Baldur's Gate 3's hardest difficulty is supposed to 'feel like you're going up against a DM that's trying to push you to your limits'

A powerful dragonborn warrior stands strong in a gloomy dungeon.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)

In the final Panel From Hell preview of Baldur's Gate 3, Larian revealed the details of the game's highest difficulty, Tactician. In addition to reprising features of the mode from Divinity: Original Sin 2 like increased enemy stats and more aggressive AI, Tactician will also include bespoke additions to many of the game's combat encounters in order to tip the scales for your enemies.

"We have it in two layers: there's the base layer that all the characters in the game are gonna get⁠—that's the basics like just increasing HP or making it easier to hit you," explained Larian senior combat designer Matt Holland. "Then there's the local layer. We've gone through every single combat in our game and we've added little bits of spice to make that combat shine just a little bit hotter and be that much harder."

To demonstrate, the Panel From Hell presenters went through the same combat encounter once on "Balanced" (read: normal) difficulty, and once on Tactician. On Balanced, a duo of Monks was able to get the better of a gaggle of goblins strewn throughout the town. The player characters had one KO, but otherwise took care of the fight pretty handily.

On Tactician, those same goblins all had fire arrows, while the main entrance to the town was strewn with oil and explosive barrels—one monk was down and the other on life support within a single turn. Tactician mode's AI changes also look set to induce much wailing and smashing of keyboards: "Brutal AI," Holland declared, "We want to make it feel like you're going up against a DM that's trying to push you to your limits"

Enemies may prioritize squishy casters and ignore your tanks, or avoid your traps instead of rushing through them⁠—Holland and Larian creative director Swen Vincke went in depth discussing how certain enemies would aggressively target your casters when they try to maintain multi-turn "concentration" spells.

"You're gonna start playing on Tactician because 'you can handle it,' then you're going to start crying," Vincke quipped to the crowd. "You're going to say our game is bad⁠—it's not our fault! It's you!"

Not me man, I'll stick to Balanced⁠—I feel like I've been playing RPGs forever and I still had a rough time in Divinity: Original Sin 2's last few fights. It's not long now until Baldur's Gate 3's August 3 release, but whether you're in it for hardcore, tactical combat, romances, or the reactive in-game newspaper, it really seems like there's something here for all comers. I was definitely intrigued by the new, ninja-like, Shadow Monk subclass shown off in the presentation.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.