Part 43: Don't Trust The Wraith
The Truth, Part One - One of ManySo there's two ways to play Mask of the Betrayer: the good path and the evil path.
Actually, no, wait, that's a lie. There's one path through Mask and it's the same every time. The game will always be about Akachi's war against God and the consequences of his divided loyalty. The player character will visit the same places, fight the same enemies, learn the same truths and, eventually, defeat Akachi within the Wall of the Faithless.
But your alignment affects how much you 'care' about Akachi's story. That's why I went with the Good playthrough first, since the focus there is on tracing the history of the spirit-eater curse. In the Evil playthrough, all that goes out the window as we ruthlessly exploit the curse to gain more power for ourselves (with unfortunate consequences for everyone else). Again, we'll still be following in Akachi's footsteps... we just won't give a damn about his story.
As it should be! Calliope is Lawful Evil, after all.
* * *
Most of the game is identical in both playthroughs, so I won't be going through it all again. Instead I'll be focusing on what does change between the two.
For example, we can gloss over Act One almost entirely.
Safiya is still the one to rescue us from imprisonment in Okku's barrow.
Okku then awakes to prevent our escape.
In Mulsantir, we are still too late to save Lienna from Araman's Red Wizards. The Wychlaran browbeat us into facing Okku's spirit army.
We still recruit Gannayev the hagspawn...
...and Kaelyn of the Menagerie.
Finally, we defeat Okku in battle, in front of all his loyal subjects.
This is where it changes.
I had so much difficulty getting this sequence right. Okku kept getting Dazed and wandering off in the middle of the cutscene. I had to settle for this series of screenshots, where he's in place but displaying the effects of a successful Avasculate attack spell. That's why he looks funny.
Like I said, the good and evil paths are not mutually exclusive. You can switch between them more or less at any time, since the differentiation is purely in how you respond to quests and NPCs. However it's best to stick to one path, as rewards are greatest for consistent play.
: 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?
: Emptiness... hunger. Forgive me... I tried to stop you...
The beginning of the evil path starts with the decision to devour Okku.
Obviously this prevents him from joining the party as a companion.
: Whatever you have unleashed, it is unnatural, some sort of vampirism I have never felt before.
: Something has changed in you - like a beast awoken from a long sleep.
: I... I did not realize you were cursed in such a fashion.
As before, we have become the fearsome spirit-eater, the monster of Rashemi legend. Okku's army has vanished - but we're not finished with the bear yet.
We possess both Okku's Essence and his Spirit Husk (his corpse). The essence I'll leave for now, but we can find a use for the husk almost immediately.
* * *
Act Two opens up lots of interesting possibilities for a spirit-eater unafraid to plumb the depths of her powers. Our first priority, though, is filling the gap left by devouring Okku.
The fifth companion can be found within the Temple of Myrkul in Shadow Mulsantir.
Specifically, within the Crematorium furnace.
: No, no, no! There is no room! I just finished expelling some, though they wailed to return within.
: Go now and find some other warmth!
Previously the Furnace was just a big time-lock on the juicy goodies lower down in the Temple Vault. The door downstairs can only be opened by a replica Silver Sword of Gith (a tribute to Akachi's sword opening the Betrayer's Gate) and the replica sword is hidden in the fires of the Furnace. The Furnace can only be extinguished once the souls inhabiting it have been driven out - by use of spirit-eater powers, naturally. Downstairs contains lots of high-level treasure and important plot info and Obsidian didn't want anyone to have a chance of getting at them until they had at least discovered the spirit-eater curse.
If you cast your mind back, there was an awful lot of backstory for such a simple plot gate. The Furnace is home to all the souls of the people the Myrkulites cremated before Myrkul was cast down as god of the dead. The vast majority of souls were of vicious, brutal criminals, and the remainder were soon driven insane by their imprisonment. Three souls are strongest: the Priest, a former Myrkulite cast into the flames by Cyric's crusaders, who acts as spokesman for the souls; the Child, a mentally-disturbed young boy who attacked his family and burned down a temple of Myrkul; and the Brute, a half-orc criminal who murdered the Priest's family when he was alive. These three souls control the aggregated hundreds of other souls contained within the Furnace - collectively called 'the Many.'
