Sometimes the best skill you get in an RPG doesn't come until you're near max level and have ascended to godhood, casting Ultima or Summon Meteor or some other megasplosion of fire and fury. Sometimes the best skill is the one you start with at level one. In Divinity: Original Sin 2, that skill was Chicken Claw, and I'm desperate to know if Baldur's Gate 3 will have an equivalent.
I played 104 hours of Divinity: Original Sin 2 as a polymorph warrior with a literal demon inside me, and my default role in combat was as a buffed-up damage sponge. The polymorph class is all about modifying your body in strange ways, and I routinely used my starter skills Tentacle Lash and Bull Rush to briefly take on the strength of an octopus or a bull to slap or ram enemies. Those were just setup for the polymorph's best skill, though, the one that remained just as powerful at level 20 as it was at level one. Chicken Claw turns any enemy without physical armor into a defenseless, skillless chicken for a whole round. Absolutely fowl.
Chicken Claw was a great equalizer, a way to take powerful enemies out of action while I caught my breath or let the team pile on damage during their weakened state. It was also just consistently funny. Archer who pissed you off? Chicken now. Giant, scary crocodile? Chickenified. Final boss? No immunity—chickened.
Chicken Claw got even better with a friendly scoundrel in the party, because you could cast Rupture Tendons which did damage anytime an enemy moved, and anyone turned into a chicken would run around uncontrollably. We'd laugh all the way to the win. This strategy was incredibly popular back in 2017.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 was full of great writing and clever quests, but it was also goofy as hell, a mix I hope Larian is able to preserve in Baldur's Gate 3. There's literally a quest in that game called Counting Your Chickens that features a hen you can speak with named Big Marge. It also culminates in a brutal fight against a whole army of demonic chicks, making it the rare quest that is both laughing with you and then laughing at you. Original Sin 2 always loved turning the tables on you.
Given Baldur's Gate 3's viral Druid bear sex scene that includes an observing squirrel doing a spit take, Larian's writers clearly still have their sense of humor. But how much of that silliness can manifest in combat? And more specifically: Can I turn my enemies into chickens? Mice? Rocks? I'm game for any sort of attack with a result I can point-and-Nelson-laugh at.
My experience with Dungeons & Dragons podcasts tells me that all manner of silliness should be possible at all times, but Larian doesn't have quite the same flexibility as a few people sitting around microphones trying to make each other laugh. PC Gamer's Baldur's Gate diehard Ted Litchfield tells me D&D is "a little bit more buttoned up" than Divinity's sillier Rivellon, though there is still some potential for shenanigans.
But there is hope: the polymorph skill exists in Dungeons & Dragons, and was even in the original Baldur's Gate games. Back then, BioWare decided to split the spell into Polymorph Other and Polymorph Self, which was a wise distinction—you really don't want to accidentally turn yourself into a chicken in the heat of battle, right? At least one CRPG blogger thinks very highly of ol' Polymorph Self:
"Example of usage: Cast Web, shift into a sword spider, and then crawl into the web and tear the immobilized victims new assholes. Rank: Top-tier."
They considered Polymorph Other, on the other hand, "God-tier," because it turned enemies into squirrels. Now that's what I'm talking about. It's somehow still a little less embarrassing than chickens, though; perhaps that explains why in this decade-old forum thread about Baldur's gate 2: Enhanced Edition, a few posters agree you should be able to turn enemies into chickens, too. It's not just me!
But back on point: is polymorph in Baldur's Gate 3? And if so, what animal(s) does it allow you to turn yourself and others into? If it's still squirrels, that potentially adds a whole new layers to that Druid bear sex scene…
Polymorph isn't among the spells available in early access, but Larian has said there are "over 600 spells and actions" in Baldur's Gate 3, which leaves a lot of room for a little animal mischief. If it's not an option, I really don't know how I'll be able to properly goof off.
From what we've seen so far, barbarians may end up having the most fun in combat thanks to their Improvised Weapon skill, which lets them throw whatever's lying around in the environment into someone's face, or use smaller enemies like goblins as unwilling projectiles. If someone mods in a bowling pins sound effect, I'm all aboard. Bards have a skill called Cutting Words that triggers actual voice recorded insults, which is indeed silly but not the kind of silly I'm looking for. I don't really want to do stand up comedy in the middle of combat—I want poultry power.
Absent this particular power fantasy, I'm excited to see the most broken builds and exploits that come out of Baldur's Gate 3 once the full game is available. Rise, ye plucky polymorphs, ye bodacious barrelmancers, and prove the no-holds-barred spirit of Divinity is still at the heart of Larian's most cinematic RPG yet.