One of PC's greatest RPGs is getting a sequel made by the creators of another one of the best RPGS of all time. It's been almost 20 years since Baldur's Gate concluded in Throne of Bhaal, but Larian Studios is finally taking us back to the Sword Coast. After a couple of delays, Baldur's Gate 3 finally out in Early Access, but there's still a long way to go before it's finished.
Despite the name and embracing the rules of D&D, Baldur's Gate 3 is still a distinctly Larian game. Combat is turn-based, for instance, which makes it more like D&D but less like Baldur's Gate. And like Original Sin 2, It's a systemic RPG that compels you to experiment, trying to capture some of the freeform adventuring that you might get up to in a tabletop game.
Thanks to the arrival of the Early Access version, we've got a much better idea of the kind of Baldur's Gate that Larian's trying to build. So read on for everything we know about Baldur's Gate 3.
What's the Baldur's Gate 3 release date?
Baldur's Gate 3 launched in Early Access on October 6th, 2020.
We don't yet know what date Larian is planning for a full release, nor do they, likely. When announcing the early access date, Larian's Swen Vincke said "we intend to stay there for awhile," while its Steam store lists an estimate of at least one year, meaning a possible 2021 launch date. We do know that Baldur's Gate 3 will release on GOG and Steam, along with Stadia.
Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access review
Baldur's Gate 3 still has about a year left in Early Access, but what we've played so far is very promising. It's a slightly anarchic sandbox at times, letting you sneak around pushing people off ledges, or dropping boulders on heads, like you're some fantasy hitman. It's great! The story doesn't really get going, as you'll finish just as clueless about what's going on with mind flayers and what you're going to do about this pesky tadpole that's been inserted into your head.
There are, of course, plenty of bugs, balance problems, missing dialogue and voice acting, and all sorts of other issues, and you'll never actually get to finish your character's adventure. Inevitable save wipes means all of your creations will be fleeting. Give our Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access review a read to help you make your mind up. We've also explored how Baldur's Gate 3 compares to the classic games.
How much of Baldur's Gate 3 can you play in Early Access?
Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access contains the first act, which should take you around 25 hours to finish. But that really depends on how many fights you get into—there are plenty of ways to bypass them—and how much exploring you do. There are clear paths and a main quest that will take you all across the map, but there's plenty to find off the beaten track. If you're in a rush, it can be finished in seven minutes.
At the moment, you can play as one of six classes: Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, and Wizard. There's eight races, too, plus several sub-races with their own quirks. You'll need to make a custom character during Early Access, as the bespoke origin characters are currently off-limits, but you can recruit five of them into your party. Here's who you'll find hanging out in the first act:
- Astarion - Elf/Vampire Rogue
- Gale - Human Wizard
- Lae’zel - Githyanki Warrior
- Shadowheart - Half-elf Cleric
- Wyll - Human Warlock
It seems quite a bit denser than Original Sin 2's Early Access. Larian shared some stats, and Baldur's Gate 3 launched with considerably more combat encounters, characters, spells and lines of dialogue.
- Number of combat encounters: 22 in DOS2 EA vs. 80 in BG3 EA
- Number of English dialogue lines: 17,600 in DOS2 EA vs. 45,980 in BG3 EA
- Number of characters: 142 in DOS2 EA vs. 596 in BG3 EA
- Number of spells/actions: 69 in DOS2 EA vs. 146 in BG3 EA
This doesn't necessarily mean you'll spend more time in your playthrough, however. You're not going to see all of these encounters and conversations all in a single run. Instead, they represent the much greater number of permutations—there's more potential, more paths.
What classes and races are available?
When it comes to races, the usual humans, halflings, elves and the like are represented, of course, but you'll also be able to make tieflings, drow, githyanki and even a vampire spawn. Along with having an impact on dialogue, these choices also give you access to special abilities and story beats, like the vampire spawn drinking their companions' blood. Here's all the details about Baldur's Gate 3 races that are playable so far..
Classes are obviously important too. "The stories are very much tied to class at times," senior writer Adam Smith told us in our first look at Baldur's Gate 3. "Class is such a part of identity in D&D, in a way that it wasn't in DOS2." Larian says that in the full release of BG3 we'll be able to play as any class from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset. For full details on classes, subclasses on their bonuses in the Early Access version, read our dedicated guide to Baldur's Gate 3 classes.
What's the story and setting for Baldur's Gate 3?
