Baldur's Gate 3 Beautifully Captures the Creative Spirit that Characterizes Dungeons and Dragons
Baldur's Gate 3 incorporates the Dungeons and Dragons rulebook more accurately than ever before, offering an experience where creativity is king.
Belgian game studio Larian has established itself as a master of tabletop-based CRPGs ever since Divinity: Original Sin released in 2014. The studio’s impressive Divinity: Original Sin 2 convinced Wizards of the Coast that Larian could handle the Baldur’s Gate IP according to Larian senior producer David Walgrave. With Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian takes its successful Divinity formula and applies it to the Wizards of the Coast, Forgotten Realms property, incorporating the Dungeons and Dragon’s handbook as closely as possible.
A dark and violent cinematic–which can be seen below–opened the presentation I recently saw at a preview event and led into a character creation screen. The cinematic introduces serious and gruesome themes that Walgrave expanded on in our interview. This obviously includes the mindflayer tadpole that uses an eyeball as a doorway in the cinematic. These tadpoles are the motivating factor of the story; our heroes have the little mindflayers swimming around inside their heads, which can’t be fun, right? Well, kinda. The tadpoles have the unfortunate ability to turn people into mindflayers after a few days. On the bright side, they offer powers, including allowing our vampire-spawn rogue the ability to survive in sunlight.
If vampire-spawn rogue somehow doesn’t sound amazing to you, don’t worry; that’s just the one race-class combination I saw in the preview. Larian is planning to offer 15 different D&D races and 8 classes with the possibility of adding more before launch. The current race options include humans, halflings, goblins, and tieflings, while current classes included wizards, warlocks, and fighters, just to name a few. Depending on the character you create and control, you will be given different situations and dialogue options throughout the game, as well as different abilities. For instance, as a vampire spawn, we were given the option to feed on our sleeping companions; feasting for our self-benefit, and possibly weakening our party. I’m happy to report we ended up biting into their neck.
Unfortunately, our companions survived our snacking. This lead to them feeling groggy and having lower stats the next day, while we were in a great mood, fighting better than ever. Eventually, we encountered the Githyanki from the cinematic, who ended up joining our party and instantly feuding with other party members. This led to me asking Walgrave about character relationships; he explained that “relationships can go to the extreme in either direction.” This means that they could lead to romance options, or companions attacking you and deserting the party. Essentially anyone in the game can die, rendering many questlines unreachable, and possibly increasing the difficulty of your journey.
If making decisions is difficult for you, don’t worry; it’s not all up to you. In true D&D fashion, many dialogue options and all attacks are determined by dice rolls. Baldur’s Gate 3 even includes a separate chat window where you can view all dice roll results. For instance, when you fire an arrow, you can view its chance of hitting and your end roll.
Meanwhile, outside of combat, you might have to use your cunning intelligence to roll and convince companions that the fresh teeth markings on their necks aren’t from your character. While intelligence might be useful in conversation, strength proves important in the wilderness. If you come across a boulder blocking your path, a high strength character can move it. This is one of many awesome environmental interactions in Baldur’s Gate 3.
The multitude of ways to interact with the environment is what impressed me most about Baldur’s Gate 3. You can throw grease at enemies, stunning them before igniting them with a casted fireball. You can dip your bow into a fire, adding elemental damage for a limited period of time. You can cast lightning on a puddle, electrocuting everyone touching the area. You can even shoot fire arrows into the water, causing dark steamy air giving you cover to sneak past enemies. This is where Baldur’s Gate shows off its D&D creativity. If you see some sketchy skeleton corpses, you can unequip all their weapons before they arise. There were times our vampire would cut down a flaming brazier, causing it to fall onto unsuspecting, doused enemies. Out of combat, you can smash rocks into walls, creating shortcuts out of dungeons. Shortcuts and secrets are hidden everywhere, with no lack of opportunities to explore.
However, exploring is even easier with a friend. Walgrave explained to us, “Your friends can just drop in and out, and they’ll take control of one of your party members. Then you also have multiplayer where you say, ‘Okay, let’s take on the game together from the start’. So, you and your friends – up to four people – basically start together in character creation, choose your characters, and play from there.” Everything you do in multiplayer is possible in single-player. A main difference between the two modes is how they affect the turn-based combat mode. In single-player, at any time you can switch into turn-based combat mode; granting you six seconds of movement before your enemy has the same pleasure. However, in multiplayer, there are turn-based zones where everyone must play in turn-based mode.
Combat appears very true to Baldur’s Gate, with a large emphasis on stealth. While sneaking you can see danger zones where enemies would spot you, and stroll past enemies in turn-based mode, making sure they never get an angle on you. Ultimately, Baldur’s Gate 3 appears to be an extremely accurate video game adaptation of D&D. Whenever you approach a roadblock, your options are as many as your ideas. You can teleport past, build over, fight through, go around, leave, or try to find a path to jump over. Baldur’s Gate 3 looks to improve on the positive systems Larian had in place in their Divinity: Original Sin series pleasing CRPG fans, while adding prettier graphics to draw in new players. The game worked beautifully in the early build, with only a few texture bugs happening; however, I did notice that the character’s mouth movements could’ve been better synced up with their voice acting.
Regardless of some early-build issues, that need a little polish; everything I saw of Baldur’s Gate 3 got me excited. I haven’t had much experience with tabletop-based games, but Baldur’s Gate 3 was certainly the truest to Dungeons and Dragons that I have ever seen. I was blown away by the countless dialogue options, the ability to explore at free will, and the hundreds of different ways to approach each obstacle. The world was beautiful and all the different ways of interacting with it shocked me. I’m excited to experience Baldur’s Gate 3 first-hand and put my creativity to test with my friends when the game enters early-access later this year.