Monday, 28 September 2015

Baldur's Gate: In-Depth Retrospective on the Original Incarnation - Part VI

(Continuing from: Baldur's Gate Blathering Part V)

The Labyrinth of the Warders


The large, central chamber is occupied by four dwarven warders (Pride, Avarice, Fear & Love) guarding an elevator shaft, each of whom pose a riddle which must be solved in order to descend to the second, deeper labyrinth. Solving the riddles requires careful and extensive exploration of the entire dungeon; its floors and containers laced with traps, its corridors and chambers linked by secret doors and inhabited by undead, arachnid, jellies, golems and shapeshifters [2], all of which stand as obstacles to the procurement of treasures and essential puzzle pieces.

Below left: One of Durlag's glittering treasuries.
Below right: A trio of Greater Doppelgangers, hasted and mirrored. Their creepy moans and one-liners send shivers up my spine!

[2] Skeletons, Zombies, Ghouls, Ghasts, Skeleton Warriors, Phase & Wraith Spiders, Mustard Jellies, Flesh Golems, Greater Doppelgangers.

Right: Time to fillet some meat!

The Warders' Riddles

To solve the riddle of Pride, the player must venture to the reading room and peruse the four tomes, causing a sword to glow in the chamber across the corridor. To solve the riddle of Avarice, the player must rummage through the treasury (above left) to procure the priceless Glittering Beljuril Gemstone. So far, so good!


To solve the riddle of Fear, a mallet head and handle must be found; then the mallet assembled in the forge using the hammer & anvil. The mallet must then be taken to the trophy chamber and struck on a gong to sound it. This riddle requires considerably more exploration than the first two.


And finally, to solve Love's riddle, a bejeweled key must be found and used to open a magically-warded dresser containing a switch to turn on a machine in the engine room, thereby powering up a winepress. A bunch of glowing grapes must also be found; then crushed on the now-operable winepress to fill a bottle of wine.

Below left: As a nice touch, the engine can indeed be heard humming once it's switched on. Atmosphere like that is taken for granted these days, but back then it was rare and appreciated.
Below right: When you breathe the wine deeply, memories of lost loves come rushing back and you find your eyes filling with tears. - Item description for the Bottle of Wine.


With the sword glowing, beljuril pocketed, gong struck and wine bottled, the grim-faced party (who are only alive thanks to Power Word: Reload!) return to the central chamber to be rewarded by each warder in turn (+2,000 quest experience per riddle). The wine for Love is presented last.
  
The warders now turn hostile, with Pride shifting into an armored warrior and self-buffing with Draw Upon Holy Might; Avarice dropping a Cloudkill before shifting into a backstabbing thief; Fear shifting into an ethereal Doppelganger; and Love shifting into a mighty mage and blasting the party with Skull Trap! Tough lil' blighters, these. This fight is hard.

Below left: You might like to buff up before talking to the last of these guys!
Below right: The warder battle, showing Skull Trap, Web and Cloudkill in action. Love is immune to Web by virtue of Globe of Invulnerability. The two blood-red columns each signify a warder's death.


With the warders bested, the Level 1 Exit Wardstone is looted from Love's corpse; it being the key to the lift that leads down to a second, more challenging and complex labyrinth, where we learn about Durlag's ill-fated family.


The Labyrinth of Doors

Navigation of the second labyrinth relies on the manipulation of statues, sparring dummies, levers and wardstones to open and close warded doors made of impenetrable stone. These doors may separate party members, condemning them to death. The labyrinth is also famous for pitting the party against Greater Doppelgangers disguised as Durlag, his wife and sons. Greater Doppelgangers may also be encountered as on-rest spawns, randomly appearing in the form of Islanne (Durlag's wife, a mage), Kiel Legion-Killer (his eldest son and Clan-prince, a Fighter/Cleric) or Fuernebol (his youngest son, an archer) - even shifting between them during battle! The common "Islanne" variant is problematic in that it unleashes divide & conquer spells like Confusion, Horror & Dire Charm, causing anarchy in the party's ranks. Dispel Magic is the key counter - memorize it!


The central entrance chamber has four exits of note, each with a dusty book placed on the threshold pointing out where Durlag's wife and sons were assailed by Greater Doppelgangers (below left). Dusty books have been carefully placed by Durlag throughout the labyrinth, giving rhyming hints and reflections on what happened down here, three centuries ago. I'll quote them as we go.

