Baldur's Gate 3 dev spills the secret sauce: Players love finding a place, then 'ending up 2 hours and 3 puzzles later in a sacrificial chamber of a cult that murders giraffes'

Gale the wizard grins
(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 is a Larian Studios game, and boy howdy are those things dense—as CRPGs tend to be. A far cry from the open-world RPGs saturated with merry little tasks that succeeded them, most CRPGs put you in a large-ish area that's utterly rammed with stuff. Dungeons, quests, dialogue, sewers—on average a CRPG's world is smaller, but by Mystra is it full.

That's a sentiment echoed by worldbuilding director at Larian Studios Farhang Namdar, who spoke with our friends over at PLAY Magazine recently. In the interview, Namdar says Baldur's Gate 3 isn't "really an open world game in the modern sense. It’s more of a curated open world."

This, Namdar says, is down to what he calls "one of the old Larian creeds", holding up the game's titular city of Baldur's Gate as a prime example. "Every building needs a story, a secret, a cellar—preferably also a little garden, but in Baldur’s Gate [gardens] didn’t make a lot of sense."

I experienced plenty of this firsthand during my playthroughs, and the city of Baldur's Gate definitely surprised me the most. Every place you can enter has something going on, and despite nearly completing the game three times at this point, I'm still watching players turn over stones that I'd completely missed.

Act 3 spoilers incoming: Two recent examples skim off the top of my dome as I write this. Firstly, you can straight-up find Enver Gortash's parents in a house somewhere, just… hanging out. A little mind-controlled, but very much alive and accessible. Secondly, there's a touching tribute to a fan's father tucked away in a humble home I completely missed. I never saw these dang places, and I felt like I was pretty thorough, but here we are.

This kind of densely-packed design (which has a habit of also 'yes-anding' the players down a rabbit hole of questlines) is all on purpose too, says Namdar. "Players love walking into a seemingly innocent apothecary and ending up two hours and three puzzles later in a sacrificial chamber of a cult that murders giraffes."

I myself am always gonna prefer a smaller, yet content-rich world—even if there is a part of me that likes the mindless flow of Ubisoft-adjacent checklist design. It's something Larian is particularly good at, and whatever the studio decides to do next, I'm looking forward to a fresh new city full of giraffe doomers.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.