It has been nigh on a decade since fantasy gamers have had a chance to explore the Forgotten Realms as they made their way to the famed city of Baldur’s Gate, and in that time a lot has changed. Not just in the world of game development, but in the world of D&D as well. Now, the team at Larian Studios is ready to reveal Baldur’s Gate 3 to the world. Shacknews was lucky enough to get invited to an early hands-off sneak peek at what fans can expect from the upcoming installment and it looks like it’s making improvements in literal and figurative leaps and bounds.
Baldur’s Gate 3 starts off with your character getting worms. I know it sounds a little odd, but there’s much more to it. You see, these aren’t just your average worms, these are mind flayer parasites. In the opening cutscenes for BG3 we witness a squid-like Mind Flayer conducting a ritual in which it places the parasites in the eyes of its captured victims, one of which is the player’s character. From there the cutscene reveals that you’re actually aboard a giant flying mollusk-like ship called a nautiloid floating above a massive city.
The ship starts wreaking havoc on the city below and each citizen touched by one of the nautiloid’s many tentacles appears to turn to dust. The squid ship is quickly engaged by a group of dragon riders and attempts to make an escape through a portal, but the riders follow suit. The dragon riders succeed in taking down the ship and it crashes along a coast relatively near Baldur’s Gate. That’s where the player’s story truly begins.
As one would hope, there are a massive amount of options for character creation that currently includes 15 races and subraces and 8 classes with more promised to be revealed down the line. Players will be able to make their own unique character or choose from a number of pre-made characters that fit into the main storyline in particular ways. For our demo, our presenter chose to play as a rogue class Vampire spawn with an evil alignment. The character is interested in becoming a full-fledged vamp and his motives are driven by this goal. But this is just one path out of several that players will be able to choose from.
From there it was time to begin the adventure. As we collectively explored the wreckage we met a few other crash survivors who had also been infected with parasites. However, these didn’t appear to be your standard brain-eating worms. It was soon discovered that they imbued each character that had been through the ritual with a telepathic bond that allows them to see inside each others’ heads at certain points. That was only the beginning of the mystery though. As we played on we were given chances to use and expand the power of the mind flayer parasites to help us achieve our goals or trust in our own abilities. We also discovered that there were way more people that had been imbued with the same powers by the worms known collectively as the Absolute who were involved in some sort of clandestine plot to throw the world into chaos. And that’s just scratching the surface of what players can expect from this campaign.
Just like in your standard D&D game, the success of your actions is based on dice rolls. Larian Studios have updated the behind the scenes rules so that they’re now based on the current D&D 5th edition. They’re also trying their hardest to give players the same amount of agency they’d have in the tabletop version and allow them to make the same type of creative choices a dungeon master would. To that end, the world of BG3 has a ton of new ways for players to interact with it. For starters, there are now vertical layers to just about every environment and players will now be able to leap to and from the high ground. It may seem like a small feature, but it opens so many doors.
Will you leap up and knock an archer off of a cliff and take the high ground advantage for yourself or take the opportunity to disengage from combat altogether? Will you sneak through the rafters of an old building or find a hidden treasure after jumping to a secret area? Maybe you’ll push your opponent into a pit full of spiders and let them take care of all the dirty work.
Leaping is just one new way that BG3 improves upon environmental interaction. Players will also be able to do things like stick an arrow in a flame to make a fire arrow in the heat of combat. A lot of items are moveable and breakable, so throwing a barrel at an opponent might be an option. Or maybe you take that flame arrow you made and shoot the rope supporting a chandelier that just happens to be right above the enemy. For me personally, that’s the kind of creative problem-solving that I love attempting when playing table-top RPGs, so I’m very intrigued to see just how much I’ll be able to get away with in the final version.
The improvements to combat don’t even stop there. There’s also a brand-new “Turn-Based” mode. Yes, combat is of course still turn-based, but what this feature allows is for players to take six seconds of movement while the world around them is paused. This allows for a stealthy approach to some areas where combat might want to be avoided. Of course, after you take your six seconds, the world gets six seconds of its own to move its parts around too.
While all of the combat and environmental improvements are awesome, D&D has always been about the comradery for me. While you don’t necessarily have to play BG3 with your friends, you will have the options for two-player local and four-player online co-op campaigns. Since all the characters in the main story are mind-melded through the parasites there may be some points where your friends see you make a decision that you may not want them to. Like maybe you’re playing as the Vampire spawn and you decide to feed on one of your companions in the middle of the night and they all see it. I’m very curious to see how this new feature plays out in an actual online game. Even in single-player mode, the way you engage and interact with your companions will affect the bonds you make with them, so there’s still that sense of playing with friends and having them react to your choices.
The original Baldur’s Gate set a standard for table-top style RPGs video games and Baldur’s Gate 3 is already looking like it’s going to hold up the pedigree that comes with the franchise’s name. And this was just an early pre-alpha sneak peek. If BG3 really holds up its commitment to freedom of choice for the players it’s almost assuredly bound to be another feather in the cap for Larian Studios. Will you embrace the power of the mighty worm and give in to the darkness within or will you fight to free yourself before time runs out and you become a mind flayer yourself? It’s going to be a few more months before Baldur’s Gate 3 hits early access and you discover your fate.