Achilles and The Grognard: Chateau Irenicus

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Oct 26, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 66 comments

The Grognard: At long last, here we are. Chateau Irenicus. The dungeon so nice that one of the series’ most popular mods is the one that skips it.

Achilles: So this is the one? I’ve heard of Dungeon-B-Gone, but I didn’t realize this was the place people wanted gone. I’ve crawled through way worse dungeons, to be honest.

The Grognard: It’s the repetition moreso than the quality. The first couple times it’s fine. After you’ve started your eighth new character, it’s like pulling teeth.

'Ah, the child of Bhaal has awakened. It is time for more experiments.' 'Interesting. You have much untapped potential.' 'Do you even recognize your power?' 'Intruders have entered the complex, master.' 'They act sooner than we had anticipated. No matter, they will only prove a slight delay.' I've played this damn game too many times. Also, I know about the 'go to settings to activate Windows' thing. I can't turn it off. Thorn in my side. Take forever to explain.
'Ah, the child of Bhaal has awakened. It is time for more experiments.' 'Interesting. You have much untapped potential.' 'Do you even recognize your power?' 'Intruders have entered the complex, master.' 'They act sooner than we had anticipated. No matter, they will only prove a slight delay.' I've played this damn game too many times. Also, I know about the 'go to settings to activate Windows' thing. I can't turn it off. Thorn in my side. Take forever to explain.

Achilles: I’m thinking that if this is the thing there are mods to skip, this game shows promise. Almost everything I’ve seen so far is an upgrade. The art is even better – more vibrant, more unique assets. At one point there’s a druid’s grove, then there are lavishly appointed apartments, then more dungeon, and then we scootch over the elemental plane of air for a bit.

The Grognard: There certainly is variety.

Achilles: More than the last game, at least. In Baldur’s Gate I, half the dungeons were mazes made up of mostly-identical corridors. But they’ve gotten better – first with Durlag’s Tower in the expansion, and now this.

The Grognard: Last week you said you wanted more variety and more emotional stakes. We’ve gotten one of the two, at least.

Achilles: I’d say we’ve gotten both. Evil Bald Guy is a piece of work. He does magical experiments on people, and Imoen is terrified of him. To top it off, Khalid and Dynaheir are both just…. dead. Like, we’ve found their corpses and the game has been pretty clear that they’re not coming back.

The indignity of it! They just leave Khalid's sprawled-out corpse in what looks like a storage room.
The indignity of it! They just leave Khalid's sprawled-out corpse in what looks like a storage room.

The Grognard: I remember the harshness of that struck me the first time I played this game. I believe the reasoning at the time was that they weren’t popular characters, and players didn’t like that to recruit them you had to recruit Jaheira and Minsc too.

Achilles: So they just bump them off between games? I mean, Jacob wasn’t popular with everyone, but they didn’t whack him in between Mass Effects 2 and 3, either.

The Grognard: It was a more ruthless time back them. Permadeath was standard under the core rules. If a party member can die to kobolds, they can die between games too.

Achilles: It still seems harsh. And I’m not saying that just because I managed to get Khalid down to -8 AC before. All those times I killed him, and now I can’t even reload a save.

Importing Top Hat Guy into the new game.
Importing Top Hat Guy into the new game.

The Grognard: Could these be the emotional stakes you were looking for?

Achilles: Right now it feels more like the devs killed Khalid and Dynaheir, not Evil Bald Guy. The whole thing is also a bit sudden. Last game I was being hailed as the hero of Baldur’s Gate by the end, and the first thing that happens here is learning I was kidnapped offscreen and locked up in a magical torture dungeon. It’s a similar feeling to getting captured in a cutscene, only here the cutscene happened between games.

The Grognard: I see Evil Bald Guy hasn’t made enough of an impression on you for you to bother learning his actual name.

Achilles: Fine, Jon Irenicus. See? I can learn people’s names. And as a matter of fact, he has made an impression on me. He’s already a better villain than Sarevok, who was cartoonishly evil. Irenicus is more… unfeeling. Unsettling. He has some sort of obsession with a dead wife or something, and is most certainly up to no good.

The Grognard: This is something I think is important about this first dungeon. It’s your introduction, though environmental storytelling, to Irenicus. People install mods to skip it, which is understandable if you’ve played the game many times. But there’s story content here. Who Irenicus is, the experiments he’s doing, his obsession with the dead woman, the Shadow Thieves attacking the place – all are important later.

