Monday, 25 July 2016

Baldur's Gate 2 Retrospective Walkthrough Guide: Announcement

   B A L D U R ' S  G A T E  I I  
   S h a d o w s  o f  A m n    &    T h r o n e   o f  B h a a l   
   W a l k t h r o u g h A n n o u n c e m e n t  
Announcement — Parameters of Play & WeiDU log • Part I — Chapter One: Prologue, Chateau Irenicus - Lower Dungeon (Imoen, Jaheira & Minsc) • Part II — Chateau Irenicus - Upper Dungeon (Yoshimo) • Part III (this write-up to be reprised soon!) — Athkatla - Waukeen's Promenade (Aerie)

Hi guys! This is just a short post to announce my next undertaking; this one immense: to cover the Shadows of Amn & Throne of Bhaal campaigns in their entirety and as I have played them, on Core Rules difficulty and rolling with a newly created Kensai variant.

 Version, Install & Mods 

After some deliberation I have eschewed Beamdog's Enhanced Edition in favor of the original BioWare release version (v2.5.26498) thugged out with the following mods: Ascension (1.4.24), Rogue Rebalancing (v4.80), Sword Coast Stratagems (v30), BG2 Fixpack (v10), BG2 Tweak Pack (v16), Ding0's Tweak Pack (v22), aTweaks (v4.42), One Pixel Productions (v4.1.0), Bigger Fonts Mod (v0.1), Widescreen Mod (v3.07) & Generalized Biffing. For component selections please consult my WeiDU log.

Wait! Why have you eschewed the Enhanced Edition, especially after you just completed Siege of Dragonspear? Well, I simply don't trust its stability, I'm unimpressed with its performance on my PC, and its compatibility with my chosen mods is questionable. So, that's it! The coverage is still relevant to EE players, anyway. It just won't cover Beamdog's additions. Whoop-de-doo!

Now, it took me hours and hours to install and tailor the campaign to play just the way I want it to, but everything's finally set! However, if a reader argues a good case for or against a certain mod or component, I will certainly consider making alterations to it.

Canon party. Two of these companions don't survive for BG2. Can you remember which ones?

 Game-play parameters that are set in stone and won't be changed unless someone uses robust reasoning to convince me otherwise 
 Difficulty : Core Rules - or go home! Ascension & SCS for the "hardcore" factor.
 Gender : Female. I want the Anomen Delryn romance.
 Race : Human. For no other reason than I like the avatar and the paperdoll - especially with One Pixel Production's Legacy restorations. I guess I could have chosen Dwarf for the shorty saves and then just used Shadowkeeper to give myself the Human avatar, but whatevs. Full optimization of Charname is not an absolute necessity because I shall have five companions along for the ride at almost all points of the campaign.
 Class : Pure Kensai (40). Yes! Its chunking capability is unquestioned. With TRU Grandmastery & Un-nerfed THAC0 table, I'm pretty happy. Basically I'm gonna be doing 50 dmg crits in the PROLOGUE - and that at ninth level and wielding a generic katana! I've also installed Two-handed Katanas & PnP Katanas for shits n gigs. The last one causes it to RAIN outdoors when you have Celestial Fury equipped. How cool (and yet ultimately useless) is that?  Update : Depending on the outcome of the poll (see top of sidebar), I may now end up rolling with a Kensai (9) / Thief (39) dual-class; in which case, there is gonna be some BIG backstabs.
 Alignment Lawful Good. This is for the DUHM Bhaalspawn ability, the rep boost & EZ enlistment of Ascension Balthazar for the final battle at the Throne.
 Ability Scores Min-maxed for power-gaming. Stat tomes consoled in and consumed for a handsome stat-line of 19/19/19/13/13/19.
 Skills Grandmastery in Katana and one star (*) in Two-Handed Weapon Style (remember, TRU Grandmastery & Two-Handed Katanas).
 Special Abilities Kai to max the weapon roll damage (so a katana's 1d10 becomes a 10) and DUHM (a handy ability that will be lost in Jon's Asylum but regained in ToB, thanks to aTweaks).
 Experience points  (XP): Console used to up XP to the Tales of the Sword Coast cap of 161,000. This brings me to eighth level.
 Relevant combat stats  (only my base katana is equipped): THAC0 5, AC 4, ApR 3, HPs 130, Saves (10 12 11 12 13), Weapon Style Bonus Damage +1, Crit +1, Weapon Speed -2, Str 19 (to-hit +3, dmg +7)
 Role-playing stats : Cha 19, Reputation (12), Reaction +8.
 Locked-in companions :
Imoen: How can you showcase BG2 without Immy? Besides, she gets extra dialogues in Ascension, grows "taint" and even gets Bhaalspawn abilities!
Yoshimo: This Kara-turian bounty hunter is a must-have companion for the betrayal scene. I will try and remember to remove the geas on his soul, too!
Anomen: Again, for the romance.
Sarevok: Charname's brother may be recruited at the commencement of Throne of Bhaal. Like Immy he also gets extra dialogues in Ascension. Plus, it's now easier to shift his alignment to Chaotic Good.
Balthazar: According to the Ascension readme you can enlist the services of the Bhaalspawn monk for the final battle against Melissan. The full-sized portrait painted by Enkida is BOSS, don't ya think?
Other companions: This is still up in the air. I'll most likely pick up everyone in Chateau Irenicus followed by Aerie in Waukeen's Promenade. Then I'll have to make some tough decisions upon reaching Chapter Two and the Copper Coronet!

