Baldur's Gate 3's first act took me nearly 30 hours to complete, so it's not a meagre chunk of game, but speedrunner Cary Palmer has managed to whittle his time down to an impressive seven minutes. 7:00:89, to be precise.
If you get into even just a couple of the short early fights, you're looking at maybe ten minutes before you even get off the nautiloid and the first act properly begins, so Palmer made 200 attempts to try and figure out how to avoid them.
Talking to Kotaku, Cary explained how he spent hours writing notes and optimising his route. To skip one particularly hard fight, he says he had to use the corpse of a fallen comrade. The conventional route to the final zone is also filled with potential enemies, and then the final zone itself, the Underdark, is filled with even more dangers.
Playing normally, you'll slowly be nudged towards the Underdark as you attempt to find a cure for the mind flayer tadpole stuck in your head. I ended up going down there before I was told to, just because I discovered the entrance, but I didn't reach that point until around 20 hours into the game. It turns out, though, that there's nothing stopping you from ignoring every fight and quest and leaping—quite literally, in Palmer's case—to the end of the act.
Without giving too much away, the act concludes after the party sets off on a bit of a voyage, but apparently there aren't actually any prerequisites for starting said voyage. You don't need to start or finish any quests or have any conversations that aren't forced upon you. And to get their faster, Palmer did a lot of jumping.
Baldur's Gate 3 characters can already make superhuman leaps, but there's also a spell that triples the distance they can traverse in a single bound. This allowed Palmer to jump over encounters that would have sapped precious seconds. He jumped over everything, getting into zero fights, gathering no companions and ignoring all of the quests.
Palmer also managed to find a shortcut to the Underdark. Instead of going through a goblin camp and a huge temple to get to the underground realm, he was able to just hop down the well in the Blighted Village, which can be reached right after you crash land. The well leads to the Whispering Depths, and by making what should be a fatal jump down into a chasm, he simply fell into the Underdark.
This might not be a viable route to the end of the first act when Baldur's Gate 3 launches, but Larian's been known to keep exploits and rule-bending tricks around if they don't break the game. Getting to the second act with no quests or direction might be pretty game-breaking, however, so I expect there will end up being a few things you'll need to do before you can leave. The shortcut to the Underdark itself, however, might stick around. There's even a rudimentary scene that briefly shows you awkwardly falling down a hole, suggesting that it's actually an official secret route.