A Spoiler-Free In-Depth First Look at Baldur's Gate 3
Baldur's Gate 3 is the game I have been waiting to come out ever since it was announced. Some of my first RPG experiences were the original Baldur's Gate games. Now, BG3 is early access. I wanted to give an in-depth look at the game as I started to play it.
I do not want to give any spoilers so I will only cover the start of the game and give my thoughts on my first few hours of gameplay. Once I complete a playthrough of Chapter 1 I will provide a complete review.
Character Creation and Game Opening
The opening cinematic gives you a horrific view as a Mind flayer infects you and another prisoner with some sort of larva.
We have seen this before from the game trailers, but now the moment the illithid larva enters the first-person character's body it Zips to a character creation screen. I already felt sucked into what was going on.
A much better "Oh you're awake moment."
For this playthrough, I have chosen to recreate my Paladin from previous fantasy games such as Elderscrolls. Unfortunately, Paladin is not available in early access so I went with Fighter.
Character Creation Screen
I was greeted with a nice but standard looking character creation screen. We have 6 main tabs to go through when we create our character. You have Origin, Race, Appearance, Class, Skills, and Abilities.
The first screen is the origin screen. Here we get to select who our character is, where he came from, and his background. In early access all we have access to is Custom. The other choices are Astarion, Lae'zel, Gale, Shadowheart, and Wyll.
Here you get to name your character. So let me introduce you to Gaius Julius Avitus a Nobleman who has always felt a greater calling. Gaius got his start on Elder Scrolls online as a Paladin archetype character that becomes a fallen hero after being turned into a vampire.
Let's hope this Gaius fares better!
In the last part of this screen, we get to select a background. This is where your character comes from and we have 13 backgrounds to choose from. Each background provides proficiency in 2 skills.
Baldur's Gate Character Backgrounds
- You spent your life in service to a temple.
- Proficiency in Insight and Religion.
- The con artist, snake oil salesman. You make your living by cheating others out of their coin.
- Proficiency in Deception and Slight of Hand.
- Breakin the law, Breakin the Law! Thieves and street thugs. You know how to get what you want even if you use less than legal means.
- Proficiency in Deception and Stealth.
- Bards and acrobats. The tavern singer. You know how to draw a crowd and help them leave with a lighter coin purse.
- Proficiency in Acrobatics and Performance.
- Folk Hero
- You're the hero. Always looking to help those in need and protect those without power from those that do.
- Proficiency in Animal Handling and Survival.
- Guild Artisan
- You are the blacksmith, the tanner, the person that makes the things and you are good at it. Being part of a merchant has its benefits.
- Proficiency in Insight and Persuasion.
- You are a part of the social elite. Your upbringing has given you access to good education and social grace.
- Proficiency in History and Persuasion.
- You exist in the same social circle as Old Ben Kenobi. Which is to say, you don't exist in social circles. This the loner who likes to be alone either through choice or religious dedication.
- Proficiency in Medicine and Religion.
- The woodsman. You grew up outside civilization and thrived.
- Proficiency in Athletics and Survival.
- Knowledge is life. You thirst for it as most people thirst for water.
- Proficiency in Arcana and History.
- The wind at your back and the spray of seawater in your face. You know your way around a ship. You also know how to handle weather from the sky and monsters from the deep.
- Proficiency in Athletics and Perception.
- The battlefield is where you belong. You either served as a mercenary, a town guard, or other fighting men.
- Proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation.
- You grew up on the streets doing what you had to to survive. You know how to make the most out of what you have.
- Proficiency in Sleight of Hand and Stealth.
Gaius grew up as a noble and served in the Imperial legions on Elder Scrolls. So for this playthrough, Faerun Gaius will be a noble as well.
There are 8 races available at the writing of this article. And each one of them has their strengths. Those races are Elf, Tiefling, Drow, Human, Githyanki, Dwarf, Half-Elf, and Halfling.
Though I am making a human I was surprised by the actual amount of choices. While there are 8 playable races, some of those races have subraces. Each of those subraces has different features.
Baldur's Gate 3 features the more well-known fantasy races such as elves, dwarfs, and halflings. However, there are a couple of races you might not be familiar with.
The Tiefling are descended from unholy unions between mortals and either demons or devils. Check out this lore video on Tieflings from Jorphdan if you would like to know more.
Next up we have The Drow. The Drow are dark elves, they live underground and typically cast as evil antagonists in fantasy stories. However, Baldur's gate lets you chose.
You can be a good drow and follow Seldarine the goddess of good drow or follow Lolth and be evil and wicked. The main difference between the drow in this games seems to be the eye color. They gain access to the same racial features.
