I broke Baldur's Gate 3 by playing as a party of bears

Bears in Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

It seems like only yesterday I was playing Pillars of Eternity as a party of bears. Back in 2015 I created six ranger characters, had them each summon their bear companions, and then left the rangers behind and just ran around the game as Oops All Bears for a while.

Why? Because bears. And it worked for a while, too, because for whatever reason, Pillars of Eternity seemed completely unprepared for bears to walk around the map without their owners at their sides. Enemies didn't react to bears invading their strongholds, no one got suspicious when they were surrounded by six bears, and for a while I simply chewed a furry path of destruction through the game.

Cut to present day: Maybe you've heard of a little game called Baldur's Gate 3, an RPG which also has rangers who can summon bears? (And also druids who can become bears and then have sex with people while they are in bear form, apparently). 

Thanks to camp companion Withers, I can respec my Baldur's Gate 3 characters to make all of them rangers and summon their bears. So that's what I do. Sorry Wyll, Karlach, and Shadowheart—you're all rangers now, and once you each summon a bear I have no further need of you. 

Note: Some story spoilers below for Act 1 of Baldur's Gate 3.

Now that I'm playing as Just Four Bears, it's time to see if I can complete a couple quests. After setting off through the world (as bears) I happen upon a quest I completely forgot to do when I started playing—freeing Lae'zel. She's trapped in a cage dangling over a canyon, with two tieflings (Damays and Nymessa) giving her a hard time about being a hideous monster.

As I approach the tieflings I notice the thing that happened in Pillars of Eternity also seems to be happening here—no one shows any concern that four bears are slowly surrounding them. I think since this is a scene that requires your character to speak to the tieflings, and my four actual characters are standing motionless a few hundred meters away, the scene isn't actually triggered. But I'm still there, in the form of four bears.

Death by bears"
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Weirder, even when I decide to start mauling the tieflings, turn-based combat doesn't begin and the tieflings don't defend themselves. When Nymessa dies from a bear-slap, Damays dramatically screams "Nymessa! Noooo!"—but then he goes back to completely ignoring all the bears that just murdered her. Once again, playing as All Bears has completely broken an RPG.

I slap Damays to death, too. A quarter of a mile away, Wyll disapproves. Shut up, Wyll! For all you know it was your bear that killed him.

Since bears can't pick up the short bow that's lying conveniently nearby to shoot Lae'zel's cage open, I can't actually rescue her, so I leave her behind and confidently march, in bear fashion, to the nearby ruins. If the bandits there turn out to be just as clueless as the two tieflings I just mauled, I'll be able to bear-slap them to death without so much as a counter-attack! I'll kill everything in this game without ever taking a scratch?

Or, not. Turns out these bandits are much less receptive to Several Bears walking up to them. Before I'm even close, initiative is rolled, proper combat begins, and the bandits begin leaping spryly around the ruins, firing toxic arrows and casting spells. I'm most concerned with the spellcaster who is not only on the other side of the ruins but perched way high up. As a party of Only Bears I have no ranged attacks at all and she's lighting up my furry butts with fireballs.

After an embarrassing start that includes several critically missed bear-slaps and two bears getting stuck in twisting vines, I finally kill most of the bandits, and by liberally bear-dashing and bear-jumping I manage to get three entire bears to surround the spellcaster who was so stupid she didn't simply run away from the crowd of bears. Then it's slapping time. 

Surrounded by bears"

As a bonus to winning a fight without losing even a single bear, I noticed there are crates littered around the ruins. While my bears can't open doors or pick up a short bow, I'm delighted to discover that they can move crates. I start dragging crates back down the road to Lae'zel's cage, wondering if I can stack them up high enough to do some bear damage to her prison. Sure enough, I'm able to leap up and deliver a mighty freedom slap.

Bears solving a problem"

Weirdly, rather than thanking the crowd of bears that freed her, Lae'zel immediately teleports to my ranger characters who are standing a couple hundred meters away so she can yell at them. Well, fine. She should be happy that the party limit is four, or I'd be respeccing her Gith ass into a ranger, making her summon a bear, and leaving her behind with everyone else.

I continue exploring the world, as bears. I eventually come across two men accosting an old woman on the road. Knowing this is D&D, I'm immediately suspicious—if you see two warriors confront a feeble old lady you can bet she's a witch or a demon or a dragon in disguise or something. I decide to put my bears into sneak mode and creep closer.

Sneaky bears"

I needn't have been so cautious. Like the tieflings, these people are absolutely unconcerned by Four Entire Bears slowly belly-crawling through the forest in their direction. Their argument continues until all my bears are standing inches away, watching. I eventually slap one of the dudes, instakilling him, and the woman vanishes in a poof of magic. Ha! I knew she was something besides just an old woman. The other dude immediately "succumbs to death" and I have no idea why. Point is, my bear party is absolutely crushing it.

I decide not to press my luck with the goblin village but head to a bridge I came across in my normal, non-bear-centric playthrough. Last time I visited this spot it contained a dragon, a bunch of angry Gith, a cutscene, and a collapsing bridge. Maybe if my characters aren't there the story sequence won't kick off, the bridge won't collapse, and I'll be able to cross it. Hell, maybe I'll be able to bear-slap a dragon to death without him even noticing!

Sadly for my lovely bears, none of that happens. As my fourth bear reaches the bridge, a bunch of NPCs teleport in front of them, the bridge vanishes, a cutscene begins, the bridge reappears, and the dragon destroys it. Then absolutely everyone starts killing my bears.

Four bears meet a dragon"

Weirdly, the dragon remains sitting there during the bear massacre though it doesn't attack and I'm unable to attack it. And I almost manage to get one of my bears to dash past it and to freedom. Alas, some jerk fires a crossbow bolt from yards away and slays the final bear. The scene goes dark and I'm staring at my four bearless rangers halfway standing motionless across the map.

Well, interesting to see that playing as bears still confuses the hell out of a modern RPG! And my bears didn't do too badly. We freed a companion using physics, killed a few people in unfair fights, and held our own against a bunch of bandits. The only thing stopping us is the occasional cutscene and the lack of opposable thumbs. Someday, somehow, I'll win an RPG by playing as bears.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)
Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.