 Update : Part I of the walkthrough has been posted!  Take me to it!



  1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2016

    Having replayed these games around the release of Siege, I want to wish you luck. Game is huge.

    And yes, SoA is infinitely better than Siege. Not as sure about ToB. The middle of that expansion always feels like a chore.

    1. I'm gonna need lots luck to get through this, so thanks! And yeah, Throne of Bhaal is a big disappointment but it's been so long that I shouldn't get too bored by it.

  2. Hooray! I really enjoyed your walkthroughs of Durlag's Tower and Siege of Dragonspear, looking forward to this one! BG2 is probably my favorite game ever, and you're really good at finding stuff that I'd totally missed.

    Your mod list looks great. Here are a few other ones I enjoyed the last time I played through a few years ago:
    Unfinished Business - Restores and finishes some content (mainly quests and dialogues) that was cut from the shipped game.
    Quest Pack - A curated collection of user-created quests, which are pretty well integrated with the base game.
    Alternatives - You might be interested in this if you're trying to role-play as Lawful Good. It adds some new options for traveling to Spellhold that are a bit more palatable than cutting deals with blood-sucking vampires or larcenous thieves.

    I have to admit that I haven't played with SCS before, so I'm not sure if any of the above would clash with that mod.

    1. Hi Chris! - and thanks for the kind words and mod referrals.

      Yes, I shied away from UB because I was unsure of its compatibility with Ascension & SCS. Plus I'm a lil' wary of adding too much content and having the game shit itself halfway through..! I also looked into aTweaks and Rogue Rebalancing, but nah. I think it might just be a bit too much.

      My mind rebels at the thought of adding fan-made quests to the campaign (in fact it terrifies me) so I think I'll pass on the Quest Pack & Alternatives. Thanks again, though!

  3. AnonymousJuly 26, 2016

    With SCS & Ascension, ToB is an enjoyable dungeon crawl. Not many rp options, really, but at least the battles can be a challenge.

  4. GallowglassJuly 26, 2016

    Hmmm. Obviously it's entirely your choice to play whatever game you enjoy playing.