Here is a lore video from The Exploring Series that covers a good amount of information on this playable race.
The Githyanki are a race I vaguely remember seeing in a monster manual when I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. These people live in the astral plane and ride dragons.
The Githyanki want to destroy mind flyers and given the main villains of this game seem to be such, it is a pretty cool inclusion as a playable race. I don't know much about them but WolfheartFPS put together a nice lore video you should check out.
I wanted to cover these races in this article because they might not be familiar with players that have never played a tabletop RPG like dungeons and dragons.
The actual character editor allows you to choose between voice, face, skin and eye color, hairstyles, facial hair, tattoos, and makeup. There is a pretty decent amount of customization available. However, they are all presets so you won't be spending hours getting your characters jawline right.
There is just enough customization here to allow you to make your avatar unique, but it is not as robust as creators like black desert online.
The controls are easy. The mouse wheel lets you zoom in and out and you can click and rotate the model to get a full view of your character.
I am sad. No paladin at early access. Guess Gaius is a Fighter this time around. The Early Access gives us access to 6 iconic DnD classes. These are Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock (but no Paladin....), and Wizard.
Missing are Sorcerers, Bards, and Paladins to name a few.
Baldur's Gate Early Access Classes
- Clerics are representatives of the god they worship. Think battle priest. Typically a cleric is the anchor of the party and keeps everyone else alive and well.
- You get to choose from 3 Subclasses and then chose a deity to follow. The subclass you chose determines your starting spells. The deity I am sure probably has story implications but I didn't see an effect on skills or spells.
- A master of martial prowess. Fighters know how to use every weapon and are typically specialized into one of them. This is the class I will be playing.
- At the start it seems every fighter starts as the guy with the sword and there are no options to specialize or subclass at the start.
- FIghters are tough and start with the second wind ability that allows them to self heal in an emergency.
- The Ranger is the "build your own class" class. At the start you get to choose a favored enemy. Really you are choosing what type of archetype ranger you are. Each Ranger type gives you extra abilities or proficiencies.
- Nature Explorer allows you to further customize your character with granting you either a resistance to cold, fire, or poison or you can chose to be really good at making animal friends or tracking people through urbanized environments.
- Rogues are your catch all stealth ninja assassin class. They excel at sneaking around, taking things that don't belong to them and putting the STAB in backstab.
- At the start of the game every rogue is the same. Sorta like fighter, but sneaky. You gain access to light armor and simple weapons as well as longswords, rapiers, shower swords and hand crossbows.
- Rogues main feature is sneak attack. While the enemy is focused on teh fighter, the rogue goes in for the kill.
- Do you want magical powers? Of course you do! Born with innate magical ability? No? How about countless hours of study and practice? No time for that? Well let me tell you about the Warlock.
- In exchange for your soul you can serve fiendish masters. In exchange for your sanity you can serve something older than time itself. Warlocks get to chose between serving Fiends or Old Ones.
- The only difference here is the type of spells your start with. It might be worth doing a warlock playthrough in the future. I am interested to see if these choices matter for story purposes.
- Warlocks can use simple weapons and have light armor.
- Wizards get so many spells.. just looking at this in the creator has me thinking about changing my mind from fighter.
- The keynote of a wizard is versatility. They chose their spells each day, if it is in their books and tomes and they have the level to cast it they can.
- Sorcerers for example in the table top setting have a set number of spells they can cast and the types of spells is static. Not so with Gandalf here. You can tailor your spells to the upcoming encounter.
I have a feeling I will be doing more than one play through of this game, because I want to try all the classes. But for now, fighter it is.
The starting skill system seems straightforward. You have class recommended skills. As a fighter, I have Athletics and Intimidation from my class. I also have persuasion and history from my background.
I can change my class skills to any on the list that I have proficiency in. The only change I am going to make here is I want perception. Skills that you have proficiency in grant you +2 on your skill check rolls.
If I know anything it's you always want the ability to detect an ambush. So I am switching my Intimidation for Perception. Gaius is more persuasive than threatening. If it comes down to threats Gaius would rather let his blade do the talking.
Baldur's Gate 3 Skill List
Used for flipping, jumping, and anything having to do with keeping Balance.
Used in gaining the trust and taming of animals.
Climbing, Lifting, Jumping. Anything that requires your muscles.
Allows you to recall Faerun's history and can be useful in identifying places and things.
Allows you to read people and situations.
The use of threats to get information or your way in a conversation.
Detecting traps and ambushes. Noticing when things are out of place.
