I love this game, I’m working on my 3rd playthrough and have earned over 100 hours within it already; however, it is certainly “flawed” in that it probably won’t fit what most people want from it at first, but once you accept what it’s not it becomes much more enjoyable. I think the beta period for the players “hardcore” enough to buy it was super smart so the community can adjust their expectations. Plus, generally Larian is super good about receiving and implementing feedback.
All that being said it is probably a disservice to call this game Baldur’s Gate 3. Should have just been a licensed game – Baldur’s Gate: Journey to the Hells or somesuch. The playstyle of the game will just immediately disappoint anyone who hoped for a natural continuation of the first 2 games. To be fair – those people would probably be disappointed by any 3D Baldur’s Gate. Additionally, while they are making an admirable effort to convert as many races/classes/rules that they can – there will always be complaints from DnD purists who miss their favorite combination of spells/features/etc.
The D:OS bones were incredibly clear the first few beta versions and many will be pleased that Larian has backed off quite a bit on the worst elements. For better or worse there are still a few D:OS systems that Larian just can’t get over. A few that still irk me:
Their inventory system is still bloated and messy. You’ll be picking up a lot of bullshit notes/keys/food items/potions/spells/pitchforks/random items that I just don’t know will randomly be functional at some point or be used in a random event.
I agree with everyone who preferred a 6 person squad vs 4 person, but D:OS was built for 4 player squad so 4 we will get.**
Larian loves to litter their world with little items all over the place to clutter up the screen. Good luck trying to select the pouch on the table amongst all the plates and silverware. Almost every barrel, box, and bookcase is searchable – and yet the alt key doesn’t highlight every item that is searchable. I hate it. You have to hunt and search with your cursor and you really do have to search every container in the game, because Larian will drop a magical item in a barrel by the side of the road. They will have a basement larder with 50 containers – 30 of which will be empty, 29 will have food stuffs, but the 50th will be full of jewelry or spell items. They will have a special book on a random bookcase, in a random burnt down house, in a particular burnt out village in which if you have a certain companion in your group they will have a special cutscene/reaction in which (after a roll) you may be able to discover more of their history. You can walk into rooms filled with bookshelves and have to search each one – many of which have those filler 1 or 2 page books that you’ve seen 100 times – but you have to cursor over each one (and to be truly safe you should go ahead and open each one) to make sure it doesn’t trigger an event now.
The interactivity of the environment is a blessing/curse, because you aren’t really used to it in “true” DnD games while it was a selling point to the D:OS games. If you get an enemy wet first you can do bonus damage with ice and lightning. Acid flasks and spells will leave pools on the ground which reduce your ac. It was way too prolific in the early beta, and they have had to reel it in because it was obnoxious, but it is still there to some degree.
It very much still is a game in which D:OS and Baldur’s Gate had a baby – and that’s ok! If you are prepared to accept that.
**I will say that after playing through Act 1 three times now – you can play functionally with just about any combination of the companions. Shadowheart (cleric) is a trickery-based cleric, and is handy at thievery, paladins and druids are suitable healers in a pinch, both Astarion and Lae’zel can specialize into offensive mage spells if wanted. Only Wyll (warlock) I’ve found to be underwhelming so far. There are many lockpicks and trap tools which add to related rolls– not to mention bashing down doors, using barrels or other tools to trigger traps, etc. I’ve played through as a 2 cleric squad, a berserker without a fighter, and a paladin without a cleric and a mage. So far, I have not met an event I can’t handle because I didn’t have a pure class filling the role. Larian has done a great job making sure that any significant events or quests have multiple solutions. By the end of Act 1 it is certainly possible to roll certain checks in the mid 20’s. Additionally, Larian has provided many tools early on that you can cast many of the support spells via various items. Speak with Dead, Speak with Animals, Conjure Water, etc. - you will not need someone dedicated to casting these spells pretty early on. I think Larian is designing the game to be very flexible. Lastly, the full rest feature can and should be absolutely abused (more on that later). You can full rest without penalty at pretty much any time. You can full rest in dungeons and pop back in exactly where you left off – there are no random encounters, etc. I don’t necessarily think this is good, but it gets you back to playing the game and having fun much quicker.
The difficulty may change in later acts, but there are only a few capstone fights in Act 1 that are a true challenge in which you have to prepare. This is the first BG game that is functionally 5e, so it isn’t like you are going to be stacking many buffs.
