A sequel 20 years in the making, the original Baldur’s Gate ushered in a new era for the role-playing genre, blending the freedom of tabletop with the visual splendor of the gaming medium. Two decades on from the release of Baldur’s Gate II and Larian Studios, developers of the critically acclaimed Divinity: Original Sin franchise, bring together the all-new Divinity 4.0 engine with the beloved Dungeons & Dragons universe for an exciting new Early Access tale.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Early Access Preview
Baldur’s Gate 3 wastes very little time setting a dark and somber tone for this adventure. You begin the story trapped aboard a strange flying vessel, a combination of organics and machines, tentacles stretching out across the sky, engines roaring at the rear. Restrained in some bizarre alien pod, you witness a strange figure approaching a small pool of water, resting atop a mysterious pedestal. The creatures bizarre, elongated figures stretch into the pool, plucking a small worm-like creature from below.
You then watch in horror as a Mind Flayer, one of Dungeons & Dragons’ most iconic and universally feared monsters, infects a nearby prisoner with a parasite that enters the body via the eye socket, and you watch every second. I cannot imagine anyone being able to sit comfortably through this sequence without wincing or looking away in disgust; it’s great. Moments later, you share the parasitic fate of your fellow prisoners as the large, alien ship flies over a heavily populated city – snatching up terrified civilians with its outstretched tentacles.
A group of dragon-mounted warriors attack the vessel, forcing it to flee to another plane. As they give chase, the vessel begins to fall apart, freeing many of the prisoners trapped within. The vessel eventually crash lands in Faerun, where you learn that the parasites you were infected with will eventually transform you into a Mind Flayer. You begin a race against time to find a healer but Faerun is a land with its own troubles and turmoils. It’s a fantastic start to an already intriguing story that develops at a good pace throughout the first chapter of the game.
The first phase of Early Access for Baldur’s Gate 3 only offers the first chapter of the story, but the depth of content available within the character creation suite offers almost endless replay value – albeit in a more limited sandbox. Even with the limited selection available in the build we played, there are thousands of character possibilities and combinations, embodying the the fundamental aspects of Dungeons and Dragons in warm embrace.
While a basic understanding of the Dungeons & Dragons 5e ruleset will undoubtedly help when creating characters, it’s far from a requirement. Many of the more complicated aspects of character creation are simplified, thoroughly explained, and visually displayed to make the information easily digestible. All of the regular fantasy tropes are present. The half-naked, dimwitted barbarian Fighter who’d sooner punch a stranger in the face than greet them with a smile. The arrogant, eccentric Wizard whose vanity would gives the gods a run for their money.
Whether you want to stick to a more traditional fantasy character or create something more unique, the options are their to not only support a flourish of creativity, but actively reward it with unique progression options, hidden skills, and fellow companions that can help fill skill voids within your party.
The World Of Faerun
The Early Access nature of Baldur’s Gate 3 does leave a lot of the bells and whistles needing some fine tuning and improvement, but the foundations for an incredible game are well cemented in place. Despite offering just a single chapter, the world of Faerun is a visual masterpiece and packed with content from the first step, to the last. You can recruit companions (each with their own class and progression systems) and can also discover hidden treasures and side quests – everything you would expect from a game based on the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
A few short steps after recovering from the crash landing of the alien vessel, I stumbled into some musky old ruins, dark, covered in deadly traps, and other unseen terrors. Analyzing my surroundings, I notice a large sarcophagus almost perfectly centrally placed in a large room. The RPG experienced veteran within me immediately knew that there was treasure to be had in this here sarcophagus. If only my lesser experience Dungeons & Dragons self warned me of the perils of obvious treasure in D&D.
The looting of the sarcophagus triggered several nearby traps, launching firebolts from recesses in the walls. The game immediately switches automatically to turn-based mode so I can better control my characters to avoid further mishaps. However, I realized, in almost slow motion, that I was surrounded by a highly flammable substance on the floor. My party perished, reduced to ash and bone. I feel obligated to add that this happened not five minutes after starting my adventure on Faerun.
There are many, many more situations like this that I would love to share, but with only the first chapter currently available, I’ll leave you to explore the rest for yourself.
Fundamentally Impressive, Technically Flawed
The build we got to play was a pre-alpha build to the upcoming Early Access build launching on Steam. The foundations of creating a remarkable game are firmly in place, but the technical struggles of an Early Access game are clearly on display throughout the experience. Texture loading problems, frequent crashes, ventriloquist NPCs that talk without any facial movement whatsoever – there’s a lot of problems within Baldur’s Gate 3.
However, as these problems may hinder progress and become frustrating at times, it’s not really that bad – if you’re used to Early Access games. Each time the game crashed, I was still excited to load it back up. Even when I lost my save file (a press-related issue that will not be present in the final build), I was even more excited to make a new character and try the adventure from a different perspective.
Unfortunately, due to limited access, we were unable to test the multiplayer aspects of the game. We will be diving into a co-op adventure once the game is released.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is an Early Access game in every sense. If you’re looking for a highly polished experience, don’t let the technical problems ruin the game and jump in later down the line. However, if the very thought of playing Baldur’s Gate 3 is enough for you to constantly refresh the Steam page waiting for release, it will not disappoint.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is already a fantastically good time with an intriguing story, colorful characters, and a masterfully created game world. It’s in its very early days, but this is one of the most exciting Early Access titles to hit Steam in years.