    However, writing a walkthrough is obviously adding a huge amount of work to your run. Maybe I'm raining on your parade, but I can't see that large extra effort being worthwhile for a highly-modded instance of an obsolete version, because it's going to be playing quite differently from the standard experience encountered by most players. There are already some very good walkthroughs available for unmodded original BG2, so your proposed walkthrough is only going to "add value" for those players who choose both to stick with the original game and to adopt a similar mod setup. That's surely a relatively small audience, and also many of them will already be expert players who don't need a walkthrough.

    If you want to make a heroic contribution to the community which is both widely useful and not already thoroughly done by others, then it'd be a much more valuable use of your time to produce a detailed walkthrough for BG2ee. That's where the audience is, and in particular the audience of newer players who are more likely to learn something from your work.

    By all means enjoy your modded-original-version run, but I recommend not wasting your time writing the walkthrough of it.

    1. Hi again Gallowglass!

      1) I don't consider the original to be obsolete. For me it's more stable and the performance is superior to EE.
      2) The original is the definition of standard and the EE has no authority, imo. I don't like EE content and the UI is tasteless, too. I'm also concerned about mod compatibility and bugs.
      3) I appreciate the work Dan Simpson put into his walkthrough but his writing is high-school level and it's simply a mess and full or errors and omissions. Plus, there are no pretty pics!
      4) This is more than just walkthrough, anyway. It is the recording of a veteran player's experiences that will contain constructive criticism of the campaign and credit where it's due (similar to my in-depth retrospective on BG's original incarnation).
      5) Experts may not learn anything but they may still enjoy the read.

      Thanks for your views and I hope you will find time to comment on the run itself when I kick it off in a week or so.

    2. Frankly, with the newest BG2:EE version being incompatible with both SCS and Ascension (and yes, I know that there are hotfixes, but the originals don't need those, and have been tested enough to be relatively bugfree), some players, myself included, prefer the original versions. And both SCS and Ascension add enough changes to warrant another walkthrough, especially considering the tactical challenges, so thanks for writing it! It will be interesting to read how a kensai manages it. :-)

    3. Thanks for the show of support, chimaera. And you're most welcome. I'm interested to test the survivability of an unarmored combatant, too. I'll be attempting to flank whenever possible and trying not to run headlong into any arrow hails!

  5. Awesome! One of my favourite games and sadly the one I started three times and never completed (unlike Bg1). I'm happy that you chose the old version... the original experience!
    When I read "Kensai" I expected a Kensai-Mage (SO popular)... :) anyway good choice, this is a class I liked.

    Buuuut I've a question: so Ascension adds Balthazar available as a companion? I didn't know it was possible, well I usually play without mods... not even graphic enhancements.

    1. Hi Marco! From the Ascension readme:

      Q: How can I convince Balthazar to join me?

      A: Be of Good or Neutral alignment (rumors indicate that you can do it with
      Evil if you are very wise and charismatic). Have a reputation greater than
      18. Have a Wisdom greater than 15 (drink a potion for 18, having 19 is
      even better). Have a Charisma greater than 15. Pick the right dialogue

      Q: How can I convince Bodhi to join me?

      A: You cannot be of Good alignment and your reputation must be less than
      12. If you have a high Charisma (around 15) she offers to join you,
      otherwise you must ask. Pick the right dialogue options. Also, Balthazar
      cannot have joined you :-). If your Wisdom is greater than 15, you can get
      out of promising her your soul.

      Very, very cool.

      I wanted to go all out on Kensai... I want to hit things really, really, REALLY hard. Plus, armor is for cowards! (will cast Spirit Armor or use Shield Amulet, ofc). I thought about Kensai/Mage & Kensai/Thief duals and decided to just be a pure sword saint. There are so many choices in BG2 that it can be overwhelming if you get ahead of yourself, planning your itemization, party composition, order of undertaking quests and stuff like that. As you know, it's truly a massive campaign that presents the players with so many options... FUN.

    2. Hi! Oh so two added companions, the requirements are quite high but it's interesting, I wonder how are them stat-wise.