While it isn’t truly known – the fans are hoping that every race and every class will have a companion character. I think race is out of the running at this point, but it is still possible for them to include every class. The initial 5 are: Shadowheart (Evil leaning cleric), Astarion (Evil leaning rogue), Lae’zel (Evil leaning fighter), Gale (good/neutral(?) leaning wizard), and Wyll (good/neutral(?) leaning warlock). I believe all of these starter companions can be selected as the PC at release. The fanbase have a lot of assumptions about the other companions.
Undisclosed but Assumed Future Companion/Class Spoilers:
In Act 1 you meet various important NPCs which are currently assumed to be companions in later Acts.
Karlach: Tiefling Berserker – Almost Certain
Halsin: Elf Druid – Fan favorite mostly because people want to bang him.
Minthara: Drow Paladin – Secret Romance for Evil Playthrough
There are other assumptions based off of data-mining, but pure speculation at this point.
BG1/BG2 Potential Crossover Spoilers:
Larian has announced that the following companions from previous games are:
Minsc: Human Ranger
Jaheira: Half-Elf Druid or Druid/Fighter - this complicates the potential Halsin-Druid assumption above, additionally there are no other multiclass companions that we know of.
There are also some exciting assumptions on a few others, but again speculation.
So for those who don’t want to duplicate classes – so far – that leaves Sorcerer, Bard, and Monk remaining. I’m not convinced about the speculation around the paladin yet, and I doubt Artificer will be a thing.
Like Balasarius said earlier, at first many of the initial companions are hard to like at first. Larian is setting this up as a bunch of reluctant survivors using each other to stay alive. However, once you gain some relationship status with them and dig into their stories they (for the most part) open up quite a bit, some even become likeable/charming, or at the very least more complex. The problem is that some of the companions are much easier to hit that first relationship threshold than others, so you might be carrying a few of them around for a while before you hit the right combination of events to push them over the line and open up. The ones that rub you the wrong way can be a bit insufferable until then. Lae’zel is laughably evil and most of her character development in Act 1 is locked behind an invisible barrier. What’s interesting is that due to many of the companions having hard good/evil alignments you can easily push out or kill a companion that isn’t going to work for your team. I guess that is similar to BG1 and 2, but you generally had a lot more options in those games. On a first playthrough (and without looking up the answers) I expect that it will be very easy to miss out on developing half of your squad because you aren’t able to get them over the first relationship bump. In my experience, after you hit the first threshold it is much easier to raise their relationship score, because they are generally more open to talk about their needs. Based off of Act 1, I’m very excited to see where things go with these characters in later acts. While I don’t know this for a fact – there are strong indicators that the various evil folks can be convinced to work for a good aligned character and while not necessarily “converting them” they can certainly be less evil. I’m thinking that there may be opportuntiies to corrupt the good guys as well.
Spoilers/Speculation on Larians change to the original companions:
Originally, Larian had planned to kill off any of the companions that you didn’t bond well enough with after ACT 1 (similar to D:OS2)– so it was probably originally designed that you couldn’t bond well enough with everyone to get them all to survive. However, it looks like due to player feedback Larian may be backing off that.
One of the frustrating bits is that, currently, it is very easy to miss key events if you are not full resting often. There are a lot of triggers in this game, and you often don’t get character development until you full rest at camp (sometimes it will happen in the field, but the “set pieces” are most often at camp). The problem is that you usually only get one event per rest and you get many more events than the need to rest. If you go for long periods without resting then there are opportunities for certain events to overwrite or appear out of order. This has been a problem since the first beta and still a problem 2 years later. For instance, getting your relationship to progress appropriately with Gale is a huge problem, because you have to see certain events in a certain order for the appropriate flags to generate. It is very easy to generate a ton of relationship points with him early on in a certain area, and if you don’t force sleep repeatedly you can easily miss one of his scenes, and screw up the whole relationship. On my 3rd playthrough I beeline through certain areas and bypass the “normal” expected progression route and I’ve had cutscenes showing out of order. What’s worse is that the game truly emphasizes that “time is of the essence” which discourages sleeping and wasting time. Just know that time doesn’t matter and sleep often – there are no penalties and it’s the only way to get all the background stuff to play right in my experience. I hope this is better at release, but there are so many permutations and Larian still doesn’t have this consistently fixed in beta after 2 years, not to speak of later acts that have not been playtested.