Part 8: Spirit-Eater Needs Food Badly
Act One Chapter Six - Okku
Spirit Army Prelude
With Gann and Kaelyn recruited, there's not much else we can do to prepare for our battle with Okku.
So we're checking in with our companions, see if they have anything interesting to say. Maybe even something helpful!
: Animal spirits have packs and pecking orders just as their mortal kin do. That bear we met was the pack leader of that barrow - a spirit noble, one could say.
: When we first met him, he was still half in hibernation. No doubt our battle roused him to full strength.
: Our last battle 'roused' him? I recall defeating him rather soundly.
And you say he's only gotten stronger between now and then. Great.
: So if he's beaten, the rest of the animal spirits will leave us alone?
: Perhaps... though we can't permanently defeat him, we can certainly drive him and his minions back to their barrow.
Well, if he's immortal, we don't really have any choice in the matter. God, I hope he's Lawful.
Speaking of Lawful...
: I really need to find some answers as to why I'm here.
: I agree. If we didn't have to stay here to pry some answers from Magda, I'd suggest that we slip past the spirit army and leave Mulsantir behind us.
: It doesn't bother you that we brought this spirit army here - that it's our mess to clean up?
: No, it does not. The Rashemi are a superstitious lot. Their society is based on fear - of witches, of spirits, of starvation.
: These people don't want to understand the forces of the land - they wish to live in terror of them.
All right, Lawful Evil dialogue option!
Companion interaction in NWN2 was limited to say the least. Companions would have a short dialogue tree in which you could ask basic questions, maybe have a few opportunities for Influence... but it was completely static. Once you'd spoken to them once, you never had to speak to them again.
In Mask you get additional conversations for each 'story step' in the game. Step One was Okku's Barrow. Step Two was finding Lienna dead in the Veil. Step Three and the others come after we defeat Okku. Usually for each step at least one companion will have something useful or interesting to say - and the others will look as though they're responding to important plot events, just like real people would.
This is the Step Two dialogue for Safiya.
: Why? I promised to find you some answers - I can't leave yet.
: What about those Red Wizards? They spoke of trouble at your academy.
: [Influence: Success] Yes... I... fear the worst for the Academy... and my mother.
: To be honest... I... I've been half-tempted to make my way back home but...
: If my mother is... dead... then I'll be carrying out her last wishes.
We'll be dealing more with Safiya's Academy soon enough.
: Thank you. My mother would not have requested I look after you were it not important to her.
: Then it's settled. Now... we should deal with that spirit army.
* * *
Outside, Gann looks pained.
Is it gas? All that prison food couldn't have been good for him.
: What's wrong?
: The spirits... nnh... are restless. There's a legion waiting outside the gates, led by Old King Bear... he's awake... and not pleased about it.
: What did you take from him, anyway? I've never seen... or heard... such an uproar. I'm surprised the land isn't tearing itself apart.
No, wait, it's a nasty outbreak of ellipsitis. He must have caught it off Safiya.
: Any advice you have for beating him?
: Well, our chances are not the best. In that, you can be assured I am speaking true.
: Still, we have one advantage - Okku's army.
Gann's dropping a few hints from the designers here. The upcoming battle with Okku? It's a gimmick fight.
: Defeat them, then focus your attention on Okku, and you may very well survive the day. But I'm not making any promises, mind you.
: How will I know when he's weak enough?
: I will do what I can to let you know - listen for my voice over the din of battle.
: Until you hear me call out, I would not attack Okku directly. Instead, do whatever you can to slow him down and keep him at arm's... paw's... length.
* * *
We're all set to go. Okku's just outside the
Oh yeah, Kaelyn's siblings.
: You need to stop flying from us. Was your search successful?
: I have made progress, yes. What has happened in my absence? The city feels different, more turbulent.
Gosh, Kaelyn, did I forget to mention that the god of bears is trying to kill me? Must have slipped my mind!
: And worse than Efrem when I best him in duels with one hand tied behind my back and hopping on one foot.
