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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: 20,962
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
ZaxaresThacoBellOlvynChuruAerakarAedanLudwig_IIArcalianRedRodentIseweinSkatanMoomintroll

Comments

  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,668
    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.

    JuliusBorisov
  • WarChiefZekeWarChiefZeke Member Posts: 2,382
    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.



    OlvynChuruIsewein
  • CahirCahir Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 2,511
    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.

    ThacoBellJuliusBorisov
  • Adam_en_tiumAdam_en_tium Member Posts: 44
    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 !

    RedRodentJuliusBorisovAerakar
  • RedRodentRedRodent Member Posts: 78
    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.

    JuliusBorisovThacoBellAerakar
  • Ludwig_IILudwig_II Member Posts: 291
    Neothelid was really awesome, loved it

    JuliusBorisovThacoBell
  • AedanAedan Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 8,465
    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.

    JuliusBorisovThacoBellAerakar
  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,279
    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: 654
    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)

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 890
    Baldur's Gate had TERRIBLE dungeon designs. I love the game, but let's face it, there were a lot of really poorly done, terribly disappointing, dungeons in that game. Part of this was due to the designers imagining a PnP campaign in computer form, but I think a lot of it was because they were rushed.

    As I've said in other threads, I still remember the disappointment of Ulcaster, as I imagined something closer to what we saw in SoD's lich library only to get a rather ordinary maze. Firewine and the Ice Island were equally as uninspired. Durlag's Tower really was that good, but it seems better than it actually was when contrasted to other, more lackluster, areas.

    By contrast, SoD's areas were absolutely gorgeous. I actually missed that stuff when I started up the BG2 portion. It felt like the color had been drained back out. I still remember seeing the heated air effect over lava in one of the dungeons and just gawking for a while. In fact, I actually can't think of very many "misses" in SoD where dungeons or outdoor areas are concerned - though there were a few forest areas that were kind of railroady. They made up for it by being stunning.

    The only real issue I had with SoD is that it was made clear that exploration was to be kept limited. Understandable given the story, but after the freedom of BG, it felt stifling at times.

    SkatanAerakar
  • ToveriJuriToveriJuri Member Posts: 9
    SoD is really very under-rated, and I think that will slowly change with time. The encounter designs are just so good. I've only every played it all the way through once, but I've made a few builds just to try solo-ing an assault on the enemy camp where you are massively outnumbered. Good stuff.

    SoD has many other issues. The maps look beautiful and some of the dungeon and sidequest design is A+, but when it comes to writing and overall quality some of the negative views are not undeserved.

    Isewein
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,685
    ToveriJuri wrote: »
    SoD is really very under-rated, and I think that will slowly change with time. The encounter designs are just so good. I've only every played it all the way through once, but I've made a few builds just to try solo-ing an assault on the enemy camp where you are massively outnumbered. Good stuff.

    SoD has many other issues. The maps look beautiful and some of the dungeon and sidequest design is A+, but when it comes to writing and overall quality some of the negative views are not undeserved.

    Subjective. I personally love the writing in SoD.

    Aedan
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 890
    SoD really got a bad rap from the start because of one decision over a minor character you don't even have to interact with. The writing really isn't that bad, and much of what is bad was forced because of the fact that it is an Interquel and WoTC.

    Now, I suppose if you get your panties in a wad over the fact that the game has LGBT NPCs, then sure, that will rub you the wrong way. However, it was actually handled quite well IMO.

    If I had a gripe, it would be the end battle and the fact that it wasn't telegraphed to be what it ended up being. There is quite a surprise waiting for first time players, especially ones that don't power game and keep every single thing they find. Even the massive (and incredibly impressive) siege itself doesn't prepare you for that.

    Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole game and found the writing to be good.

    Isewein
  • ToveriJuriToveriJuri Member Posts: 9
    edited July 13
    Maurvir wrote: »
    SoD really got a bad rap from the start because of one decision over a minor character you don't even have to interact with. The writing really isn't that bad, and much of what is bad was forced because of the fact that it is an Interquel and WoTC.

    Now, I suppose if you get your panties in a wad over the fact that the game has LGBT NPCs, then sure, that will rub you the wrong way. However, it was actually handled quite well IMO.