The game follows a new story set in the current era of the Forgotten Realms. The mind flayers—psychic, squid-faced alien tyrants—have found a way to one again travel between worlds, and now they are invading.
The player character and main companions are all infected with a parasitic tadpole that should turn them into mind flayers, but for some reason the process isn't working like it normally does. One of the key quests, then, is to find out more information about the tadpoles and get them removed.
Though the party doesn't appear to be transforming into mind flayers, the tadpole still has an effect. You can link minds with other people with tadpoles and get some other benefits, but the more you use your power, the easier you'll be to control when you happen across another mind flayer.
The mind flayers are an ancient and terrifying force in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. They live in the Underdark and have powerful psionic abilities. They are able to mind control other sentient beings and like to feed on their brains for sustenance. They frequently keep slaves to do their bidding and serve as a convenient snack.
Mind flayers have plenty of enemies though, and at the start of Baldur's Gate 3 we see a battle between mind flayers, demons and githyanki, all taking place in and around a ship that's rapidly falling apart. The githyanki in particular feature prominently in Baldur's Gate 3, since one of your first companions is a githyanki fighter who was captured by mind flayers.
The city of Baldur's Gate will feature of course, but the whole city won't be available to the player, only relevant sections. It's still a bit of a mystery, though, as we've only seen it briefly in trailers and cutscenes. In the Early Access version, you won't reach the city, though you will see it from a distance during a dream.
Which Dungeons & Dragons edition is Baldur's Gate 3 based on?
Baldur's Gate 3 is based on Larian's interpretation of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. CEO Swen Vincke explained that some rules and systems don't translate well directly from tabletop to digital game, so Larian has worked to create an interpretation of 5th Edition rules that works well as a digital game but still feels true to D&D.
How do custom characters work in Baldur's Gate 3?
Similarly to Divinity: Original Sin 2, Baldur's Gate 3 lets you choose to make an entirely custom character or one of its preset cast. It's a good option to have, but Divinity OS2's main characters were pretty widely considered the better option as they had more personalized dialogue and a connection to the story.
Larian said in an AMA on Reddit that in BG3, "custom characters have a much stronger connection to the world and the main arc of the story. … We’re confident that you won’t feel short-changed in terms of narrative breadth and depth if you choose to play as a custom character."
"When we say there are serious consequences to your choices, we really mean it. As you move through your adventure, you’ll discover quest-lines and stories that relate directly to the character you’re roleplaying, and the things that you’ve done"
How does Baldur's Gate 3 play?
For a longer read on gameplay, check out our Baldur's Gate 3 early access review.
True to the series, it's an RPG in which you control a party of heroes with their own backgrounds and motivations. Like Original Sin 2, you'll be able to pick an origin character, which have unique backgrounds and special hooks, as well as making one from scratch. This time origin characters are also tied to a class.
Vincke says the game will be heavily systems-driven and Larian will be creating its own D&D-inspired ruleset. "We'll stay true to our roots, so we'll give players lots of systems and lots of agency to use these systems and try to accomplish what you need to on your personal adventure and your party's adventure."
We definitely found that to be the case in our early access review. "Almost every object can be turned into a weapon in a pinch—one of my first kills was with a skull that I picked up and tossed at a monster," Fraser says. "This is a side of D&D that was previously missing from Baldur's Gate—the creative, messy sandbox. Every confrontation is an opportunity to push your luck and stretch the game's systems like you're negotiating with a DM."
"Along with the ability to shove people and throw objects, you can stealthily slink around, make superhuman leaps, dip your weapon in puddles of acid or ignite them using a torch. These abilities can all be used in turn-based battles at the cost of an action or bonus action, as well as freely when you're wandering around in real-time."
"Baldur's Gate 3 is always rolling dice and making passive skill checks to determine if you're going to notice that sliding bookcase right in front of you. These happen automatically, accompanied by the comforting rattle of dice, but dialogue and active skill checks actually replicate some of the tactile delight of real tabletop roleplaying by making you manually roll a digital D20."
Outside of combat, you can force turn-based mode on, which should come in handy when you're sneaking around and need to keep an eye on the movement of guards. You can also have somethings happening in real-time while other stuff is happening turn-by-turn. In multiplayer, your mate could be shopping while you're fighting.