This guy seems trustworthy.
This guy seems trustworthy.

Achilles: And then he takes Imoen! That bastard. The adorable little tyke that spent the entire last game following me around is now in the clutches of a bunch of shady-ass mages wearing hoodies.

The Grognard: That’s why I think this game opens well. It is a little jarring, but by the end the typical player has bought into the story and wants to see more of it.

Achilles: That’s the crucial thing, you think? Buying in?

The Grognard: That’s the essence of it, isn’t it? To get player to treat the story as real. It can be a messy process, but the dividends are worth it. Irenicus is one of the main things about this game people remember.

The end-of-chapter narrations are back. This one plays when you escape the dungeon.
The end-of-chapter narrations are back. This one plays when you escape the dungeon.

Achilles: He’s memorable, I’ll give him that much. But now it’s time to track these cowled guys down and get Imoen back. And to show this “Athkatla, City of Coin” joint who the real boss is.

 

 


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66 thoughts on “Achilles and The Grognard: Chateau Irenicus

  1. King Marth says:

    I managed to reach the end of this dungeon, twice if you count the blatantly-cheating save where I edited something for an all-18s character starting with an epic level mod and a vocal sound reel from Monty Python. I actually remember Yoshimo, helped along by how he had some space from the triple introduction of the main crew which was dominated by Minsc. I remember a room where mephits were being generated, and that when I had trouble with a wizard fight near the end, Breach was supposed to be the most important spell for dealing with numerous caster buffs.

    Having never played the first game, I don’t remember the deaths of those named characters at all; the screenshot looks a little familiar. I may have thought Minsc and Jaheira were a couple if there was mention of her husband…

    Special mention to the game’s manual, which was my first introduction to Volo/Elminster passive-aggressive arguments through margin notes.

    I even remember a little bit of the town outside, though we’ll get to that next time. You must gather your party before venturing forth.

    1. Joshua says:

      I hadn’t played the main game before starting this one either (and only played it a little bit just a few years ago). I remember Jaheira and Minsc talking about their dead loved ones, but obviously it had no emotional connection for me. IIRC, Jaheira talked about Khalid more than Minsc talked about Dynaheir, and being that Jaheira was my love interest, it seemed like perfectly fine backstory as opposed to needing to play BG1 to understand.

      1. raifield says:

        That’s probably because Dynaheir wasn’t a love interest of Minsc’s, he was something like a sworn bodyguard. There’s a inter-party dialogue which results in Aerie accepting Minsc as her sworn bodyguard, giving the addled ranger his purpose in life back.

        1. Khizan says:

          This can also happen with Nalia, as well.

  2. Narkis says:

    I can understand the people who hate and want to skip Taris. I did too after the third time I replayed KOTOR. But not Chateau Irenicus. I’ve played the game double-digits times. I know by heart almost every dialogue, every nook and cranny in that dungeon. I can hear Rielev’s voice in my head. And I still can’t understand why anyone would skip it. It’s a great dungeon full of great moments. And isn’t the point of replaying to relive those great moments?

    1. tmtvl says:

      Depends on what you’re looking for.
      I always do the entire thing to pick up some extra EXP and gold. For story purposes it could be more streamlined. The riddle Djinn (or was it a Dao?), the Duergar, the Air Elemental plane, and most of the second floor could be skipped without losing too much.
      The scene in the Promenade is way bigger and the music sting afterwards hits me every time.

      1. The Puzzler says:

        I hated that djinn and his idea of a moral dilemma.

        “In each cell there is a magical button. If you press your button and your sibling does not, you will die and your sibling is free. If your sibling presses the button and you do not, they will die but you will go free. If neither you nor your sibling press the buttons, both of you will die. If both of you press your respective buttons, both of you will die.”

        Even by trolley problem standards, that’s a horrific scenario. And he judges you for your answer, even though you have no incentive to answer honestly and your answer could depend on what you predict your sibling will do.

        I think I began the game by assuming he was the main villain.

        With my current understanding of game theorem, I think the optimal answer is to toss a coin to decide whether you’re going to press the button or not. That gives you both a 25% chance of survival.

        1. Geebs says:

          Surely it’s just a pisstake of the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

          Ironic, though, that after this display of cheeky subversion, Bioware would go on to get so hung up on a certain set of (allegedly) Vietnamese towers.

