Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Aesthetic Appreciation of BG2 - Part V

   D u r l a g ' s  T o w e r   
   v e r s u s    
   W a t c h e r ' s  K e e p   

• Part I: Districts of Athkatla • Part II: Outskirts & Towns • Part III:  Far-flung Regions • Part IV: Throne of Bhaal • Part V: The Tower versus The Keep.

Ok, so here is a visual comparison of the two expansion mega-dungeons of the Baldur's Gate series. I have covered Durlag's Tower in its entirety as part of my in-depth retrospective on the original incarnation of Baldur's Gate, but I have not yet treated Watcher's Keep (and I don't intend to at this stage because I'm a bit lazy and treatment of mega-dungeons is no minor undertaking).

   D u r l a g ' s  T o w e r — T a l e s  o f  t h e  S w o r d  C o a s t   

Perhaps I will leave this place for another day then. No need to go and get myself killed. - Charname.

   L a b y r i n t h  o f  t h e  W a r d e r s   

I am LOVE. I must be murdered in this cursed place. - Warder.

   L a b y r i n t h  o f  D o o r s   

Taste My Fear.

   L a b y r i n t h  o f  t h e  E l e m e n t s   

Fire, Ice, Slime & Wind.

   L a b y r i n t h  o f  D u r l a g ' s  G h o s t   

If there is evil to be fought, I will defeat it. - Charname.
There is always evil to be fought... within and without... - Durlag's Ghost.

   D e m o n  K n i g h t   


   W a t c h e r ' s  K e e p — T h r o n e  o f  B h a a l   

Almost looks inviting, doesn't it? Backdrop of a waterway and nested amidst autumnal foliage, as it is. But make no mistake - inside, it's a den of stinking, epic evil.

   T h e  R i t u a l   

   T h e  C h r o m a t i c  D e m o n   

More suicidal fanatics willing to die in the service of Helm, I see.  Or have you been forced into service, as I once was a millenium ago? - TCD.

   T h e  M a z e   

   T h e  M a c h i n e  o f  L u m  t h e  M a d   

   T h e  F i n a l  S e a l   

   D e m o g o r g o n   

Note how the Durlag's Tower maps are much bigger and more complex, whereas Watcher's Keep actually IS bigger, but many of its dungeons are broken up and separated, and are not here shown (many of the Tower's sub-ARs are not shown either). Imo, it breaks immersion to have so many small ARs linked together by loading intervals. A lot of that is a result of the high-magic teleports employed in the Keep, to be fair. Note also the wider, more open nature of the Keep design as compared to the narrow, claustrophobic corridors and more intricate design of the Tower. 

So, which is the better mega-dungeon - the Tower or the Keep? Imo, the Tower wins easily. It's not as big and doesn't have all the fancy content that pushes the Infinity Engine to its limits, but it's more coherent, more atmospheric and has an emotional depth to it that not many dungeons can match; certainly not Watcher's Keep. The higher quality exterior and interior renders of the Keep also make it look like it came straight out of a factory; it looks brand new (the overly white facade, the rock face, the interior sheen). But Durlag's Tower looks ancient, weather-beaten and badass. Again, check out my coverage of this venerable deathtrap for more info.


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