Oh sorry, didn’t see you there, we were just checking our calendar – it is 2020, right?

We needed to make sure because we’ve just seen Baldur’s Gate III get its full gameplay reveal and are suffering from serious flashbacks to the ‘90s. When Larian Studios – the team behind Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel – revealed they would be producing the continuation of the Baldur’s Gate franchise, we were met with both joy and nervous anticipation. Larian can certainly produce a stellar CRPG, but just how different would they manage to make this entry?

We’ve watched all the new gameplay footage from the PAX East reveal way too many times, and we’re ready to break down how Larian Studios is differentiating Baldur’s Gate III from the Divinity series to create a true Dungeons & Dragons experience.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dice

At first glance, concerns over similarities might seem fairly well founded. Visually. Baldur’s Gate III doesn’t look too far from Divinity. The real-time combat of the original games is also gone, replaced by a turn-based system the studio is known for. However, don’t let that fool you. This is a D&D game at its core, and as the opening trailer showed, dragons and dungeons will most certainly be making appearances, and far more importantly, so do the dice.

The main way the pen-and-paper origins of Baldur’s Gate are realized in-game is through D20 dice rolls that occur upon skill checks made by your party. In combat or while exploring, you’ll see these occur in real-time, with a dice icon flashing up before you’re informed of success or failure. While wandering the world, these passive checks can be for anything from staying upright on difficult terrain, to spotting a secret doorway hidden among vines.

For more crucial dialogue options such as trying to lie or persuade an NPC, you’ll need to toss the dice yourself, letting you see exactly what you need to pass before you inevitably roll another critical failure.

Just like Dungeons & Dragons itself, each of these checks are based on your characters’ ability scores, as well as their bonuses in a wide range of skills. Perception may be crucial for spotting hidden traps in a dungeon, for example, but survival will let you recall lore and information about the local plants and animals. This makes it so how you build each character and the overall makeup of your party will determine your path through the world.

Control the Battlefield
The Divinity: Original Sin games made more than just a splash in the RPG scene; they changed the tide of combat altogether by adding pools of blood, clouds of gas, and pockets of electricity and other elements about the battlefield. It was fun, but Baldur’s Gate III aims to bring a much greater sense of physics and physicality to fights. You’ll still be able to exploit the elements with magic, and even have the option of dipping weapons and arrows into nearby fires or other elements you come across. Every character also has access to a general set of physical abilities as well, including throwing items and equipment (and even enemies if strong enough), shoving foes back and off ledges, or picking up those in need of help.

Stealth, too, is different. As in D&D, how well hidden you are depends on your surroundings, most importantly the lighting. Lurking in the shadows will mean you have a chance to remain undiscovered, even when enemy vision cones pass by. And to help you find those openings, you can now even enter turn-based timing while outside of combat to help you maneuver into combat position before the fight even starts. By enabling turn-based mode outside combat you get six free seconds of actions, before waiting for the world to respond in kind. Suddenly, playing a sneaky rogue sounds an awful lot more appealing.

Combine all of that with the new “jump” power, which lets you scale gaps or traverse rooftops, and suddenly controlling the battlefield – and the high ground – becomes crucially important. Every character on one side of the fight will also take all their turns at the same time. That means that if you successfully get the drop on a foe, your entire party can strike as one. This is a lovely change from a cooperative perspective, as all players won’t have to wait in a queue for their turn. Taking advantage of your surroundings therefore allows fights to end much more quickly in Baldur’s Gate III, provided of course that you’re smart enough to leverage the tools and areas around you.

A Touch of Class

Much like Divinity: Original Sin II, you’ll open Baldur’s Gate III by choosing between creating a custom character, or picking from one of several “Origin” stories (the remaining of which will fill out your companion roster). There’s a deep pool of D&D races to choose from, including Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Tiefling, Githyanki, and Half-Drow, with Larian CEO Swen Vincke promising even more for the full release. 

At this time you’ll also choose your character’s class. This is a big decision, as it’ll lock you in and determine all of the abilities available to you as you progress through the entirety of the story. The good news is that with so many races and origins, as well as pathways you could easily miss through unfortunate skill check failures, Baldur’s Gate III is sure to offer up plenty of replayability.

Movie Magic

Moving on to class of another kind, Baldur’s Gate III will feature motion-captured cutscenes to really bring its cast to life. Larian Studios picked up several ex-Telltale Games developers following the company’s closure, specifically those with experience working on cinematics. This has allowed Larian to get more up close and personal in cutscenes than they ever have before, with characters gesticulating, interacting, and generally just moving around an awful lot more. According to Larian themselves, Baldur’s Gate III is very much a triple-A game in both budget and the team behind it, and we expect this to show in the performances throughout the game.

So while the influences of Larian’s previous work are certainly there, Baldur’s Gate III is very much its own thing, incorporating the world and systems of Dungeons & Dragons while building on the experience and foundations of the studio. In short? We couldn’t be more excited to give it a try. What about you?