With the release of Baldur’s Gate 3, I can’t hide my excitement. After playing and loving this game since its early access in 2020, it’s truly gratifying to see the general public immersing themselves in this captivating and intricate game. However, I understand that some may find it intimidating to start playing, considering the notoriety of computer role-playing games (CRPGs) for being complex and daunting, especially when drawing heavily from the rule sets of Dungeons & Dragons. But fear not, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the best introduction to CRPGs ever created.
Start Small, Start Slow
One of the reasons CRPGs are perceived as unwieldy for new players is the abundance of intricate systems that often populate these games. Spells, weapon attacks, environmental stats, and verticality can overwhelm players, leaving them apprehensive when taking control of their characters. Fortunately, Baldur’s Gate 3 excels at onboarding new players by streamlining its rules and systems.
During combat, the game simplifies player actions into four categories: Action, Bonus Action, Movement, and Reaction. If you want to perform a significant action on your turn, such as attacking, it will consume an Action. Smaller actions are classified as Bonus Actions, while Movement is self-explanatory. Reactions, on the other hand, occur during someone else’s turn. In most cases, players only need to worry about two actions and movement on their turn, along with a potential Reaction. It’s a user-friendly system that eases players into the complexities of combat.
This simplicity remains consistent throughout the game, despite additional elements being introduced later on. Similar to Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, on which Baldur’s Gate 3 is based, the game follows the principle of “start small and start slow.” At the beginning, players have limited options for spells and abilities. Those who aspire to roleplay as a powerful wizard at level one must get comfortable with relying mainly on cantrips for a while. Although spell resources may be scarce initially, they reveal their impactfulness. Physical attacks may seem weak, but they provide a reliable and consistent source of damage.
The first three levels of any character are designed to help players grasp the core mechanics of their chosen class. This gradual progression allows players to fully understand what they can do piece by piece, instead of overwhelming them with everything at once. It’s a crucial design decision that eases players into this complex system.
Now for Something Completely Different
Completing Baldur’s Gate 3 will take the average player around 100 hours. This duration aligns with the industry standard for CRPGs, as Larian Studios’ previous game, Divinity: Original Sin II, had a similar length. With such a significant investment of time, players may inevitably question their choices regarding character abilities and stats. Fortunately, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers players the option to reclass early on. While appearance cannot be changed, players have the freedom to adjust their ability points, subclass, and class. Don’t enjoy your wizard dying every time they’re hit in the face with an axe? Transform them into a barbarian who can endure ax blows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Players can also utilize the reclass option for their entire party. If Shadowheart isn’t pulling her weight, change her subclass to the Life domain to improve her support capabilities or make her a paladin so she can thrive on the front lines. This reclass option only costs 100 gold, allowing players to experiment early and often.
Being stuck with certain choices in a game, particularly one as vast and lengthy as Baldur’s Gate 3, seldom feels great. Many CRPGs, like Pillars of Eternity, create an impression that players need to craft the perfect character from the beginning to succeed. This daunting task can make long playthroughs feel like futile endeavors, potentially driving players away. Fortunately, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers flexibility that makes it comfortable to test different character builds or correct mistakes during level-ups. Just make sure you’re content with your facial hair choices, as those can’t be altered.
All the World is a Stage
Most CRPGs maintain a certain distance between players and the storytelling experience. The isometric views and hours of silent dialogue can make players feel disconnected from the game world. However, Baldur’s Gate 3 defies this tradition by going to great lengths to provide a cinematic experience. Flashy cutscenes contribute to this, but what truly resonates are the subtle details that keep players invested in the game’s characters and plot.
Most dialogue in Baldur’s Gate 3 is fully voice-acted, a surprising departure from the norm in the genre. Even characters like random druids and tieflings in the Emerald Grove, who have only one line, are voiced. When engaging in conversation with a character, the camera zooms in for a dynamic angle, ensuring that you’re not having a conversation thirty feet in the air. Character animations are diverse and charming, adding depth to their personalities. Witness Shadowheart using expressive hand gestures when annoyed or Astarion raising his nose in a snobbish manner. These details bring the characters to life.
All of these elements make it easier for players to become emotionally invested in the characters rather than viewing them as mere collections of stats and battle skills. The enthusiasm displayed by characters like Lae’zel when discussing their people and culture becomes infectious, compelling players to delve deeper into this richly crafted world.
CRPGs have always had a reputation for being unwelcoming to new players. The genre, alongside real-time strategy games, has been perceived as intimidating. However, Larian Studios has gone above and beyond to change this perception, creating a massive and complex game that can span hundreds of hours. This achievement has the potential to open up a “niche” genre to the world, and judging by Steam statistics, it’s already proving successful.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is now available on PC, with a release on PS5 scheduled for September 6.
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