          1. The Puzzler says:

            Probably, though a true Prisoner’s Dilemma would be something like, “If neither of you press the button, you both have your feet cut off. If both of you press the button, you both have your hands and feet cut off. If one of you presses the button and the other one doesn’t, the presser goes free and the other one is gradually tortured to death.”

        2. tmtvl says:

          The first time I came across that I thought back to Sarevok and y’know. That guy ain’t worth dying for.

          1. djw says:

            Also, you know that he is definitely going to push the button.

        3. Alberek says:

          Maybe it was foreshadowing all along… a sibling you don’t care for is the first thing you might think of, if you come from BG1.
          Or maybe it was a joke on you, no matter what you do… you are a murderer.

  3. Christopher says:

    I thought Irenicus was doing fine, but I guess years of Metal Gear V let’s playing changes a man.

    1. The Puzzler says:

      Ah, the classic conversation option from Planescape Torment.
      “What can change the nature of a man?”
      “Playing Metal Gear V.”

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        “Parasite copulation.”

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Nanomachines.

          1. Wiseman says:

            People underestimate how many plot details can be explained by the word nanomachines.

  4. What, no Siege of Dragonspear? It’s actually a cool little story of its own (20-30 hours depending on how thorough you are) and pretty well done. And it actually covers what happens BETWEEN the two original games. Although, given that this is a retrospective, it’d make the most sense to play it AFTER you finish BG2, since that’s when it was released.

    1. Scampi says:

      Considering it’s a retrospective focused on Bioware (or I understand it as such) and Dragonspear is neither a Bioware production nor technical canon to the series (and I really, really have no interest in things that are at best decades late fanfiction), I never assumed he would include it into the series at all.
      I think Dragonspear doesn’t really help solving the riddle whether Larian is the right dev for a 3rd Baldur’s Gate entry. It might be worth an entry (I have no idea, since I didn’t rebuy the enhanced editions of any Infinity engine games at all), but I think it would be a kind of fruitless detour.

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        I think it would be interesting to analyze what a different developer did with the same world.

        1. Scampi says:

          Sure. But in that case you might as well analyze Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter and Icewind Dale as they, too, use the Forgotten Realms setting. Actually, it’s specifically Dragonspear I don’t care about as it apparently tries to be tied into someone else’s story’s canon, which I find really intrusive in general. To me, it’s comparable to filler in anime or fanfiction, which I usually try to avoid.
          As I said: I didn’t assume it would have any relevance to what I understood was Bob’s goal here.

          1. Christopher Wolf says:

            I would say other games used the same setting of the Forgotten Realms, this is the same engine, and as you said, inserting into the canon of others. If you don’t approve of what they did, even more reason to critique it.

  5. Agammamon says:

    ‘Ah, the child of Bhaal has awakened. It is time for more experiments.’ ‘Interesting. You have much untapped potential.’ ‘Do you even recognize your power?’ ‘Intruders have entered the complex, master.’ ‘They act sooner than we had anticipated. No matter, they will only prove a slight delay.’

    To give people the true feeling of this opening, you should have it scroll, slowly, down the screen, and make it unskippable and cover the rest of the text until its done.

  6. Xander77 says:

    “I believe the reasoning at the time was that they weren’t popular characters, and players didn’t like that to recruit them you had to recruit Jaheira and Minsc too.” Other way around, surely? Players didn’t like that you had to recruit them as well when recruiting Jaheira and Minsc?

    1. djw says:

      I’d rather have Khalid in my party than Jaheira.

      1. Scampi says:

        I found her way more useful, being a Druid with powerful spells. She was bossy and could be annoying, but by far not as annoying to me as Khalid running in terror when he was supposed to be the main tank.
        Also, as I told someplace else: I loved it when my “canon”-playthrough contradicted the beginning of the next game entirely: Instead of the party wipe with only my wizard and Khalid surviving, Khalid was dead, but the rest of the cast lived.

        1. djw says:

          You can fix Khalid with a first level spell, and then you have a tank with high constitution (17), decent dex (16) and mediochre strength (that can totally be fixed by gauntlets later).

          Jaheira is not terrible, but in BG1 her dexterity is too low for combat (its 3 higher in BG2 for some reason, so she’s fine there) and as multiclass her spell progression is too slow for her to be primary caster. I always just had her equip a sling, but from a min-max point of view she’s in a spot that could be better used with another annoying character (Anomen). I guess in BG2 she’s the better choice if you MUST have a druid, since Cernd is awful. She unlocks ironskin in BG2 as well, so that makes her a viable front liner.