    If I had a gripe, it would be the end battle and the fact that it wasn't telegraphed to be what it ended up being. There is quite a surprise waiting for first time players, especially ones that don't power game and keep every single thing they find. Even the massive (and incredibly impressive) siege itself doesn't prepare you for that.

    Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole game and found the writing to be good.

    In my opinion Mizhena also serves to diminish the criticism. She's not the issue with SoD. I ended up liking the character. The controversy stirring part about her character is something I personally don't care about one way or the other. I've seen plenty of criticism that has nothing to do with the LGBT characters, but it gets ignored and excused by bringing up the "LGBT hate".

    There were story moments that were so railroaded that it took me away from the moment. A particularly bad example: At one point you discover something critical to the plot and moments later it gets completely glossed over as if it never happened, just so the plot could move forward uninterrupted. At the very least it should have been addressed rather than completely glossed over.

    Some charters and situations feel really forced too especially at the end. It's as if the writers wanted a certain situation to happen without actually thinking things through. Some of the character motivations in the story were downright ludicrous. My jaw dropped at points due to how awful the writing was. There's a lot of wasted potential that got really nowhere because they weren't properly fleshed out other parts felt badly rushed.

    I've also had to use the console or other workarounds to fix wonky quest triggers more than I ever had to do in BG:EE. I like the gameplay, I liked the premise and I liked some companions (others were criminally underutilized), but the writing wraps things up in a very unsatisfying way. It's not the resolution of events that's unsatisfying, but how they are presented to us. The events themselves aren't an issue to me, it's the jarring presentation (bad writing) that was the problem.

    This thread brings up the strongest point of the game and moments like that were the reason why I found this to be a positive experience despite the issues I had.

    The writing is really simplistic
    ThacoBell wrote: »
    ToveriJuri wrote: »
    SoD is really very under-rated, and I think that will slowly change with time. The encounter designs are just so good. I've only every played it all the way through once, but I've made a few builds just to try solo-ing an assault on the enemy camp where you are massively outnumbered. Good stuff.

    SoD has many other issues. The maps look beautiful and some of the dungeon and sidequest design is A+, but when it comes to writing and overall quality some of the negative views are not undeserved.

    Subjective. I personally love the writing in SoD.

    Whether people love Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray is also subjective.

    Isewein
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,685
    @ToveriJuri "Whether people love Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray is also subjective."

    Not remotely equivalent, and that's just pointlessly mean.

  • ToveriJuriToveriJuri Member Posts: 9
    ThacoBell wrote: »
    @ToveriJuri "Whether people love Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray is also subjective."

    Not remotely equivalent, and that's just pointlessly mean.

    "You are wrong because I like it" wasn't a very constructive reply to my post to begin with. I just pointed out that everything is subjective. It's not really an argument. Besides I didn't say it to be mean. I honestly think the writing gets that bad at points.

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 6,503
    ToveriJuri wrote: »
    I've also had to use the console or other workarounds to fix wonky quest triggers more than I ever had to do in BG:EE. I like the gameplay, I liked the premise and I liked some companions (others were criminally underutilized), but the writing wraps things up in a very unsatisfying way. It's not the resolution of events that's unsatisfying, but how they are presented to us. The events themselves aren't an issue to me, it's the jarring presentation (bad writing) that was the problem.

    This thread brings up the strongest point of the game and moments like that were the reason why I found this to be a positive experience despite the issues I had.

    @ToveriJuri what quests have you had a problem with? There is a bug that can occur with the menhirs, but I'm not aware of any other quests with similar problems. It's possible that you haven't fully explored the potential solutions to some encounters. One of the things I think that is good about SoD, but is not sufficiently appreciated, is that there are multiple solutions to a number of the quests. If you've been using the console regularly to try and resolve quests, that may be because you're trying to force the game to finish a quest in a particular way (for instance when trying to follow a Walkthrough) although your gameplay would naturally have resulted in a different finish.

    I agree that whether you like the style of writing or not is too subjective to make for a useful discussion. However, if you're not aware of multiple solutions, it may also be that you're not fully appreciating why some of the content of the discussions is there.

    ThacoBell
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 890
    All that may be true, but you were definitely riding the rails for large parts of SoD, and there were plenty of places where it might have made sense to take a break at the station. One particular area involving undead in the forest leaps to mind.