Both the Child and the Brute are intrigued by the possibilities we present; Calliope is 'compatible' with the Many, meaning she can hear and speak to them without going through the Priest. However, the Priest, as the 'One' for the Many, is happy with the current arrangement and doesn't want things to change, so he blanks us. We use our spirit-eater powers to frighten him into cooperation.
On the good path, speaking with the Priest taught us the Eternal Rest power, which allowed us to recover Spirit Energy from exorcising ghosts. Evil characters lack the basic human empathy needed to give a fuck about the Priest's sob story, so we just Devour him instead.
: :: It consumed One! ::
: :: Slay it before it does the same to the Many! ::
: :: Avenge! Avenge! ::
: :: Yes, I saw it. Such power! I am fascinated. ::
: :: Perhaps if we drain its life, we will gain its power. Power to free ourselves of this Furnace! ::
Again, on the good path, we ended up exorcising the entire Furnace save for the Child and the Brute. This time, things are going to proceed a little differently.
: :: You have great power, and therefore command the respect of the Many. We can help each other. ::
: :: You wish passage through the gate to the lower level of this vault. And we crave to be free of this Furnace we are bound to. ::
: Why can I see you, but others cannot?
'Compatibility' doesn't have anything to do with being a spirit-eater; the last compatible person the Many knew of was the Priest, back when he was alive. Our companions cannot see or hear our interactions with the Child or the other spirits of the Many.
: :: The key to the Lower Vault is within this Furnace, hidden by the Priest long ago. However, it cannot be retrieved until the spirits that haunt it are freed. ::
: How can I free the spirits?
Poor Okku. Even devouring his soul wasn't good enough for us.
: :: Do not do this! We want to be free of the Furnace, not crammed into an even smaller shell. ::
: :: It is the only way, Brute. We will be in a smaller place, but one that will travel where we see fit. ::
One of Many is the fifth and final companion to join us in Mask of the Betrayer.
: An undead construct of sorts? This is like nothing I have ever seen.
: Is this the being you were speaking to before? It is like something out of a nightmare.
These shots should probably have been scripted as one continuous whole-party shot. What's happening is that One of Many is unmanifesting, apparently disappearing from Kaelyn's sight, but remaining visible to Calliope and the player.
Like so. We see it as a shadowy presence, but according to the companions it's completely invisible.
: Who, or what, are you?
: :: I am One... of Many. ::
: One of Many? What does that mean?
One of Many has the same camera-angle problems as Okku does, which is oddly reassuring.
: What do you mean?
: :: Your clumsy spoken words assault my keen senses. You do not need to speak, Master. As you can hear my thoughts in your mind, so too can I hear yours. ::
: :: You can read my thoughts? ::
: :: Yes. ::
: :: It is the call of the dead you hear. All mortal creatures understand it, though most shiver to hear it. ::
: :: You must know, Master, that I am not one for many words. I will speak when the time is right, but mostly I will remain your shadow, silent and deadly. ::
* * *
The fifth companion is One of Many (not to be confused with Many-as-One, as seen in Planescape: Torment).
Like it said, One of Many doesn't speak as such. Instead, it communicates through a soft, creepy whispering that somehow can still convey meaning.
That didn't stop it from being voiced by Steve Blum though (sometimes it feels like he's in everything I swear) (Listen here).
One of Many is a gestalt entity, comprised of the souls of the hundreds of victims burned alive in the Furnace of the Temple of Myrkul. The Many are led by the One, who dominates the collective and directs its movement. At the moment, the Child is the One, so One of Many's personality is sneaky, underhanded, vicious and cruel.
