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May 2021

Baldur's Gate III

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Developer: Larian Studios

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PC Preview - 'Baldur's Gate III'

by Chris Barnes on Nov. 4, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Baldur's Gate III is the official next adventure in the venerable Baldur's Gate series.

Twenty years have come and gone since BioWare's release of Baldur's Gate 2 for PC.



To put that into perspective, BioWare has since released the entire Mass Effect trilogy (and Andromeda), the entire Dragon Age trilogy, Knights of the Old Republic, and the oft-forgotten Anthem. Obsidian Games, an amalgamation of developers from the shuttered Black Isles Studio (co-developer on Baldur's Gate 2) opened its studio and released 13 games in that timeframe.

Genre-defining games like Fallout 3, Morrowind, and Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have received nearly universal praise, but devout fans still claim that Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 are the best RPGs of all time. Finally, with a little help from Larian Studios, fans are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with Baldur's Gate 3, which was released on Steam Early Access last month.

Baldur's Gate 3 immediately kicks off with an epic opening cinematic that carefully blends elements of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi into a haunting display. From a first-person perspective, you watch as a Mindflayer tadpole latches onto the eye of an imprisoned Githyanki woman and digs toward her brain. The Mindflayer then turns his attention to you. You try to look away, but his mind control powers are too great. You're greeted with an up-close view of another tadpole's countless teeth. It opens its mouth to let out an ear-piercing screech, ready to make you its host. Those who have watched the opening trailer will know the scene I'm referring to. It is chilling and gets you amped up to take on everything the game throws at you over the next 20+ hours.

A female voice, seemingly that of the tadpole's, echoes in your head at the start of the character creation, "Who are you?" You immediately question if the voice is friend or foe. I spent what some may consider far too long browsing the various options to make some zany masterpieces. As is tradition, after all that time, and with all of the available options, I settled for the most generic dwarf build possible (though it seems I'm not alone in that regard).

After you've settled on a character build, you're thrown into the prologue. With the Mindflayer ship plummeting through Avernus, the first circle of Hell, one thing becomes immediately clear: Larian's scope and budget for this game is much, much bigger than anything it has done in the past. Character models and armor textures are beautifully rendered. The hellish backdrop whizzing past you is a delightful sight to behold; I've never played an RPG with such an active environment. Dialogue among party members and NPCs is delivered in an up-close, over-the-shoulder view (akin to Fallout or Mass Effect).

As you make your way toward the head of the ship, you meet the first party member, Lae'zel, who's the Githyanki woman you encountered in the opening cinematic. She explains that you had a tadpole inserted behind your eye and you will turn into a Mindflayer if it isn't quickly removed. Her delivery is desperate and a great way to kick off the narrative. This sense of urgency is always looming while you play through the game's opening 20-hour act.

The fiery prologue also guides you through the combat tutorial, which is needed for those who are unfamiliar with the D&D 5e rule set. While there are some minor tweaks, the core premise remains the same. In battle, characters take turns, which can consist of movement across terrain, an action, and a bonus action. Players have access to basic actions like attacks and tricks that are specific to their class and weapons. Beyond this, characters have a pool of spells (again, based on their class) that can turn the tide of a battle. These must be rationed wisely, since you can only use a finite number of spells in a single day. Once a character has used all of their spell slots, you must return your party to camp and take a long rest before you can sling fireballs again. Even if you aren't familiar with D&D, those who have played Pillars of Eternity will feel familiar with the limitations of the spell mechanics in Baldur's Gate 3. As someone who is unfamiliar with D&D, I found the combat system to be fairly accessible.

The D&D 5e rules have been implemented across all facets of BG3, and it's not limited to combat. You will frequently encounter situations that require a D20 roll to determine your success. Instead of letting the computer calculate the numbers in the background, Larian Studios has opted to display a literal D20 die that you must left-click to roll. If your roll matches the DC of the action you're trying to take, you succeed and can move forward with the action you were attempting.

If you're approaching BG3 due to your love for the Divinity Original Sin series and have little experience in D&D, you may stumble at times. I absolutely adore what I've played of BG3 thus far, but the menu layouts, character screens, and UI elements could use some sprucing up to welcome those who are newer to the D&D rule set. Determined to succeed in my quest, I often scoured Google to learn how or why mechanics were functioning a certain way. For example, there isn't an easy way to see your character's proficiencies, and you don't see the dice roll bonuses — elements that make it tough for a newcomer to learn the ins and outs of the game. Even those who are familiar with the 5e rule set may be confused by the UI elements, since it isn't easy to distinguish between level 1 spells and level 2 spells. Certain actions are mixed among bonus actions, but class-specific actions may be mixed in with your character's spells.

Despite these gripes, Baldur's Gate 3 is an absolute delight to play. It's still buggy in Steam Early Access, but the story is gripping, and the combat crescendos into a dazzling display of fireballs, entrails, and clutch dice rolls. There's a lot to love about Baldur's Gate 3, and after nearly 20 years of waiting, eager fans should keep an eye out for the final product.

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