Baldur's Gate III Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Larian Studios
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:TBA
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Larian Studios opened up Baldur's Gate III to early access in October of last year. At that time my computer was on its last legs, and it had all sorts of the trouble running the game, with crashes and lockups galore, even with the graphics on their lowest settings. I still puttered around with the game a little, but my progress was slow, and every time I got about halfway through the available content, Larian released a patch that invalidated existing saved games (I could have ignored these patches and kept going, but since I'm writing a preview, I figured I should be playing the most recent version). But then eventually the stars aligned, and I was able to snag a CPU and a GPU and put a new computer together, and finally play the game unhindered.

So this preview is for the most recent version of the game -- that's Community Update #12 / Patch 4 for those of you playing along at home -- which includes the druid class and just about everything from the Prologue and Chapter 1. This is a sizeable chunk of content -- it took me over 20 hours to complete it -- and I think it's enough to show what Larian intends for the game.


The first thing you do in a game of Baldur's Gate III is create your character. At some point in the future, you'll be able to choose one of the pre-made "Origin Characters" (just like in Divinity: Original Sin 2), but for now those characters are only available as companions, and you have to build your character from scratch.

Larian is using the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset for Baldur's Gate III. That means characters are defined by their race, class, ability scores, and skills. You're also given some cosmetic choices for your character, including a wide range of appearances (so if you want your human character to look like Papa Smurf, you can do it). I can't tell yet if gender is cosmetic or not. I don't remember anybody commenting on it, and if companion romances exist at all, you can't get very far with them in Chapter 1.

The races in the game include drow, dwarf, elf, githyanki, half-elf, halfling, human, and tiefling. Each race gives you a collection of bonuses and proficiencies. For example, drow gain Superior Darkvision (which allows them to see well in the dark), proficiencies with rapiers and shortswords, a bonus to perception checks, +1 charisma, +2 dexterity, and more. Meanwhile, humans gain +1 to each ability score, which is boring but useful.

Classes currently include cleric, druid, fighter, ranger, rogue, warlock and wizard, but I've seen game files for bard, monk and paladin as well, so this part of the game appears to be a work in progress. Chances are, when Baldur's Gate III eventually ships, it'll have all of the 5E base classes. Each class has at least two sub-classes, which you either pick right away or at Level 3. Multi-classing is not yet allowed. As with races, classes give you a variety of bonuses. For example, fighters gain proficiencies for all weapons and armor, plus bonuses to strength and constitution checks.

Ability scores are the same as you've no doubt seen in countless other D&D games (and their copycats) -- strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma -- and they do about what you'd expect. For example, strength improves melee damage and attack rolls, and increases carrying capacity. You get a certain number of points to spend on ability scores when you create your character (no rolling for scores, at least not yet), and you get two additional points every four levels. Ability scores can't advance beyond 20, which limits the amount of min-maxing you can do.