Baldur's Gate 3 Preview: Potential role-playing hit presented – topical in games

It's been over half a year since Larian Studios developers revealed to the world that they're working on Baldur's Gate 3. This was a dream come true for many role-playing fans, almost 20 years after the predecessor and the decline in quality of the original developers of Bioware, almost no one really believed. After careful consideration, Wizard of the Coast's brand keepers decided to award the most popular virtual implementation of their Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system to the studio in Ghent, Belgium. The fact that Larian has what it takes has been impressively demonstrated with Divinity: Original Sin 2, which advanced to the highest-rated PC game in 2017 on the Metacritic scoring portal.

So far, however, the team has not looked at how they want to bring Baldur's Gate's D&D world back to life with their decades of role-playing experience. Except for a chic render trailer, which should give a first impression of the basic mood of the game and a few hints scattered in interviews, little has been revealed about the game itself since the announcement last June. The developers are now ready to introduce Baldur's Gate 3 for the first time. The team invited us to a cozy tavern in the heart of Nuremberg, where studio boss Swen Vinke played us for almost three hours from the current pre-alpha version of the role-playing game, telling us all about the content and systems of the game.

The demonstration does not start somewhere in the middle, instead we enjoy the fresh start of a new game – including a chic render intro. As with the announcement trailer, it becomes clear once again that the so-called Mind Flayer plays a central role






The Mind Flayers infect prisoners with a parasite called Tadpole, which gives them special powers, but over time transforms them into Mind Flayers.



The Mind Flayers infect prisoners with a parasite called Tadpole, which gives them special powers, but over time transforms them into Mind Flayers.

Source: Larian Studios




in the history of Baldur's Gate 3. These are malevolent and powerful creatures that are feared in the whole D&D world due to their strong powers of thought. The beings, also known as illithids, once ruled a vast astral realm. After its demise, the Mind Flayer was forced to disappear into the underworld of the so-called Underdark.

But in the meantime the tentacle heads have regained strength and are ready to submit to the world. In the intro of the game we see a Mind Flayer planting a parasite in the head of a number of prisoners. Unfortunately, one of these unfortunate victims is our hero. The so-called tadpole in our head plays a central role in the further course. So we have to quickly find a way to remove the foreign body from our head. Otherwise we would inevitably transform ourselves into an illithid. On the other hand, the parasite can also give our hero special dark powers if you are willing to sacrifice part of your mind for it.






When it comes to character creation, there is a wide range of races, classes and alternatively pre-made Origin characters to choose from.



When it comes to character creation, there is a wide range of races, classes and alternatively pre-made Origin characters to choose from.

Source: Larian Studios




Aliens and vampire slaves

As usual, the game also begins in Baldur's Gate 3 with the creation of its own character. There are various breeds typical of D&D to choose from. These include Tiefling, Drow, Dwarf, Human, Elf, Half Elf, Halbling and the Githyanki, a kind of alien race in the D&D universe. The finished game is said to contain a few more, but the developers did not want to reveal it yet. Next the class is selected. Here too, the range of fighters, magicians, clerics, rangers, villains and a few others is based on the well-known role-playing class spectrum. In addition to the possibility to create your own hero, the developers also adopt a feature from Divinity: Original Sin 2 and these are the so-called Origin characters.







Vampire Astarion (left) benefits from the Tadpole by walking in sunlight, for example, which naturally makes him struggle to pursue the goal of getting rid of the parasite.



Vampire Astarion (left) benefits from the Tadpole by walking in sunlight, for example, which naturally makes him struggle to pursue the goal of getting rid of the parasite.

Source: Larian Studios




These are pre-made figures that also form the pool of recruitable companions in the game. Each of these characters has its own background story, which is interwoven in a variety of ways with the main story of the game. Depending on which Origin character you choose, you experience the events in Baldur's Gate 3 from a completely different perspective. In Original Sin 2, this has worked extremely well and promises a lot of variety. The developers have yet to reveal how many of these characters are available. Based on the companions presented in the presentation, we can currently assume at least five different heroes.

For the presentation, Swen Vinke selects one of the Origin characters with Astarion. He is a so-called vampire spawn, i.e. a vampire who is the slave of a vampire master. The high elf used to be a judge in the city of Baldur's Gate, but a very nasty and evil person. He has sold convicted criminals as slaves and food sources to the Kazador family, which are vampires. As he tried to squeeze more and more money out of this business relationship, the Kazadors let him feel their power and made him their vampire slave. This means that Astarion is subject to the same restrictions as any other vampire. He is not allowed to go into the sunlight, cannot walk over running water and needs an invitation if he wants to enter a house.

