There’s been a lot of talk about role-playing games as of late – which ones will be the biggest, most epic and feature-packed. With the launch of Baldur’s Gate 3 into early access last year and its progress ever since, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Larian Studios has something incredible to offer. But what makes the eagerly-anticipated follow-up so special? How might it be the biggest RPG of the year (assuming everything goes as planned and it releases this year)? Let’s take a look at 15 main reasons.
Divinity 4.0 Engine
Baldur’s Gate 3 utilizes the Divinity 4.0 engine, which has been designed “from the ground up” for the game. The goal is to allow one to play “exactly how you’d like to play,” with “many possibilities for good, and evil — note also, everything in between.” The new engine and larger development team pushes this notion “Much further than Divinity: Original Sin 2.” Given that it takes place 100 years after Baldur’s Gate 2, there will be plenty of opportunities for heroics and evil deeds alike.
Triple A Budget and Staff
This is the biggest project that Larian Studios has worked on till date. with a triple-A budget and staff of over 250 developers and 100 outsourced employees.
Performance Capture for Cutscenes
Another big change from Larian’s previous game is the addition of motion capture for its cinematics. Dialogue interactions now take place in a closer perspective, showcasing the character’s expressions and gestures as they react to you. The development team’s cinematic producer and director hail from Telltale Games and while the current product launched in a very “raw” form, there have been tons of improvements. Some cinematics have even been “re-shot” and look even better than before.
Much like Divinity: Original Sin 2, players will have a choice of different Origin characters. These are characters that have their own unique stories and goals alongside the main story. These include Astarion, a High Elf Rogue who’s also a Vampire Spawn; Gale, a Human Wizard who seeks greatness but also has a literal ticking time bomb in his body; Shadowheart, a High Half-Elf Trickster tasked with recovering a powerful item; and so on. There are currently five Origin characters available in the early access version with even more to be added overtime, and even if you’re not keen on playing as them, they can be recruited to your party. Those seeking a set “protagonist” with their own quirky personality, skills and story can take one of the Origin characters for a spin and learn the ropes.
In-Depth Character Creator
But that’s just the beginning. A robust character creator is a must for any Dungeons and Dragons RPG. To that end, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers 150 unique heads for its various races and sub-races (with more on the way), numerous backgrounds that offer proficiency in different skills, a range of skin and eye color choices, several hair-styles and colors, tattoo styles, makeup styles, the works. While some features could be made more robust – like the number of voices available – there are tons of options to create your fantasy character of choice.
Races and Classes
There are currently eight races in the game, several having 2 to 3 sub-races. These include Dwarf (with the Gold Dwarf and Shield Dwarf sub-races); Elf (with High Elf and Wood Elf sub-races); Tiefling (with Asmodeus, Mephistopheles and Zariel sub-races); and so on. Each race has its own unique traits, like the Wood Elf’s Fleet of Foot for faster base walking speed or the Strongheart Halfling’s Strongheart Resilience for advantage on saving throws against poison. They also have different bonus points in stats like Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence etc with separate proficiency in armor.
But wait, there’s more. There are also six classes, each with different primary abilities and saving throw proficiency along with their own sub-classes for a whopping 13 choices at present. Want to play an Arcane Trickster Rogue? How about a Warlock bound to The Great Old One or a Wizard versed in the Evocation School? Keep in mind that these are the choices currently available in early access. Classes like Paladin, Sorcerer, Druid, Bard, Barbarian, etc will be in the full game while the current classes will receive even more sub-class options.
Turn-Based, D&D Combat
Perhaps the biggest departure from previous games is the turn-based nature of combat instead of real-time-with-pause. Party members take turns spending action points to attack or move, and there’s an attack order for allies and foes alike. Otherwise, everything you’ve come to expect from D&D is here – attack rolls, which can be influenced by ability and proficiency modifiers; saving throws to avoid negative side-effects; advantage and disadvantage on attacks that depend on terrain, visibility and range; the list goes on. The nature of dice rolls means more unpredictability in combat, which is further reinforced by interacting with the environment. Dip a weapon in fire for extra fire damage, collapse certain structures on foes or simply shove targets away, sometimes off of roofs or into other things.
Freedom of Choice
The greatest appeal of the game, as it was in Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2, is the sheer freedom of choice. Utilizing different tactics in battle is one thing, whether you rush head-on or make use of stealth to carefully maneuver past foes, surprise attacking when the opportunity arises. But you can also talk things out and avoid combat entirely, open up new avenues for exploration and just go wherever you please. Maybe you want to use the Speak With Dead spell to talk to every single corpse and learn something new. If you want to just finish the current early access content within seven minutes, then go for it. Lone Wolf and difficulty options are also planned, though not currently present in early access.
Lots of Side Content
The story is already off to a good start but in the long run, it’s the side content that will draw you in. You can choose to rescue certain individuals (who may become Companions), explore different ruins, unearth secrets and partake in quests involving your Companions. Early access currently consists of the Prologue and Act 1, offering roughly 25 hours of total content, and your choices in different side quests will affect how the overall story plays out.
This leads to a rather obvious fact but one that bears repeating – choices matter and always have consequences. How will you venture to the Underdark? Will you deal with the Goblins in the camp through force, cunning or weirdness? How will you cooperate with your companions? Do you kill them outright or tolerate their quirks for as long as they’re useful? Do you adopt that cute Owlbear Cub after killing its mother? Much heavier choices crop up throughout and the full game promises to cater to all sorts of characters.
Characters and Dialogue
The overall amount of dialogue and characters is also a big step up from Divinity: Original Sin 2 when comparing their respective early access launches. While Original Sin 2 had 142 characters and 17,600 lines of dialogue, Baldur’s Gate 3 has 596 characters and 45,980 lines. The full script for the latter has over 1.5 million lines of dialogue and when you factor in all of the different permutations that can arise based on one’s character, there’s a whole lot to see and do.
As noted previously, the Origin characters can become your Companions, traveling with your party and having their goals intersect with yours. They’re much more nuanced than those in Larian’s previous games, and as a result, different kinds of scenarios can emerge. Over the campfire, your Companions will react to everything that occurred during the day. Alternatively, you could have scenarios like Astarion, the aforementioned Vampire Spawn, feeding on a companion, potentially killing them if he goes overboard. Progressing through the story will see your relationships change in unique ways.
Attitude and Crime Systems
There may be times where your party members don’t agree with you though. Depending on the choices made, the factions that you fight with or against, and your overall race and class, it’s even possible that your Companions may leave you. There’s also a Crime System which governs your reputation so making any particularly damning decisions could be bad in the long run.
Though Baldur’s Gate 3 is very much a single-player experience, the true fun in a Dungeons and Dragons scenario comes from playing with friends. Up to four players will be able to team together, interjecting in each other’s conversations – going as far as killing the person you’re talking to. Each party member could even run around independently and cause all sorts of havoc, the repercussions of which will only hit you later.
100 Hours of Playtime
Larian is currently looking at over 100 hours of total playtime with the final release. Act 1 is still being refined and polished while Act 2 and 3 are currently in the works. Though the development team anticipates the game launching out of early access this year, it has plainly stated that “It’ll be ready when it’s ready.” Once again, judging by the progress and transparency of early access, things are looking very good indeed en route to the 1.0 launch.