: It is good to see you, my siblings. I have missed you. But how did you come to be here? I had thought that-
: We would not let our eldest sister, leader of our humble Menagerie, go into exile alone! Who would feed us? Change our cages? Sing to us?
: Nay, to abandon you - I would sooner let the antlers fall from my helm like leaves!
: Although the removal of your antlers would make it easier on door frames, my brother. Many still bear wounds from your entrance.
: Indeed. We will keep our promise and help you.
: Promise? What promise?
: In exchange for finding you, we promised to help battle the spirit army beyond the gates.
: It was not my intention to endanger you, my siblings.
: Ah, sister, we can take care of ourselves. We are not unaccustomed to battle, or to great odds against us. Remember the Menagerie!
Gladly. I've already got three idiots ready to die for me, I don't need these two creeps as well. Also Efrem is starting to piss me off for some reason.
: Kaelyn, please come home with us to Celestia. I know grandfather will reconsider your exile if you will just make penance to Kelemvor.
: The Menagerie missed you, sister. We need you. Kelemvor is a just god. Trust in him to resolve your inner conflict.
: There are wrongs that remain unrighted by Kelemvor. The truths I seek are sacrilege to his doctrine.
: My path now lies with Calliope, and I cannot take you on this journey with me. I know I have led you before into battle, but this journey is different.
: My journey concerns itself with the fate of souls and the injustice of all Gods, not just Kelemvor. It is a path that may lead to not just the death of my body, but the destruction of my soul.
* * *
Gann gives us one last chance to ask him how to beat Okku, then...
...it's time for battle.
: [Diplomacy] I'm here to make peace, lord of bears, on behalf of the Witches and myself. Disputes are better solved with words than with blood.
: [Failure] No! Blood must flow, little one. I swore my oath in blood, and blood is older and stronger than words.
: You do not know what you are, not yet. If you did, you might ask me to kill you. Better that you never learn.
: Very well. Let's fight and be done with this.
: Good. Talk is for sparrows, and chattering apes.
Spirit Army Battle
This is the big ending boss fight for Act 1, and it's as hard as you might expect.
You start off very close to Okku - a very large, very strong melee opponent who cannot be killed until the rest of his army is destroyed.
So the correct strategy is to Hide in Plain Sight and let Safiya, Gann and Kaelyn handle him.
Which they do quite well! Provided you buff them properly and summon in some minions.
With all those Recitations and Stoneskins and whatnot Okku actually has a hard time scratching the three spellcasters, leaving them free to call down the heavy artillery while Calliope picks off the stragglers.
There's two parts to the spirit army: the chargers, consisting of telthor wolves, leopards, warriors, an earth elemental and Okku himself; and the support, namely archers and a few dryad Druids. The ranged support can be a real pain, disrupting spells like nobody's business, so consider sending something their way to keep them busy (I sent a pissed-off Rogue with six Sneak Attacks a round).
The melee force is easy enough - they all congregate on your position very quickly, making a juicy target for party-friendly area-of-effect spells like Missile Storm, Call Lightning and Storm of Vengeance.
The spirit army is reinforced throughout the battle, but every death weakens Okku slightly. He starts with complete damage immunity to everything, but every time a spirit dies, he is dazed and loses 5% immunity across the board; destroy twenty spirits and he's practically helpless, though you only need eliminate ten to be able to kill him.
: Hurry, little one. Take a blade. Tear out my throat!
: Your wounds could be healed, bear god. Why are you in such a hurry to die?
: This... is the same as what happened in the barrow, when you consumed the spirit wolf...
: What is that?! It felt like... a backlash, a whip across my mind.
: Stop this attack! Whatever you're doing, you're feeding on his spirit, siphoning it!
: What... is... this?
Here comes the big choice, one that defines how you play through the rest of Mask of the Betrayer. Do you resist this power and the strength it offers, or give in and submit to the hunger?
The path of resistance is the Good/Neutral path (more or less) and it's the path I'm taking for the first playthrough.
: Once before, a spirit-eater spared my life. I remember a lake of groaning ice, a man standing over me, in triumph... and a hunger withheld, in mercy.
