I decided to give Baldur’s Gate 2 a final swing using a neutral/evil type of party. Originally, the goal was to go completely evil, especially with the main character to fully exploit that side of the game. However, I ended up backtracking and utilizing a Chaotic Neutral main character, which would allow me more flexibility in terms of questing.
Early on, the companions you recruit are of neutral/good alignments. So I felt that sliding things in the middle would allow for more flexibility in my party. However, once I passed Waukeen’s Promenade and made my way through the Slums, I went out and recruited most of the better evil/neutral characters and built up a plan for my end game party. Of course, part of the way I do things these days is to use EEKeeper to modify otherwise insipid NPCs to my liking. My Shadows of Amn party looked like this:
- Main – Half-Elf Kensai/Mage/Thief
- Dorn – Half-Orc Blackguard
- Korgan – Dwarf Dwarven Defender/Cleric
- Viconia – Drow Berserker/Cleric/Mage
- Imoen – Half-Elf Wizard Slayer/Mage/Thief
- Edwin – Human Dragon Disciple
In a few cases, I had to do some switching like Imoen’s spot going from Jan -> Yoshimo (for the black heart portion) and ultimately picking Imoen up. I would switch in Korgan from Minsc, Viconia from Aerie and Edwin from Jaheira.
For the most part, I was able to do most of the NPC quests except Keldorn’s (for obvious reasons) and Jaheira’s (which remained incomplete due to substituting Edwin in for her). Jaheira’s situation was bittersweet in that I probably could have done most of her quests, despite Viconia being in the party had there been a seventh spot open.
With regards to Shadows of Amn at least, I was able to get through all the extended version NPC quests. There were a few hiccups and restarts since it was the first time going through them. Like doing Dorn’s initial quest was bizarre since it was very dialog heavy and scripted. Neera’s wasn’t too bad but the voice acting was grating the entire time. Rasaad’s was fine but I felt forced into it somewhat as a result of doing it in parallel with Zaviak (Neera) in trying to get Wilson.
Now, I know that Wilson isn’t mandatory but I was attempting to do these for completion. I made one mistake in heading straight for the temple without talking to Wilson. The result left him freed after the fight outside the monastery. So I decided to cheat a bit as I hated the idea of redoing everything and summoned him. Despite the low reward value for getting him, I felt that it was a bit stupid with too much scripting (which is also why I ended up cheating to re-summon him to complete it).
Probably, the worst was Hexxat’s quests. A few weren’t too bad. I do think that the first quest that allows you to recruit the real Hexxat is worth doing regardless of alignment just for the bag of holding reward. I did die during one of the quests in trying to battle monks that instagibbed my main. So in the end, I just skipped out on them on the reload. Either way, I’ll return to my beef with the Hexxat quest later.
Part of what I wanted to do initially was Bodhi’s side of things for once. Honestly though, I just felt it wasn’t worth it. There’s a few items that I wanted early on like the Mace of Disruption and Amulet of Power as I tend to do the Firkraag dungeon. Having those items is a big boon with the various undead within.
Nonetheless, I know you can still receive the same items since you effectively flip the quests and eventually take out the Shadow Thieves’ hideout. But from what I understand it was timed which pretty much was the deciding factor on sticking with the Shadow Thieves side. In that sense, I felt the game was a bit hellbent on forcing the players doing the “good” quests and it’s something that has bothered me quite a bit.
One thing I was really happy with was Dorn’s second quest. That second quest gives quite good rewards with the +5 sword and The Visage. Honestly, I never considered using any other helmet for him as it made him pretty close on par with Keldorn in abilities. In addition, the +5 sword, while not the best item for Dorn, still is pretty damn sick for an early leveling weapon.
I know the other NPC quests allowed for some small trinkets and items but they felt ho-hum by comparison. It made me wish Beamdog had spent more time updating all of the NPCs to have deeper quests since most lacked any meaningful rewards and bare bones experience.
One thing I was amazed though was that the EE version has a fair amount of side content through these NPC quests. The additional rewards and XP make these side quests for Shadows of Amn almost worth it, depending on your party make up. For certain Dorn’s quest was well worth doing in Shadows of Amn and Hexxat’s recruiting quest too.
I really wish these side quests were not done through the NPCs themselves or at least not requiring them to be with you. Or at least, by increasing the number of NPCs in the game, I wish Beamdog would have allowed for at least one more party slot that could be filled through an EE character.
Going back to the rest of Shadows of Amn, probably the only thing I did slightly different from my usual routine was straight out killing Valygar to pursue his Planer Sphere quest. It was definitely the evil thing to do but I found it hilarious given that you’re left with a body that disintegrates the moment you step through the door.
