Aylin is restored after being freed.

Here Are Some Essential Tips for Act 2 of ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’

Thus far, Baldur’s Gate 3 has proven to be a veritable monolith to get through. Even though I recently had a week off, I still haven’t been able to beat the game, and have instead found myself backtracking here and there to get the fullest breadth of a “standard” playthrough as possible.

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This was, both fortunately and unfortunately, most necessary in Act 2 of Baldur’s Gate 3, when you and your party enter the Shadowlands in search of Moonrise Towers. Initially, I did what I normally do on a first playthrough: I started blastin’, rushing through what I thought to be the main quest order so I could get the most immediate sense of the story. In the end, this was entirely the wrong way to go about things, because the structure of Act 2 is ostensibly different from that of Act 1.

In Act 1, you could start blastin’ and rush through the main quest arc, then clean up the majority of the act’s side quests afterwards. This is what I tend to do: kill the goblins, putz around the world, kill Ethel, putz around the Underdark, and then cross the bridge over to the Grymforge. And this worked!

Yet Act 2, despite its narrative feeling quite dire, ultimately requires you to pace yourself and be cautious in order to experience its full breadth. Rushing this act results in losing out on quite a lot of valuable gameplay and story offerings. So, to prevent anyone else from having to replay around 10 hours of game (I am very well acquainted with the inside of a Mind Flayer tummy now), I’ve devised a guide for the intrepid and cautious among you.

Obviously, be warned: spoilers are afoot!

Halsin and the shadow curse

Halsin excitedly talks to you.
(Larian Studios)

This is the biggest, most glaring aspect of Act 2, and one you might be tempted to delay. My logic in putting off this quest was twofold: I figured that, like many quests in Baldur’s Gate 3, it’d naturally tie into the big fight at the end of the act; and if it didn’t, it simply wasn’t so pressing that I needed to get it done right away, and it could wait until the most obviously dire quest was completed.

Alas, this was not the case. If you don’t help Halsin lift the shadow curse by the time you fight Ketheric Thorm, the guy will suddenly be SOL and he’ll leave your party to figure it out himself. No, you don’t get to solve the quest after the main fight. A lot of this quest hinges on timing that the game leaves for you to figure out.

So, here’s the thing: once you get to the Last Light Inn, you need to explore every room until you find a man named Art Cullagh, catatonic and singing on his bed. Tell Halsin that the man was singing about Thaniel, a weird, buck-toothed little elf kid who’s at the center of the curse, and then you’ll finally get the ball rolling. This was my initial mistake; I didn’t explore the Inn fully, and there wasn’t a marker in that room, so I assumed it wasn’t that important.

I recommend getting this Halsin business done sooner rather than later because, to be quite honest, the man has sparse enough involvement in your party as it is, and if you like him, you’ll want as many crumbs as you can get from him. Plus, of course, you want to save the land and all.

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Defending the Last Light Inn

Jaheira using a spell to suss you out.
(Larian Studios)

I love this game and consider it my GOTY, don’t get me wrong, but it absolutely has some issues, and one of the most glaring is allied NPC AI. What I mean by this is: NPCs you’re fighting with have absolutely no sense of self-preservation, especially in the moments when such self-preservation matters the most.

This was most evident during the big fight at the Last Light Inn, which triggers after you speak to Isobel, the cleric of Selune. Some baddies from Moonrise try to kidnap her, and while the baddies themselves are easy to defeat, they will continuously go for Isobel, who is squishy as all hell and loves running straight into danger.

This is a problem, because if Isobel gets knocked out, they will immediately kidnap her, and the shadow curse will infect everyone at the Inn. Everyone, including many Tieflings and allies you’ve probably grown fond of, such as Dammon the hot blacksmith. And while there are some great examples of consequence in Baldur’s Gate 3, this is an instance where it just feels cheap and stupid to deal with, since Isobel’s AI is so janky.

Therefore: I hereby state that you should feel no shame in save-scumming this fight—because if you can defeat everyone while somehow keeping Isobel’s dumb ass alive, nobody at the Inn will turn, and everyone gets to live another day, including Dammon the hot blacksmith. Yay! We love that! The trick is to form your party around Isobel, create some AOE clouds outside the room she’s in to slow down demons, and immediately kill the Flaming Fist who enters the room. Much of this is just finessing your angles mixed with a bit of luck. But it’s doable, and in my opinion, it’s worth it.

Don’t forget the creche!

Ghustil Stornugoss of Creche Y'llek.
(Larian Studios)

Some players might think that by choosing to go through the Underdark instead of the Mountain Pass, you’ll forgo the latter option entirely. But you can actually backtrack and still get into the creche, which, in my opinion, isn’t just worth it—it’s essential.

The creche quest was the moment I sat back and realized this game really was that good, even with all its flaws. It’s so phenomenally executed, both writing and combat-wise, and if you weren’t on the Lae’zel team before, you sure as shit will be now.