          That said, I’ve definitely finished the game with her in party (both of them).

  7. Asdasd says:

    We must be doubly careful. I’m sure all manner of stupid mousetraps await our toes in the dark!

    I wonder if you could just straight up permakill two characters off-screen between games in the present era. I think there would be a lot of anger. If there was a lot of anger back then, I don’t remember it in the chat channels and message boards I read.

    Irenicastle is a good dungeon. I was able to get invested despite playing the games out of order – Bioware did a decent enough job bringing new players up to speed. It has a bunch of really unique feeling encounters, not all of which are given context, but that adds to the mystery (I remember one particularly hard fight against a demon who’s just sort of chilling off in a side room.)

    All the dungeons are pretty good in this game, actually. Except maybe Fish City. And Beholder Town, which I seem to remember having muddy textures. And Beholders.

    Oh, and the crypts, which have a room literally filled with undead. I could never tell whether that was a bug or not. Good for XP though!

    1. Chris says:

      I wonder what would happen if they pulled the trigger on jacob between ME2 and ME3. I think some people would mark it as the only good part of ME3 in their “why ME3 is terrible” videos. Others would think bioware showed it lack of writing skill for killing a character they didn’t know what to do with. And most would just not mind it.

      If i could only make a small change; I would have killed him at the start of ME3 and used him instead of the kid, it would still be terrible but at least make more sense.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        That’s an interesting idea. Damn interesting, even.

        It certainly would have put a way~ more interesting and dignified twist on those few that romanced him then: ‘Suddenly, the most normal person is a cheating douche.’

      2. BlueHorus says:

        What I’d like to have seen is Bioware killing off Garrus and/or and Tali between Mass Effect sequel.
        Now that would have been some hilarious fanboy rage.

      3. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        It’s not like most of the ME2 characters actually do anything important. They could be thrown on a crashing space-bus after ME2 and the only effects would be some small changes in minor sidequests.

      4. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Jacob is interesting when you consider that he’s the protagonist of his own story, unlike basically every other Mass Effect campanion. In that one mobile game (set between ME1 and 2), he undergoes a similar arc to Shepard, in that he moves from working with the Alliance to working with Cerberus to solve an immediately pressing problem. Then he and Shepard grow to trust each other and distrust Cerberus over the course of the game. Then in between 2 and 3, he falls in love and starts a family, fighting his own private war to defend that family. So people hate him for basically being the Aveline of Mass Effect. He has his own internal life that you can check in with, but do NOT get to subvert or control.

        In terms of how Bioware went about this, there’s a few big problems. His skill set is easily the most boring and one of the least helpful of all the ME2 teammates. Miranda is flatly better as a combat ally, and has a more twisty backstory. Jacob has no strong relationships with the rest of the cast, save Shepard. There’s no real emphasis on Jacob and Miranda being a clique since they’ve worked together the longest, for example. Jacob pays lip service to not liking Jack, but Miranda vs. Jack is the focus and Jacob vs. Jack is basically nothing. In the too little, too late category, Kasumi openly lusts after him, but since she was implemented after the fact with the “listen only” dialogue state like Zaeed, this doesn’t have the fun of other crew interactions.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Is this the part where we all chime in with our favourite quotes?

      Edwin do this, Edwin do that, someone get this monkey a banana.

      Also I’m pretty sure the undead section is the worst part of any RPG. Mainly due to Turn Undead being useless against the spicy ones.

      1. Asdasd says:

        It was definitely the worst part of Pool of Radiance. Those level-drainers were a big part of why I drifted away from the game. Which is sad, because it was a lot of fun.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Honestly usually really like fighting undead in RPGs, since they’re usually one of the few enemy types allowed to be a genuine long-term threat to you with… well, stuff like level drain and diseases. Nearly every other monster ‘just’ does HP damage to you in various different flavors.

          Also, they allow some builds and tools to shine that’s otherwise weak-sauce. Like, say, holy water being a genuine asset instead of background fluff, or that paladin’s immunity to fear actually mattering when facing that mummy lord.

