First Impressions — Baldur's Gate 3

October 22, 2020
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Baldur’s Gate 3 has entered the Early Access stage of its development lifecycle. The myriad glitches constantly remind you that what you are playing is not a finished product. However, the gameplay mechanics and story are captivating enough to point to the possibility of this being a top-notch game. 

Developer Larian Studios has a stellar history with RPG’s. They made Divinity: Original Sin I and II, which are some of the most impressive of the genre. So when Larian claimed that Baldur’s Gate 3 would be their “most ambitious RPG yet.” it naturally caught fans' attention. While it’s a little too early to say for sure, I don’t think they said that for marketing’s sake. This game might offer the closest experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons in a video game yet.

Anyone who has played D&D knows the first thing you must do is create your character. Balder’s Gate 3 gives the same choices for your race and class that the official Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook offers. You can redistribute your skill points, which determine your ability to complete tasks such as avoiding a trap or successfully lying to a character. There are a solid amount of aesthetic options for you to play with. It lets you forge a wild or tame character depending on your taste. Baldur’s Gate doesn’t stop at letting you make your own character. You also get to create the design for the character who will be your love interest!

Relationship material?

Once you’ve created your avatar, the game welcomes you with a gorgeous cutscene that features dragons, a bad guy that resembles an angry Octodad, and parasitic tadpoles. Pretty much anything you could ever want in an opening sequence, setting the scene for an epic story ahead. 

Like any good RPG, as soon as you take control of your character you’re immediately placed in a dangerous situation from which you need to escape. This acts like a quick tutorial, teaching you the basic controls and mechanics of the game. It’s straightforward if you’ve played previous CRPGs or D&D itself. However, if you're someone who usually only plays other genres like first-person shooters Baldur’s Gate 3 will present a fairly steep learning curve. Things like initiative, bonus actions, and critical hits and misses aren’t explained in detail during the tutorial. In some ways it makes sense; there is so much that goes into CRPG combat that some of the fun for players is in figuring out tactics as they go. Less patient people might find the depth of options frustrating, however. 

This is also where things get a tad dicey in terms of glitches. It’s still in its Early Access phase, so it would be unfair to berate its flaws too harshly. However, Baldur’s Gate is littered with them. There are two types of bugs. There are the ones you notice and don’t really mind,  like the death of a character sometimes causing their body to stretch wildly as it flies around the screen. Then there are the glitches that make you want to kill every NPC you see. The camera was the most common culprit for these. Multiple times I would find my character under an object — like a tree — in battle. Every time it was that character's turn, the camera would zoom in so close to the person I wasn’t able to properly control them. After trying everything I could think of, I would have to skip their turn and continue the fight one party member down. 

The world is filled with interesting characters

The good news is that you can often avoid fighting if you say the right things and get high enough rolls. When speaking with NPCs you will usually have a few choices of what to say. If they have something you want or are in your way, you can often choose phrases that come along with a roll check. For instance, in an early encounter if you want to convince a goblin to release a prisoner, you can try to trick them into believing the person needs exercise or they will die of sadness. You roll a 20-sided die and if you meet the target roll, you succeed in convincing them. These parts of the game were my favourite because they made me feel smarter than I actually am despite a lot of the outcomes having a fair amount of chance going on behind the scenes.

An important tidbit you should know is your saves won’t carry over from Early Access to the full game. This is a bit disappointing if you create a great character and collect any rare gear. On the bright side, it gives you free rein to do whatever the hell you want without repercussions. You can feel free to wipe out entire towns without losing any sleep.

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than smart

If you are craving the feeling of playing Dungeons and Dragons but don’t have anyone to play with, I would consider Baldur’s Gate 3 the next best thing. The story is interesting, and the world is populated enough to keep you entertained for many hours. But the glitches are still there and will be for a while most likely. If you don’t want to spend your time dealing with that or just don’t like the idea of losing your saved progress, it would be best to wait for the full release. However, on the basis of this initial foray, Larian Studios has treated the world with reverence and fans of the series are unlikely to be disappointed when the full game is released.

Check back with JDR for the full review when the game leaves Early Access!

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Evan Prather

I've had a love of games ever since I was getting my butt kicked on the N64 by my older brothers. My two dreams in life are to make a living in the games industry and to pull off a Kamehameha Wave — I'm not sure which is more likely.