Watcher's Keep is an add-in--able to be played from either the
Shadows of Amn or
Throne of Bhaal side--
and it sure does feel like it. It's a perfectly fine
dungeon but it exists in a total vacuum, is self-contained, linear, and inorganic, awards massive XP bonuses every time you scratch
your backside, and rehashes BG2 motifs only with painfully minor variations patently for the sake of having something new.
(Every other dungeon in the area has +2 arrows, but this dungeon has +3 arrows. In every chest. That sort of thing.)
This is not to say that it isn't fun, or worth playing through. It is both. Take Watchers Keep for what it is, and
you will not be disappointed. Just don't go in expecting, say, Ust Natha. Watcher's Keep has little in the way of ambience or character interaction and few
choices for you to make. Due to this strict linear path, there's not much in this dungeon that you are in any danger of missing--
if you don't complete each task, you will never get to the next one, and never finish the tower. This means there's not that much
for me to tell you to keep your eye out for, so this page is very short. Don't be fooled by that--Watcher`s Keep takes
quite a bit of time to work through, both gametime and realtime. It's just all part of the same long, linear quest, and I don't want
to spoil it for you. If you get stuck, there's a more explicit Watcher's Keep walkthrough here
which will detail each step in
the path for you. As with the rest of my Low-Spoiler Walkthroughs, I'm sticking to things you might accidentally pass by or not
realize there may have had more than one solution to.
One important note: I highly recommend you play the add-in from the ToB side. For some reason, Watchers Keep is set up so that
your NPCs will only comment on anything in it if you are past chapter seven. There are relatively few conversations
amongst your NPCs in this area anyway, and it'd be a shame to miss the ones that were there, wouldn't it?
When you enter this map, you will immediately get offered the one long quest I spoke of: enter Watcher's Keep, wend your
way down through all the strange and out-of-place levels of the tower, get to the basement, break the seal holding in a
mysterious dangerous entity, and use a special scroll to re-imprison it. Accept the quest and you'll be teleported to the
roof to start your descent.
The only thing of any interest outside Watchers Keep is that one of the Helmites is a woman who will sell you goods and services.
Once you've finished Watcher's Keep you won't have access to her anymore, so buy or steal any of the stuff in her inventory
you want before that happens, and don't sell her anything you're going to want to see again.
There are a couple of undead spirits haunting this level; talk to them, figure out what they want (there are clues everywhere), and
give them their wishes for XP rewards and the means to moving on to level two. There's a bell, book and candle routine you need
to puzzle out (a tip of the hat to Zork, I think), a rollicking combat, and a bunch of queer scribbled messages from somebody called "Lum the Mad"
to collect. You'll use those later. Carry on.
Level two houses four elemental laboratories. There is only one possible order in which to unlock these doors; you have no choice
but to start at the Air Lab, and conveniently, there is a little imp there who will tell you all about the level. You get some funny
possible conversational options with this imp, but be relatively civil and he'll tell you almost everything you need to know. (Notes in
the four libraries will tell you the rest.)
Once you've got all four wands, the chromatic demon will open the gate and you can pass through to level three. (Well, you'll have to fight the
demon first. Technically I guess that's a spoiler, but really, not only does the demon make his intentions pretty obvious, but the
instructions on exactly how to kill this particular demon are all over the labs. By now you've surely figured out that no one ever
leaves a note anywhere in Watcher's Keep unless you're going to need to do what it talks about at some point.)
Now you're in a maze of little rooms with magic portals at each compass point. The catch is that the portals are all one-way... entering
the portal you just walked through doesn't necessarily take you back where you came from. You could get through this
level just by mapping it and noting down which portal leads where, but since the game has to load a new area every single time you
use a portal, this would take forever. Save yourself some time and follow the shrieking little guy called Yakman through the southern
portal. He'll tell you about this level if you approach him with somebody charismatic, and if you find his journal, it tells you exactly the
path to take through the maze, making life a lot easier. You're looking for three scepter gems to move on to the next level.
