Gaming

I Completed Baldur’s Gate 3 in 30 Hours (and Wiped Out Everyone in the Process)

Baldur’s Gate 3 is an extensive game that, despite its popularity, few have managed to finish. Currently, only 0.4% of players have earned the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement for completing the game, according to Steam. This is because Baldur’s Gate 3 is the kind of game that can consume countless hours without reaching a conclusion.

However, I found a way to beat the game much earlier than expected. During Act 2’s climax, I unintentionally triggered a premature ending that displeased my party members. This unexpected turn of events made me appreciate the personal nature of each player’s journey through Baldur’s Gate 3 even more.

Note: This article contains major spoilers for Act 2 of Baldur’s Gate 3.

One Final Wind of Magic

If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate 3, you’re probably familiar with Gale, the charismatic wizard you encounter in Act 1. Throughout the act, I had to continuously provide him with magical artifacts to appease a curse that afflicted him. However, the effects of these artifacts on Gale diminished with each new item. Eventually, I discovered the truth: Gale was cursed by the God Mystra for his betrayal. At the beginning of Act 2, Gale’s former mentor, Elminster, arrived and informed him that Mystra had assigned him a new task—to destroy the “Heart of the Absolute” using a Netherese Orb Blast that would essentially obliterate everything in its vicinity.

Gale talks to the player in Baldur's Gate 3.
Image courtesy of Larian Studios

The option to use the Netherese Orb Blast was available in the spell menu throughout Act 2, but triggering it early usually resulted in a message stating that my party had been defeated and prompted me to reload. However, there was a real opportunity to use it and end the game at the conclusion of Act 2.

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Most of this section of the game involved finding a way to defeat Ketheric Thorm, a villain in Baldur’s Gate 3 voiced by J.K. Simmons. With the help of Nightsong, whom I had freed, I confronted him atop Moonrise Towers. However, before I could defeat him, he retreated to a massive Illithid Colony beneath the towers. Naturally, my party followed, only to stumble upon Ketheric and two other villains—Lord Enver Gortash and Orin the Red—activating the Elder Brain, which appeared to be the “Heart of the Absolute” that Gale needed to destroy.

Gale asked me for permission to explode and eradicate everything. The logical choice would be to refuse, considering there was still a third of the game left to play. But with all the major threats in one room and the game’s addictive hold on me, I gave him my consent.

Gale exclaimed, “One last gust of Weave. One last gale to end them all,” and detonated himself. Helpless, I watched as my Dream Visitor shouted, “No!” Gale’s explosion killed Ketheric, Orin, Gortash, and the Elder Brain, earning me the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement, which is typically awarded for completing Baldur’s Gate 3. However, the post-explosion dialogue hinted at a gloomy future for the Forgotten Realms.

“The elder brain lies destroyed beneath the smoking ashes of Moonrise Towers,” the narrator declared. “But what about the tadpoles it commanded? Freed from the Absolute’s control, they will undergo their transformations. A plague of illithids will soon descend upon the Sword Coast, enslaving all who remain unaffected.” As the credits rolled, I sat staring blankly at the screen, realizing that this was the ending I had worked towards.

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An Imperfect Conclusion

Undeniably, this is not a favorable outcome for Baldur’s Gate 3; it’s actually quite terrible. However, the fact that I could shape the ending speaks to the game’s inherent strength. One of the most appealing aspects of Baldur’s Gate 3 is the freedom it grants players. It’s not just about completing objectives; it’s about circumventing them altogether. My greatest enjoyment in Baldur’s Gate 3 came from discovering ways to avoid major boss fights and set pieces. Instead of choosing a side in the attack on the Druid and Refugee camp, I destroyed the bridge that Minthara could have used to escape in the Goblin camp. I killed her before even having a conversation with her, and then I pushed Dror Ragzlin off a ledge, ending his life.

Gale blows himself up in Baldur's Gate 3.
Image courtesy of Tomas Franzese / Larian Studios

My party’s habit of pushing bosses off ledges persisted. I had Karlach repeat the action while the rest of my party engaged in dialogue with Balthazar, bypassing that entire encounter before freeing Nightsong. Although I do feel tempted to go back to a previous save and continue playing Baldur’s Gate 3 after witnessing this ending, I believe it serves as the most fitting conclusion to my adventure. It is undoubtedly an ending that few players will witness or desire, making it all the more unique to my personal experience with Baldur’s Gate 3.

Larian Studios has claimed that there are over 17,000 versions of Baldur’s Gate 3’s ending. However, it is clear that even a single variation, without many character-specific permutations, can have a profound impact. Games like Baldur’s Gate 3, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Elden Ring, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, have successfully emphasized player freedom in recent years. Players appreciate the beauty of these games, where each person’s experience is vastly different. I am satisfied with the story of how I destroyed this Dungeons & Dragons world because it feels like an ending of my own choosing, one that will definitely stay with me for a long time.

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Baldur’s Gate 3 is currently available on PC, with a release date set for September 6 on PlayStation 5.

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