: Spirit-eater? Why do you call me that?
: Because that is what you are. I knew it, when you walked out of my barrow. But I didn't know you had the will to fight what you are.
: Mph. I swore an oath, little one. To serve the spirit-eater who spared my life, long ago, and help him end his curse.
That's great, Okku, that really is. Really swell.
Go ahead and talk - don't mind me, just wrestling with a curse of inconceivable horror. And you guys back there, please keep watching me writhe in agony. You're all such good friends, you know that?
: Memories fail me, little friend. I was alive, in those days. It is like asking the river to remember the snow that gave it birth.
: I remember my oath, and the scent of your hunger... these were strong in my mind when I laid down in my barrow to die.
: And I know... I paid a price for helping the man who spared my life. For letting him share my grave. But I do not remember what it was.
: But what is this hunger?
: But I know it will kill you, little friend. It will devour you from within, as it did that other spirit-eater... the one who spared my life.
Not that we have much choice. Would you tell a bear that you didn't want to be friends with him?
: Good. We will end this curse, flesh and fur together.
: Until my vow is kept, these beasts will have no king - no one worthy of the name. Let them go back to my barrow, and dream.
Gann suddenly comes over all jealous. Probably because Okku is prettier than he is.
: Do not make me regret sparing you during our battle, hagspawn.
: Now, now, old king bear - let us show respect for our cursed and strikingly-beautiful ally. She is a spirit-eater, apparently, which bodes ill events to come, for spirit-eaters must feed - or they die.
And no sooner does he say that than a bunch of peasants run screaming into Mulsantir to tell everyone about our affliction.
* * *
On the plus side...
Okku is voiced by Darryl Kurylo (Listen here).
Okku is a telthor, a kind of nature spirit native to the land of Rashemen. They're usually animals like wolves, stags and bears (occasionally humanoids too) and Okku's no different: in life he was a powerful paragon bear, an exemplar bear, a bear exceptional in his ursinity. When he died, that strength and intelligence allowed him to become a minor god of Rashemen, revered and worshipped by the Rashemi.
And now that god works for us.
Although his original purpose was the defence of the land, Okku has now given himself over entirely to watching over the spirit-eater threat. This will frame his every interaction with us, the newest spirit-eater.
- likes oaths and vows and stuff like that
- likes bullying those smaller than him (i.e. everyone)
- dislikes eating spirits
- dislikes jokes (unless he's making them)
He's sort of a prick but in a charming way - like a grumpy old grandfather that threatens to beat you with his stick one minute, then buys you a big bag of sweets the next. Like he doesn't really understand how to interact with people without shouting. And he's also a bear, so what do you expect?
Speaking of which, doesn't he look splendid? Gann might be jealous but I can totally dig the Okami look:
And yes, funnily enough Japanese myth was one of the major influences on Mask and its creative lead, George Ziets (learn this name, it is important).
Okku's a Level 20 Fey (fairy) Fighter so he works a little differently to the other companions.
Part of D&D's problem with balance at high levels is the disparity between spellcasters and non-spellcasters, specifically the Fighter class. A Level 20 Wizard can summon pit fiends, drain energy levels, even Wish for all sorts of shit to happen. A Level 20 Fighter can Full Attack every round.
So to make up for this enormous deficiency (I mean the Fighter class is entirely useless once the Wizard gets some basic abjuration spells in his book, it's not even funny) Okku gets a ridiculous number of special bonuses, all for being a bear/a guardian spirit/a non-player character. These are generally in the same vein as Construct from NWN2: amazing stats and natural armour, but no or limited ability to equip stuff. Okku gets two rings and a necklace, no more.
Okku also doesn't gain levels like normal. Instead, every level-up is automatic, as Okku 'remembers' old abilities and powers. This exists to hide the fact that he gets souped-up non-standard feats like adamantine claws.
The end result is that he's an excellent front-line warrior, one sorely needed in a party of three spellcasters and a Rogue.
And he's a goddamn bear jesus christ