There are several things of note on this level:
1) It *is* possible to help poor Yakman recover his sanity. Try talking to him with a character with a high wisdom if you can't figure out how. Aerie, Keldorn, and Viconia will also talk with
him a little if it's past chapter 7.
2) Some of these rooms are "wild magic zones" and some are "dead magic zones". Wild magic zones are basically an excuse to show
off wild magic, which your characters otherwise wouldn't get to cast unless you restarted the game in Throne of Bhaal with a wild mage. If anyone casts
a spell in one of these zones (which is heralded by a note from the narrator telling you you're in a place of unusual energy or something
like that,) there will be a wild surge and funky things will happen to you and your opponents. Dead magic zones are heralded by the
narrator telling you you're in a place that seems to suck the energy right out of you, and they will dispel any magic you have up on
your characters and keep you (or any demons in the area) from casting new spells.
3) In the room with the big phallic stone blob in the center--the one which has "I have hidden my artifact where evil can never
find it!" inscribed on it--it *is* possible to do something with this blob, even if clicking on it gives you a 'nothing happens' response
the first time. Try it with different characters--just being of good alignment isn't good enough.
4) Two of these rooms are inhabited by warring demons named Tahazzar and Karashur. If you aren't good or lawful neutral, you can side
with one faction by bringing their leader the heart of the other in return for his scepter gem and a special magic item, the Thieves Hood.
If you are lawful or neutral good, you will need to kill both demon factions (getting both hearts for your mantel, as well as both scepter gems,
but not the Thieves' Hood).
5) There's a succubus in one of these rooms who will offer to skip you to the end of the maze if you kiss her. Obviously this will have
some negative effects on you, and if you're following Yakman's directions you won't have the three gems you need to leave the maze yet
anyway, but if you've always wanted to kiss a succubus you can give it a shot.
6) Of course, there are people from Planescape:Torment in this maze. (One of the big flaws of this add-in is that the Watchers Keep designers obviously
thought the only way to make it interesting would be to re-use everything that existed in Baldur's Gate 2. I thought the lost acting troupe
from Sigil was a nice and rather understated reference, but they just couldn't resist pounding it in with more pointless tiefling cameos
in Watcher's Keep). The first group you will encounter just attacks you; the second will gamble with you, however. If you're lucky you
can win some magic items, if you're unlucky you can lose some experience points. It's a fun game (a simplified Deck of Many Things),
but the possible outcomes are extremely limited. On each draw, there are only two cards you can possibly pick (Plague or
Strife the first time, Guile or Strength the second time, and Priestess or Emperor the third time.) The first two games you can either win or
lose, depending how the cards fall, but the third and final draw is preordained (your opponent will win), so don't waste your time replaying
it over and over, as the outcome will be the same each time. You can also ignore the game and kill the tieflings, though there's no real point
in it. Haerdalis, by the way, knows this gambling cambion, though he will only contribute part of his information unless it's past chapter
seven. None of the other tieflings will change their comments at all if Haerdalis is in your party, continuing to call you all "primes".
On this level you're confronted with a big, weird-looking machine. You will need to get into it, not only to continue your path
onwards but also because, if you've been reading all of Lum the Mad's notes as you've gone along, you probably have some inkling
of the goodies you're going to be able to get from this machine. There are several different rooms on this level, and by now it's going
to be very clear to you from the first glance who lives in each, so I'm not even going to consider that a spoiler anymore. (Wouldn't
it be nice, just once, to start down one of those huge staircases, cast all your dragon-buffing spells, and find the imp with the riddles
at the bottom instead? Or to go into those circular rooms and find liches instead of illithids?) Anyway, it doesn't matter in the slightest
what order you do these rooms in so long as you pick up every quest item from every area, so pick whichever one you like and start
Things of note on this level:
1) In the main room you can talk to Carston, but he won't answer any of your questions anyway.
2) In the illithid lair is one of Carston's apprentices. It doesn't really matter what you say to him, he will tell you the same story and
give you the same XP award anyway, and there's nothing you can do to either help him or learn his secret. Both halves of the illithid
key -are- in this illithid lair, by the way.
