Starting a new thread for this instead of bumping one or all three for each of the games, but recently someone asked me about these three games and my thoughts on them so far (based on the current access builds), so I wrote something having put a dozen hours into the current build of each (and recently at that), and I suspect if any one of these games is on someone’s radar, all three of them will be (or should be). So, here are my current thoughts on each, as they relate to each other (generally), and I’d be interested in hearing other takes from those that have also played one or more of these early access games.
Elevation and sight lines play a critical part in Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3
Gameplay (including D&D Mechanics and Implementation): 6
Story (and Storytelling): 8
Audio Design (including voice work): 9
Baldur’s Gate 3, right now, feels tiresome to play, a little bit. Some of that is how they implement the D&D stuff in the Divinity engine. For example, when you want to use the dash (double move) action, you don’t simply “move a second time” or even “click the dash button” but rather click Dash, your character is now glowing like he’s about to use an ability or a spell that…has to be aimed?, but it’s just Dash, and then you click (anywhere? On my character?) and with a burst of animation, your character can now… move twice. It’s too many clicks, it’s annoying. A lot of the game is wearying like that, where things just take too many clicks to do simple things. It’s got a lot of the Divinity underpinnings yet, and while those work (okay to well) in their game (usually), they are less fitting here, where it feels off on certain actions. I mean, if you are going to cast an Acid Arrow, click, target, click just like you’d expect - but in true Divinity style your mage has a glowing acid animated circle swirling around him while you aim, and while it’s neat it feels like Original Sin in a way that makes BG3 feel LESS like D&D in some way I can’t articualte. It’s still very early though, of course, but that’s not the only issue - I’m often confused about how something works or why something is the way it is, with little information provided. As an example, I recently had a character fire his shortbow at a goblin. He had a 30% chance to hit, which is very low, despite the fact he’s got a solid +2 from Dexterity, it’s full daylight out, I was on high ground and the goblin hadn’t even acted yet in the combat (some of this I don’t know if it has any bearing in these rules). I attacked, and the combat log showed I had disadvantage on the attack (take two d20’s and accept the worst result). Why? No idea, no information provided, that’s just the way it is. Contrasting with Solasta, when you hover your attack cursor over a target, you’ll see all attack modifiers (including if the target is in lighting that is too dark for your attacking character). Bug? Hard to say. But aside from that, another issue I have is how they are tackling the D&D 5th edition rules - this bothered me less until I played Solasta and those guys nailed it, but for one example they made Jump a BONUS action, meaning you can jump and move every turn. It makes the battles look silly - there is no reason NOT to jump (because it won’t take a move or a regular attack/spell action) each turn, to get into a better position. Again, let me contrast this with Soalsta in that game, jump isn’t an action, you just do it automatically as you need based on the destination, and if an athletics check is required, the game rolls it for you and if you fail you fall flat on your face. Also, if you want to disengage without getting smacked in Solasta, it’s going to take a full action to disengage and move, unless you are a Rogue. Worse, in some ways, characters are making crazy jumps that the most accomplished of athletes couldn’t do. Maybe there is a little less gravity in Fearun? It’s crazy and kind of dumb. But the game is gorgeous, it’s telling a really compelling story in a classic D&D style (one that is very unique at least to me), and the audio and voice work is excellent so far, even in early access. It’s very early yet (I bet BG3 is not coming this year, honestly) but for right now, that’s where we stand with BG3.