          Still, even speaking as somebody that really like undead, I think it would really help if game-devs moved outside the usual zombies, skeletons, ghouls, vampires, and even liches comfort zone, though. Go for some of the crazier stuff in the monster manual, like, say, a wizard commanding a small army of crawling claws or a companion that turns out to be a flameskull that’s fulfilled their commands and is trying to reclaim their old life while clothed in illusions of their former appearance.

          Something new and exciting like that, instead of the usual piles of walking corpses, or scheming vampire coven we’ve seen a thousand times already. I think that would help a ton with getting people excited to see undead in a campaign/game instead of sighing.

          1. Joshua says:

            Fights with a mass of skeletal warriors/zombies and a *single* undead that could level-drain like a Wight or Spectre were fairly interesting. Unfortunately, the Gold Box games were notorious for sending repetitive waves of groups of creatures that could insta-kill you (anything with poison) or level-drain you. And since the penalties were so harsh (level drains could easily gimp the character for a long time, and Raise Dead had a harsh, permanent -1 to CON), fights with these creatures simply became annoying rather than scary, because it just meant that you were going to be reloading.

            I preferred DS:OS2 for death: Your character will lose out on the nice experience from a fight, and technically Resurrection Scrolls aren’t unlimited, but the penalties are still minor enough that it’s an acceptable pill to swallow that strikes a nice balance between failure is inconsequential and failure is so catastrophic that you’ll be reloading.

            1. Rack says:

              I know it’s just a typo, but the idea that the sequel to D:OS is “Double Sin: Original Sin 2” tickles me.

      2. Zekiel says:

        Pretty much anything from Jan Jansen… although I can’t remember any of them because they were all hilariously long-winded

        1. tmtvl says:

          Like the one about the gnome that got dwarves addicted to turnips and when he could no longer provide, taught them about the delicacy that is gnome flesh?

          1. Zekiel says:

            Never heard that one! I vaguely remember one where he takes the piss out of Anomen by talking about some doofus who is coincidentally also called Anomen

            A lot of the stories involved turnips as I recall… I’m pretty sure there was one about a turnip smuggler relative of Jan’s. I mainly just remember finding them all hilarious.

            (There also a cut dialogue where Jan steals Boo from Minsc!)

            1. tmtvl says:

              It’s one in a banter with Korgan. As there aren’t enough evil party members for a full party, I tend to pick Jan up to fill the ranks.

      3. Scourge says:

        Oh yes, our favorite quotes.

        Ok, I’ve just about had my FILL of riddle asking, quest assigning, insult throwing, pun hurling, hostage taking, iron mongering, smart arsed fools, freaks, and felons that continually test my will, mettle, strength, intelligence, and most of all, patience!
        If you’ve got a straight answer ANYWHERE in that bent little head of yours, I want to hear it pretty damn quick or I’m going to take a large blunt object roughly the size of Elminster AND his hat, and stuff it lengthwise into a crevice of your being so seldom seen that even the denizens of the nine hells themselves wouldn’t touch it with a twenty-foot rusty halberd!
        Have I MADE myself perfectly CLEAR?!

    3. Syal says:

      I wonder if you could just straight up permakill two characters off-screen between games in the present era.

      This highlights another issue with voice-acting everything; if you drop an established, uniquely-voiced character without a major drama scene, you’ll lose immersion because people will wonder if the voice actor pissed somebody off.

  8. Mattias42 says:

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the brain-in-a-jar you find… what, two minutes into the dungeon?

    That one both really intrigued and shocked me as a kid. The idea that Irenicus was powerful and callus enough to almost create an epic level monster on-par with a lich, use the wrong type of magic to do so, AND in the end leave the poor thing in a jar in a dusty corner…

    Honestly, that was more messed up to me then your two dead and never coming back companions. At lease those two you can read as being at peace and not wanting to come back, given how resurrection is supposed to work in D&D. That poor brain got to sit in a corner without even eyes for what’s implied to be years!

    I mean, the game never really managed to sell me on that he was my problem to fix since it never really managed to make me care about Imoen, but they certainly managed to get across what a dangerous and laser focused mad-man of a mage Jon is.

  9. Zaxares says:

    Hmm, no Siege of Dragonspear analysis? Granted, it’s a more recent offering and so you may have a lot of readers/players who’ve never played it, but it does at least fill in the backstory of what transpired between the two games.

