Baldur’s Gate 3 gets a free, Twitch Plays-style prequel that may be teasing the return of a major villain

Baldur's Gate 3 is still a couple months away—it goes from early access to full release on August 31—but you can dive into the shadows lurking in the legendary fantasy city right now in a surprise prequel chapter called Blood in Baldur's Gate. Instead of an RPG, though, it's a murder mystery, and you're going to have to work with other D&D detectives in order to solve the crime.

Blood in Baldur's Gate takes place 15 years before the events of Baldur's Gate 3. A murder has been committed, and it's up to you to figure out whodunit and, presumably, what drove the perpetrator to commit the crime. Of course, it's not quite that easy: By taking the case, you position yourself as "the next lamb brought to slaughter."

The game is played by examining locations that are visible on a top-down map of the city. Each location contains a description of the nearby surroundings, local landmarks of note, and other relevant details. The scene of the murder, for instance, is described like this:

The saltwater scent of the harbour cannot mask the overwhelming smell of blood in the air. In the middle of a cobblestone plaza by the pier, a tiered fountain sprays fine mist into the air. At the base is a finely dressed elf impaled on an anchor. Blood pools around the body. Over the sound of lapping waves, someone can be heard retching nearby.

The victim. On closer inspection, the anchor has been driven through the elf’s torso. Whoever committed this atrocity did so with brutal force. Fresh blood continues to seep from the large wound, soaking through a silk tunic and onto an elven engraved coin pouch still attached to a leather belt. A lute lies within the grasp of the young victim, never to play a tune from its owner again.

The fountain. Pristine water flows down freely. A few copper pieces have been thrown into the bottom by wish makers, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Cobblestones. Blood collects around the cobblestones like a network of crimson veins. A faint boot print points toward the direction of Fisher's Wharf.

Retching sounds. On a street corner at Admiral's Way, a man props himself with one hand against a building wall.

From the murder scene, you can visit either Admiral's Way, where the man is retching, or follow the cobblestones to Fisherman's Wharf, where the occupant of a fishing boat may have seen something. 

But your Sherlockian aspirations will also have to accommodate other investigators on the case: Instead of moving immediately to your next destination, you've got a 24 hour window to cast a vote on where you want to go. Once the deadline for voting ends, the majority rules and that's where you'll be off to next. And you won't just be wandering around the city taking in sights: You'll also search for clues and interrogate potential witnesses (and, I would guess, perpetrators), and there's an inventory screen in the game as well, with space for 21 items—an oddly specific number, no?

It's a bit like Twitch Plays, the popular streaming format in which viewers vote to control actions in games ranging from The Outer Worlds to Elden RIng, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Punch Club, and PUBG, but slower and more considered. Votes are held at a rate of one per day, so you can take time to think about what you want to do, or even discuss matters with your fellow investigators on Reddit or the Larian forums.

The mystery has just begun, but so far the reaction to Larian's latest diversion seems pretty positive, generally speaking.

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There are, by my count, 34 markers across the bottom of the map, which means 34 days for the investigation, assuming it runs the full duration. (There's no indication as to whether or not the case can be wrapped up early.) That would take us to July 24—coincidence or not, that's the one-year anniversary of the death of famed actor David Warner, who among many other roles provided the voice of Baldur's Gate 2 villain Jon Irenicus

Could the Shattered One be making a surprise return to the Baldur's Gate series? It's a longshot, definitely, but that's also one heck of a coincidence. I've reached out to Larian to ask, and while I don't expect that anyone there will tell me, I'll update if they do.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.