Only one door is open at the moment, leading to a statue chamber. Here, an eerie tapestry gives the player a clue about the statues (below right).


Manipulating the first statue opens the door to the master suite, wherein Islanne's wardstone is looted from the coffee table. This act triggers the suite's entry door to close and its escape door to open, even as a Greater Doppelganger - disguised as Durlag - teleports into the suite to creepily regurgitate Durlag's words to Islanne, though with a twisted spin (below left). Shifting to its true form, the Greater Doppelganger turns hostile and fills the room with fire! As mentioned earlier, Dispel Magic and Magic Missile are effective counters to their protective Mirror Image, an extremely powerful illusion.


The escape door is open to a short tunnel leading back to the statue chamber.

Foul mimic of mortal man, was in my shape they killed Islanne. - Dusty Book.

Manipulating the second statue opens the door to Fuernebol's practice chamber, wherein a sparring dummy is struck to trigger a similar chain of events, except that this Greater Doppelganger fills the room with noxious fumes, knocking the party out and poisoning them!


Again, a tunnel returns the party to the statue chamber.

Soft walks the trait'rous Doppelganger, into my dear son's practice chamber. - Dusty Book.

The door to the Throne Room opens when the party has looted both the wardstones of Kiel (Durlag's other, eldest son) & Fuernebol from the master suite, and struck another sparring dummy in the practice chamber. Looting Kiel's Helmet (Immunity to critical hits & fear effects, boosts morale) from the throne triggers a spawn of three Greater Doppelgangers, each of which conjure billowing clouds of toxicity!


Having solved the door puzzle, the player now has access to a small chamber with a lever panel to open and close any of these doors (below left), including one that opens a tunnel made deadly by a crushing wall trap that insta-kills anyone unfortunate enough to trip it. (Below right.) (Being such a cool set piece, the wall trap was recycled in BG2's Spellhold.)


The tunnel winds down to a trapped chamber of no other significance; and then another chamber divided by a molten metal stream. Here the party is pitted against a trio of Greater Doppelgangers that have assumed the forms of the late Kiel, Islanne & Fuernebol.


Taste My Fear. - Dusty Book.

The torture chamber is the most trap-dense area of the labyrinth (below right); some of them 100-rated. Durlag's cursed goblet lies discarded on the floor (below left). If equipped and consumed, it seems that neither Remove Curse nor Dispel Magic will unequip it, meaning you have to wait twelve hours for the panic effect to wear off (rest twice to recover "instantly").
 

Face My Demons - Dusty Book.

When this book is picked up from the floor of the portal chamber, two Greater Doppelgangers spawn to flank the party from the torture chamber behind, randomly shifting between the forms of Islanne, Kiel and Fuernebol (below right). When they're dealt with, two teleportation wardstones may be looted from central (trapped) receptacles, allowing the party to circumvent the dual gates by means of glowing glyphs (below left).


Seek No Exit. - Dusty Book.

Trapped urns adorn the adjacent funeral chamber. They contain only healing potions (below left).

Know No Refuge. - Dusty Book. 

An adjoining shrine is dominated by a trapped statue holding the ultimate prize, the Level 2 Exit Wardstone! (below right.) But where is the exit?


Feel No Warmth. - Dusty Book.

Down a long tunnel, ghasts lurk in alcoves waiting to ambush intruders. The tunnel is complicated by Fireball traps. 

Dance With the Dead. - Dusty Book.

At the tunnel's end, what appears to be the exit turns out to be a ruse! Instead, three Skeleton Warriors ambush in a deadly flanking manoeuvre and a foul stench overpowers the room.


The true exit is just south of this room, but there is one last chamber to explore.

Here fell Kiel the Legion Killer. - Dusty Book.

The final resting place of Kiel is guarded by four Dwarven Doom Guards who are made hostile by when Kiel's Morningstar & Buckler are looted from the trunk at the foot of his bed (below left). Good luck vanquishing these tanks...

Ok, that's it! The Labyrinth of Doors has been bested. With the true exit found and Level 2 Exit Wardstone in hand, the bloodied and battered party prepares to descend the staircase to the third labyrinth, where we will attempt to understand Durlag's disturbed mind...

Know My Madness. - Dusty Book.


Labyrinth of the Elements & The Chessboard

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