"I know we made them too thirsty," Baldur's Gate 3's lead writer Adam Smith jokes about the RPG's companion characters. "We're aware of it. The internet has told us this." We spoke with Smith during yesterday's PC Gamer Chat log podcast, where he shared his thoughts on the nuances of party relationships in Baldur's Gate 3.
"One of the reasons I think they come across as forward is that we did want them to be the person who comes to you," he says, describing Larian's approach to romantic relationships between players and their party members. "We wanted them to initiate a lot of the time rather than you saying, 'I'm bringing you things and that means that I want to sleep with you.'"
RPG's with romances tend to do that: give you an approval bar that you fill up partly by saying all the "right" things in dialogue and partly by repeatedly gifting them that one item they like. After enough right lines and offerings of trinkets, a confession (sometimes a sex scene) pops out. Congrats, you romanced!
Baldur's Gate 3 has some of that: an approval meter and lots of opportunities to influence it in dialogue with incremental "Astarion approves" and "Karlach disapproves" notifications. But the way Smith describes it, Larian puts less emphasis on sticking to the same formula for every character. There are definitely different vibes in how each relationship begins: Lae'zel comes on strong after you impress her with your capability as a warrior, and Karlach's years of being literally on fire have left her touch-starved, but Wyll is a downright slowburn by comparison, and Shadowheart is more wary with her true feelings.
"It always started with the story. Who is Astarion? How did he get like this? You see the people who say 'I can fix him. I can fix him!'" Smith says. "And we joke about it and I love joking about it and being silly about it. But they have trauma, a lot of them. And I hope that when we get to the end of their stories a lot of the time you see it exposed."
Astarion's story in particular is a dark one. He hints at his history early on, being a slave of the vampire who created him. His relationship with sex and intimacy are fraught as a result, which we've also gotten to hear about in an interview with Neil Newbon, his voice actor.
"We have a bunch of different versions of what a good romance scene is, I hope," Smith says. "Sometimes you start with the sex and end with the hook. Because actually you're breaking down barriers. And sex is not the goal, it's just sex. It can be very meaningful for some people. To some people it's not the most meaningful thing. To some people the most meaningful thing is you saying to them, 'I will never leave you.'"
As an enjoyer of romanceable companions, it is great to see a game like Baldur's Gate 3 sidestep the 'one size fits all' approach to party entanglements. Because yeah, maybe I do want to take Lae'zel up on her one night stand and also get to know Wyll better. And just in case you forgot who may come calling, check out our guide to all the Baldur's Gate 3 romances you can pursue.