Baldur’s Gate 3 is a somewhat surprising release to see in our libraries, with the last re-release/updated versions hitting our shelves in the form of Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 with their enhanced editions in 2013, with an expansion Siege of Dragonspear going to Baldur’s Gate 1 over 15 years after its last expansion. Shifting hands in 1998 from developer Bioware to Snowblind Studios in 2001, Black Ilse Studios in 2004, Overhaul Games for the enhanced editions in 2012, Beamdog for Siege of Dragonspear and finally landing in Larian Studios’ laps for Baldur’s Gate III.
Baldur’s Gate has had a troubled lifespan, with 6 different developers and 4 different publishers over the years. The series has seen several changes in gameplay and graphics, with the increase of hardware and engines at hand. With moving to the newest developer, Larian Studios, most well-known for their work on Divinity Original Sin and its attached franchise of varying genres, the old fanbase of Baldur’s Gate games are understandably wary of how Larian Studios will approach the game.
Releasing into Early Access, like so many developers do nowadays, we’re treated to the first act of Baldur’s Gate 3, in all its bug-filled glory and feedback climate. From the first trailers and gameplay demonstrations, it was clear that Larian Studios would be reusing plenty of their Divinity: Original Sin content, mechanics, and resources to make Baldur’s Gate 3 faster, alongside changing the core action-style with pause gameplay of the older Baldur’s Gate games into a true turn-based combat game. Again, splitting the fanbase into several camps of ideals.
Baldur’s Gate 3 starts off with a few cinematics, though albeit with some delayed audio at times or loading issues. Our character, alongside many others, have been captured by the Mind flayers and are inserted with a tadpole to slowly transform us into them. Thankfully, Avernus, dragons, and Tieflings don’t take kindly to that, attacking the ship we are being carted on. It isn’t long until we gather up some help, crash land the ship, and make our way into our grand adventure of looking for a brain surgeon, or mythical shaman.
Containing the first act of the game, Baldur’s Gate 3 starts us off getting a small team of around 6 people with tadpoles. From there we look for healers, hags, armies, and more to get these creatures out of our heads. A sense of urgency is given to us by our compatriots, but it is shown very quickly that we have no real timer, allowing us to sleep for months on end, teleport around, us being tasked with helping villager after villagers with mundane issues, etc. Weren’t we worried about becoming squid heads?
The first act of Baldur’s Gate 3 will last around 10 or so hours, depending on your competence with the DnD 5e system, or your urgency about your task. This can be increased to about 20 or so hours with side-quests, if you’re able to talk to people and not get attacked on-site that is. There is some amount of replayability so far, with several classes to try out and choices to be made in dialogue or who you look to for a cure.
Shifting greatly from Baldur’s Gate 1, 2, and Dark Alliance, Baldur’s Gate 3 is more like a reskinned and retooled version of Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel. If you’ve played any Baldur’s Gate before, or any Divinity: Original Sin before you will see the stark contrast between them. Pushing aside the jump from AD&D 2e and 3e to 5e, Baldur’s Gate 3 shifts from action/real-time combat to full turn-based combat, with a heavy focus on environmental combat like Divinity: Original Sin as well as tactical positioning. Each character rolls for initiative as normal in D&D, taking turns in combat to move, attack or cast a spell.
Another drastic change is the more even-footing you’ll face with opponents, whereas in earlier Baldur’s Gates you were either a few levels higher than foes or they were tuned down, Baldur’s Gate 3 sees most enemies on the same if not higher level and utilizing much better gear. Simple villagers and farmers will provide a challenge in the early game, being able to fend off against characters with actual class levels and customisation. While some enemies can feel even, there are times where encounters are heavily skewed against you, with up to double the numbers of foes or ones with a heavy focus on martial combat throwing out 4-5 attacks each before you can even make 2 attacks a round.
