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Let's have a moment and appreciate the Ruined Temple of Bhaal as a good RPG dungeon

JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 20,450
I've been replaying Siege of Dragonspear lately and, man, I'm having fun. Yesterday I finished the Ruined Temple of Bhaal and was stunned by how BGish the dungeon felt.

A week ago the creator of The CRPG Book Felipe Pepe shared his view on what makes a good RPG dungeon.

In that article, he says the Firkraag’s Maze from BG2 showcases the best encounter design ever in a very condensed combat gauntlet.

"Is not just a bunch of cool battles — almost all of them require special tactics. Trolls require fire or acid to stop regenerating, beholders require protection against magic, golems are extremely resistant to spells and weapons bellow +3, and so on. These force players to use their full arsenal of spells, items and equipment, which helps avoid the trap of “one tactic fits all” that many RPGs suffer from."

And the designers of the Ruined Temple of Bhaal nailed exactly the same approach. You start the dungeon with a mega-fight against a dragon in closed space (on the Insane difficulty also supported by younger dragons) which spams AoE attacks leaving the whole party either dead or heavily poisoned. There is also an option to kill the dragon silently before the battle starts.

An area with bugbears waits next.

Then you proceed to the fight against the half-dragon blackguard assisted by many cultists (previously neutral) who surround you in a narrow hallway, including several spell casters.

After that, you have to encounter a totally new enemy - Neothelid - which also summons a Magical Sword. The fight takes a while to get used to.

Next is High Priestess Akanna who summons 2 Ariel Servants. They hit like a truck.

And then you discover a hidden room with a nasty surprise - the Shadow Aspect - which can one-shot your tanks with unlimited backstabs unless you have abilities to dispel Mislead (constantly being re-casted).

And when you thought you had faced everything, a group of adventurers with a mind flayer and 2 umberhulks waits for you in the final chamber.

Of course, the dungeon is beautifully painted and provides epic loot (for this stage of the game) which feels rewarding. You also have 2 role-play choices to make in the dungeon: about the priestess of Bhaal and captured crusaders.

Overall, a great work, reminiscing of BG2 dungeons.

Post edited by JuliusBorisov on


  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,493
    I'm a bit less impressed with the encounter design in Siege of Dragonspear. Throughout the game, nearly all battles involve large groups of enemies. There are some battles against fewer, tougher enemies here and there, but the vast majority of battles are against tons of enemies at once.

    This encounter design affects the balance of the game. When you must fight a lot of enemies at once, that encourages you to use tactics that are good against large numbers of enemies, like throwing fireballs. This wouldn't be an issue if there was a larger variety of encounter sizes in the game. But when almost every encounter involves a large clump of enemies, it does in fact create that "one tactic fits all" problem: nearly all encounters in Siege of Dragonspear can be beaten very easily by spamming webs and fireballs.

    It does make sense for certain encounters to have many enemies. If you attack a camp full of Crusaders, then you should have to fight a lot of them. But there are other encounters where the large number of enemies seems kind of forced. You sometimes fight hordes of spiders, huge packs of displacer beasts, lots of beetles, and other creatures that aren't usually super organized.

    To SoD's credit, though, I did like the encounters in the ruined temple of Bhaal. There was a good variety in encounters, with some making you fight lots of enemies and others pitting you against a powerful enemy with few or no minions.

  • WarChiefZekeWarChiefZeke Member Posts: 2,014
    edited May 8
    I realize that large groups vs. smaller, stronger groups is a matter of taste, but I prefer the large groups, at least with humanoids. There simply aren't enough high level people in the realms to make stumbing across people with a dozen or more levels as commonplace as it often is. And those with high levels should be leading groups of followers with lower levels.

    Now giants packs of displacer beasts and spiders is a different story. There should never be more than roughly 5 to a group.

  • AmmarAmmar Member Posts: 1,067
    edited May 8
    Interesting comment, especially in the Firkraag maze dungeon being great, but I disagree strongly on that. The encounter mix is not bad, but the world building sucks. Why are all those weird creatures there and tolerate each other? What is the random tomb doing in the middle of the place? It feels like having been designed using the random encounter table.

    The temple ruins and the planar sphere are much better dungeons because they fit in the game world. The encounters fit the theme.

    And I feel this is also the issue with the Bhaal temple in SoD. The main map with the temple is fine, but the encounters on the way in feel forced. The undead sanctum is a lot better, because it makes sense as a whole.

    I think world building is as important as interesting encounters, though as other BG dungeons show you can have both. An RPG should not be just a sequence of interesting combat puzzles.

  • CahirCahir Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 2,257
    Firkraag's Lair is in my opinion one of the best dungeon design in the whole BG Saga. This was one of the most remembered experiences when I played BG2 for the first time. Like, I knew there is something evil lurking down there, but the suspense was built with each new corridor, each new level. When I was close to Firkraag's lair, I started to suspecting, this might be a dragon's lair, but this wasn't just a lucky guess, the whole scenery was giving me hints that this might be the case. I would be probably less surprised about the dragon living there if not the fact, that this was the first dragon encounter I've experienced in BG. Probably this is the reason why Umar Hills dragon did not give me the same chills.

  • Adam_en_tiumAdam_en_tium Member Posts: 25
    I'm currently doing my second full playthrough (bgee/sod/bg2ee), playing a build that I wanted because of this temple :blush: .
    I'm playing Za, a human femal neutral evil Berseker who upon meeting the priestess decides to dual to cleric in order to channel her inner "godness". Her objective is now clearly to ascend as the her father successor. I'm really enjoying this run, Dorn fits perfectly. She took the bridge revelation as a confirmation that she is on the right path. I just arrived at the coalition camp.
    Very cool run so far, and this temple is really cool lore/story wise. On my first run I didn't found the shadow aspect, what a surprise this time !

  • RedRodentRedRodent Member Posts: 33
    The Ruined Temple of Bhaal is probably the highlight of SoD for me. As cool as the Siege of Dragonspear Castle is, or how awesome it is to finally have character development for peeps like Dynaheir and Kahlid, nothing really compares to a proper dungeon romp. Beamdog did really well with this one.

  • Ludwig_IILudwig_II Member Posts: 285
    Neothelid was really awesome, loved it

  • AedanAedan Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 8,393
    Actually I did enjoy all of the dungeons in SOD!
    I definitely saw a HUGE improvement in every aspect after BGEE and BG2EE. I had a lot of fun. That's why I was hoping for another expansion.

  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,253
    The temple of Bhaal feels like a IWD2 dungeon, and I'm glad for it. I just disagree that that's the place Gorion found charname as a baby, I headcanon that it was in BG's undercity, so confronting Sarevok back there makes it really come full circle and also reinforce why the game is called Baldur's Gate s2

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 465
    edited May 12
    Agree that SoD has some great dungeons. I never liked Firkraag’s dungeon much. Durlag’s was the BG1 high point and I prefer Spellhold in BG2 (and probably any other dungeon in BG2, ruined temple of Amauntor and temple sewers to name a couple)

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