Baldur’s Gate 3 preview: a modern, gorgeous D&D-infused RPG

Baldur’s Gate 3 preview: a modern, gorgeous D&D-infused RPG thumbnail

BOSTON — It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen a Baldur’s Gate game. Its original creator, BioWare, left the series untouched for two decades. Now, Larian Studios is reviving and modernizing the classic Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) inspired role-playing game with a third entry to the series.

Baldur’s Gate originally drew people’s attention because of its storytelling and excellent role-playing mechanics. But those games have understandably aged a bit. Now, Larian Studios has put a fresh coat of paint on the franchise. From what we’ve seen, Baldur’s Gate 3 is absolutely beautiful: rivers shimmer in the sunlight and cutscenes showcase high graphical fidelity and a keen attention to detail.

At PAX East, Launcher saw a demo that lasted close to an hour (Larian also revealed one and a half hours of gameplay during a panel, which you can watch here), showing off character creation, combat, companions and the significance of dice rolls. We loved what we saw.

You start the game off by choosing your race, class, background, gender and other attributes in the character creator. During the demo, which was led by Larian Studios founder Swen Vincke, attendees were told that there will be several origin stories for each character than can dramatically impact the course of the story.

The story itself is a classic tale of a good and evil: Mind flayers — Cthulhu-like creatures originating from D&D — are capturing people across the land and inserting a parasite into their brains by injecting it into their eyeball. Unfortunately, they do this to you too, and it’s only a matter of time before it takes over you completely.

D&D has long been a part of the Baldur’s Gate DNA, and that doesn’t change in the third installment. For example, you roll a virtual dice for different checks, just like you would during a D&D campaign. Players might need to succeed on a stealth check to pass a guard unnoticed, or deceive their opponents or companions.

Larian is also building on its past titles, such as Divinity Original Sin 2. Similar to that game, in Baldur’s Gate 3 you can attack enemies while standing above them on a higher ledge or by throwing objects their way. You can also move items, such as crates, to build makeshift stairs to reach areas that would have been inaccessible otherwise, bringing more exploration and verticality to the experience.

There will be some deviations from past games in the series. For starters, the combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 follows a turn-based format, so it’s important to think strategically. Another change is that you don’t have to view everything from a top-down perspective; the game includes a new camera mode, letting you zoom in behind your character.

Baldur’s Gate is a series about good and evil, and in this third installment, you can choose how you morally align through the decisions you make. For example, you can eat your companions (yes, you read that right) if you’re playing as a vampire. This could set you on a path of corruption, but it could also be a strategic move if one of your companions isn’t jiving with the rest of the team. In the demo, for example, Vincke killed off a party member who had a conflict with another companion.

Although it wasn’t shown at PAX East, Baldur’s Gate 3 will have multiplayer. This includes two-player local co-op and 4-player online multiplayer.

Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t have a release date, but it’s coming to early access on PC and Stadia later this year.

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