Hordes of the Underdark (spoiler review, part 1)

This game starts in an inn. Not on the Plane of Shadow, where you fled as Undrentide crashed to the ground (if only Heroudis had flown her citadel above 1000 feet, like the wise Dagget Filth had advised...). Soon enough, the inn is under attack, thereby combining two of the laziest beginnings possible for a BioWare game. This hackery might be forgivable if they had leveled up my character to cover the gap in time, but oh well. Can NWN:HotU possibly live up to the example set by chapter 5 of Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn? We shall see...

It was cool to see Daelan Red Tiger, whom I remember fondly from the original NWN. Even moreso, having put up with the awful Xanos (may he rest in peace...) throughout NWN:SoU. I did chuckle as the four brave companions rushed into the dungeon like Leeroy Jenkins, chasing after the beholder. Now Deekin and I are on a rescue mission, a pair of dragon disciples together against the world.

Leeeeeroooooy Jenkins!

Waterdeep is designed precisely as an adventuring city should be: the "City of Splendors," as it is known, is situated atop the megadungeon complex of Undermountain. This vast dungeon, in turn, is merely the first layer of the subterranean realm known to D&D players as the Underdark. The city itself is currently in lockdown after the drow attacks, so not much to see aboveground. After equipping myself as best I could, it was time to head down the well.

It was interesting to hear about the events of the first NWN game from Sharwyn's perspective. She and I clearly have differing opinions regarding the traitorous paladin, Lady Aribeth. With not one but two bards in my party, I wasn't so worried about being only level 13. As it was, we were already ridiculously OP...

My character, along with Sharwyn, Deekin, and our familiars

Grovel the goblin helpfully explains that the mad mage Halaster has gone missing. In his absence, an ogre mage and a fairy queen vie for control over the first level of the dungeon. Undermountain is a twisting maze of secret passages and magic portals, featuring solid level design and some interesting puzzles. In the central area, you come across several bands of ogres and fey battling each other, as well as the drow and duergar. You also meet a talking sword, Enserric the Grey, who tries to convince you to free him. There is even a sleeping dragon in one corner of the map, but I recommend saving that battle for last.

Best let sleeping dragons lie ... at least for now

I'm a sucker for unseelie fey, so I headed south. I was hoping for an opportunity to join forces with one of the factions, even though that would be very similar to chapter 1 of NWN:SoU. Instead, I had no choice but to kill all of the fey, except for their queen. She begged me to spare her life and so I had the option of allowing her to escape Undermountain and return to her home. Olgin Hasterean the ogre mage was similarly humbled, saying "Had I only known that you defeated her, my followers would have let you past and I would have congratulated you. Instead, you've slaughtered my followers - and hers, I imagine." Oh, the irony!

Like rain on your wedding day...
The next level of the dungeon is split up into three different areas. To the south, duergar and drow have cleared out some hobgoblins (and Tomi Undergallows) and taken up residence. The sub-commander is one tough bastard, but spell breach and see invisibility made short work of him. The goblins to the north had many traps and locked doors to keep my rogue happy, while their shamans put up a good fight. There are some very sneaky rakshasas to the east, who killed poor Linu Inverse. Finally, the well in the centre of the map, with a tough puzzle to crack for opening the door to level 3.

Pool of Radiance
The next level of the dungeon is full of drow, not to mention formians, a very tough minotaur, and of course a beholder. I met Nathyrra, one of the drow rebels, who promised to assist me in freeing Halaster. She explained that I'm up against the Valsharess, the matron mother of House Kilath. Once the archmage was free, he put a geas on me, now off to the Underdark I go, with Nathyrra and Deekin in tow...

To be continued!


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