this so easily. Once we know, we will deal with them in due course, but for the time being it is more important we retrieve our friends and companions and leave this place."
Chiyo: "Where is Khalid now? He is not with you?"
Jaheira: "I do not know where he is and it worries me. No doubt he was taken as we were, though it seems we were all meant for different fates. From the state of my head I think I have been drugged, though I have been spared any serious physical mistreatment. You, however, look as though you have been treated most unfavorably, and I should not like to think of Khalid receiving the same."
Chiyo: "Then I will unlock your cage quickly. I think I found the key."
Jaheira: "You've got the key that fits? Then open the door already. Must I hand-walk you through this?"
And my party is now four, which is good. Especially since Sword Coast Stratagems replaces all the goblins that are usually found here with duergar, who are significantly tougher, and also prevents you from resting more than once. Every time after that, it spawns duergar to attack you. This makes perfect sense because you're staging a prison break and spending days sleeping in a side room to heal isn't realistic in the slightest, but I don't figure it out until I've used up my rest, so I cheat in some potions of extra healing and keep going.

I have to give props for the design of the dungeon, which does a good job of striking a balance between functional place where people actually live and wizard's mad funhouse. There are a couple traps here and there, but no rooms that seem pointless. There is the body of Jaheira's husband Khalid, dead of some horrific torture:
Jaheira: "Kha...Khalid? Khalid! No... this... this is an illusion... a dream... a bad dream... Where are the mirrors... the switches to pull to... to show where he is hidden... Khalid... Damn... damn you... Damn you! I will have the heart of who has done this! I will tear their blackened heart from their... I will... I... no."
Chiyo: "This... this is Khalid? What has happened to him?"
Jaheira: "Shut up! No more words! Words are nothing!"
Minsc: "A brave man has fallen here, but that is no cause to hurl insults at the living. Here, Boo shall comfort you."
Jaheira: "Imbecile! Affront to nature! What do you and your rodent know! What can you know!! No words! No more words!! Save your speeches, save your proverbs!! The only voice I wish to hear is... is dead!! No more!! No... No... Sil... Silvanus guide the light... to the source. Take this man to what he justly deserves. By... nature's will, what was given is returned, what was turmoil is now... is now peace. Khalid of my heart, let my love...my love guide the way... We...we must hurry before we are noticed. We must get out of this...this grave...and seek the light above. Let us go."
Chiyo: "There may be a way to get him returned to life. Should we not try?"
Jaheira: "He... Khalid... is dead, and has been so for some time! Beyond a point there can be no raising, especially when the body has been...has been desecrated! We live in a time of miracles, and nature allows the rebirth of many that have passed beyond the veil, but there is a time when... when it is better to let go."
Chiyo: "Then we will not disturb his body further. We will honor his loss with future deeds."
Jaheira: "That is the way of things. There will be...there will be payment for this crime, and I shall not rest until it is collected. When we are able, there will be... Enough. I would leave this place."
 photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif

Though I admit this might have had more effect on me if I had had Khalid and Jaheira in my party during my most recent playthrough of Baldur's Gate.

Further on are several other strange rooms. The lavishly appointed bedroom, but with no occupants except an array of deadly traps:

The underground atrium with the imprisoned dryads, who beg Chiyo for aid when she approaches:
Ulene: "Protect me!"
Cania: "Yes, help us!"
Elyme: "Free us!"
Chiyo: "Slow down! Who are you and what is going on here?"
Ulene: "We are his possessions."
Cania: "His servants."
Elyme: "His concubines. Please help us to escape!"
Chiyo: "How can I help you?"
Ulene: "If you can escape, you must take our acorns to the Queen. Tell her of our plight in this creature's lair."
Cania: "Take them to the Fairy Queen who lives in the south end of the Windspear Hills. This will be our deliverance from this... this Irenicus and his dungeon!"
Jaheira: "So...I see we have a name for our captor at last. Irenicus, is it? Tell me, dryads, why this Irenicus would go to such lengths to keep you three here."
Cania: "We are supposed to instill emotion, but he is barren inside. I am not sure what he expects."
Elyme: "You can foil his plans for us at least. If you take the acorns to the Fairy Queen then she can regrow our trees and free us!"
Chiyo: "I will be happy to help you."
Ulene: "Thank you! You must take the acorns and deliver them to the Fairy Queen in the south end of the Windspear Hills."
Cania: "But he has taken the acorns. He knows of our plans. It amuses him."
Elyme: "He has left our acorns with Ilyich. Ilyich is mean!"
Chiyo: "Then I suppose I shall have to obtain your acorns from this Ilyich fellow. Who is he and where can he be found?"
Elyme: "Ilyich is the clan chief of the master's duergar slaves. He is somewhere within the dungeon. Return to us when you have the acorns and we will tell you how to escape."
They don't have anything else to say, so I continue onward. Elsewhere in teh complex I find a room filled with bubbling tanks, most of which contain horrors that cannot live, but one contains one that still has some awareness. Rielev, the most coherent, implies that Irenicus forgot about them because he's too consumed with the search for something unspecified, and that he has spent a long time doing so.

