If this is how you feel, I would ask you to look at this from another perspective: with no conclusion, There are no consequences. And without consequences you can discover and discover new things beyond your personal comfort zone without “ruining” your ideal play through. That’s how I tackled my first outing with Baldur’s Gate 3 and the results were excellent.
I’m usually a legitimately good (if naughty) adventurer, but everything has changed for this outing. With zero context (to preserve the game’s story), here are a few things I did thanks to my decision to throw caution to the wind: I underwent an Ametuer lobotomy. I made a monster kill its friends and then eat itself. I catapulted an innocent gnome over the horizon with a windmill. I helped an army of goblins besiege and attack some people who definitely didn’t deserve it. And in my worst crime, I undoubtedly killed a dog.
Had I played this character the way I normally do my role-playing games, I would not have seen any of it or the consequences of those actions. The odds apply to you too: on a promotional livestream in August, Baldur’s Gate 3 senior writer Adam Smith noted that statistics show that most gamers make good, heroic choices. This perspective is also supported by a study published at GDC 2015. Microsoft’s Amanda Lange said her research showed that 60% of gamers choose good routes, with only 5% making all bad decisions.
But Smith encouraged players to go an evil way through the game. “Some of my favorite situations and characters in this game that you might not even speak to unless you try these wicked ways,” he said. This piqued my curiosity as I usually find the evil side of role-playing games to be rather undervalued. Even in BioWare’s peak years, “bad” routes often boil down to playing identical missions but choosing to shoot someone in the face rather than release them. So what exactly does a bad play through of Baldur’s first act 3 look like? It’s an experiment that not only revealed the depths of the game’s ramified narrative, but also some of the most interesting quirks of its simulation-driven world – some that will no doubt come in handy during my “proper” playthrough of its fully released version.
Being angry is less a decision made at a crucial moment than a lifestyle.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, evil is less a decision made at a crucial moment than a lifestyle. This means that your decisions will not determine the outcome of a quest, but rather the structure of the quest itself. For example, if you choose a more heroic personality, the army of goblins mentioned above will certainly not be your allies, and so will the overall goal this quest chain has been completely changed. Not just this series of quests, but also neighboring ones (you have to work through very different quests and locations to become part of the goblins’ plans). This leads to a significant shift in the narrative; Characters you may never have met on a good path become vital allies, while traditionally important NPCs become corpses at the end of your blade. It’s an advancement in the school of thought fueling something like the cross-branch gameplay of Fallout: New Vegas, and a demonstration of a narrative that is malleable enough to adapt to your intentions rather than making multiple binary decisions.
While this early access is limited to the prologue and first area of the game only – relieving you of the long-term consequences of playing an Agent of Chaos – here are plenty of examples of the more immediate effects of Baldur’s Gate 3 At Telltale Play, your companions react with approval or dislike to your own decisions. My evil actions were just too much for a character and they pulled straight out of my group. This made me a fighter, and thanks to the experimental brain surgery mentioned earlier, my character also had a permanent combat disadvantage that further reduced my group’s combat effectiveness. Both are mistakes that I won’t make in my playthrough at release, not only because I now know the consequences, but because without the freedom to be negligent through that lack of consistency, I wouldn’t have dared move the game forward anyway so far. I’m very glad that these actions were played here as they represent some of the most memorable moments of Act 1.
These are examples of the grander, scripted elements of Baldur’s Gate 3’s chaos, but my quest to hit all the buttons has shown that the simulation that powers the world is insanely fun to play with. Faerûn works more like an isometric Dishonored than like the static worlds of a BioWare RPG. For example, instead of approaching an adventurous couple, I used a sorcerer’s spell to detonate a stone floating above them, the fall of which not only forced the couple to leave this mortal spiral but also caused the ground beneath them to collapse and provide access a dungeon that I couldn’t unlock before. It is clear that there is an advantage in being the opposite of being polite to people you meet along the way.
Down in that dungeon, I decided to ignore the traditional advice to show respect for the dead as well, and to use the newly created corpses as fleshy spears. Yes, you can literally throw anything in the world – provided that’s your strength – and that includes bodies. It includes your own party members as well, and since that damn playthrough meant I cared little about my companions’ opinions of myself, I experimented with them as meaty projectiles (Result: minimal damage but a very practical tactic for flanking enemies, and it won’t affect your relationships).
All of this is of course possible in the classic “second play through”; The mythical pure evil run that I’m never quite sure how people will find the time to complete. So why now in an incomplete version and not later? Well, firstly, if you’re anything like me, all you need to do is feel guilty for 20 hours instead of 100. More importantly, the tool in this version of the game, regardless of the end results, taught me a lot more about its systems, narrative construction, and possibilities than it could ever play “by the book”. The second time I played Dishonored, I realized that there was so much in the reactive world that I completely ignored it the first time around because I strictly followed the rules of hiding in the shadows and avoiding guards. I want my first real playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3 to get the most out of everything it has to offer. And when I blow up the D&D chemistry kit now, I know how best to use it when it’s fully released. You may also benefit from this knowledge.
And for all my guilt when I play against my better nature, I can’t deny the joy of hurling a gnome over the horizon with a windmill. Sometimes it pays to let go every now and then.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK news and entertainment writer. His D&D character on the table is an occult detective from Aarakocra who would never murder a dog.
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