I will say that I initially enjoyed Jan and wish I could have brought him along the entire way. However, I did try to modify him early on to a fighter/illusionist/thief via EEKeeper. While it kinda worked, it practically disabled all his special equipment. So I ended up reverting him and just taking him as-is. His dialog is quite humorous and worth the banter.
Another thing I did slightly differently was recruiting Anomen and converting him to Chaotic Neutral. Honestly, I just wanted to go through the motions and only used him for that piece of content to say I did it. It was pretty drab especially considering my reputation by that point and what Dorn had done in his desecration of the wedding ceremony.
Probably, the only two major failures in this play through for Shadows of Amn that I feel worth mentioning (outside of the ones I already discussed) were not killing Adalon (which you can do after finishing her quest for her eggs) and not killing Drizzt. By the time I was about to reach the surface, I pretty much felt fatigued and decided not to bother with Adalon. Same with Drizzt. Because of how that one NPC gets Drizzt’s equipment back, it didn’t feel worth the effort and I simply recruited him to help me deal with Bodhi.
Now, one interesting aspect in fighting Bodhi was that Viconia (whom I was romancing) did not become a vampire. I read that in order for that to occur, you must “complete” the romance. From what I could tell, I had yet to have slept with her by that point, so perhaps a certain flag was not set to allow for Bodhi to kidnap her. Quite honestly, I was happy that didn’t happen as I didn’t want to waste more time on a fruitless quest to resurrect Viconia in that temple.
Either way, I was eager to get to Throne of Bhaal and just pushed forward. I’m not a huge fan of Throne of Bhaal compared to Shadows of Amn. I think it’s well documented how shallow Throne of Bhaal feels by comparison. It’s just far too linear, especially after you complete the Yaga-Shura quest.
That said, there were a few goals I had in mind doing this play through. First was to recruit Sarevok. I booted Imoen for him (again, wishing I had at least a seventh slot) and converted him into a half-elf wizard slayer/mage/thief to replace what Imoen was doing. Unlike Imoen, I made Sarevok specialize in crossbows, two handed weapons and halberds. I really wanted to try some of the high powered halberds like the Ravager as well as give the big metal suit of armor a try (which I did get in Shadows of Amn, the pantaloons, another content first for me).
Another goal was to see if I could change Viconia and Sarevok’s alignment and figure out where Viconia’s romance would go. Finally, I wanted to do as many of the Throne of Bhaal NPC quests as possible.
So long story short, I finished all that up tonight but was not able to change neither Viconia nor Sarevok’s alignment. Despite finishing up the Watchers Keep in Throne of Bhaal (which might’ve been a major reason why I couldn’t finish), there just wasn’t enough time or perhaps quests to cause more triggers for their dialogs to happen. I did manage to get through three of Sarevok’s dialogs just prior to the change. So something else was missing and I still suspect that doing the first level during Shadows of Amn might’ve tripped up the quest.
In addition, I only was able to get through three NPC quests. I ended up doing Dorn, Neera and Hexxat’s quests. I thought about pursuing Rasaad’s quest but felt at that point, it wasn’t worth it. I read that he conflicts if Sarevok remains chaotic evil. I tried wandering around between Watcher’s Keep and another spot to see if time could trigger the final dialogs. When they didn’t, I gave up and figured I was better off finishing the game than wasting more time on something I really didn’t care about. Also, I read that Viconia straight out leaves your party during the encounter with the Shar followers and that just plain stinks.
As for the other three, I started off triggering Dorn’s quest which was unbelievably buggy. First, your starting area bundles your team up into a spot where you can’t move without resting. And in some cases, you can’t necessarily rest because the game says you’re split up. Once you rest, you have to Pocket Plane out of the zone and come back to allow the rest of your party members the ability to move again.
From there a conflict occurs with useless dialog and scripting. Now, here’s where I got super frustrated (despite already having been pissed off from this quest start). The planetar that comes to fight you ends up running off once you defeat her soldiers and damage her enough. However, there’s supposed to be additional dialog from the sword that Dorn wields, which allows you to use a feather to summon a portal.
My game ended up borking no matter what I did. The portal and dialog never happened. So I tried reloading a few times and could not get that part to work. After reading the forums, I found out that other people had the same issue. The way I ended up solving this problem was using the console to port myself to that area.
Once I arrived, I wasn’t in the starting spot. So this whole thing just was flat out awkward. I ran around the zone in an attempt to replicate the trigger points for Dorn to tell me where I was, etc. From there, the rest of the quest was just a stupid slaughter.
My next problem occurred once I got to the silver dragons. The first time I went through I failed to save because of the various random encounters leading to the silver dragons. So I borked the game by de-summoning them (whereas I really wanted to fight them both). Another frustrating re-load later, I repeated the process and managed a save game just in case the same situation happened. Finally, I was able to fight the dragons.
