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Having seen what Baldur’s Gate III in its current pre-alpha iteration has to offer on the gameplay side of things, we can now augment our understanding of the game with a good deal of previews and interviews with the developers. You’ll find links to a number of select articles below, but before you get to that, here’s the opening cinematic that kicked off yesterday’s gameplay reveal:
"I'm critical of real-time-with-pause because I think that it looks messy. It's like a miss, pause, give three orders, a miss, pause," says senior designer Edouard Imbert. "Also, I don't believe that sticking to the old system can expand to a greater audience. The thing with turn-based logic is that everybody understands it. It's my turn, it's your turn. And we have this experience with it—it worked for us with DOS1, it worked for us with DOS2, and D&D is turn-based. Your characters are the tools you'll use to solve a puzzle, and the puzzle is a lot more messy if everything is moving at the same time."
To tackle one of the criticisms of the turn-based model—that it's slow or laborious—Larian's made some tweaks. Instead of characters going in order and getting an attack or an action, you can swap between them, using attacks and bonus actions to create a combo. Your party effectively moves simultaneously. If you love the turn-based combat so much you want it on even when you're out of battle, however, you can force turn-based mode. This should make it easier to sneak around, since you won't have to avoid guards in real-time.
All of the spells, abilities and values are as they would be in a regular game of D&D, but just as important are all the open-ended roleplaying and combat opportunities. D&D is largely fuelled by imagination, and while Baldur's Gate 3 has to impose a few more limits (sorry, no Wish spell), it still promises to be more interactive and experimental—and just as free to exploit and abuse—than the already liberating Original Sin 2.
Kotaku shares 13 facts about the game. For example:
2) Hello, shoving and jumping.
One of the most interesting new features in Baldur’s Gate 3 is a set of bonus actions, located on the bottom of the screen, that allow for some cool possibilities. There’s Shove, which lets you push enemies off ledges or into pits, and Jump, which lets you leap into the air as if you’re some sort of magical frog. You can Dip your weapon into nearby materials, like a candle to set your arrows on fire or a pool of supernatural energy to enhance your sword. You can Help allies who have been knocked unconsciousness. And presumably, there are a whole lot of other ways to manipulate battles and do things beyond attacking and defending.
“What we try to do for combats is give you a situation and a million different ways to solve that problem,” said combat designer Matt Holland. “There are always some extra ways to turn the odds in your favor.”
Would you call it a triple-A game now, at this point?
Walgrave: Yes. I think, for instance what you've seen, with the lip-synching and the cinematics, the motion capturing that we're doing - I think you're still seeing it in "raw" form. But we do know what it can be, and we have again hired a couple of guys with a lot of experience. The cinematic producer and the cinematic director come from Telltale. This is what they've been doing for the last five, six years. They know what they're doing, they know what to request from the team that hasn't done anything like this before. So, if you see that - and if you see all the technical stuff that has gone into our engine - I would call it a triple-A game. It has a triple-A budget, has a triple-A team by now, and I think that is our aspiration.
We are still one hundred percent independent; we don't have anyone that we need to talk to. Apart from Wizards of the Coast, that still needs to agree on certain things that we do - but they did give us a creative carte blanche, almost - like certain things, we just need to check with them. But the relationship that we have with them is very good, and they're not being difficult about anything.
According to a developer blog post, the Stadia team is working on a feature called Crowd Choice — a tool that’s designed to let devs enable exactly the kind of interaction that Larian is focused on. It allows game developers to mark certain points in a game that, if the Crowd Choice mode is enabled, will trigger a poll that comes up somewhere in their stream’s chat window (we’re assuming this will be strictly a YouTube feature, at least for now).
This could be as simple as causing the stream to try to coerce the player into making a certain decision — to explore a tomb or the dangerous forest, for example — but the Stadia team also claims that the results of the polls can let a game’s programming “use these results to affect what’s happening in the game.” In the case of Baldur’s Gate, this could mean anything from, as Swen suggested, affecting how a player’s dice roll will turn out on a critical check, or perhaps altering the loot that you’ll find in a dungeon, or even choosing the dialogue for an NPC.
