There's no doubt in my mind that Baldur's Gate 3 will have its own legacy, especially as we've just awarded it an extremely rare 97% in our review. But it's also part of an existing lineage as the third game in a BioWare series dear to many longtime PC gamers. Baldur's Gate 3's lead writer Adam Smith tells us today during the PC Gamer Chat Log podcast that Larian never lost sight of the long shadow it was stepping into.
"It's easy to forget because the game's out there now, but when we first started working on [Baldur's Gate 3], it was 'shoulders of giants' stuff. [Baldur's Gate] was such a big shadow," Smith says. "We were like, 'Do we ever look okay in this shadow?' There was anxiety about it."
Smith repeats an appraisal he often heard during Baldur's Gate 3's early access: "It's Divinity: Original Sin 3, not really Baldur's Gate 3." It's not a totally unfounded assessment. Larian's Divinity: Original Sin 2, also one of the best RPGs in recent years, was a bit bright and silly, and everything was constantly on fire, and Baldur's Gate 3 does carry some of that Larian vibe.
It is, however, markedly darker and full of body horror. There are still occasions of 'everything is fire,' but fewer, anyway. Baldur's Gate 3 is not just "Divinity: Original Sin 3" wearing Forgotten Realms' hand-me-down robes. It came from a lot of fondness for the original games. Smith says his own first RPG love was Ultima 7, followed by Baldur's Gate, and then BG2, which superseded the rest.
"We were like, 'No, we love Baldur's Gate. We want to make Baldur's Gate 3.' And there was a reason for that, because so many of us did [grow] up with it."
Smith cites Jaheira, a druid party member in the original Baldur's Gate games, as the most important character to him personally. He had always wanted her to make it into Baldur's Gate 3, not just for the sake of passing the torch to new heroes, but to reflect on her past experiences with loss, grief, and what it means to return after more than 100 years.
"It means a lot whenever I see anybody who was even vaguely associated with the original games being pleased because we owe them a huge debt and we hope we did them proud," Smith says. "If in 20 years' time somebody picks up our characters and does something with them, it will be amazing. It does feel like a wonderful thing to have them live that long."
I can't speak for the original Baldur's Gate developers, but the RPG players at PC Gamer have been impressed: Fraser awarded Baldur's Gate 3 our highest review score in 16 years, an indication that it'll be part of our conversations for years to come.