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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Using my most recent party as an example, during the first round of combat, my druid might shapeshift into a bear (bonus action) and then move and attack someone with his claws (action). Lae'zel the fighter might cast Tyr's Protection (a bonus action available from her sword) to improve her AC, move and attack someone with her sword (action), and then invoke Action Surge (a once-per-battle ability) to gain another action and attack again. Gale the wizard might cast Misty Step (bonus action) to teleport to a good spot and then cast Magic Missile to damage an opponent (action). And Shadowheart the cleric might cast Survival Instinct on a character (usually Gale) to keep him from getting knocked unconscious (bonus action), and then cast either Bless or Bane (action) to improve the attacks rolls of the party or reduce the attack rolls of the enemies.

I enjoy turn-based combat, so perhaps I'm biased, but I thought the battle engine worked pretty well. You're given lots of options for what to do, and the enemy AI is competent. Enemies move to high ground when they can, they target your spellcasters relentlessly, and they know when to cast area-effect spells (or throw bombs) so they damage you and not their allies. The battles are also difficult, which is nice, but this might have something to do with being limited to Level 4 in the game, which you can reach about halfway through the available content. At Level 5, for example, fighters gain a second attack per turn, which makes them much more powerful. Larian will probably be tinkering with the difficulty until the game is eventually released.

Because combat is tough and characters can't memorize many spells yet, that means you need to camp fairly often to keep your party battle-ready. For some reason, there are two kinds of camps: a regular camp where you completely heal and memorize all of your spells, and a short rest where you heal a little and regain some abilities (like Lae'zel's Action Surge). The regular camp takes place on its own small map and gives you a place where you can store items, and it acts as your base of operations for the game. Interestingly, despite having a parasite in your head, you can camp as often as you want, and there isn't any downside. There isn't any time limit in the game.


So far it looks like Larian is doing with Baldur's Gate what Bethesda did with Fallout -- putting one of their games into an existing franchise. Bethesda was lucky in a sense that the post-apocalyptic setting from Fallout wasn't anything like the Elder Scrolls setting, and so nobody confused Fallout 3 with Skyrim 2. But with Larian, the opposite is true, and with a few edits here and there, Baldur's Gate III could easily be Divinity: Original Sin 3.

Is that good or bad? The answer might depend on your age. I grew up with the Baldur's Gate series, and so I'm wary of a new game in the franchise that doesn't have anything to do with the original games, has a completely different style, uses a new rule set, and has so many tieflings and githyanki around that it barely feels like it's in the Forgotten Realms. Larian could have just started their own Dungeons & Dragons franchise. They're a popular enough developer that I don't think it would have hurt their sales at all.

But given the situation, Baldur's Gate III seems to be coming along fine. The first chapter is packed with high quality content, and that bodes well for the rest of the game. I might argue that Larian seems to be paying more attention to the official Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks and manuals rather than the first two games in the series, but perhaps they're looking for a clean break on purpose. Or, given that many of the people you meet in the first chapter mention Baldur's Gate, maybe we'll see that city soon, and the game will begin feeling like it belongs in the series. Plus, maybe we'll see some cameos.

Baldur's Gate III doesn't have a release date yet, but since it's nowhere near being complete, don't expect it before 2022. In fact, unless Larian is holding back a bunch of the game from early access, I'd say don't expect it until 2023. Pretty much everything can change between now and then. It'll be interesting to watch how the game evolves.