Baldur's Gate III

Baldur's Gate III - First Look

Larian Studios gave fans the gameplay reveal they'd been hoping for at PAX East and we took a good look at what they had to show.

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The folks at Larian Studios, the developer behind the phenomenal Divinity series, are no strangers to turn-based RPGs. The studio's most recent games, Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel, have most definitely influenced Baldur's Gate III, but we're not complaining. Taking over a franchise as iconic as this was surely no easy task as fans have been longing for a third instalment for years. By the looks of it, the studio is doing right by the legacy of the series while still adding that unique Larian personality and flair to the upcoming RPG.

The most glaring change has come as a consequence of the time that has passed since the last Baldur's Gate. Of course, we're referring to the visuals, and boy do those graphics look stunning. Set a century after its predecessors, Baldur's Gate III takes the series in a new direction and into the new hardware generation. Infinity Engine is no more and neither is the Blizzard of old, Interplay Entertainment, or Black Isle Studios. This time, Larian Studios is running the show and it's using a new engine to do so.

Larian Studios, alongside Wasteland developer InXile Entertainment, is breathing new life into the CRPG genre, one which many thought they'd never experience again in the higher tiers of gaming, and as such, the isometric top-down viewpoint has not changed with the third instalment of the series. That said, however, the graphics of yore have been switched out for phenomenal visuals and the technical depth of the D&D-inspired world has been elevated immensely. During the livestream held yesterday during Larian's PAX East gameplay reveal, Swen Vincke took eager fans through a portion of the game and showed off some of the mechanics of the world and how the environments can be altered or used to your advantage.

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Baldur's Gate III

We were particularly intrigued by the way the game uses shadows to give the gameplay an edge. If you're going to sneak through a group of enemies without being caught, you'll want to use the cover of darkness to your advantage. By sticking to the shadows in the open world or in dark dungeons, your character will display one of three statuses: visible, lightly obscured, or heavily obscured. This means that every shadow cast on the battlefield or even outside of it has a purpose and can hide you from sight depending on the depth of the shadow. Vincke even blew out candles to hide from his adversaries when showing the mechanic off for fans to see.

We also saw the team of characters and companions split up. As his main character of choice (a high elven vampire spawn thirsting for blood) was exploring the dungeons below an ancient structure, Vincke took control of one of the companions. After picking up the boots of the main character (which he had thrown at an enemy in a panic prior, naturally), he shot a piece of a pillar, prompting it to fall down and through the floor below, creating a new route. This shortcut then gave Vincke two characters to use in the impending battle.

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Apart from the immersive and manipulatable environments looking phenomenal, there have been changes made to the visuals surrounding the dialogue sequences, compared to both the earlier Baldur's Gate games and Larian Studio's own Divinity: Original Sin 2 (which has clearly influenced Baldur's Gate III). When dialogue is prompted, you'll see the character you're talking to directly while they give you their voiced lines, as if the game had a first-person perspective. Then it pans over to your character as you pick which dialogue or dialogue-skill option you want to proceed with. You won't be hearing your character though, something that those who are looking to immerse themselves in the role-playing aspect of the game will likely appreciate.

The visuals aside, the thing that most fans of both Larian's previous games and the Baldur's Gate series have been speculating about has surely been the combat, and that has been confirmed as turn-based. You won't be doing any slashing and you won't be casting any spells in real-time in Baldur's Gate III, instead, Larian has followed its successful Divinity: Original Sin 2 formula. Each character takes its turn to attack on each side, however, prior to battle being initiated, both parties roll for initiative to decide who goes first.

In fact, the game seems heavily reliant on dice rolls in true D&D fashion and Vincke explained that it's a DC 5 game (a low difficulty class based on the 20-sided die that RPG fans will know all too well). When showing the game off, Vincke metaphorically faceplanted due to some rotten luck, which resulted in some fantastically humorous moments resembling those times where a failed dice roll can change the course of a tabletop adventure. These dice rolls follow you throughout the game when making skill checks and even though you don't roll a die each time you attempt to use an ability or attack in combat, the game does show your critical hit rolls, most likely to bring you that sweet joy of absolutely smashing it through luck alone.

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The game follows a character of your choice, either player-created or an origin character (and their companions) as they explore a vast world infested by Illithids that have swooped down into the Forgotten Realms and planted their "tadpole" seeds into the brains of unsuspecting beings. You're one of their victims, but end up being freed from captivity by a separate alien race, and thus you're ready to slay the flayers. Essentially, life in the Forgotten Realms is a big bummer and you have a brain parasite eating away at your insides and if you don't do something about it, you'll become a Mind Flayer yourself. Thus you venture out into the wild to look for someone to help with your ailment, and so begins your adventure.

Baldur's Gate III will remember what you do on your journey, and that means that what follows will be entirely up to you as a player and subsequent events will, in part, be based on your decisions. We may not know a whole lot, but by the looks of it, Baldur's Gate III will be a joyous RPG feast for both Baldur's Gate fans of old and CRPG newcomers when it lands on PC (Steam Early Access) sometime later this year.


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