I don’t really do first impressions of games because I prefer to have the full game in my hands so I can get the full picture as it was intended to be. But I think I might branch out more if there’s stuff in early access that I can find myself following more closely on the development side of things in the future because the game is just that enticing to me. Like the subject of today’s piece if you haven’t guessed what it is based on the title.
I’m not gonna mince words here: Baldur’s Gate 3 is an Early Access ass Early Access game. But it’s also showing some real promise at the moment. When I heard that not only were we getting Baldur’s Gate 3, but from Larian Studios, I was super interested because as much as I think the game had issues (and there were a lot of them), I really liked Divinity Original Sin 2. And if nothing else, they could use it as a learning experience for what they could and couldn’t do for whatever game they make next. But then, the more I played, the more things started to stick out to me as this is clearly not just a licensed game that’s based on two games that more or less put Bioware on the map and changed the way video games worked.
The main thing that jumped out at me was the way that the story was being presented in-game. It felt less like an isometric CRPG and more like a high-budget AAA RPG from the last 5 or so years, with full voice acting and cutscenes. But you still got the narrator who voices everything of note that happens like a traditional Dungeon Master, which is fitting considering the kind of adaptation this game is. This also goes a bit further in making the story it wants to tell. I can’t talk about the full story at this time because only Act 1 is in, but it’s doing things that D&D games aren’t, like remembering that the Gith and the Mindflayers exist! But seriously; the game starts on a Mindflayer ship and you have to find someone who can get the Tadpole, a parasite that if left untreated for a week, turns the infected host into a Mind Flayer. I know that sounds incredibly backhanded, but I can’t really get into story stuff because I’m trying to be considerate of spoilers, but I will say this: It evokes feelings of being in Fort Joy in Original Sin 2 in that while the base objective is the same, the way you go about it has a multitude of different outcomes for possible solutions. But that’s enough story talk, onto the mechanical stuff AKA the reason I’m possibly looking forward to more of this game.
The main concession with adapting a Tabletop RPG into the medium of video games is that you don’t have a Game/Dungeon Master telling the story and interacting with the player to give hints and allow for rolls on skills that can move things forward or balance encounters on the fly to adjust for party strength if need be. This was an issue Pathfinder Kingmaker and Divinity Original Sin 2 both suffered from in different ways, the former was really easy until it randomly decided it wasn’t going to be and the latter was super unforgiving if you didn’t do a lot save file preparation to min-max before even starting (still salty about Dwarves having negatives on Ranged combat, Larian). So far, Baldur’s Gate 3 feels like a substantially more forgiving experience. Party composition is still important and can cause difficulty to vary depending on class makeup (Mine was two Rogues, a Cleric and a Wizard), but so far the game feels like you are playing with a DM that has the tendency to fudge the dice rolls in your favor a bit too often for my liking. I have a feeling this is going to change once variable difficulty settings become available later on down the road (an example is that currently, you can initiate a long rest at any time as opposed to the end of the day, which makes dungeons way easier than they were intended to be). It also makes it so that skills that would notably be rolled for at the table are passive skill checks, most notably Perception checks and Saving throws. Skills like Insight, Investigation, Persuasion, and Intimidation are manually rolled when used in dialogue, complete with satisfying animation of a D20 being rolled for the check. This is also great because it means that you as a player aren't having to roll for perception every five minutes, thus keeping the game going. Why would I call myself out like that?
Combat is where the meat and potatoes of the Early Access build is at and it shows. It first starts by house ruling several actions as to be bonus actions in order for the experience to run smoothly in this part of the game as well. Certain actions, such as jumping, shoving enemies, helping party members, and drinking health potions are all bonus actions as opposed to the base rules’ standard action and in the case of the first two I mentioned, none require active athletics, acrobatics, or Strength checks to do that I’m aware of. So you can just Yeet enemies off of cliffs or my preferred tactic: pushing them into grease traps and having whoever has a firebomb or fire spell burn them to a crisp. It leads to combat overall feeling way less dickish compared to Larian’s previous output and I love it. But at the same time, you also have several chances in the early access build to avoid fighting entirely and still get the objectives done, which is awesome. I actually managed to avoid a pack of gnolls after two successful intimidation checks on a pack of goblins. That I was playing a Rogue may have had something to do with it, but it helps.
There are six classes in Early access so far: Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard, Warlock, and Ranger. Each has two subclasses. More will be added down the line, but I feel like Paladins not being here is a bit of an oversight, but that’s just me. It’s also pretty buggy, but it’s Early Access, what were you expecting?
So yeah, that’s Baldur’s Gate 3 at this point in time, I definitely want to see where this goes over the course of the next year or so. Here’s to hoping I can Smite and Ignite some Illithids by the time full release comes out.
All images from https://www.igdb.com/games/baldurs-gate-3/presskit