Similar to Divinity: Original Sin 2, Baldur's Gate 3 begins with a tutorial on board a ship, but this time it is a nautiloid, a flying nautilus by the Mind Flayer. However, the developers didn't want to show us this part of the game, instead we get in after the ship crashes and our hero comes to. The adventure takes place in this phase near a place called Moonhaven, which is about 200 miles east of Baldur's Gate. Our hero Astarion quickly realizes that the Tadpole nested in his head brings some positive changes for him. So the vampire can suddenly stand in bright sunlight without dying a terrible burn. Accordingly, in the further course we experience again and again how Astarion struggles with having to get rid of the Tadpole, since it offers him such pleasant advantages.







Dialogues and cutscenes are elaborately staged. With the use of performance capture, the developers are setting new standards in the genre of iso role-playing games.



Dialogues and cutscenes are elaborately staged. With the use of performance capture, the developers are setting new standards in the genre of iso role-playing games.

Source: Larian Studios




What we clearly notice in the first minutes of the demonstration are the progress Larian Studios has made with its engine. Beautiful landscapes, great lighting effects and very chic character models let the game shine in a modern guise. This becomes particularly clear when zooming in. Because the camera can be lowered to a view that almost corresponds to the typical third-person view of role-playing games like The Witcher 3 or similar. The Larian team then uses these visual skills of their engine properly.

Baldur's Gate 3 will offer a level of cinematic staging that has never been seen in a classic isometric role-playing game. The boundaries between the individual RPG subgenres are becoming increasingly blurred. When it comes to the staging, the developers don't let themselves be fooled. All dialogues in the game are recorded via the so-called performance capture and transferred to the game. That means the actors of the characters play their roles on a motion capture stage, where their movements and at the same time direct voice output are recorded. In the presented version of the game, the dialogs weren't all smooth, but the great cinematic potential of the game was already impressively demonstrated.

The fact that despite all the staging is still a complex role-playing game with a D&D background, it becomes clear at the latest when dialog options appear in which the attributes of the hero play a role. Pen & Paper players know that in such situations, dice are rolled to check whether the character's values ​​are sufficient to convince the other party of their answer. Baldur's Gate 3 does not do this check somewhere hidden in the background, but shows a D20 cube in the middle of the screen. The player must actively click on it and thus trigger his throw in order to then immediately experience the success or failure.






Even if the battle can be followed in a chic close-up, the actions of the individual characters take place in a turn-based manner.



Even if the battle can be followed in a chic close-up, the actions of the individual characters take place in a turn-based manner.

Source: Larian Studios




The second big pillar of an RPG next to the dialogues is of course the fight. And the first opponents were not long in the demo. It has long been puzzled which combat system Larian will use for Baldur's Gate 3. The first time you make contact with the enemy, it is clear that you are fighting again in turn-based mode. The Belgians remain true to their system, which has already served them well in Divinity: Original Sin. For traditional fans of Baldur's Gate, however, this could be a bit of a disappointment, as the predecessors ran out in real time.

But of course everything was also calculated in rounds in the background, after all, the games are based on the D&D rules, which is how it works. The Larian team has therefore decided to present this in the foreground, because on the one hand this gives the player much more control over his party and on the other hand it gives the developers more options for creating interesting fights. To do this, of course, they did not simply adopt their system from Original Sin 2, but also adapted it as well as possible to the D&D system.







Before each fight, the initiative that determines which team has the first move is rolled out.



Before each fight, the initiative that determines which team has the first move is rolled out.

Source: Larian Studios




Before each fight, the initiative is rolled out from each side, the winner begins and then pulls his entire team. The individual characters no longer have their own initiative as in Original Sin 2 and are wildly mixed up in turn. Instead, the two fighting parties always take turns. When it is your turn, you can switch freely between your characters. Each figure has a certain quota of range of movement as well as an active action. These can be combined with one another as desired. So it's not a problem to walk a few meters, take an action and then use up your remaining movement point. The round only ends when none of your characters can do anything or the player ends the round manually.

Actions that can be performed include more than just attacks and abilities. In Baldur's Gate 3, the characters also have various moving actions. Jumping enables us to reach higher ground or to overcome abysses. With Dash we double our range of motion for the current lap. We can become objects on opponents at any time, which can then also cause corresponding damage depending on the type of item. And with the so-called push, we send opponents standing on an edge on an involuntary free flight.

Extensive use should be made of all these options. Because fighting is primarily about creating advantages for his characters. The significantly increased verticality of the game world wants to be used to our own advantage, for example by placing ranged fighters in higher positions. But elements such as water, fire and lightning also play a role again, albeit to a lesser extent. But a puddle of fire set on fire or a pool of water with electricity have the expected effect in the D&D universe too.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/1020x/2020/02/BaldursGate3-Preview-022-pc-games.jpg" alt = "This screenshot illustrates the verticality of the game world very well the archer high up in the entablature of the room in which fighting is taking place below him. Note: This image is from an earlier build, where the party included five characters. But this is no longer up to date. The group consists of only four heroes.)”/>



This screenshot illustrates the verticality of the game world very well. On the left the archer stands high up in the entablature of the room in which fighting is taking place. He gets huge damage bonuses and is difficult to hit by opponents at the same time. ( Note: This image is from an earlier build, where the party included five characters. But this is no longer up to date. The group consists of only four heroes.)

