As the Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay live stream took place last night, I wasn’t actually able to watch it live. Instead, I was busy rolling my IRL dice in my weekly Dungeons & Dragons game as we fought off a Sea Hag and tried to resurrect a fallen party member. Watching the footage after my own game though, I felt like I was still very much in the world of D&D - and that’s exciting.
The first thing that really struck me about the gameplay is how perfectly the combat mirrors that of the TTRRG D&D game. You have an initiative order for who gets to act when, you have an Action, Bonus Action, and movement each turn, and even the spells and abilities were all more than a little familiar to me.
But, that doesn’t make it feel boring or predictable by any shoot of the imagination. The pacing is great, the monsters are smart, and you still have that worry that one (or more) of your party may fall.
Larian also showed us how they have changed the way dialog and interaction between the characters works. The gameplay opened with the party at their camp where you can rest and recuperate after a long day of adventuring. As our character interacted with the other members of the party, a line spoken by Larian's Swen Vincke (who is running the demo) definitely hit home for me - “Well, I can see how this party’s going to go...” after he was met with some serious attitude from two of his companions. Having been in many DnD parties myself, I can relate.
They also explained how the dialog options have now changed to feel much more natural by putting them in the present tense and from a first-person perspective.
The gameplay also showed us a number of interactions outside of the party that offered up decisions for the player to make. When we encountered a band of Goblins, one of our party passed a Perception check, so we were given the option to try and Intimidate our way out of fighting. Unfortunately, this time we failed the check, so combat ensued anyway. But, fast forward a little bit and we find a poor Gnome tied to a windmill. The game then gave us the option of either stopping the windmill so we can cut them down, or making it go faster. The Chaotic Neutral in me knew exactly what I would have chosen, but alas, it wasn’t my gameplay.
Throughout the demo, the choices we are met with will help to shape the story of our game. Just like in tabletop DnD you can change the direction of your story with a single decision. We met with a devil who offered to help our quest, for example. Vincke declined the offer and the devil let the party go back to camp. Accepting the offer would have made for an entirely different scene, storyline and progression. We also found an entrance to the Underdark (an underground world filled with monsters, crime, and who knows what else). Vincke chose to head down there and explained that there was, indeed, a whole other world in the Underdark filled with quests and storylines to explore. But, as you play your own game you could choose not to go down there, or you may not even find the entrance at all.
It is this player autonomy that makes Baldur’s Gate 3 so exciting for me, and I imagine for many others.
It is becoming very clear to me that the more I see of this game, the more excited I’m going to be. Early access is still planned for August 2020 (maybe) and I’m already looking at booking some time in to just spend exploring the game myself. Many games have tried and failed, to really grasp what makes Dungeons & Dragons so popular but it looks like this could be the title to change it all.