3) In the githyanki lair you can talk to the captain, but he has the same response no matter what you say. If you've already killed
the illithids, however, he will have an amusing exchange about that first.
4) From the githyanki lair you can get to Saladrex' lair. Saladrex is apparently a young and very pompous dragon. You will have all
kinds of hilarious insults available to choose from, but if you resist them and flatter Saladrex instead, he'll tell you how to solve this
level's puzzles. Or, you can insult him and figure it out yourself--they're not very hard puzzles. Saladrex will not attack you no matter
what you say to him, and unlike the SoA dragons he doesn't act especially worthy of being summarily executed. If he were a human,
few gamers would ever kill him (how many of you killed Yakman?) But he's a dragon, so you may not be able to resist. Your call.
5) There's another door from the githyanki lair, one which is much easier to miss (I missed it my first time through). Behind it is
another demi-lich. This really disappointed me, as I'd wanted Kangaxx to be unique. Apparently the programmers just couldn't
resist sticking another one into their shiny new dungeon. A pity.
6) To get into the machine, you will need the item from the vault, and to get that, you will have to solve the puzzle of the colored
torches. You do NOT need to solve this puzzle by trial and error (a long and boring prospect); there is a clue to the color scheme
right on the level with you. Once you've solved that you will need to use the item within correctly (there are two places on this level
you could have learned how to do this, just in case you screwed one of them up). Finally, once you've succeeded, Carston will be
released, and you can either be nice to him, yell at him, or kill him. Slight XP variations, but it has no real effect on you which you
pick, so do whichever feels best.
7) Lum's machine itself is a real guilty pleasure. It's munchkin central, but it really is fun. Go ahead; splurge; get goodies. I like to
get a little something for each of my party members--even the ones I'm not too fond of can at least have the extra charisma point
or something. (-:
Supposedly this level is intended to test you to see if you're worthy of the three keys to open the seal. Apparently the only measure
of "worthiness" in Helm's eyes is combat prowess, because that's all that's going to get tested here.
1) The first key comes from a Helmite ghost who asks you to pass three tests. Two of these are straight combats, the third is an imp
with a couple of simple math problems she wants you to solve. She'll let you keep guessing till you get it right, so it's really impossible
to lose that game.
2) The second key comes from winning glass globes and putting them into colored columns. No puzzle here, just push a button, fight
the monsters, and put the prize into the column the same color as the button and the globe (you'll get explicit instructions to do just this).
Actually, you can push each button up to four times, fighting increasingly hard monsters for increasing amounts of experience, and you
can use the extra globes to create spell effects, but the spell effects are weak (acid arrow, protection from normal missiles, and so forth)
and the globes can't be stacked, so they're fairly worthless.
3) The third key can be won by playing a mind-numbingly boring text adventure game. I am not kidding. You go to the altar with the
skull you've found and you get transported into an old-fashioned text adventure (north, east, look, or fight?) which you must navigate
to the end of. Clearly this was the very first game one of the programmers ever wrote back in 1978 on their Commodore 64 and they
thought it would be cute to include it somehow. The low point of the Baldur's Gate series, I'm afraid.
4) Once you've got all three keys, you can go and put them into the locks (60,000 XP apiece just for doing this--let no one accuse
Watcher's Keep of stinting on the XP rewards), then turn each one for a tough combat. Now that you've finished proving yourself,
you can head through the last seal to meet the Imprisoned One.
Now comes the plot twist, and I'm not going to ruin it for you. I saw something like this coming from the first I
heard about the Watchers Keep quest, but the details still caught me off-guard and left me not knowing quite how to react--the
hallmarks of a good plot twist, so kudos to the designers for a strong ending to an otherwise uncompelling
dungeon romp. You also--finally--get a choice of reactions now, with three different ways to resolve the endgame. Click
here if you'd like to hear about the alternate endings to Watcher's Keep.