    Irenicus/the Cowled Wizards nabbing Imoen was an excellent hook for drawing me into BG2, but I was always attached to her from the first game; she never, ever left my party, and in many ways I thought of her like the little sister I never had. I’m quite curious as to what percentage of the BG2 playerbase felt the same, because I have run into other players that couldn’t stand Imoen, and I’m wondering what hook drew them into the adventure if not for her.

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      Having a good aligned thief handy from the start probably made a lot of people hold on to her, and her stats were clearly awesome, which is why so many players ended up doing what she did in canon, dual-classing her.

    2. Gethsemani says:

      The genius of BG2 is that a lot of people will want their party member back and it is totally in line with Good alignments to go off to save her. If the Imoen hook doesn’t work, you were still imprisoned by a powerful wizard that seemed to know about you being a Bhaal spawn and a neutral character would want to figure out why this guy is your enemy and what his torture was meant to achieve. An evil character might want that to, but they’ll also want to kill Irenicus for the entire thing. So no matter what character you make, they’ll have a reason to cart off to Spellhold, either to save a friend or to confront an enemy. Most of the Chapter 2/3 dialogue also support this, because whenever people ask why you need money/want to go to Spellhold you can choose to focus on saving Imoen or finding Irenicus, instead of forcing you down either path.

      Really, BG2 is a very strong contender for best game hook in all of CRPG history. Chateau Irenicus works really well to get the player invested in finding out who that guy is and what his goals are.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        Disagree with this personally. Always felt the central plot hook in BG was pretty dang weak, and over reliant on emotional manipulation and Jon being a villain sue that wins no matter what right up to the end.

        Never really cared for Imoen myself (though I’m aware I’m in minority on that) and Jon never struck me as nearly as smart as he think he is. He’s powerful, yes, but what sort of stupid builds his magic fortress of magical magic right under the ONE town infamous for a cabal full of mages having an utter monopoly on magic they constantly scry, imprison, and kill to protect?

        Never felt the question: ‘Why is this your problem?’ got answered satisfactory, doubly so with what happens directly when you enter Amn. I mean, the big bad evil guy literally gets arrested and carted off by authorities. By a whole cabal full of mages, at that. I mean, he can be how big & bad he wants, an anti magic cell and/or shackles is going to stop him casting like everybody else in the setting. Or at least it should have, if, again, he wasn’t unbeatable & unstoppable by author fiat.

        Personally? I’d say it’s downright the weakest plot hook of the infinity engine era. Icewind Dale 1&2 have you answer the call for adventurers be it for money, power, glory or the good of all. Classic catch-all hook there. While Planescape has the waking up on a mortuary slab without memory, while a floating skull greets you after having died AGAIN. Giving you the mystery of what the heck happened to not only your memories but very mortality AND getting to explore the by itself crazy Planescape setting.

        Heck, even BG1 has the whole ‘saw your dad get murdered’ thing. Way more viscerally compelling a quest, be it for justice, eliminating a threat, or just plain vengeance.

        BG2 on the other hand… Your sister is an panicky idiot, and got herself carted off to an asylum. Whoop. How could a mage/thief possible escape THAT one by herself?

        I don’t expect an entire different campaign or anything, but an optional game over where you waltz off into the sunset with a shrug would have helped, if only in a lampshade ‘…so do you want to actually play the game now, smart ass?’ type way.

        1. Ofermod says:

          To me, it was a pretty strong hook. The game made it obvious early on that Irenicus wanted to be captured by the Cowled Wizards, but specifically to do something to Imoen. It never seemed to me that he’d be neutralized for long, and likewise, Imoen was certainly not going to have a good time in Spellhold. And as far as a mage/thief trying to escape the asylum, given that it was a specifically anti-mage prison… Imoen wasn’t really selling “Relax guys, I’ll break out of there in a jiffy.” And especially with it looking like exactly what Irenicus wanted to happen.
          And if that wasn’t a good enough hook for you, the game also threw out plenty of options to say that you were going after him for revenge for Khalid/Dynaheir/torturing you/stealing your gear (Irenicus simply being locked in Spellhold and not looking too put out about it not nearly being enough revenge/justice) or to pursue the promises of “untapped power” and potential that he’d offered.

  10. Ofermod says:

    Irenicus is so truly memorable as a villain, he’s even received a musical remix of his most memorable lines. Some potential spoilers, I suppose.

  11. Liam says:

    On the ‘Go to settings to activate Windows’ thing; if you have a valid key installed, starting a command prompt in administrator mode and entering the command slmgr.vbs -ato should force a reactivation and clear that message

  12. Studoku says:

    David Warner’s performance as Irenicus really works here. I’m sure at some point he asked the Bhallspawn how many lights they saw.

