Baldur's Gate 3 is not a singular story. Yes, you're always going to be on a quest related to the mind flayer tadpole stuck in your brain, but otherwise the story weaves its way around your decisions, reacting to your class, species, relationships and dialogue choices. This alone is not unusual for a D&D-inspired game, or one crafted by developer Larian, but the extent of its openness still seems poised to impress.
We recently sent mag editor Robert Jones to the current home of Baldur's Gate, in Ghent, Belgium, to see just how reactive the RPG actually is. He got to play with The Dark Urge, a newly announced potential companion who, like all of them, you can also play as. Choosing this background means you'll spend the game as a character with voices in their head compelling them to do rather nasty things, which in Rob's playthrough was bad news for magical companion Gale.
Gale can be recruited to your squad of fantasy heroes early on when you encounter a portal, upon which you'll notice a hand sticking out of it. For the nicer heroes this might kick off a friendly chat, at the end of which you'll have a new caster added to your ranks. But The Dark Urge gets a rather unique option.
"I choose to succumb to The Dark Urge and, right then and there, before I've even seen any more of Gale than just his hand, I decide to gnaw his hand off and keep it as a lovely souvenir," says Rob in our upcoming magazine cover feature. "There's screaming, plenty of blood, and the portal closes. And that's Gale gone from my story."
If you have voices in your head seducing you to the dark side, naturally you're going to look at the world in a different way. But every character with a premade background is going to have those hooks and unique perspectives.
"You'll be going in different routes, but they'll be connected," says Larian founder Swen Vincke. "For instance, if you're going to become Lae'zel [a githyanki fighter hunting the mind flayers] you'll be looking at the point of view of an evil goddess that doesn't like what's going on. But if you're Shadowheart [a half-elf cleric] you might be looking at it through the eyes of a goddess from Baldur's Gate that has a different opinion on it. If you're Karlach [a tiefling barbarian] though, you're going to be looking at it from a point of view like, 'One of those motherfuckers put me in hell!'"
And you'll still see a lot of this with a custom character, too. As a githyanki druid, for instance, you'll get special options when you encounter other druids or more githyanki. "The game has individual reactivity," says Vincke. "And gives you perspective, and incentivises you to go do things because of who you are, and what your identity is."
I suspect I'll be playing BG3 for a while, making lots of new characters and choices, but since the launch of early access I knew immediately who I'd play for my first run: Astarion, the sexy vampire spawn. He also gets peckish, and if you're playing this hottie you might find yourself feeding on your companions to stay fit and healthy. That's what friends are for.
To read more about Rob's Forgotten Realms misadventures make sure to pick up PC Gamer issue 386, which is hitting shelves on July 20.