      Anyway Kensai/Mage is a classic, very strong (someone used it to solo che game I think) but I liked a lot using it. I never tried the pure kensai, but I always like using classes that aren't covered by the companions.
      But hey... Anomen romance! :3 how unexpected, now I'm curious about the party members, the locked-in companions listed are the same I would use.

    3. Yes, Marco. Kensai/Mage duals are one of the easiest solos but Berserker/Mage duals are even easier (EZ immunities and fewer item restrictions). I think the Fighter/Mage multi-class is probably the most powerful solo, overall. Once you know all the tricks there are not many chars that fail to solo all the way to the Throne...

      The Anomen romance is supposedly fairly well written. It's also the only romance female Charnames get. Female gnomes don't even get that! (I'm Human)

      I want Yoshimo for the betrayal scene and Imoen whenever possible because she adds depth to the campaign. Sarevok in Throne of Bhaal, too. The more ppl we have talking about Bhaal and the Bhaalspawn, the better!

    4. Never tried it... by the way playing solo bores me, I like creating a good party, and I'm curious about yours, for example there was a debate among my friends wherether HaerDalis is useful or not...

      It's a pity I don't stand Anomen as much as Casavir of Nwn 2! I don't know why but the romances for female chars are always set with those I hate most! (never used Anomen much, as a healer I preferred Jaheira).

      Yoshimo is a must, a good thief. No, the best thief (Nalia is terrible) and Imoen too, I used her a lot in BG1, so I would not avoid using her and her brother Sarevok (that is a beast in combat). Other companions have less interesting parts even if some were pretty interesting and useful (I wish that Valygar was more developed)

      PS: funny thing the pic "Two of these companions don't survive for BG2" ... in my game one of them did not survive neither BG1! :)

    5. Yes, fun is found in party not solo play. I went through a solo phase and eventually found the latter easier than the former.

      The tiefling blade is a good tank with Defensive Spin. I'm not sure at this stage what party I'll roll with, though. I'll grab everyone in Chateau Irenicus and then Aerie in Waukeen's Promenade but once I reach Chapter 2 and the Copper Coronet some decisions will have to be made. In the interests of walkthrough completeness I'll probably cycle through all available companions while in Athkatla in order to do their personal quests and highlight memorable interjections and other banters. This means I will take an experience point hit that may amplify any difficulty posed by SCS, but I'm pretty confident that I'll somehow scrape through.

      Anomen is tolerable I think... but yeah, power-gaming wise perhaps 2nd to Jaheria who gets Iron Skins and is a multi, not a dual. Viconia is the weakest healer, being a pure. She has great stats and MR for being drow, though. It's great to adventure with the evil trio of Edwin, Korgan and Viccy, btw.

      For me Yoshi is a must for plot reasons: the betrayal scene in Jon's asylum and I don't think I've ever removed the geas on his soul, so definitely going to this time. Jan Jansen is a great thief, too (Illusionist/Thief multi).

      Can't wait to gift Sarevok the Ravager +6 for its vorpal effect coupled with Deathbringer assault. Hell yes!

      It disappointed me that BG2 enforced a canon party.

    6. GallowglassJuly 28, 2016

      Yes, Haer'Dalis is actually very useful, although I don't recommend him so much for beginners. He's more complicated to use effectively than most other NPCs, so he's better in the hands of an experienced player who properly understands how to combine his magical and physical skills. Without knowing how to use him properly, he might seem weak.

      Unlike a lot of other people, I like Anomen. He's much less of an arrogant prig once you've successfully completed his personal quest (i.e. once he becomes LG), and he's a terrific Cleric. I'm not so convinced about his romance being well-written, but I don't think the other romances are very credible either (with the possible exception of Jaheira's).

