I started Baldur’s Gate 3 on Tuesday afternoon. This morning, I “completed” the first chapter, which is the end of the story in early access. So here are my thoughts on it so far!
Firstly: the timing of the release was great. My Eberron campaign came to an abrupt end last Friday when we accidentally let Sharn get destroyed. Our DM couldn’t find any good Eberron 5e content for higher level characters (we’d just hit level 8 by destroying Sharn 😂) that didn’t require Sharn to exist, so that was a wrap.
Instead, we’re starting a new Descent into Avernus campaign this week. That adventure begins in Baldur’s Gate, and BG3 picks up at the end of the Descent into Avernus adventure. So that’s a cool tie-in!
The story in the game is awesome. If you’ve seen the cinematic, you know a nautiloid flies over Baldur’s Gate and kidnaps a bunch of people for processing. This is awesome. They’re unloading a lot of DnD’s coolest stuff right in the first few seconds: mindflayers, spelljammer ships, and ceremorphosis.
The goal of the game (or at least for the early access story) is to get the mindflayer tadpole out of your head before it turns you into a mindflayer. There seem to be lots of ways to do this. At one point, I think I had six different quests to find potential cures. There’s probably more, but my mostly-lawful-good choices closed off some less-savory solutions.
It seems like you can choose not to remove it too. You get some freaky powers from it, and using them does seem to cause some long-term effects. I mostly avoided using them since my character was firmly in the “nope nope nope” camp.
The first major town you end up in is a druid grove full of tiefling refugees, under threat from some goblins. The tieflings are there because they’ve been kicked out of Elturel for being a bit too demonic. Elturel is the city that ends up descending into hell in the Descent into Avernus adventure. I love the tie-in.
But there are tons of options here. You can help the refugees fight, or help the druids get rid of them. I think you can even join up with the goblins and destroy both the refugees & grove. There’s lots of little storylines and interactions. I spent a couple hours just talking to people and looking around.
This is an early access game. It’s not done, and they’ll hopefully be making tons of improvements to everything I’m about to raise as a point of criticism.
As far as bugs go: it’s not that bad! You start to see more rough edges when you finish up with the goblins/druid grove. But I had way more problems with Pathfinder: Kingmaker at launch, so BG3 is pretty solid.
I haven’t done any multiplayer. They’ve done three patches since release on Tuesday, and they mostly seem to be fixing multiplayer things. So you might wanna hold off if that’s your thing.
Now: the game is supposed to be the DnD 5e ruleset. It’s been bastardized a bit, and in some respects it’s not a positive change.
For example, shove is supposed to be an action, replacing your attack. In BG3 it’s a bonus action. This lets every character yeet an enemy on pretty much every turn, while still dealing damage. It’s supposed to be 5 foot push, but in BG3 it’s definitely…more. It feels a bit cheesey to win so much by yeeting people to their deaths. But it is hilarious.
A larger issue is the prolific use of surface effects, like patches of fire and ice. This studio’s other big game is Divinity: Original Sin 2. It prominently features making patches of Bad Stuff for people to not stand in. It’s toned down from D:OS2, but there’s still a lot of surface stuff in BG3 — too much for DnD 5e, honestly.
I don’t mind the occasional barrel of oil. That’s something I can identify and plan around at the start of combat. But it feels like every single foe has a fire arrow or a bomb to throw at me that leaves crap on the ground. After a round because everything is on fire. That’s doesn’t feel like DnD 5e combat to me. BG3 needs to pull much further away from DOS2 here.
What’s worse is a lot of spells leave patches of crap on the ground too. For example: fire bolt. In the 5e rules, when you shoot it at someone, it does 1d10 damage. That is all. In BG3, it does a weaker 1d6 damage, but leaves a patch of fire under the enemy’s feet + a burning condition (I think?).
That’s fairly counter-productive: I want my wizard to do some damage from the back while my martial characters are in melee range. It’s hard to be in melee range when your allies are setting the ground underneath your feet on fire.
Honestly, I don’t know why I even kept the wizard in my party. Ray of frost made ice so my martial classes would slip, and like 90% of my attempts to cast witchbolt failed. Thanks for nothing, Gale.
Disengage is another bastardized 5e rule. Right now in BG3, it’s a bonus action. It’s supposed to be an action, so you have to choose whether to move out of a melee fighter’s range safely or make an attack. That’s really making a mess out of combat, so hopefully they change that soon. It feels awful to position my melee so they’ve got everyone under control, just to have the entire enemy force walk right by them to wail on the wizard after one round.
There’s stuff that’s just straight-up broken too, which is to be expected. It was a major bummer to pick my fighting style (at level 2 for some reason?) and find that it just didn’t work. There didn’t seem to be any respec options available, so I literally threw hundreds of damage down the toilet. But that’ll get fixed!
Activating self-cast abilities can be troublesome. Stuff like dash, action surge, etc that can only ever be cast on yourself still requires you to click the ability and then click the character. I’ve misclicked a couple times and accidentally moved (& ate opportunity attacks) instead of casting action surge 😑.
The jump and disengage actions are both the same button, which can be cumbersome. I wanted to disengage from an enemy, but I guess I was a bit too far from my jump destination, because my dumb rouge walked away from the enemy, ate the opportunity attack, and then did the disengage.
The spell interactions still need some work. There are a bunch of hook horrors in one part of the game. When you engage one, it screams to alert others and bring them into combat. I was getting overwhelmed in that fight, so I tried opening with a silence scroll, which should have stopped it from screeching. But alas, it didn’t help.
The rest system is currently game-breakingly bad. Typically in DnD 5e, you have several combats between each long rest. You run low on spell slots, once-per-long-rest abilities, and hit die. But there is nothing at all that stops you from taking a long rest on demand in BG3, so you can recharge all your resources after every fight.
Hilarity & Coolness
The last companion makes an appearance right outside the druid grove, during a big battle with some goblins. I didn’t realize he was a companion until a couple days later when somebody said so on reddit, because he got horribly murdered before I could do much in that fight. Oopsies!
The shove thing is genuinely hilarious. In the underdark, there’s lots of cliffs. My character had a psychic pull power too. There was a whole area with duergar corpses who’d fallen to their deaths before I got there … and when I left, the number had expanded considerably!
At one point, I came across a friendly mindflayer. That blew my mind. You can get him to explain why he’s friendly, and it’s a fascinating story with some ~implications~. He offers to help get rid of the tadpole too, but I didn’t take him up on that — my trust only goes so far 😛.
One of the most memorable moments I had was kicking down a barn door and finding an ogre and a hobgoblin just going at it. It was, uh, … yep.
The story ends before you actually make it to the city of Baldur’s Gate. That was a bit disappointing — with my new campaign starting there in a few days, I was hoping to get a good feel for it through BG3. But it’s definitely something to look forward to.
There are going to be more races, classes, and lots of subclasses added through the early access period. I went with a pretty basic sword-and-board fighter dwarf, but I think playing a goblin will be really fun. I can’t wait to see how that changes your relationship to the goblins attacking the druid grove.
I’ll definitely be doing a couple more runs through the early access story with different characters and different choices. There seemed to be a lot of doors I closed on myself by being mostly good during this run.