Having heard Larian was involved with last week’s Guerrilla Collective presentation, I expected a sizable Baldur’s Gate III presence. Instead we got a teaser for another event. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long, as Larian led off this week’s D&D Live with a lengthy Baldur’s Gate III gameplay demo. You can catch the archive here:
First, it’s worth stating: This is a different section than Larian showed at PAX East in February. That livestream showed off the very beginning of the game. Today’s demo isn’t much further in—and in fact I remember it from my own Baldur's Gate III demo in San Francisco—but it isn’t merely a retread of the last stream with different choices. You’ll meet the demon Raphael and then by popular demand head into the spider-infested Underdark for a bit.
This is the first time we’ve seen the cavernous Underdark in Baldur’s Gate III and it looks pretty amazing, stream quality notwithstanding. Merely a pitstop in Baldur’s Gate II, there’s reason to believe the Underdark will be a key location this time around given it’s home to our antagonists, the Mind Flayers. Spelunking through a near-infinite labyrinth of underground dungeons and hidden cities sounds like a great time, especially with Baldur’s Gate III focusing more on verticality. Lots of room for secrets, underground.
Larian’s also made some concrete changes to the game and its mechanics since February. On the plus side, initiative is now more in line with true Dungeons & Dragons. Our demo in February featured initiative rolls, but one roll applied to your entire party. This allowed you to easily coordinate your team’s actions, but meant losing an initiative roll put you at a sizable disadvantage at the outset of a combat encounter. The new system alternates turns, but party members who are near each other will get to act together. A bit of a hybrid system, and I doubt this is the final iteration, but it’s interesting to watch it evolve.
I’m more torn about the other change. The dialog system was one of my favorite parts of the February demo. All the player’s choices were presented as if spoken at the table, i.e. “I said I wanted to make a deal.” A bit showy perhaps, but it seemed uniquely suited to a game based on tabletop D&D, and a point to differentiate it from Divinity: Original Sin. I liked it.
Apparently I was in the minority though. Larian bowed to pressure and changed the dialog to the more traditional read-exactly-what-your-character-says format. I’m convinced that after a few hours, people would’ve enjoyed the original narrative style, but alas.
Anyway, it’s worth watching the demo, though I’d probably skip the first hour or so and get straight to the Underdark (or at least the lead-up to the Underdark). That’s where the action picks up, and it’s very different from what we’ve seen of Baldur’s Gate III before. There’s even a mushroom man.
Baldur’s Gate III enters Early Access this fall. Maybe. Hopefully. Keep your fingers crossed.