They do mention the "Mistress," though, whose room Irenicus has kept just as it was.

Other than the traps everywhere. Presumably those were a later remodeling.

After fighting my way though some mephits and wandering duergar patrols, exploring the scrying room and the library, I find Ilyich, the leader of the duergar:
Ilyich: "Be alert, laddies! We've got company. Ho, prisoners! Ye've come to th' wrong place, I tell ye true! Ilyich and 'is boys'll stop you!"
Chiyo: "Give me the acorns that belong to the dryads and you shall not be harmed."
Ilyich: "I won't be givin' 'em to you. Come and get 'em... if you can!"
In the unmodded game this fight is a joke, but this time he nearly killed me and it was only luck that I won and didn't have to try again. He had a mage with him, who I charged in and killed immediately since kill the guy in the pointy hat. But I didn't kill him before he got off a Slow spell, which hit Minsc and Jaheira, two of my three melee characters. Meanwhile, Ilyich slathered on an oil of speed before laying into Chiyo like a cuisinart. He even chugged a potion of extra healing when he got low, and when I killed him I noticed Chiyo had 4 HP left. On his body are the acorns the dryads wanted taken away, and Chiyo picks them up and puts them in her pocket.

The rest of this level is mostly more of the same, though there's a neat side trip into the Elemental Plane of Air, where you can free a djinni from his imprisonment and he gives you a very familiar sword that I immediately give to Minsc. Butt-kicking for goodness indeed. I also loot the Mistress's room, fighting off the clay golems that are summoned as soon as I step inside, and grab the portal key that opens up the exit to the next level of the dungeon.

Dungeon Level 2
You get here and your first thought is "what, another level?" but level two is maybe a sixth the size of level one by content, though a bit larger by volume because of all the corridors. The first thing you see when you step out of the portal is Yoshimo, who says he's from Kara-Tur and came to Athkatla to seek his fortune:
Yoshimo: "So there is sanity in all this madness. If you are not in league with the evil that dwells in this unholy place, Yoshimo begs your assistance."
Minsc: "We serve no evil mages, no sir! But Boo looks upon you with suspicion, little man. How is it you come to be here? Never have I seen Boo's whiskers quiver so!"
Yoshimo: "I am not sure how I came to be here...like you, I suspect. I have been trying to find my way out, but I was wounded in my attempt to do so."
Chiyo: "I would welcome another companion but I have a few questions first."
Yoshimo: "What do you need to know?"
Chiyo: "How did you get here?"
Yoshimo: "It is actually quite uh... embarrassing. My profession does not leave itself open to those who are not wary yet, somehow I was caught unaware. I came to Athkatla years ago from Kara-Tur to seek my fortune. At some point, I went to bed in my room at the Copper Coronet and I awoke in a strange room with a very sore head. I do not know how long I was there before awaking."
Chiyo: "Do you think that we are in Athkatla?"
Yoshimo: "I am unsure. I may have been drugged when I was brought here. I may have been unconscious...either way, I do not know how long. If it was the former, this place could be anywhere. If it was the latter, then I don't imagine that I could have traveled very far without noticing."
Minsc: "Then you too know the hardship of being set into a maze like a helpless hamster! We are comrades in peril! Boo asks what you propose we do next, little man."
Yoshimo: "I do not know a way to escape this place. Perhaps we could search for this exit together."
Chiyo: "I would be pleased to have you join me."
Yoshimo: "I shall be happy to lend my blade to your cause. There are two things that I have discovered about this place that may help us escape. In the next chamber beyond the one in which we stand, four portals lie. Each of these portals releases a little, cackling fiend which tries to kill me. These little beasties keep coming in through the portals. Perhaps if the portals are destroyed, one could defeat the beasts that have already come through. Shortly beyond that chamber there is a hallway that contains several wands mounted in pedestals. They blast all that walk before them. I have noticed that each wand is locked into the pedestal and could be removed if one had the proper key. I know not where these keys are. Let us begin!"
I'm a bit suspicious of this, but I take him along with me because I'm not at the limit of six party members and I'm not going to leave him to die down here.

The rest of level 2 is really not that memorable because it's much more of a setpiece trap dungeon than the first level. Some of those setpieces are interesting, though. You repeatedly get attacked by assassins who work for the Shadow Thieves, and ignore all your protestations that you're not ensorcelled monsters, shapeshifted demons, illusions, or any of the other dangers that lurk in the stronghold of a high-level wizard. I don't blame them, honestly.

That's most of the level, other than one battle with duergar, a battle between a vampire and some Shadow Thieves, and a man named Frennedan trapped behind a glass door who begs you to free him. I was absolutely convinced that he was going to turn out to be a doppelganger and try to murder me, and the Baldur's Gate wiki tells me that I was right, but at least in my game he just followed me around for a while until I found the exit.