VentureBeat shares a detailed preview:
Vinke showed us the character options, and it became clear there will be plenty to choose from. You could also make your own or play one of the story characters. And one, Astarion, has a fascinating background: He’s a vampire spawn. But thanks to the tadpole … I think … Astarion can bathe in the sunlight. He’s a daywalker again.
But he still hungers. While camping (where you can interact with party members), Vinke had Astarion feed on a fellow party member. He got a bonus the next morning, but his friend had some status debuffs from losing blood. Yes, you can go the hero route, or take a more sinister path.
Your companions have plenty of backstory, but what’s interesting to me is that it feels like even the monsters are treated more as individuals than just baddies. You can have conversations with a number of goblins, and as you do, you learn a bit about their motivations as they serve The Absolute, some being that’s attached to the mystery involving your tadpole mind-link and (at least in this slice of gameplay) rallying goblinoids under its banner.
ScreenRant offers an interview with the game’s lead writer Adam Smith:
There's no shortage of D&D Games, and even Baldur's Gate itself is a defined brand with its own spin-offs. But for your game to be Baldur's Gate III, that's a statement.
It is. And I think this could have been a Forgotten Realms game, or a Sword Coast game, but it's very specifically a Baldur's Gate game. For us, calling it Baldur's Gate III is our saying that it's a huge privilege to be working on it, and there's a huge respect we pay to the previous games. It works out really well, because the best way to respect the original trilogy... I call it a trilogy because there's an expansion, Throne of Bhaal, to Baldur's Gate II, which almost feels like the end of a trilogy. But that story, fortunately for us, is a story with an ending. And that's so rare! (Laughs) We don't need to retcon anything, we don't need to pick up a loose thread. Instead, we can say, "This stuff happened. It left a mark on the city. It left a mark on the world. But we're telling a different story... But also, history has a way of coming back." Our approach has always been to say, the city, the world, and some of the people have memories of these things. There were scars left by these events. But there's a new conflict with new adversaries. There are new movements in the world, or in the worlds, that will create new adventures and opportunities, new threats. But something as big as the Bhaalspawn Saga, the events of Baldur's Gate I and II, that's not going to be forgotten. And thematically, we wanted it to be very firmly a Baldur's Gate game. One of those big links back is this idea of having something inside you that's changing you, that's potentially not great and doesn't have your best interests at heart. That's absolutely part of our story.
Polygon’s preview focuses on the similarities between Baldur’s Gate III and Divinity: Original Sin II:
Mostly, playing Baldur’s Gate was about casting spells, swinging swords, and doing direct damage. The environments were almost secondary. Meanwhile, in the Divinity games, environmental interactions and reaching high ground are integral strategies that can make or break a fight.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, you can still use the physics engine to shove someone off a high ledge (or drop a heavy box on them), as you can in the Divinity games. You can still set pools of oil ablaze with a well-placed fire spell (a Divinity staple), and you’ll still do more damage by reaching a higher elevation.
After watching the demo, Baldur’s Gate 3 feels like it has 80% of the DNA that Original Sin 2 had. If you had told me this was Original Sin 3, I wouldn’t have been shocked.
And finally, GamesIndustry.biz offers a detailed interview with Swen Vincke that touches on Larian’s turbulent journey from an obscure indie developer to one of the world’s prime CRPG powerhouses. A few paragraphs:
While Wizards works closely with Larian on its use of iconic D&D characters, the studio otherwise has a lot of freedom. And the partnership is not one-sided, with Wizards making its latest campaign, Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, specifically to support Larian.
"We've been doing this for a long time, so we trust each other," Vincke says. "We respect clearly what they've been making, they respect the fact that we have to make a video game, that we need to modify certain things, that it otherwise doesn't work. So we're getting a lot of liberty.
"Larian is the dungeon master, there are some house rules, this is how we play, and that's it. I mean that's pretty much also what D&D does, right? [Its rules] just support you. They give you a framework to play with, but you play your way. [Wizards] don't want to say: 'No, it's exactly like that!'. That's not their jam."