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Baldur’s Gate 3: 12 Things We Learned From the Latest Gameplay

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BatmanH

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Aug 25, 2020
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More Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay was shown today as part of Dungeons & Dragons Live and IGN’s Summer of Gaming. Founder of Larian Studios, Swen Vincke, streamed himself playing the game for 90 minutes, and the journey revealed many interesting new features, changes, and improvements from when we last saw Baldur’s Gate 3 in action in February.

For the important highlights from the stream, keep reading to discover 12 new things we learned about Baldur’s Gate 3.

[ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/06/18/baldurs-gate-3-is-more-like-dungeons-dragons-the-more-its-developed"]

A re-written narrator

One of the most controversial features of the original gameplay reveal was that the narrator spoke in past tense, as if retelling the story of Baldur’s Gate 3 around a campfire long after the events of the game had passed. Many fans found this an odd approach, and so Larian has re-written the narrator with a more traditional present-tense voice. Now, the narration and your dialogue options make it feel as if it is you making the decisions.
A new initiative order

The Initiative system has been adjusted a little since we last saw it in February, and it is now a hybrid of two Dungeons and Dragons systems: traditional and side initiative. Originally, Baldur’s Gate 3 planned to use side initiative, in which an entire party - yours or the enemy’s - takes their turn, and then the action swaps to the other party. This allows for more intricate combinations of attacks, as multiple friendly characters can attack together. The new system, however, opts for a traditional initiative order based on individuals. An example of this may be an order of two of your party members followed by three enemies and then another party member. But elements of side initiative do remain. Should you have two or more of your party members clustered together in the initiative order, you can activate them in whichever order you’d like. You can even bounce back and forth between them should they have actions remaining. This allows for combining character abilities, but also maintains a speedy back-and-forth between sides. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=baldurs-gate-3-early-access-announcement-screenshots&captions=true"]
Reactions

In tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, characters can make reaction moves to interrupt an enemy attack. These are represented in Baldur’s Gate 3 by a condition you set on each character. When that condition is triggered, your character automatically makes the reaction move. We saw this early in the stream when a party member had Opportunity Attack set as their reaction, which was triggered by an enemy coming too close. Feather Fall was also shown as a reaction; when activated, it will kick in if you fall from a great height, ensuring that you gracefully land without taking damage. The stream showed this being used to survive a jump into the subterranean Underdark, which would usually be a fatal fall. The maps in Baldur’s Gate 3 are significantly more vertical than most RPGs, and so Feather Fall looks like it will come in pretty useful.
Inspiration

The Dungeons and Dragons mechanic Inspiration is in Baldur’s Gate 3, which allows you to re-roll a skill check if you’d like to take a stab at rolling a higher number. How Inspiration is earned has not yet been fully revealed, but Inspiration points can be held onto and used when you feel they’re most useful.
Environmental skill checks

We’ve already seen how skill checks are part of conversations, and that they require you to actively roll dice to discover the outcomes. However, it appears that passive skill checks are also a thing that are activated while exploring the world. During the section of the stream spent exploring the Underdark, player character Lae’zel is seen automatically making a passive Nature check upon discovering a Torchstalk plant. The player doesn’t have to manually roll for the check, but because it succeeds Lae’zel then speaks dialogue explaining that the Torchstalk will explode if approached. A failed check would not reveal that information, and so players could accidentally blow themselves up. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/06/18/baldurs-gate-3-aims-to-take-the-best-of-divinity-and-make-it-better"]
Destructible environments

Another form of passive skill check is Investigation, which again is automatically rolled when exploring the world. An example was seen in the stream when one party member, Gale, was exploring a dungeon and discovered a crack in the wall thanks to a successful Investigation check. This indicates a weak wall that can be broken down. Destructible elements of the environment - which can also include bridges - will require the right kind of equipment; a sword won’t break bricks, but a warhammer can. Alternatively, spells or explosives can be used, too, such as barrels of explosive powder.
UI changes

The UI has received an overhaul since we last saw it, making it more distinct from the style used for Larian’s previous game, Divinity: Original Sin 2. The actions hotbar has been redesigned, with a more distinct split between your character’s natural actions - such as jumping and pushing - and their class skills such as spells. The tool tip cards for each also have new artwork and presentation. We also saw some neat quality of life adjustments, too, such as the line drawn to show your characters movement being highlighted in red if it takes them through dangerous terrain.
Multi-level spell casting

Within that UI we also saw that spellcasting, like in the tabletop rules for Dungeons & Dragons, is based on level tiers. For example, the player character knew the spell Thunderwave, but was able to choose to cast it at level one or the more powerful level two. It appears that our choices in regards to abilities will be deep.
Stealth

Characters are able to sneak, and a visual indicator on the cursor shows how well you can be seen by enemies. A full sun icon indicates you are fully visible, a half-sun denotes partial visibility, and an empty sun means you are completely concealed. For particularly tricky sections, it was shown that you can manually enter turn-based mode at any time to complete moves one by one. This was demonstrated for use in a difficult exploration area, but you can see how this helps you see where enemies are looking and plan ahead one step at a time while in stealth. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=baldurs-gate-3-gameplay-screenshots&captions=true"]
The best of the Monster Manual

The stream showed off some iconic D&D enemies, including goblins, giant spiders, and Hook Horrors lurking in the Underdark. Also briefly noted was a Spectator, a form of the widely recognised Beholder monsters. Simply put, alongside the Mindflayers we’ll be going toe-to-toe with some of D&D’s best monsters. Sometimes even literally; one segment of the stream provided the option of kissing a goblin’s toe rather than fighting them.
Volothamp Geddarm is back

Volothamp Geddarm - better known to D&D fans as Volo - is in Baldur’s Gate 3. One of the longest serving characters in the Forgotten Realms lore, we got a short look at Volo bumbling around with some drunken goblins. Larian promises that you will be given the opportunity to recruit him as a camp follower should you wish. The term ‘camp follower’ suggests that you can have more people at your camp than just your main party members, too.
Choice and consequence

As ever with Larian, choice and consequence is at the heart of the game. Almost everything done in the stream was based on a choice from a collection of options. Early on we saw a gnome strapped to a windmill by goblins, and it was the player’s choice how to approach the situation. Later, a goblin leader demanded that Lae’zel kiss his foot, with a plethora of options provided with how to get out of the situation (viewers of the stream opted to force him to kiss Lae’zel’s foot, which ended… badly at first, but better after some violent coercion.) It appears that every story beat, regardless of if they seem small or huge, has elements of choice and consequence. On the heavier side, the stream properly introduced us to Raphael the Cambion, a devil looking to take your soul in exchange for removing the Mindflayer tadpole from your head. Your approach to him can range from obedient to careless, and the suggestion is your attitude with him could have longstanding consequences. For more from Baldur’s Gate 3, check out the news that it’s releasing in early access really soon, and that its story is confirmed to connect to the first two games. And if you missed it, be sure to see the original gameplay demo from February to see some more features in action. [poilib element="accentDivider"] Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Entertainment Writer, and resident Larian obsessive. Follow him and the occasional adventures of his D&D character, Ranghar, on Twitter.

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