Color-coded for your convenience.

The wand trap hallway makes the least sense, especially with the duergar who are camped in the middle firing at me and, as soon as I move a bit, try to get into a better firing position, trigger the traps, and die. Oops.

Also, props to Sword Coast Stratagems again. I ended up fighting some Shadow Thieves who chugged invisibility potions and hid until I walked toward the one visible thief, then leaped out and backstabbed Imoen, nearly killing her instantly--on my good save. A couple times they did, or lowered her to the level that triggers her scripted, "Nononononono can't die can't die have to GET OUT" sequence where she leaves the party and runs. I can see I'm going to have to pay a lot more attention to my back ranks than I did in Baldur's Gate.

After finishing the level, you get a brief narrative cutscene and end up in the...

Promenade of Waukeen
I emerge on top of a massive pile of rubble where Irenicus is murdering Shadow Thieves with contemptuous ease. He kills them all in a few seconds.

The video is worth watching.

Then he addresses the party:
Irenicus: "So godchild, you have escaped. You are more resourceful than I had thought."
Imoen: "You're not going to torture us any longer."
Irenicus: "Torture? Silly girl, you just don't understand what I'm doing, do you?"
Imoen: "I don't care what you're doing! Let us go!"
Irenicus: "I won't let you leave, not when I'm so close to unlocking your power."
Imoen: "We don't want anything from you."

Imoen casts magic missile.

Irenicus: "Enough! I will no longer listen to the babbling of ignorant children!"
Then a bunch of cloaked wizards teleport in and tell everyone that they've detected unsanctioned magic and are here to stop it. Irenicus takes it about as well as you'd expect.
Cloaked Wizard: "This mage's power is immense. We must overcome him quickly."
Irenicus: "Enough! I haven't the time for this!"
Cloaked Wizard: "You will... cease your spellcasting and come with us!"
Irenicus: "Your pathetic magics are useless. Let this end."
Cloaked Wizard: "Even if we fall, our numbers are many. You will be overwhelmed."
Irenicus: "You bore me, mageling. You may take me in, but you will take the girl as well."
Imoen: "What? No! I've done nothing wrong!"
Cloaked Wizard: "You have been involved in illegal use of magic. You will come with us."
Imoen: "I'm not going with them! I'm not! Help me... please..."
And then the wizards teleport Irenicus, Imoen, and themselves away. Minsc is all in favor of going after her immediately, but Jaheira points out that the party has no idea what's going on and only the faintest idea where they are, so finding more allies and getting their bearings is almost certainly the proper course of action. And that's the end of the on-rails intro sequence.

Future posts will probably be more of a highlights and best of reel or my impressions of whole areas rather than a blow-by-blow account, but the beginning of the game is very linear and starter dungeons tend to be reviled, so I thought I'd cover this in more detail. The beginning is also really important because it establishes a strong motivation for the player if they've played Baldur's Gate. Going from HEYA IT'S ME IMOEN to brooding goth Imoen, and then having her taken away because of Irenicus, provides you with a desire to track down Irenicus and rescue Imoen. Or at least, it did me, because Imoen was the one character I always had in my party. She's a thief who can dual-class to mage, she's the main character's foster sister--and as you learn later, half-sister through their shared father Bhaal--and she's infectiously cheery. It works much better than Gorion's death did in Baldur's Gate, because the game can tell you that you've lived in Candlekeep for years and been raised by Gorion all it wants, but playing through Baldur's Gate with Imoen at your side trumps any number of years of briefly touched on backstory.

I can definitely see why people install mods to skip the intro sequence, as it would be incredibly annoying if I were playing this game more than once in a decade, but it was valuable to play through it for me. I had completely forgotten the dryads and the experiments, and really only remembered the battle at the end and the color-coded wand hallway. Who would build one of those, anyway?

Next time, the world opens up and I wander around aimlessly because I don't remember anything about that part of the game!

Next: Part III: I'll Make You an Offer...
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Level 99 and The Dreamers - The World Is Dreaming (Dreams Dreams)
marianlhmarianlh on June 13th, 2015 11:54 pm (UTC)
You took Chiyo into a dungeon?

You monster.
dorchadasdorchadas on June 14th, 2015 01:14 am (UTC)
I did. Her father being some kind of transcendent entity even fits!
marianlhmarianlh on June 13th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC)
The beginning, with the wizard as pop-Nietzschean mad scientist, sounds really tonally wrong for a Dungeons & Dragons game. But it sounds like it picked up after that.
dorchadasdorchadas on June 14th, 2015 01:40 am (UTC)
I know Irenicus is part of what people talk about when they talk about how BGII's story is great, but I've done a pretty good job of avoiding spoilers in the past decade and a half so I can't say whether all the talk about THE POWER is justified or not.