Baldur’s Gate 3 Early Access Impressions

Gather Your Party

After over a year of waiting, the first version of Baldur’s Gate 3 has launched in Early Access on Steam and Google Stadia.

The title is nowhere near complete and this version should simply serve as a taster of what is to come. As such this article will only be my first impressions concerning the gameplay and other content currently present within the game.

For the unaware, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the modern day sequel to Baldur’s Gate 2 and is being developed by Larian Studios. The studio has previously been responsible for Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2, so I felt confident in the team’s ability to capture the iconic experience of playing a tabletop roleplaying game. Thankfully, I’m very familiar with Baldur’s Gate 3’s source material.

Gameplay

Baldur's Gate 3 Failed roll

The gameplay is arguably the most important aspect for the future of this title. It seems to aim to combine the digital experience of D:OS2 with the physical experience of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. By using the former as a base, it adds further elements of luck and chance to almost every aspect of the gameplay, represented by the roll of a dice. This is absolutely faithful to the D&D experience and ensures that at a core level, the game isn’t exactly the same as D:OS2

As a long time D&D player I was delighted to see iconic D20 die making more than just a simple cameo within a game. However, I felt that the DC system felt misrepresented. Within the tabletop RPG, a number attributed to a characters proficiency in a skill is added to a number rolled on a D20 The aim of all this being to reach higher than or equal to a set number, also known as the DC for that task. In the game however, the DC is simply lowered by the number attributed to your proficiency in the skill. While this system is ultimately simpler, it didn’t feel as dramatic for an incredibly intense situation to have a DC of seven. Mechanically, the two systems are the same but the option to switch between the standard, currently used one and an additional overlay displaying your added skill bonus would be appreciated. But maybe I’m just being picky.

Those familiar with D:OS2 or strategy games such as XCOM will no doubt feel right at home here, the gameplay is familiar but fresh with movement more free flowing than most strategy games, and especially more so than D&D itself. Want to move one foot to the left to avoid a spell? Well you can and there’s no need to move 5 feet across and take an attack of opportunity. This added layer of movement pairs great with the difficulty of the game and the strategies it inspires.

Characters

Baldur's Gate 3 Wyll

Characters are no doubt a huge part of any game, but form an even larger part of D&D, they not only represent the protagonists of the story, but also the players themselves. Therefore, representing this experience digitally is no doubt one of the most exciting features of the game. Currently the game features a cast of six playable characters, including a player made one. Character creation is deep but not complicated, and can be as restrictive or free flowing as players want. Finally, an elf with facial hair! The classes currently present within the game are a good start at this early level, but hopefully either multiclassing or more classes aren’t far behind. The former especially would help with replay value as after a couple of playthroughs, I feel like through a party of four characters, I have seen all there is to offer. However this isn’t surprising considering this early access stage and if anything is to be expected.

Interaction between characters is decent, but struggles to replicate the somewhat manic experience of two player characters interacting at a table. The game manages to capture most other intrinsic experiences of D&D at at least a surface level from what I’ve seen and hopefully further character interaction isn’t behind. Interacting outside of camp would be a good start. Non-playable characters are somewhat memorable and just as you might expect from anything fantasy RPG. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Graphics

Baldurs Gate 3 Combat

At this point in the early access stage, Baldur’s Gate 3 is stunning. There are plenty of improvements to be made but this aspect is by no means a priority. What is there, however, is a fantastic and beautiful experience with varied, lush environments and enough teasers via the region map to keep me hooked for future content. From the wastes of Avernus the caverns of the Underdark, many of the forgotten realm’s most interesting locales are teased but not yet fully explorable. Hopefully these and the city of Baldur’s Gate itself will arrive before we know it.

I am overall extremely satisfied with the amount of locations and the sheer beauty of them all at this early stage. However, one inclusion that I wasn’t expecting to want is the addition of a first person or photo mode. I absolutely don’t expect to be able to fully play this game in first person, as this is not the intended experience, but the fantasy lover in me can’t help but beg to see these exotic and fantastical locales from the eyes of my character, especially when more are added. This isn’t something I expect to see included, but one that I hope can at least be considered.

Conclusion

Baldur's Gate 3 Camp

Baldur’s Gate 3 is off to a promising start, it combines the old experiences of TTRPG video games with the ongoing resurgence of Dungeons and Dragons and the knowledge and reliability of Larian Studios in one package. The amount of content currently present within the game provided me with just over 10 hours of gameplay, and for some this might not be worth the asking price. However, the game is nowhere near done. A years worth of development is still to be done and I will be diligently following this title grow from start to finish. Overall, if you are a fan of D&D or have always wanted to experience it but aren’t able to find a group, I can offer no better alternative for a D&D video game than this one, other than D:OS2 of course. Larian has proven themselves capable of leading the future of this iconic series, and this chapter of the forgotten realms is in undoubtedly good hands.


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