When Larian revealed that beloved characters like Minsc and Jaheira would be making their way over to Baldur's Gate 3, I was elated. These are the companions I measured all future party members against, and the opportunity to travel with them once more, decades later, was too good to pass up. But once I'd met them, they hardly ever left my camp.
Naturally, expect some spoilers for Act 2 and 3—you have been warned!
When I was reintroduced to Jaheira, I was sure she was going to become a mainstay in my merry band of eccentric, tadpole-infested adventurers. The whole thing is handled very well, slowly bringing her back into the fold so that those uninitiated into the mysteries of the older games are given time to get to know her.
She's a central figure in Act 2, now in charge of the do-gooders known as the Harpers, who are protecting refugees from the magical darkness that's shrouded the land. The matriarch role fits her very well and feels like a natural progression for her character. In BG1 she started off as a stand-offish babysitter to the Bhaalspawn, before growing into a mentor and friend. 100 years later she's a bit wiser, and definitely more tired—she's been through a lot—but still feels like Jaheira.
In this guise, Jaheira slots nicely into the game. It's cute seeing companions simp for this legendary hero, and knowing that she's defeated both Sarevok and Irenicus makes her a beacon of hope during Baldur's Gate 3's most gloomy act. You'll get an opportunity to make her a temporary companion at two points near the act's climax, but after that she becomes a full-fledged party member. And that's when she started to outstay her welcome.
What's immediately weird about Jaheira as an addition to your party is the overlap with Halsin, an original character but another companion who won't join you until Act 2. Both of them are Druids, and neither of them have a tadpole in their noggin, reducing their connection to the main plot and stopping you from making them extra-powerful by feeding them any of the tadpoles you find on your adventure. With so many classes and subclasses, it's a bit wild that we get two companions who are so similar. Granted, you can make them into very different Druids, and thanks to Withers you can even change their class entirely, but if you like to stick to the canon class choices like I do, it means they are always going to be stepping on each other's toes.
Aside from a quest directly related to him in Act 2, I never brought Halsin along with me either. Baldur's Gate 3 is a story about people who have been abused by mind flayers, who are turning into monsters and still somehow find the time to save the world. The fear of becoming a monster, the trauma from being turned into a tool of the Grand Design—these are the things that unite the party, and make their adventure across the Sword Coast all the more momentous. This leaves characters like Jaheira and Halsin feeling like outsiders.
I did feel compelled to bring Jaheira along for one specific, sprawling quest: the hunt for Minsc, goofy human Ranger and the Baldur's Gate series' de facto mascot. See, while Minsc should have died of old age, if not in battle, by this point, he was actually transformed into a statue. But now he's free and gallivanting around Baldur's Gate 3. Learning that her old friend is free from his stone prison, and that she did nothing to save him, naturally makes Jaheira riddled with guilt, kicking off an adventure to reconnect with the hamster-loving Ranger.
This quest, I should add, is excellent, and involves breaking into a bank, a brutalised mimic, shapeshifters and one slightly annoying sewer puzzle. Poor Minsc has been tricked by followers of the Absolute, and it turns out that he too has a tadpole in his head, so of course he joins your crew once you free him of his delusions.
So many of my fondest memories of the old games involve this completely unhinged idiot. His constant shouting and battle cries; his love of Boo, the most powerful hamster in the cosmos; his unrelenting optimism in the face of impossible odds. But this time around we just didn't click at all. It doesn't help that he's a latecomer, joining your party after you've already found your favourites. And his whole vibe is just jarring when compared to the nuanced, tragic characters you've surrounded yourself with. Despite eliciting some initial chuckles, I quickly grew tired of his schtick.
He just feels entirely out of place, and this includes his role as a Ranger, which no longer makes sense now that Barbarians exist. Minsc is really a berserker, but at the time of his creation Ranger was the closest class that fit his personality. By Baldur's Gate 2, Barbarians were a thing, but being a direct continuation of the first game's story, Minsc fit perfectly into your party. But this is a brand new adventure, and there was no way I was going to swap out my real Barbarian, Karlach, one of the game's best companions, for this bald old man.
Minsc, then, really just serves as a reminder of how much both D&D and Baldur's Gate have changed. Baldur's Gate 3 is not a game that needs a comic relief character, because everyone else is more than capable of cracking jokes. In this multifaceted party, he just comes across as a one-trick pony. It's sad! I would have preferred Minsc to have stayed in the past, along with all my fond memories of him.
I find myself feeling the same way about some of the unplayable legacy characters, too. Volo and Elminster are big parts of the D&D canon, so I don't mind them cropping up—though Elminster in particular feels a bit wasted, essentially just serving as a messenger for Mystra a couple of times. I just don't really think they were required. Baldur's Gate 3 doesn't need to prove its D&D chops when everything about it feels so authentically D&D.
And then there's Viconia. A drow companion introduced in the original Baldur's Gate, Viconia's appearance in Baldur's Gate 3 is downright baffling, crammed inexplicably into Shadowheart's otherwise fantastic story. She's the Sharran Mother Superior now, for some reason, and after a swift introduction you'll either have to fight her or betray Shadowheart. Bringing Jaheira and Minsc along makes her return a bit more meaningful, but otherwise there's no real reason why an original character shouldn't have taken her place. Shadowheart's gripping story definitely did not need a throwback to prop it up, and it certainly didn't make its conclusion more impactful.
No doubt Minsc, Jaheira and Viconia had fans in Larian going to bat for them, and I completely understand the compulsion to include these nostalgic callbacks. Baldur's Gate 3 wouldn't exist without the older games, and few other RPGs have a legacy this important. But I prefer the more subtle threads of nostalgia that the studio has woven throughout the game, which harken back to the classic adventures without getting in the way of this new one. Baldur's Gate 3 is good enough to do its own thing, without classic characters serving as crutches.