Source: Larian Studios




After exhausting battles, in which many spells were used and the heroes lost various life points, it is generally advisable to take a break. As usual for D&D, many skills can only be used in limited numbers. These charges are replenished by resting in the party camp. The same applies to life points and the healing of annoying status effects. If we are not in a dangerous environment in the game world, we can enter the camp at any time at the push of a button.

The game then switches to its own camp view, which is somewhat reminiscent of the camp in Dragon Age: Origins. Initially there are only four sleeping places around a campfire for the members of our group. However, the developers explain that the camp changes as the game progresses and is constantly being improved. In addition, we not only meet the heroes of our current party here, but also those companions that we have already recruited but currently do not have in the group. With our protagonist, we can move freely around the camp and have dialogues with the other characters. This is also possible in the free game world, but a large part of the interaction and the development of relationships between the hero characters should take place in the camp.







Such a room full of traps is predestined for a quick death of the whole group. It's good that we can switch to lap mode at any time and that known tricks from Divinity: Original Sin are still working.



Such a room full of traps is predestined for a quick death of the whole group. It's good that we can switch to lap mode at any time and that known tricks from Divinity: Original Sin are still working.

Source: Larian Studios




When not resting, fighting or talking, exploring the game world is high on the list of activities. Once again, the developers at Larian have put an incredible amount of attention to detail into the design of the environment. Something exciting can potentially be discovered around every corner and bush. Secret paths that are not visible on the map often lead to interesting loot or other discoveries. What is new is that the player also has to think more three-dimensionally. The level designers have made the most of the new possibility for characters to move vertically by climbing and jumping. Areas often consist of different levels that are intelligently linked. In order to reach certain level ranges, you can also take advantage of the surroundings. If, for example, a higher level cannot be reached by jumping, you look for a few boxes and create an improvised staircase.

Original Sin connoisseurs will encounter familiar mechanics when exploring. For example, traps that create a floor effect can be covered as usual with an object such as a vase, thereby neutralizing the effect. During the exploration, you can also switch to turn mode at any time, even if there is no fight taking place. This is especially helpful when you need precise timing when tricking traps or when you want to sneak through enemy territory. In non-combat turn mode, the player initially has six seconds of movement, then the game world and then alternating.






The sneak mode shows the opponents' areas of perception, which helps us to find the right way.



The sneak mode shows the opponents' areas of perception, which helps us to find the right way.

Source: Larian Studios




Over the almost three hours that Swen Vinke played the game to us, a lot of details sprinkled on us that promised a great role-playing game. But it was also clear to see that the developers still have a lot of work to do. The current pre-alpha version of the game made a surprisingly more advanced impression than we had expected, but the corners and edges and numerous problems that still existed were also not to be overlooked. The animations in the dialogues are still quite prone to errors, the main character is usually quite stiff and uninvolved in the conversation.

The camera was sometimes a bit stubborn. The sound effects of many of the skills didn't work properly. For example, the jump made a noise as if the hero was triggering an earthquake. The Larian boss repeatedly came across bugs that thwarted his plans. For example, he could not properly finish the skirmish planned as the last fight of the presentation because a few enemies were involved in the fight, but they were located somewhere else on the map. However, Larian’s work so far gives us confidence that the developers will get these problems under control as the process continues.

They still have plenty of time for that. The release of Baldur's Gate 3 is still targeted for "when the game is good," as Swen Vinke explains. So you don't want to commit yourself yet. This year, therefore, the game is probably no longer to be expected. But you can still get a first taste soon. In a few months, more precisely you did not want to limit it yet, the role-playing game should start on Steam in Early Access. As with both parts of Divinity: Original Sin, the developers want to work closely with the community again. The feedback of die-hard role-playing fans is important to the creators and should help to get the best out of the potential that Baldur's Gate 3 has in any case.

My opinion

Larian is well on the way to outdoing herself.

What I have seen from Baldur’s Gate 3 so far really impressed me and went far beyond my expectations. I never thought that a classic iso-RPG in terms of staging the story would be able to compete with real 3D RPGs like Mass Effect. With the use of full performance capture and the advances in their engine, the makers of Larian have the potential to raise the bar for the genre of several floors. Personally, I'm also pleased that they stay true to their turn-based combat model. But I can understand that not all Baldur’s Gate fans will agree with this decision. However, I hope that the rest of the quality of the game will be so convincing that these players will also give the game a chance. With the really impressive level design, the apparently very interesting characters and the D&D system, which is also accessible to newcomers, there is a lot of potential in the game. In the end, of course, the story has to convince, the balancing has to be right and optimally the game is free of bugs and other problems until the release. But I'm not worried about Larian.

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