    I mean, I get it, you are on your way to a major battle, why fool around in the woods? However, that doesn't excuse some of the things ToveriJuri commented on.

  • ToveriJuriToveriJuri Member Posts: 9
    Grond0 wrote: »
    ToveriJuri wrote: »
    I've also had to use the console or other workarounds to fix wonky quest triggers more than I ever had to do in BG:EE. I like the gameplay, I liked the premise and I liked some companions (others were criminally underutilized), but the writing wraps things up in a very unsatisfying way. It's not the resolution of events that's unsatisfying, but how they are presented to us. The events themselves aren't an issue to me, it's the jarring presentation (bad writing) that was the problem.

    This thread brings up the strongest point of the game and moments like that were the reason why I found this to be a positive experience despite the issues I had.

    @ToveriJuri what quests have you had a problem with? There is a bug that can occur with the menhirs, but I'm not aware of any other quests with similar problems. It's possible that you haven't fully explored the potential solutions to some encounters. One of the things I think that is good about SoD, but is not sufficiently appreciated, is that there are multiple solutions to a number of the quests. If you've been using the console regularly to try and resolve quests, that may be because you're trying to force the game to finish a quest in a particular way (for instance when trying to follow a Walkthrough) although your gameplay would naturally have resulted in a different finish.

    I agree that whether you like the style of writing or not is too subjective to make for a useful discussion. However, if you're not aware of multiple solutions, it may also be that you're not fully appreciating why some of the content of the discussions is there.

    From the top of my head I had issues with:

    Edwin's companion quest.
    Neera's companion quest.
    Glint's companion quest. (this was mostly just journal not updating properly, the quest seemingly worked fine).
    Something also went wrong with the druid quest.
    And yes the Mehir quest.

    Oh and few quests also look at your character's personal Charisma instead of your party leader charisma despite party leader being the one who initiated the dialog. This led me to think that some quests were broken at first glance because it's not obvious that it's your CHARNAME Charisma that's being checked instead of party leader. This might have been intentional on the part of Beamdog but it's inconsistent with how the rest of the series worked and inconsistent with this game itself because wasn't obvious from the dialog when the party leader was checked and when it was CHARNAME

    I didn't play with a guide I just looked things up when I though something wasn't triggering right and usually I was correct.

    All of my issues were related to quest triggers not activating even though I've done the objectives and companion quests seemed to be particularly wonky in this regard.

    For Edwin I had to respawn the target of his quest after finishing the objective. I didn't have to do anything with the target NPC Just respawning him triggered the final objective which is kind of funny considering what the objective of the quest was.

    Didn't need Console for Neera. I could circumvent her's by dropping the required items into my personal chest picking her back into the party and "discovering" the items from my personal chest when she was in my party...

    Don't remember exactly what happened with the Druids. I remember it being relatively easy to resolve like just reloading and doing it again.

    On the plus side. Now I know how NearInfinity works.

    As far as multiple solutions Go. I have a very systematic checkpoint system with my save files and have a save file just about every major event in the game. I tend to go back to these to see how differently some scenes play out and to get achievements I've missed. So I've played every major scene (and many not so major) again and again just to see how they play out with different choices. At times the choices were pretty fun at times it was shocking just how little of it you had.

    But hey despite my Issues I reviewed SoD Positively on Steam. Because the issues didn't kill my enjoyment to the point that a negative review would have been justifiable.

    Grond0
  • elminsterelminster Member, Developer Posts: 16,151
    edited July 18
    Of course, the dungeon is beautifully painted

    It's the work of Madolin Bee from what I recall.

    Edit: Looks like it. At the bottom of here are some unused maps I think by Madolin that didn't make it in.

    JuliusBorisov
  • MonotremataMonotremata Member Posts: 76
    elminster wrote: »
    Of course, the dungeon is beautifully painted

    It's the work of Madolin Bee from what I recall.

    Edit: Looks like it. At the bottom of here are some unused maps I think by Madolin that didn't make it in.

    The extra two floors would've been nice! I finally went through the dungeon a couple weeks ago (still at Bridgeport deciding what to do next), didn't think much of it at all.

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