Friday, 7 November 2014

Hordes of the Underdark Walkthrough - Part II

Undermountain Level Two

This next, largely uninspiring dungeon consists of a central region branching off to three separate areas (south, east, north). In keeping with Undermountain I, the center contains the exit; but first a puzzle that blocks the exit must be solved to progress. Much like the last puzzle, this involves collecting coloured chains, placing them onto same-coloured pedestals, watching as a colour code glows above a central pool, remembering the sequence, and then touching the pedestals in the order of the code to open the door leading deeper down. But I'm getting ahead of myself - first the four chains must be found. The first chain is found on the corpse of a goblin who was mowed down by drow as it attempted to flee. Off this corridor is a secret chamber many players would miss (green-tinted, far west), the door to which was spotted by Sharwyn. Inside are many chests, but a Spellcraft check reveals them to be an illusion, materializing into bats which flit away as we approach.

Undermountain Level Two - Central & The Chain Puzzle
The southern area is where I encounter the first flanking foes. You face off first against duergar, but then suddenly drow spawn at the entry door, behind you. But other than that triviality, this small, linear area is completely unremarkable, the sniper party simply peppering their way through benign packs of duergar battle clerics and drow spellbinders before dropping the Drow Sub-Commander - surprisingly at least pre-buffed with Stoneskin - who nevertheless put up a pathetic fight despite being also crowned with a Headband of Intellect +6 and flaunting misc. bling. The trapped drow chest here contains an item of interest, the Djinni bottle, who when summoned acts as a portable merchant and gives you a stone that activates a free teleport back to Waterdeep. The loveable OC rogue, Tomi, can be resurrected here, but you would have learned by now that Hordes' traps n locks don't require a Rogue, so bringing him back to life is just for +Exp. I should note that en route to the drow sub-boss was an inconsequential - but flavorsome - Listen check at one of the doors. 

Moving to the eastern section the trio encounter Rakshasa - First-Borns and Adepts. These guys, led by Shareesh, are somewhat less facerollable than the earlier duergar/drow, self-buffing with Stoneskin and Haste and then unleashing Ice Storm and Ball Lightning, amongst others. This is where you can activate the teleport (which you probably won't need as the cost of teleportation by means of the Relic is a mere Rogue Stone, and I had several by this time), and where the polite cleric Henchman from the OC, Linu, patiently awaits resurrection.

The forth and last area is the "North" one. We're up against mere goblins, but at least these ones have a unique spin. The goblin pickets fire arrows which cover you in green dye, the effect of which is to make you a target from afar. Unprepared squishy builds will be mowed down by sniper packs and shaman in the second chamber, no doubt. Another point of interest is that a narrow bridge must be crossed - blocked by a two metal gates, which must be lowered - as you're being fired upon by goblin archers and two ballistae. Deekin casted Summon Monster V (he would not have had this spell lvling as RDD) and the resulting meatshield soaked up the hail of aggro as my archers rapidly shot down the mobs on the other side, then angrily bashed down the gates. In the final chamber is the goblin boss, Argo Blacktooth, mischievously playing with levers which debuff and direct damage anyone still marked with green dye. Argo's corpse is looted for the Belt of Hill Giant Strength and the final chain to the puzzle. The other sub-boss of the North is the hasted and aura'd Stoney (pictured above), his giant corpse looted for the valuable Boots of Speed, a highly sought after item in all NWN campaigns (and droppable by Olgin in UMI btw). Anyway, solving the puzzle as per the method detailed earlier, and trying to forget the utter borefest that is UM2, the trio descend to Undermountain Level Three.

But before that, a character update - the trio reached their second level-up two-thirds through UM2. Here are the party members' unbuffed stats:

Annoyingly, the tactical dialogue option "Don't cast spells until I say so" isn't available for Sharwyn (or other OC Henchmen - only Deekin and later Nathyrra have the option), meaning in combat she stupidly empties her spellbook of cantrips before firing her bow. This is pretty much inexcusable even if BioWare did intend OC Henchmen not to travel with you beyond Chapter One - which is itself unnecessarily limiting and rather rudely enforced, as the player also isn't given fair warning to empty the inventory before the Henchman is removed from the party, necessitating reload to get the gear back!

Undermountain Level Three 

UM3 moves away from Halaster's engineered dungeons into the more open, natural (or burrowed) caverns of the Underdark. The first two areas are over-populated with encamped drow and host a few semi-tactical and fairly fun battles, also yielding loot actually worth harvesting. The trio picked off many drow spellcasters from a distance, long before they could attempt to sway things in their favor. Drow grunts who are fired upon instantly give chase and can inflict serious melee and sneak attack damage if you're not on the ball. Hit n run tactics work well, and are easier to pull off when perma-Hasted by my Taralash bow.

Left: One of the larger battles with the drow Right: UM3 Central
UM3: North
Nathyrra, a drow Wizard (7) / Rogue (3) Assassin (4), auto-joins in the third and final area for a party of four, but her tactics can't be tailored until Chapter Two when she officially joins the party. In keeping with the first two battles' theme, UM3 ends with a fight against elite drow and a crabby Drow Handmaiden boss with the object of freeing Halaster. I really enjoyed this fight, though I would have preferred a multi-staged effort with ten times the enemies rather than this one which ended far too soon. Unfortunately, the bard level I took which allowed me to pump Spellcraft to +12 isn't enough to identify exactly what the wizards here are casting, but regardless their spells hurt and they need to be dealt with pronto. Uber-loot here includes the Robe of Vecna.

From front to back: Halaster Blackcloak, Drow Wizards, Drow Handmaiden, PC, Drow snipers, etc.
As predicted, my most used clicky is boring old Rapid Shot. What a pity BioWare didn't design Imbue Arrow and Hail of Arrows to be more attractive. IA's fireball is party-friendly even on D&D Hardcore Rules difficulty but it isn't worth it to sacrifice RoF; and HoA circles around the enemy before hitting the target, thereby wasting precious time, doesn't bypass DR and it doesn't seem all that damaging so I can't see it being effective except at killing off mid-level trashmobs at epic player level with a single click (DA: Origins' Scatter Shot is far superior). Seeker Arrow and Arrow of Death are similarly sub-par. So very disappointing overall, but I'm still looking foward to epic levels and uber-enchantments from Rizolvir, the Drow blacksmith of Lith My'athar.

Deekin's spellbook has been pretty serviceable thus far, particularly Improved Invisibility, Haste and Summoning Creature V. His Bard Song currently bestows +2 attack, +3 damage, +2 saves, +16 HPs and +4 AC, a rock solid insta-buff that'll keep scaling into epic levels. He's surviving by virtue of my killspeed, persistently wields his crossbow even in close quarters, and hasn't died once.

Sharwyn as Fighter is an underwhelming performer, her specialty seems to be casting useless cantrips and dying. She gets dumped by the devs now, anyway, and so I relieve her of items and kick her out in preparation for recruiting the tiefling, Valen, in Lith My'athar - a hub where the Hordes campaign finally steps up a gear.

1 comment:

  1. The link to "Recounting Hordes of the Underdark - Part III" doesn't work. Did you continue this playthrough?


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