Here's a closer look at One of Many, without any effects in the way:
One of Many:
- likes wanton cruelty and destruction
- likes adding souls to the Many
- like over-the-top Saturday-morning-cartoon villainous posturing
- dislikes being thwarted
- dislikes helping others
- loves baiting Kaelyn the Dove
But One of Many? Completely different. One of Many is proper Monstrous-Manual 'Always Neutral Evil'; it shows up on Detect Evils from miles away and has absolutely not one single redeeming trait in all its hundreds of souls. One of Many triumphs in random acts of inhumanity and, conversely, despises any form of kindness or compassion. Its one comprehensible emotion is probably selfishness.
We'll have more than enough time to see that later on, though.
One of Many is like Okku and Construct in that its a 'special' companion, so there's no inventory and it levels up on its own (to cover all those Creature Attack proficiencies).
The Child was a Rogue in life so that's the class One of Many has now, though this can change if you invest in the companion - and this is another reason why it levels up automatically. We don't technically need another Rogue in the party, since Calliope has that skillset covered, but it's still fun to set up Sneak Attack crossfires against the few enemies still vulnerable to them.
Calliope's actually better at backstabbing because dual-wielding doubles her attacks per round, but for other PCs One of Many is the only proper Rogue in the entire game. Kaji, Safiya's familiar, has a few levels in the class, but not enough to unlock the more difficult doors and chests in the game (i.e. the vaults in the Temple of Myrkul) and is also of no use in a fight.
* * *
One of Many is as different from the rest of the companions in Mask as the companions in Mask are different to the companions in NWN2.
See, Safiya, Gann and Kaelyn were all intended to be reflections of the same basic archetype or persona - namely, Adam, the original ungrateful child. Their personalities represent different responses to dissatisfaction with God/the universe/morality/higher authority. Safiya is sceptical, Gann apathetic, Kaelyn self-righteous.
One of Many (and, to a lesser extent, Okku) have another purpose altogether, which is one reason why their dialogue trees are much shorter than everyone else's and why they don't really get a 'spotlight' moment like the others do. Another reason, of course, is that you can play through Mask without ever realising you could recruit them.
Instead, One of Many exists primarily to reinforce the choice we made at the beginning of the update. Having One of Many in the party doesn't force us into taking the evil Devouring path through the rest of the game, but it definitely makes it easier. The same goes for Okku and a Suppressive playthrough.
This isn't to say that these companions are unrelated to the central conflict of Mask; we've already seen how Okku's oath to the previous spirit-eater paralleled Akachi's own crisis, while One of Many actually hews closer to the Adam archetype than any other, in a weird sideways roundabout kind of way. One of Many is comprised of hundreds of damned souls that would end up in the Wall if not for Okku's protective husk - and the One is literally called 'the Child', which is a big clue.
The only real difference is that it regards us as its creator/parent. Let's hope we do a better job than Myrkul did, eh?
One of Many's lines are accompanied by a wordless whispering chattering, which is very creepy and unpleasant to listen to. Its voicework also covers more unusual features for the companion - like being to choose our title.
: :: I want you to call me something different. ::
: :: Very well, Master. What shall we call you? ::
The list we can choose from is very long and includes the names of all the classes we currently have (so we could have had "Rogue," "Invisible Blade" or "Assassin").
One of Many approves of overtly villainous choices like "Dark One" and "Mistress of Evil" and is disappointed by heroic ones like "Almighty Saviour" (though that might just be a matter of good taste).
Want another example? If you don't take him into the party when you first create him, you can have this conversation:
: :: But why there, Master? ::
* * *
One of Many is not a popular party member, which is why it probably keeps itself hidden all the time.
Safiya and the other companions are dimly aware of the construct's presence though - enough to form an opinion about it.
: Whatever this "One of Many" says to you... if indeed it speaks in words... think very carefully why it says what it says.
However, there is very little party interaction between them, including even simple one-liners thrown out in the middle of NPC conversations. There is an exception, though:
One of Many and Kaelyn get along as well as you'd expect and there's some juicy dialogue to be had playing them off against one another. Unfortunately it'll have to wait until another update because I'm all out of time!