Timing-wise, you can generally do this quest whenever you want, but I recommend doing it before the major fight in Act 2 for the XP you get. And also, maybe this is just me, but I thought it was a better quest than the main quest. Oop.

Regarding the map

The mysterious Drow, He Who Was.
(Larian Studios)

If you’re like me, you don’t need to get into every fight in a video game, and are mostly concerned with the extra story material. Act 2 is kind of delightful in this sense, because there are many optional fight encounters in the map that you can easily skip around to find the story bits.

Make sure to go into all the various homes and houses, especially the ones outside Moonrise, because you’ll have multiple opportunities to flex your dialogue check skills and avoid big fights entirely. You can drink a big boy to death. I have no idea how my squishy half-drow sorceress pulled that off when I can’t even drink two nights in a row without getting acid reflux. Drow are built different, I guess.

The most delightful part of this map, for me, was finding He Who Was: a fellow Drow and a complete freak, with a mean talking raven named Quoth who calls you ugly. His quest is short, sour, and to the point, and you never see him again—which only makes me like him more, because truly, who was this nasty lil guy, and when can we hang out again?

The last and arguably most important part of exploring the map is clearing out the rescue quests BEFORE you do the final fight. Jailbreak the Gnomes and Tieflings by killing the guards one by one (it’s the easiest way IMO), and find Arabella’s parents and talk her through it. You get so much story from doing this, with extenuating consequences, and you get some dope gear.

Lastly, you don’t need to explore the Mind Flayer tummy, but you should because it’s interesting. Collect the brains in jars and connect them to the severed head. It’s creepy, but neat.

Companion orientation

We share a literally touching moment with Karlach.
(Larian Studios)

Whenever I do a first run of a game, I always worry about bringing the “right” companions for each part of the story, as I don’t want to miss out on juicy bits of dialogue. Act 2 gets a little silly with this, since every companion has a hook at one point or another, yet you can easily miss this hook since some companions are more “story important” than others here. I have a quick run-down below:

  • Shadowheart: keep this girl in your party at all times, this is absolutely her act. If you don’t take her through the Nightsong quest, she will straight-up leave your party, and honestly, for good reason. I already loved her character before this act, but after it, she quickly became one of my favorite RPG characters of all time. We stan a tragic mixed-race baddie.
  • Lae’zel: obviously, she’ll be necessary for the creche quest, and if you don’t bring her there, that’s ice cold. Other than this quest, though, she won’t have much else to say until the end, when you jump into the Mind Flayer tummy.
  • Wyll: he’ll make a big stink about finding his dad, but Wyll won’t actually have much involvement until, again, the Mind Flayer tummy. I’d say he’s a must-have for that final fight and quest because a certain someone is in the tummy that he needs to speak to.
  • Astarion: on the surface, this won’t seem like Astarion’s act at all, but you definitely want to keep him around in your initial exploration of Moonrise, and in Shar’s temple. The former will net you some friendship points and character exposition you’d otherwise only get while romancing him, as well as a sweet romance scene if you are romancing him. The latter will involve him striking a deal with Raphael that, if you’re clumsy and naive like me, you can totally biff. Sorry, dude.
  • Karlach: another reason you want to save-scum the Last Light fight: you gotta bring Karlach to Dammon the hot blacksmith! He’ll give her a last tune-up for her machine, which finally gives others the ability to touch her. I didn’t romance miss ma’am, but I did give her a pat, and it was very sweet. Karlach also gets some really cute moments with Jaheira, so even though she’s not super relevant story-wise in this act, I kept her around for her geeky moments alone.
  • Gale: captain wizard supreme has huge story moments at the very start of this act, including a cameo from his friend, the doddering legend Elminster. This moment comes with a sobering revelation that gives you the option to blow him up at will, which would solve lots of problems at the cost of Gale himself. I recommend not doing this. Otherwise, Gale isn’t super involved in this act, unless you’re romancing him—in which case, you’ll want to bring him to your very first fight in the region, because the man will straight-up tell you that fighting makes him horny-bo-borny.

Speaking of romance…

Aylin and Isobel are reunited and kiss.
(Larian Studios)

This is the act when most romances get locked in. You might be thinking, Really? That feels too soon! And you’d be justified in thinking this because … it truly is too soon for anyone to be declaring their undying love to another person. I made the mistake of sleeping with Gale halfway through the act, which somehow locked us into a romance. It felt rushed, I wasn’t invested at all, and if I’m being completely honest, part of why I replayed that half of Act 2 was to rectify my slutty ways and stick with my sad wife instead.

So, you know, be careful with who you knock wizard boots with. If you were also being a lil’ whoreish with your elf self, you will probably be faced with an ultimatum, as not all characters will be cool with “sharing.”

(featured image: Larian Studios)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).