Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Icewind Dale 2 - Revisited (Part 5 - Underdark and lots of monks)

Chapter 4 starts off pretty grandiosely with some epic music outside of the large Black Raven Monastery. It created a sort of excitement within me that caused me to foolishly cause some of my party member to drop to 1 hp for crossing a flimsy bridge (the designers were apparently nice enough not to cause my guys to die). Content within the Monastery though is slightly disappointing.

It started off with a small complication of course. Apparently outsiders are not allowed to enter the Underdark caverns below the Monastery. The first NPC who greeted my entrance, Salisam, told me that. He offers me, however, a deal to be initiated into the Black Raven Order if I were to remove the deputy leader from power, Aruma (considering that the real leader is supposedly gone to the main bad guy's lair for negotiations). If I were to do that, power will fall onto Salisam and he promised to grant me my wish. Well, monks are lawful people, so I obviously accept.

So I met Aruma, and there was this weird half-fiend (incubus if I remember) named Dolon, who seemed very fond of Aruma and vice versa. I sent my scout to conveniently enter Dolon's guest chamber and found her dairy (which are the bane of all scheming bastards as usual) who showed that she was specifically sent by the bad guys to seduce Aruma. Of course, being a nice guy, I showed it to Aruma. Aruma got angry of course, but Dolon begged and pleaded and swore that his love for her is true. Wow, that certainly got...awkward? No awkward is not the word. Happy? I'm not sure. Anyways, since monks cannot get into love and all that, Dolon suggested that they both run far away from everything. Aruma agreed, leadership was given to Salisam and I get to go through the initiation test: The Eight Chambers.

The Eight Chambers...were...underwhelming. It is basically 8 Chambers (duh) and I can only send 1 naked character to complete each one. I get to rest him between every chamber, so of course I sent my best candidate for all of them - my tank.  Seriously, I think clerics do really well in these chambers. Wizards or sorcerers might do pretty decently too. This is because not only do I have to fight naked (only with a single normal weapon found in the chambers themselves), I cannot cast any buffs on myself before entering. 

Some of the chambers are boring design-wise. A couple was so bad that I actually remembered them, like the first chamber: The Chamber of Stone. In that chamber, I have to pull 4 levers in order. Each lever will spawn different amounts of annoying stone monks that will attack me. If I screw up the sequence of levers to pull, it will reset. There is no clue whatsoever to what the sequence should be so it's basically trial and error, and every lever you pull is just watching your singular character trying to beat up multiple enemies. 

On the bright side, some chambers are interesting to me, like the Chamber of Battle where I have to fight regenerating monks and defeat them at certain positions of the chamber in order to complete it. Amongst the 8 chambers, around 5 of them were bad or unmemorable but at least the rest were decent so I did not really have much to complain about. 

Completing the chamber leads me to the Raven Tomb under the Monastery, where my party encountered 4 very well animated golems surrounding a very bright platform with a treasure chest on it, obviously a trap. I, of course, triggered it in my cockiness since I'm half-buffed (this took care of all my fight so far) but holy crap these golems are tough as hell. Stoneskin wore off much faster than I expected against these guy. So I reloaded and tried again, this time with so many buffs on my 2 clerics it filled the entire character portrait. Thankfully, I managed to defeat them with ease and got my reward which is a bunch of really good but alas, useless magical objects. 

Aside from that, we encountered an army of gray dwaves trying to raid the Monastery (the ones we met at the previous chapter). We took them to screw off, they didn't listen and now they are dead. So off I go to the Underdark passages.

The very first thing that happened was a greeting by Malavon, a Master Of Sorcere (basically a really powerful male wizard in a drow society, go metagame knowledge check!) who asks for help. He states that there are driders breeding in the east blocking my path and I need to get rid of them. Metagame knowledge tells me that driders are half-drow half-spider that can only be created if some powerful servant of Lolth is involved. For those you get that good, the rest can ignore my previous statement. The fact of the matter is that you cannot 'breed' driders so I found it quite interesting to check it out. Malavon also asks to persuade his sister (who is the leader of the driders) to return to his camp. What?! Drow males asking a favor from outsider to 'save' his sister? Totally unheard of.  

The creatures in this area can be rather annoying. There were mushrooms creatures that can fear you during combat, which surprised me since my characters have good saves, but there must have been so many of them that eventually a couple of my characters would crack. Thankfully, clerics have a level 1 spell called Remove Fear that also prevents fear effects, so it wasn't much trouble. In the driders' lair, I came across the Red Wizard responsible for the breeding process.  Ah Red Wizards of Thay, of course they are involved. The process is pretty disgusting. It feels like some screwed up human experimentation thing. So I killed him and killed all the driders except Malavon's sister whom we managed to persuade to return to Malavon. Yay! Happy ending!

This is when the game gets confusing. See, beside the drider cave, there was this particular building I couldn't enter for no apparent reason until I defeat the driders, and it happens to be the building I need to enter to get to where I need to go. I might have missed something, but without the information as to why can't I enter it, it seems utterly silly. Anyway, that building is a home of mind flayers. Well, thankfully, all my characters have really good Will saves (2 clerics, 1 bard/druid, 1 sorc/paladin) so I wasn't that afraid.

Immediately I was attacked upon entering. The first went down really quick because my characters happened to be buffed beforehand (naturally). After defeating them, I began to explore the dungeon. At first, I thought it would be a dungeon. I mean, it IS a dungeon, but what I saw was not your typical dungeon but a maze. A circular one. It annoyed the hell out of me. I hate exploring mazes, or things that look like mazes, so I rested, rebuffed to the brim and started bulldozing the entire place. 

It happens that the Elder Brain in the middle of the dungeon will summon every creature it can in the dungeon to defend it. Well, thankfully none of them were as strong as the crazy golems I fought that were guarding the treasure chest at the Raven Tomb, so the fight cleared easily. It looked like a crazy fight though; fighters, mages, mind flayers, golems were squeezing their way to my party. The arcane spell Chaos helped a whole lot in this fight (as it did with all fights that look like they can get out of hand).

Finally we emerged from the dungeon into the open. Oh look, it's Oswald! And some forgettable bad guys as a chapter closing boss fight! Well, unfortunately it is less exciting than the Elder Brain fight so I shan't describe so much here. After the fight, we board the ship to Kuldahur, because the gnome suggests that it's a good place to go next. 

Just a quick PS, throughout the game, I probably left out a few encounters. There was one outside the mind flayer dungeon and the first encounter IN that dungeon has against a named mind flayer, for example. However, they are uninteresting and I just didn't feel like boring the text with more 'and I streamrolled them, again with my fully buffed clerics of destruction'. The fights are becoming more and more trivial as my characters get stronger.

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