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|Wed, 9th Jul '08, 7:31am||#1|
I'm not dead yet
BG2: SoA - Assassinations
Review first posted on: July 2008
Mod download location: http://www.pocketplane.net/assassinations
Download size: 1.65MB
One of the most commonly voiced criticisms of Baldur’s Gate II is that players who want to express their character’s Bhaal heritage by taking a more evil route through the game find options limited, and those that are available are generally less rewarding than the traditional “good” path. Assassinations goes some way to addressing this by offering a series of assassination-based quests suitable for a more morally flexible character.
There are ten quests in Shadows of Amn, and male PCs may also attempt to romance their handler, Lynn. Be warned, though: your actions do have consequences!
Installation and stability:
Assassinations is a WeiDU mod and is easy to install. Kulyok is one of the most efficient mod coders out there and her mods usually run without problem. Assassinations is no exception. I had it installed along with Ascension, some components of Unfinished Business, Romantic Encounters, Laufey’s Edwin romance and JCompton’s Flirtpack and had no serious issues with any of them.
I did find one small bug: a character I had assassinated was somehow miraculously still alive in his original location, but it didn’t cause any problems other than looking a bit incongruous. In a world where people can be hauled off to the nearest temple and resurrected, such inconsistencies can always be rationalised. Nonetheless, Kulyok is looking into it.
Your quest to become Athkatla’s top assassin begins when you talk to Bernard at the Copper Coronet. He will give you a note that puts you in contact with Lynn, an enigmatic woman who acts as your handler throughout the game. She provides the targets, and it is your job to terminate them however you see fit.
You don’t have to be an assassin or even a thief in order to take the assignments; Assassinations is open to any character class with the exception of paladin, for obvious reasons. The only other qualifier is that, when you first talk to Bernard and Lynn, you cannot have a high reputation. It doesn’t matter if it climbs to heroic levels later in the game, but a few of the assassinations cause a drop in reputation so it’s unlikely you’ll be getting a hero discount at the Adventurers Mart if you choose to carry out every hit.
There are ten missions in all; nine that can be carried out in Chapter 2 onwards, and a final, climactic assignment available only once you have slain Bodhi. Not all of these are straightforward; most require some digging around to find the location of your quarry, and making intelligent use of your contacts. Even with the right information, it can often be hard to find whoever you’re looking for as Kulyok makes full – and I mean full – use of the area maps. Several times I found my target tucked away in some obscure corner of Athkatla I never knew existed, despite having played Shadows of Amn for years.
One of the things I liked about Assassinations was its ability to engage the player on an emotional level. Some of your targets are scumbags who deserve to die, but most are not, and will plead, cry or offer you money to spare their lives. Killing them can make you feel pretty lousy, especially if you’re the sort of player who doesn’t usually enjoy taking the evil options in the vanilla game because they make you feel bad. You can opt to show mercy, but do this more than once and Lynn will deem you too unreliable to serve her needs. You can also refuse a mission, but again, your employer will not be impressed, and making a habit of it will only prove to her that you lack the stomach for it. Additionally, there are some jobs which are compulsory no matter how you feel about them, so refusing them or showing mercy is simply not an option should you wish your employment to continue. Your very first job falls into this category, and for me at least, was one of the most guilt-inducing. If you can get over this particular hurdle, you should be able to complete the remaining assignments without too many sleepless nights.
The other complication is that, even if you have no qualms about the killing, some of your companions will. Certain jobs will raise complaints, and lawful good types like Mazzy and Keldorn may even leave. If you want to avoid unnecessary complications, it’s worth planning your party with this in mind.
In addition, you can turn on Lynn, should you choose; either turning her in to the authorities or shopping her to Renal Bloodscalp, whichever suits your character. If you want to get the most out of Assassinations, however, this is best avoided, for obvious reasons, though it may be an interesting option to try in a subsequent game. Just be warned the Lynn also answers to a higher authority, so your actions could have consequences.
It’s worth noting that the traditional method of assassination – a stealthy approach followed by a quick backstab before the victim even knows what’s happening – isn’t going to work here. For the purposes of plot, every single one of your marks will attempt to speak to you before you can kill them, which means, to all intents and purposes, that they’ll see you coming, no matter how stealthy you are. Some may find this unrealistic, but Kulyok justifies it by saying that the intended victims are hyper-aware of their surroundings because they know they are marked for death.
Personally, this doesn’t bother me, since the missions would be a lot shorter and less interesting were they devoid of dialogue, and the various twists that can result from it. If you are still concerned about realism, then consider how short a game Baldur’s Gate would have been had Sarevok’s assorted assassins employed the stealth and backstab method instead of taunting you first. Well, quite.
Male PCs can also enjoy a casual romance with Lynn, if they are sufficiently persuasive. Given that Lynn will not join your party, this bears more resemblance to the mini romances you can have with Hendak and Ribald in Romantic Encounters than it does to the usual NPC romances. You’ll get the opportunity to chat to Lynn about various topics, but she is not very forthcoming at first and you will have to win her trust. If you play your cards right, you will be rewarded following the final mission. However, if you’re already romancing Jaheira, Viconia or Aerie, don’t expect them to be very impressed.
Overall this is a very well put together mod, both in terms of content and presentation. Major characters are voiced, the code is stable and the missions are well put-together.
The downside is that there is no content for Throne of Bhaal, but given ToB’s limitations, this is hardly surprising. Assassinations reaches a satisfying conclusion in Shadows of Amn, and stretching things further would be pointless.
As it stands, Assassinations fulfills a need for content for the less virtuous. As such, it is a guilty pleasure, but if that is what you’re after, then it’s wicked good fun.