Tracking, Foraging, and hunting. The skills you need when you can't go to a market to purchase food.
Manipulating the truth.
Acting and playing instruments are examples of performance. Wow the crowd roll.
Sleight of Hand
Picking pockets, hiding things in plain sight.
The knowledge of magic and its applications.
Finding clues and piecing together what happened based upon evidence. It's elementary.
Knowledge of the flora and fauna of a given area. You know what plants are poisonous.
Knowledge of the various deities in Faerun. This includes rituals and worship practices.
Knowledge of non-magical means of healing and caring for the sick and injured.
You will start with 27 points to place into the various attributes. Each class has these abilities divided according to what the game thinks is best for your starting class.
Each attribute starts at 9 and you can move the points around as you like. The highest you can start with in an attribute is 16. Starting at 12 you get a +1 to rolls with that attribute. This increases by +1 for every 2 points you have in that attribute.
For example. If you have a Strength of 12 you get a +1 bonus, but if it was 14 then you get +2.
Now Gaius is a charismatic bastard so we need to adjust his stats a bit.
Build Your Own Relationship?
I guess Venturing Forth was not actually doing so. I was greeted by another screen where I was asked to design who my character would be attracted to. It is just like the character editor for your character.
You can choose any race and any subrace. You can also chose if your dream person is a boy or a girl.
Baldur's Gate 3 Game Play
After you create your character the cinematic starts right back up but there is more to it I won't spoil.
Baldur's Gate 3 UI
This is a blast from the past. The first thing I thought us when the UI popped up was how much it reminded me of the original Baldur's Gate games. A nice touch Larian.
Navigating the UI is pretty straight forward. At the top right you have your mini map and all of the panels you need to access.
You can toggle your character sheet, inventory, equipment, spells, and more. You can manage your party from these screens as well.
Each party member has their own inventory and carry weight. So there will be inventory management involved as we play more.
The Journal screen shows your quests and where they are on the map.
The main control panel has places for you to slot abilities as well as additional controls for your character. You have actions you can do with your character such as Jump, Dash, Throw, Shove, etc. This panel is located left of your character portrait along with a basic attack panel.
Baldur's Gate 3 Movement and Controls
The majority of the movement is point and click. You control movement with the left mouse button and clicking with the right brings up options you can select for objects. You can hold left click to move your character without having to click a bunch.
With the arrow keys you can move the camera to see what's around your character and then recenter using the Home key (Ask me how long it took to figure out the recenter key...). You zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. You can also rotate the camera with the Delete and End keys.
Overall the movement keys feel intuitive and familiar.
The dialog is presented with a typical multiple-choice menu were you respond to interactions. One nice thing I noticed is there is a narrator that lets you know if you succeed or fail in your skill rolls as not to interrupt the scene you come upon.
Your character is a silent protagonist in otherwise fully voiced scenes.
This is a nice touch and helps to not break the immersion of the scene.
Baldur's Gate Combat
Baldur's Gate features turn-based combat. I like turned based combat. Games like Pillars of Eternity have semi turned based combat that can feel overwhelming at times.
In Baldur's Gate, everyone takes a turn and goes according to an initiative order. This makes the game feel like a great tactical RPG and the DnD 5th ed system feels ingrained and natural.
Combat Turns - Every creature gets a turn. You can see the initiative order in the upper left of your screen. During that turn, you can move and take an action like attack or cast a spell.
You can end a character's turn by clicking the timer above the portrait.
Initiative Order - Initiative is determined by a roll and your dexterity factors in. You as a player never see the roll but if this game follows the tabletop version it's a d20 + modifiers. Generally the higher your dexterity the more likely you will go first.
Actions - You get an attack action and a move action. What is nice you don't have to take them in order. You can move then attack, then finish your move if you want. Just be careful running past monsters because they get a free attack on you.
The game also factors modifiers like terrain, and position when making rolls. So don't turn your back to the enemy.
The yellow bar is how much movement you have left in a turn.
Bonus Actions - Bonus actions are actions that can be taken at any time, these are located on the left side of the portrait and include things like jumping or shoving.
Leveling seems to be straight forward. You level up then you unlock new skills that further customize your character. In Gaius' case, I got to choose between archery, defense, dueling, great weapon fighting, protection, and a two-weapon fighting style.
Gaius is a tank, so naturally, I am going protection with him... now I just need to find a shield.
So far I am enjoying this game. I am going to continue playing and write up a full review of what I like and don't like about Baldur's Gate Early Access. Till then please let me know what you think so far and please remember to follow me on socials. I got more content coming soon, and you don't want to miss out.