Baldur’s Gate 3’s recent official release date blog post and trailer confirmed a number of things that I was eager to hear, including that the long-awaited RPG is finally set to get its full 1.0 release on August 31st this year.
What was even more exciting, though, was confirmation by Larian Studios that any PC gamers who buy (or who already own) the early access version of the game will, on launch day, get “a free upgrade to the Digital Deluxe Edition”.
This is what Deluxe Edition gets you:
- Divinity Bard Song Pack - Astound audiences by performing this special set of new songs from the Divinity series
- Paintings from Rivellon - Discover a new collection of paintings across the Forgotten Realms
- Adventurer's Pouch - Receive a collection of camp supplies and potions to help get your journey started
- Digital OST - Enjoy the music of Baldur's Gate 3 from composer Borislav Slavov
- Digital Artbook - Explore the art and design of Baldur's Gate 3 in this digital artbook, written by Larian
- Digital Character Sheets - Peruse a set of four-page D&D character sheets for each Baldur's Gate 3 origin character
- Custom dice skin - A unique dice skin showing that you picked up the game on PC
That’s a really great boon in my opinion, rewarding loyal players who have helped maintain momentum for the game while still in development (and contributed to it via player feedback), and a great reason to go ahead and pick up Baldur’s Gate 3 in early access right now, with a third of the game already playable.
However, if I’m being honest, the free upgrade was not the reason why I promptly opened my wallet and bagged Baldur’s Gate 3 in early access. My reason came 100 per cent from the Baldur’s Gate 3 release date trailer (if you haven’t watched it yet, you can check it out below).
I opened my wallet because Larian Studios went and dropped the thing that, in my opinion, showed that the studio really gets what’s needed to make a truly great fantasy RPG—a brilliantly realized big bad.
Just a few lines of delivery from actor J.K. Simmons as General Ketheric Thorn and I was rapt, with echoes of the late, great David Warner’s memorable portrayal of Baldur’s Gate 2’s villain, elven wizard Jon Irenicus, echoing in my ears.
“This woman had power, of a sort. She lost her parents to plague, her husband to war, but she persevered. She was well respected, her farm was prosperous and her children were well fed. And now she's dead.
“Do you realize the power you might hold? When the world of flesh is beneath you, even creatures mysterious and magical will fall!
“I wonder if you are destined to be forgotten. Will your life fade in the shadow of greater beings?”
It wasn’t just the characterful, gravely, very human voice of Ketheric, though, as he narrates part of his sad tale, but how he is written. It's obvious that there is a rich narrative here that seems rooted in very human emotions and motivations. We don’t hear all of Ketheric’s story, but it’s clear from the reveal trailer and the In The Booth companion video, that his life has been one of suffering, with both his wife and daughter taken from him before their time, their deaths serving as a catalyst for current events.
All great adversaries, in my opinion, have that quality. That, albeit for only a brief moment, relatability in terms of why they’re doing what they’re doing, and how they became the foe that now stands in your way. Irenicus had that in Baldur’s Gate II, Aribeth de Tylmarande had that in Neverwinter Nights, Solas had that in Dragon Age: Inquisition—and I bet you can think of many more, too.
It is that human element to storytelling that so many RPGs, fantasy or otherwise, forget about, with macro-level war and politics, along with rinse-and-repeat tired fantasy troupes and story beats, often smothering any actually interesting, relatable elements. Yes, I want high stakes in my epic fantasy RPG, but that’s not what will carry me through 60 hours plus of story. I need to feel. I need to find that connection between my party members and me so that they matter. I need to understand why my foe must be defeated, regardless of how they came to stand in my way.
Gravitas and quality in terms of voice acting, though, as delivered by actors of the level of David Warner and J.K. Simmons, is what communicates that feeling and soul. That's what brings the narrative to life. And after seeing and hearing Ketheric in action, my resolve to wait until the full version 1.0 release of Baldur’s Gate 3 was overrun—as a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate series, and RPGs in general, I had to get started on what seems like it will be truly a memorable narrative.