As you defeat foes, find locations or complete quests, you will receive experience for levelling up. The current soft level cap is around 3-4, with progression completely halting at that point aside from more hit points or spell slots. Each level you will gain new abilities assigned to your class, from sneak attack damage, new spell levels, or additional dice for use in combat. Sadly in its early access form, a lot of the classes have had their customizability stripped somewhat. The biggest pull-back is that of the Warlock, only gaining 1 of its 5 pact boons at 3rd level and about ½ of its normal eldritch invocations. Hopefully, as the game goes further into development these will be added in, though I doubt without a full respec or run of the game we could make retroactive changes.
Currently, there are 8 races to pick from, with some subraces to alter a few base statistics, as well as 6 classes to decide how your character will play. Following the normal point-buy rules for ability scores, maximum of 15, minimum of 8, altered by racial bonuses and penalties, you will adjust your character as you see fit. With progression halted around level 4, you won’t see much more than this in the early access.
One of the more confusing changes to make to the Baldur’s Gate formula, and that of base D&D, is the complete removal of skill, trap disable, and diplomacy EXP rewards. The only way you gain EXP is from killing enemies, finding locations, and complete quests. A major issue with many tabletop campaigns of D&D is the murder-hobo, players who just kill things for a benefit, and stripping away the reward of winning an encounter via the use of skill checks pushes players even more into that mindset. You can easily miss out on hundreds, if not thousands, of experience points because you decide to not kill people, most of the time there is no other reward either except for not having to fight a group of people you will never see again. While D&D 5e did move away from trap EXP, there are rules and notes for EXP gain from overcoming encounters not through combat.
A somewhat nice addition to the game, however, is that alongside not getting EXP from normal conversation you are instead given an “attack” option for almost every conversation. It is hard to tell so early on if this will break the game or its quests, but it certainly gives a feel similar to The Outer Worlds, where you could kill everything and still complete the game. It might not be enough to offset the lack of diplomacy experience, but it is certainly there for those who wish to squeeze out every experience point possible.
Moving onto a long topic for Larian Studios, is the long list of bugs and glitches that plague their games almost as bad as Bethesda. Through pre-release and Beta release, Baldur’s Gate 3 cannot seem to go more than a few minutes without a bug occurring. Plenty of conversations will see models floating, weapons not gripped in hands, characters facing the wrong direction, not having any facial animation, or just straight up T-posing. Not to mention that voice lines and music can be delayed a few seconds on loading. There is also a plethora of bugs for multiplayer, from desync, save-file loss and more. While to be expected of a Beta stage of a game, bugs like these are still present in Divinity: Original Sin 2 over 3 years from its initial release.
With the name of Baldur’s Gate 3, the game fits very loosely into the franchise, being set about 100 years after the last game. You won’t find many reoccurring faces, or much in the way of similar locales aside from an improved map and Baldur’s Gate itself. The humour and atmosphere of the previous Baldur’s Gates are also sorely missing from Baldur’s Gate 3, feeling more akin to Divinity: Original Sin in the locale of Faerûn. Players can feel safe going into Baldur’s Gate 3 without any knowledge of the previous games.
Overall, Baldur’s Gate 3 has seen a rocky landing in my eyes. The beta early access version shows off a very stripped version of D&D 5e that halts some of the more customized builds of the tabletop, though this can be improved on with updates and later acts. Bugs and glitches are very prevalent, taking you out of the immersive experience. The current story is very tell, and not show, with the urgency being destroyed almost immediately. With the move to turn-based, humour and style shifts, Baldur’s Gate 3 just feels like Divinity: Original Sin 3 and not a Baldur’s Gate entry. If you enjoyed Divinity: Original Sin, you may enjoy Baldur’s Gate 3, but if you’re an avid fan of the Baldur’s Gate franchise you might feel offended.
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Baldur's Gate 3
Gather your party, and return to the Forgotten Realms in a tale of fellowship and betrayal, sacrifice and survival, and the lure of absolute power. Mysterious abilities are awakening inside you, drawn from a Mind Flayer parasite planted in your brain. Resist, and turn darkness against itself. Or embrace corruption, and become ultimate evil. From the creators of Divinity: Original Sin 2 comes a next-generation RPG, set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 49.99
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