      I'm very surprised at the suggestion that Jaheira is a better healer than Anomen or Viconia, since Druids lack several of the key healing and buffing spells and also lack Turn Undead (and there are *lots* of undead enemies!) Of course Jaheira's physical combat ability is superior, and Druids have some good summoning and offensive spells, so she's well worth a place in many parties, but she's still a rather weak healer. I've never yet taken her through BG2 (or nowadays BG2ee) as my party's sole healer, although she's an excellent supporting divine caster when you've *also* got a proper Cleric in the team. Being a good secondary tank and a good secondary healer is a powerful combination, but I wouldn't use her as primary in either role.

      I agree about Yoshimo, I almost always take him along to Spellhold for plot reasons. However, whilst exploring Athkatla before departing for Spellhold, I rarely have him along for much of the time - more often I use Jan as Thief (or my protagonist when applicable).

      As for Sarevok in ToB ... because I'm quite completionist, he's always several levels behind the rest of the party by the time I get that far (even though I don't usually tackle WK until ToB, where it properly belongs). As a result, my experience of Sarevok is somewhat unimpressive. Yes, giving him Grandmastery in Halberds and equipping him with Ravager +6 can yield some spectacular strikes, but he's rather a one-trick pony and often less effective than a higher-level warrior fighting alongside him. I guess that if I reached ToB at lower levels, then I'd probably have a use for Sarevok more frequently, but as it is I rarely use him.

      As for soloing, no, not for me. I enjoy party interaction and the complexities of micro-managing multiple characters for best combined effect, so solo play is not my cup of tea.

    7. Turn Undead can be great, yes. But I wouldn't call Jaheira a "weak healer" just because Anomen and Viconia benefit from greater spell variety, faster progression and more spell slots per level. She is quite serviceable, though it's not her primary strength.

      But yeah, I meant Jaheira as a unit in general rather than as just a healer. She is a top-tier companion along with Aerie and one or two others. She gets Fighter and Druid HLAs whereas Anomen and Viccy are stuck with Cleric ones only. Ironskins means she doesn't take hits and therefore doesn't need to heal. Her custom Harper's Call can be useful, too. Insect Plague kicks ass! Give her Belm & Gnasher in SoA and maybe Club of Detonation & Belm (or Ixil's Spike) in ToB for GWWs and she turns into a TRU monster. Anomen will quake at the knees seeing her go to work. He is ofc great with TRU gransmastery and Flails (FoA+DoE). Gimme them both for SCS!

      I want Sarevok mainly for the extra Ascension banters. It's just fun to watch him get frequent decaps! I dual-classed him to thief once but because of the downtime this was done with a small party.

    8. GallowglassJuly 29, 2016

      re Anomen - "He is ofc great with TRU gransmastery and Flails (FoA+DoE)."

      Well, you could do that, but he doesn't have enough Fighter levels to be more than merely passable in melee after the early stages of SoA, so I wouldn't recommend using him this way.

      I find him much more effective with Grandmastery in Slings, standing back and either casting or slinging while proper warriors do most of the melee work. When he's forced to melee, yes, FoA is his natural weapon (or IMoD if facing undead), but then I'd give him a Shield rather than DoE for his off-hand, because it's not worth putting proficiencies into dual-wielding on a character whom I don't intend to use for much melee. He ends up with oodles of memorised spell slots, so standing back and casting plays to this natural advantage, and he can also do a quite surprising amount of damage with a good Sling when he has nothing useful to cast. Seriously, try him that way, you might be impressed with the results.

      re Jaheira - "I meant Jaheira as a unit in general rather than as just a healer. She is a top-tier companion ..."

      On this we agree. I'm much more inclined to use her for (secondary) melee than Anomen, since she gets a lot more Fighter levels, but she's also quite capable of standing back and casting when that suits the situation. Very useful versatility.

    9. Not saying sling can't be great but I intend to use Anomen in melee. With Holy Power and Righteous Magic his THAC0 drops to warriors lvls, his strength is buffed to a max of 25 (Crom not needed) and his dmg is maxed. The issue with Anomen is his ApR, but six with dual-wielding is good enough because he's such a hard and accurate hitter once buffed. I also like him to get amongst it rather than hang back because that way he can take advantage of regen and blade barrier.