Now, here’s where two silver dragons that are named but not properly labeled make a totally frustrating experience on top of what’s been going on. Both have distinct abilities but because of the lack of labeling, you cannot easily distinguish which dragon does what. By this point, I kept wondering if Beamdog ever bothered to test any of their shit because there’s a ton of bugs and just bad experience in all of this.
Luckily, I managed to slay both dragons, loot them for craftable armor and went on my way. That said, I think what I read about why I could not trigger the portal was that certain flags weren’t set correctly during Shadows of Amn. That made me really worried as I had done everything correctly to my knowledge. Possibly the only thing that could have caused a disruption was how I dismissed Dorn at one point for Rasaad. So perhaps, the flags got screwed up during his dismissal.
At any rate, I decided to try Neera’s quest next. My fear was that the work I put in for her would be erased because she was not in my party after Shadows of Amn completed. And I was right. So again I was infuriated because I know that the game should have flags to indicate other NPC’s status and gear.
So admittedly, I modified Neera to be more like how she ended in Shadows of Amn before I went and had Edwin rejoin the party. That said, out of all the companion quests for Throne of Bhaal, Neera’s went the smoothest. And this is despite reading how her quest potentially bugs out with Szass Tam. After doing her quest though, I felt that it was highly underwhelming. At least with Dorn, I was able to fight two silver dragons and produce two really top notch pieces of armor worthy of the Throne of Bhaal.
Lastly, I went with Hexxat, who again, lacked her equipment and stats from Shadows of Amn. So I modified her a bit and gave her some spare gear. Oddly, most of the content for her Throne of Bhaal quest went super smooth right up until she confronts Larloch.
The Larloch bit drove me nuts because I had to repeat it a few times to get the result I wanted (i.e. retain her as a vampire). The thing about that situation is that there was too much scripting and very bad dialog involved for absolutely no gain. It was far worse than anti-climatical. It felt like utter waste of time. What was the point of her quest in all of this?
By this point, I had become very wary of these companion quests and lost a lot of motivation to do Rasaad’s. It remains the only NPC quest that I have yet to do and from what I read, it sounds equally fraught with bugs and issues. Probably, the worst part to me is that Viconica leaves without any recourse. What’s the point? Shock value? You put all this effort trying to recruit her, romance her and get her to change alignment just to leave because you want to do a stupid monk quest?
Also, I did not want to dismiss her because I was still romancing her. I read that it wouldn’t have affected the romance but that whole situation in Shadows of Amn was treated too sensitively with the terribly designed global variables used to flag this and that. And the worst thing is that I still couldn’t alter her alignment after everything I had done.
Since I had virtually nothing else to do besides Rasaad’s quest, I simply finished up the game and became a god. All the evil members of my party ended up rooting me on before and after I made the move. Also, Viconia got to stay alive so perhaps this was for the better.
Nonetheless, I think I’m officially done with Baldur’s Gate 2 for a while. I’m so distraught with how things turned out in the end with the anti-climatic situations and not being able to complete the content I was aiming at. I have a funny feeling that I should have left the Watchers Keep alone to get the final dialogs for Viconia and Sarevok. I could be wrong but it’s whatever now.
The only pathos I found in the EE version with the new content (besides a few key rewards) was seeing Noober and Saemon destroyed. EE does have it’s positive moments but I felt that the new content just needed a lot more testing, better writers and far better voice actors. There was too much scripting for my taste and I think the overly sensitive nature of the flags in the game and visual bugs introduced from the updated format make the content risky.
Despite how long EE has been out, we really still don’t get updates. I would love to see them fix a lot of these issues down the line because the new content has promise. That said, I think there’s only a few areas where the new content is worth pursuing such as Dorn’s quests and Hexxat for the bag of holding. The rest really is for novelty and it’s just too much of a distraction with possible bugs that make it compelling to do repeatedly.
That said, it was refreshing to play through with a predominantly evil aligned party. I did really enjoy playing Dorn as a Blackguard, Edwin as Dragon Disciple and Korgan as a Dwarven Defender. I do think that I managed to get a good feeling for how Blackguards play as well as improving my mage game play through Edwin. I don’t think the other kits seemed all that great. Like Shamans just plain suck from what I’ve heard. Probably, I could have converted Hexxat into a Shadowdancer in retrospect just to make her more interesting. But I only took her along for her quests so I cannot say that the kit really did much for me without having an extra party slot.
Either way, I guess given the limited engine that Beamdog had to work with, they did the best for what it was worth. I’ll still complain that I would like two more companion slots because there’s just too much excess gear going to waste by the end of the game.