    1. Hector says:

      This is one of the earliest Hollywood-level vocal castings I recall, and wow did it work.

  13. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

    So, having not played Balder’s Gate before, I could more or less follow the previous installments. Now? I’m completely lost. Probably not the only person here who might benefit from a little more context. I didn’t even remember we were in BGII until I reread the previous entry.

    1. djw says:

      You are captured by Jon Irenicus, an exceptionally powerful wizard, at some point between the end of BG1 and the beginning of BG2. He experiments on both you and your childhood friend Imoen in his underground lab. Something happens to distract him, and you are able to escape.

      The dungeon that you travel through during the escape gives insight into your capture. The basic jist is ultra powerful evil mad scientist.

      When you escape you find that you are in Amn, a city that has strict laws on use of magical power, which both Imoen and Irenicus have broken. The “cowled mages” (think mage police) are unable to do anything against Irenicus, but they do arrest Imoen. Irenicus then submits so that he can go with her, for reasons that are absolutely ominous (though not revealed at this point in the game). It is fairly clear that he utterly outmatches the Cowled Mages, and will remain subdued for only as long as he wants too.

      That’s basically where this installment ends.

      1. tmtvl says:

        No, Irenicus kills a bunch of Cowled Wizards, who then threaten that they have the numbers to die all day long, at which point Irenicus says he’ll go quietly as long as they take Imoen as well. Which they do because the Cowled Wizards are absolute muppets.

        1. djw says:

          Fair enough. Its probably been a decade since I actually played it. The salient point is that Irenicus is clearly using both the cowled wizards and Imoen for some nefarious purpose. They are not in his league power wise.

  14. Warclam says:

    “Right now it feels more like the devs killed Khalid and Dynaheir, not Evil Bald Guy.”

    This is so, so important. So many writers seem to assume that if they kill off a friendly character, I’ll care. But if you don’t do it well, then all I get from it is that you, yes you the writer, killed them off. Which makes you an asshole doing things just to try to upset me, and frankly I don’t have to take it. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, “writer.”

    1. Asdasd says:

      I get what you mean, and I’ve experienced similar before, but I imagine it’s very hard for a writer if the audience will only accept developments that they approve of as being part of the ‘true events’ of a story, rather than the interference of some malevolent third party.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        Successfully captivate your audience, or take the L. Being an entertainer in any field is difficult, and at no point makes pretensions to fairness.

        1. Asdasd says:

          Yeah, yeah. There is no try, etc.

    2. Guest says:

      This is a very internet tough guy way to say that you have a weak suspension of disbelief.

      I find posturing and anthropomorphising a story on your first read is really unhelpful, its a fundamentally antagonistic way of looking at a text, and you will inevitably project your own expectations, and your own assumptions of what you think the author’s intent was, before you have the full picture. This can prevent you from understanding something and enjoying it on its own terms. Yes, anthropomorphising a text is a helpful critical tool, imagining a work as the product of a singular creative vision can say something about it, but generally that comes after considering the work-anything else is like badly guessing the end to someone else’s sentence.

      Also, sometimes creators have to make tough calls that are going to upset you in the moment because its key to moving forward with the story. Like, this is the bio for one of those people who’d blow up, season after season, because Game of Thrones went and suprised them, like, how dare this property built on subverting your expectations not play into fanservice!

      1. galacticplumber says:

        The thing is, game of thrones ended on a near universally reviled finale such that it’s a common joke that our last moment of true consensus as a society was mocking said finale.

        Sometimes critics are harsh. Sometimes the work deserves it and should stop bellyaching about fairness.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          There’s also a right and wrong way of pulling the rug out from under your audience to begin with. Have it feel natural in-universe, compared with an from-on-high declaration of ‘THIS IS HOW THE STORY MUST GO TO CONTINUE. DANCE MY PRETTY PLOT SPREADSHEET ENABLERS, DANCE.’

          Stuff like… dogs & kids in horror movies, for a generic example. Once one of those show up, any horror movie fan that’s been around for a while just sighs, and you can visibly see how their enthusiasm just withers. Sure, they CAN be done well, as Bio Shock’s Little Sisters for example, but it’s a trope you seldom see…

          Well, done well, to be blunt.

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