      In this respect (tanking/DPS) Jaheira has it over Anomen because scimitar, Ironskins, and warrior HLAs. But still, I need to take Anomen to cover the romance.

  6. Sounds like a lot of people didn't enjoy ToB as much as SoA. In my opinion though, it was a worthy while finale to the grand saga. Hope you have a blast, Lilura! By the way, very surprised you are going for Anomen romance. Are you planning to go down on a LG or CN path?

    1. Thank you, Suzie. I want Anomen to end up Lawful Good and not vengeful.

    2. Good choice. I tried both and definitely preferred LG Anomen regarding both stats and writing. I think his romance is tasteful too, subtle and well written. I didn't even realise he was developing romance attraction to my Charname until very far into the game. Thought he and my Charname is becoming a good friend and was just tad curious why other NPCs don't interact with my Charname as much as him.

  7. Lilura what made you decide to go with a pure fighter?

    1. Well, why not? I don't need the power of a kensai mage or thief dual. I have access to duals (Anomen, Nalia, Imoen) and stronger multis (Aerie, Jan, Jaheira). The singles are ok, too. Even Cernd is not useless with Shapeshifter Rebalancing.

    2. I don't know why my name showed up as Unknown. Anyways I don't find single class fighters all that fun to play. Thieves and arcane casters are a lot more fun to play. Of course everyone has different.

      Anyways I'm looking forward to your updates.


    3. I'll be playing with a PARTY of thief and mage companions, anyway. I have access to one pure mage (Edwin), two dual-class mages (Imoen & Nalia), two multi-class mages (Jan & Aerie) and Haer'Dalis. I also have access to one pure Thief (Yoshimo) and two dual-classes. Yes, Imoen and Nalia are a joke thief-wise but Jan is the only thief that I need. I won't be dual-classing Sarevok to thief because with a party the dual downtime is an issue.

      Anyway, I have put up a poll ppl can vote on (top right of sidebar). ;)

  8. Looking forward to this one very much. Seems to be the natural calling for this blog, really :-)

    1. Yes, I've been thinking about doing a write-up for quite a while now, even as far back as my Aielund Saga coverage (a NWN series that was heavily influenced by BG2). The influence of BG2 was also apparent in other NWN epics I covered (Swordflight, Crimson Tides of Tethyr and Darkness Over Daggerford). Still, I held off diving into BG2. But when I saw Imoen at the end of Siege of Dragonspear, the desire for nostalgia hit me pretty hard. So yeah, it has to be done. I hope I'm up for it...

      Thanks for commenting, Damian!

  9. I´m kinda new in this style of games (just finished SoA) and I think I´m becoming addict to your blog...and Jaheira for some reason. Thank you for the hard work and keep it up

    1. Thanks, Leo. I'd like to think my write-ups are solid reads for newcomers and experts, alike.

  10. Hello. Does SCS include tactics and/or improved irenicus dungeon?

    Haven't tried SCS yet, but tactics was pretty challenging(at least the first 10h).

    1. Hi there. SCS includes lots of Tactics-based/Tactics-influenced stuff, but not Improved Ilyich (or the other fan-made encounters, for that matter). Instead, there is a toned-down component called "Make the starting dungeon slightly harder". This is detailed in the next post, which covers the Prologue and Chateau Irenicus.

  11. oh boy, fiendish gating. you're in for a treat (or pain. or both)

  12. I can't install scs for bg2ee, only tactics, ascension, tweakpack and item upgrade. Do you know some way of installing it? By the way, Ascension final battle is imposibble, i tried it with my solo figther mage and couldn't do it. Weimer tactics mod is good but it improves only some components whereas scs improves whole game.

    1. No idea, sorry. I decided against EE for this heavily modded run due to compatibility concerns.


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