Let's talk romance
Larian dished some details on Baldur's Gate 3 character relationships and let's just say the game is definitely rated "M" by the ESRB for a reason. Your party members will have opinions about all sort of decisions that you make as the player character, including which factions you choose to support and who you choose to kill. You can debrief about everything back at the party camp, which is also where you can engage in more intimate activities. If you've managed to find your way into a romantic relationship with one of your party members, you'll definitely be able to act on the physical side of it. Yup, you can have sex in Baldur's Gate 3.
"We are trying to make these relationships feel real and feel like the relationships you have in the real world," lead writer Sarah Baylus explained. "You will meet some people who you have nothing in common with, some will be useful to work together, but that is going to be the extent of it. But there could be situations where you get on really well, you share similar goals and you love travelling together."
Apparently so far in Early Access, the most romanced character is Gale the wizard but folks also aren't shy about being evil to get some action either. "They're all horny," says Swen Vinke about early players.
What trailers and gameplay for Baldur's Gate 3 are out there?
You can check out the original cinematic cinematic announcement trailer for Baldur's Gate 3 with all its body horror glory.
For lots more, you can also watch over an hour of alpha gameplay , streamed during PAX East 2020. Vincke shows off a detailed look at combat, both when it goes right and when it goes wrong in proper Larian fashion. Some changes have been made to combat since this video, which we'll get into more below.
Here's even more Baldur's Gate 3 gameplay streamed live and played once again by Larian CEO Swen Vincke during summer 2020. During this stream, Vincke lets the Twitch chat choose several interactions for him as they explore. Combat has seen some changes since February as has the narration.
Baldur's Gate 3 system requirements
Baldur's Gate 3 system requirements are surprisingly gentle for such a pretty game. Be aware, though, that Larian has amended storage requirements slightly. The game used to require only 70GB, but has now more than doubled to 150GB.
The Act 1 content releasing in early access will only take up 80GB, so the rest of that space is reserved for updates down the line.
- OS: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
- Processor: Intel i5-4690 / AMD FX 4350
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 780 / AMD Radeon R9 280X
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 150 GB available space
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Processor: Intel i7 4770k / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB / AMD RX580
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 150 GB available space
Cross-saves will be supported
Fans of Divinity: OS2 will remember that Larian added a neat feature that allows saves to transfer from the Steam version to the Switch release. Larian is pulling a similar trick in Baldur's Gate 3, but this time more expansive. Instead of running cross-saves through Steam's propriety system, player saves will be tied to a dedicated Larian account. That account will be accessible on every platform that Baldur's Gate 3 eventually releases on.
Don't expect cross-saves to be working anytime soon. They might not even be live by the time the game leaves early access sometime in 2021 or beyond.
Where are Minsc and Boo?
They might just show up in Baldur's Gate 3! Larian CEO Swen Vincke told VG247 that it's a real possibility, saying: "If you look at what the Fifth Edition has done, characters like Boo and Minsc are still alive," Vincke said. "Bhaal and maybe a couple of other guys are still around. What’s gonna happen with that? You’re gonna discover when you play BG3."
Vincke wouldn't drop that kind of hint without following through, right? Surely there will be some "Butt-kicking! For goodness!"
Other D&D celebs may show up, too. We've already seen famed scholar and exaggerator Volo, who crops up more than once during the demo.
Look at this baby owlbear
During the early access announcement date stream, Larian showed off a super short snippet in which the player encounters a frightfully large and angry owlbear. Turns out it's protecting this adorable owlbear cub. Larian CEO Swen Vincke says that this is one of a few possible encounters with the cub and "if you really, really play your cards well and your dice roll well you can actually recruit the owlbear cub into your camp." He does warn that it might not play nicely with other animal friends though so be wary.
How is Wizards of the Coast involved?
As custodians of Dungeons and Dragons Wizards of the Coast are involved in clearing storylines and keeping the D&D lore consistent. The quality of Divinity: Original Sin 2 convinced Wizards of the Coast to greenlight Baldur's Gate 3.
"I went to them [Wizards of the Coast] after Divinity: Original Sin and I tried to convince them back then," says Vincke. "But they said we were a bit too green. They got back in touch during Divinity: Original Sin 2—they saw what we were doing and asked if we were still interested. That got the ball rolling. During DOS2 we had to submit the design for it, but it was annoying because we were about to release DOS2. So we sat in a hotel for a weekend the month before release, me and a couple of writers and designers, and we made the initial design document. It wasn't very good, but it had the core ideas and they did like it, so they asked us to make another version, and we did that and they loved it."