For the past several months, a friend (henceforth known as Bard) and I have been deep into co-op playthroughs of Divinity: Original Sin 2. He’s a longtime D&D fanatic, and I’m always down for a good fantasy romp, so we’ve really enjoyed uncovering new secrets (on our latest playthrough we’re still finding new things) together in a magical world. Needless to say, we jumped on the opportunity to take our misadventures into a new story from Larian Studios, and were right in the download line on Baldur’s Gate 3’s release date. Wondering how early access is shaping up? Considering if it’s worth the investment just yet?
In all fairness, it’s worth remembering that Baldur’s Gate 3 is in very early access, with a good amount of time left before the game is fully completed. As a result, you’re not paying for immediate access to a polished game and should prepare for that in advance.
Character creation is rather limited at this time. No premade characters are available yet, but you can choose from a number of races. While the options are limited, I loved the huge palettes for skin and hair colour. Down the road, I think we’ll be looking at a really in-depth customizer – even with only so much to choose from, I spent a good 20 or 30 minutes putting together who I wanted to be.
Your characters start out on a rather unpleasant – fleshy might be the best descriptor – Mindflayer ship. Left with parasites in them, when the ship starts going down they recognize their opportunity to escape and an urgent need for healing. Thus begins a haphazard adventure that’s both magical and plagued by some truly unpleasant NPCs.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has a nice fighting system that should scratch anyone’s D&D itch with its saving throws and D20 rolls. However, it did feel unbalanced at times. Bard felt like the HP totals and spell slots weren’t really balanced for how the play worked. For example, using firebolt can set the ground on fire, and accidentally kill someone off rather quickly. We also both felt like a little more tutorial and hand-holding would be nice – D&D has a lot going on mechanically, and it can be overwhelming to know what’s going on at the start. After 15 hours of playtime, Bard accidentally discovered options to finish off someone non-lethally. Without knowing how much of D&D’s rules are in Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s hard to really get a feel for what’s going on unless the player is actually told.
On that note, one of my big issues was how quickly things turn to fighting. It felt like I could do no right in my dialogues, and some fights that were sprung on us were most certainly not winnable at that stage in the game. Instead of making me feel like I could do anything and adventure a new world, it made me worry about when I’d screw up again and force us to have to reset. Of course, you can pick up party members along the way if you’re in a group smaller than four, but this is almost less preferable – most of the characters so far are incredibly unlikable (something I hope changes later on – especially as we get more character options and storylines).
That said, so far I really like the world-building and the small details. Like Divinity, there are so many paths and options to take that it feels like creating your own adventure. The graphics – when they’re working right – are rather gorgeous (even on lower settings). Of course, as to be expected from the early versions of a game they’re nowhere near perfect – expect strange animations, patchy beards, and some frequent glitching.
The biggest thing I like about Baldur’s Gate 3 so far is actually Larian. Since the release, they’ve been actively pushing out hotfixes, notes, and updates. Players are encouraged to send feedback and thoughts. There’s a clear dedication there to making BG3 the best it can be, and I have no doubts the game is in great hands.
The overall verdict? If you’re wanting polish and to get a feel for how the final game will be, it’s probably a little early to jump on board – particularly with its high price tag. But if you enjoy seeing a game grow and adapt over time and are okay with riding out the rough parts, Baldur’s Gate 3 seems really promising so far, and I’m ready for another adventure as in-depth, fantastical, and charming as Divinity: Original Sin 2. And the best part? Picking it up now means you can be part of making BG3 into its best form.
Note: Thanks to PotatoBard (http://www.twitch.tv/PotatoBard) for not only being my co-op buddy, but offering some much more informed feedback than my beginner self could when it comes to matters of D&D.