A party prepares to begin a grand adventure.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Gameplay (including D&D Mechanics and Implementation): 7.5
Story (and Storytelling): 9
Audio Design (including voice work): 7
So far the only problem Wrath of the Righteous has is being saddled with 3rd edition D&D rules (well, the Pathfinder version, which is super similar), in that having experienced what 5th edition does (with regards to concepts I fell in love with such as Reactions, or how the numbers are kept down to a dull roar, or the concept of ritual spells and attunement, how certain spells and abilities are implemented, that sort of thing). I still love Pathfinder, don’t get me wrong, but this score would have been higher last year for me. However, the fact they implemented a turn-based mode natively is a huge feather in the ol’ cap, and I will likely score this higher one beta 2 drops in a few weeks and we get to see what improvements they’ve made on that front. The story is top notch from what what little I’ve allowed myself to see, with very cool cutscenes and moments that are a little undercut by unfinished or missing cutscenes. But there are a few in-engine moments with the camera spinning around and showing off a scene or telling a story that really hit well, so I suspect once things are completed we’re in for a treat, story telling wise. Great characters as well, I really like the companion characters that I’ve encountered - and there are many of them, and many more I’ve never even seen as I’ve yet to get out of chapter 1 (intentionally). The visuals would score higher but some of the art is missing and while that may not feel fair, given it’s only in early beta, I said at the top these are my thoughts on the game as it stands so far. I do really like the new UI and some things have new icons (such as weapons and items in inventory) that look great, I think. Once beta 2 drops, I’m hoping that score nudges up yet more and then more again as we near release. And again, these scores are in comparison to each other, so BG3 kind of pushes the other two games scores down in the visuals department, looking as it does, especially with regards to character models and UI. Audio design is in a similar boat - but 7 is a good score, don’t get me wrong, it’s serviceable, just not memorable like some of what I’m hearing in BG3. I’m hoping for more info Beta 2 in the coming week or maybe next, and when that drops I’ll make an updated look video.
A Spellblade casts a potent spell on unsuspecting foes
Solasta: Crown of the Magister
Gameplay (including D&D Mechanics and Implementation): 9.5
Story (and Storytelling): 6
Audio Design (including voice work): 7
Solasta, which will be the first of the three to leave Early Access, is also the one I think I enjoyed the most (which might give you an idea of how important Gameplay is vs. Story/Visuals/Sound for me, personally). In its early access, it still felt polished and smooth, very enjoyable to play (I only encountered a single bug in my most recent game, which was 17 hours of gameplay). To touch on the gameplay, it’s just about perfect. Enemies that seem to know how to play, and a good bit of variety in them as well. Camping along the path to a dangerous dungeon, how they implemented crafting (done over time as you travel and rest), how they implemented the D&D 5th edition stuff I came to fall in love with from playing this very game, how each spell seems like a treat to have access to, even spells I would have considered silly in other games are really satisfying here, and (in a twist not seen at all in Pathfinder but a little bit in BG3), not every spell is a combat spell. Some spells help you traverse the area, eavesdrop on creatures whose language you don’t speak, or prevent falling from a great height suddenly (such as when an enemy mage dispels your wizards fly spell). Also, the fly spell. Also, the concept of languages your characters know even matters. These guys GET IT. They get how to translate pen and paper D&D to a video game format and I had so much fun playing their game that I played it until I couldn’t play it no more, something I promised myself I wouldn’t do, and I’m STILL beyond excited to play it some more. I can’t score this a perfect - this is a small team that couldn’t implement everything, and there are only six classes and eight races to select from at launch, with (very soon, maybe even the day of) a 7th Sorcerer class coming. I’m sure I was frustrated at some point while I played, nothing is perfect, so I scaled back to a 9.5 on this catagory - but in my head this is the most fun I had all year playing a video game so far. The story is fine, actually I gave the story a bit of a bump in the score as it does have some moments of interest and I like the world they have built here, and the story that ties into its ancient past, and it could potentially go somewhere even more interesting, so the score here could raise once the full game is available. Which is also of course true for audio and visuals. Actually, the visual design in this game is clean, easy to read and really engaging in the way it’s presented - in that way it succeeds more than BG3 with it’s busy looking levels and hard to read landscapes and maps. The number of times I’ve had to hunt with my cursor in BG3 for something to loot, like a chest or a desk freaking drawer is approaching 10,000 while Solasta that number is 0. No hunting, everything lootable can be highlighted with the tap of a button, and there isn’t a ton of things to interact with - just that each thing is meaningful (contrasting with BG3 how you can walk into a room with dozens of lootable containers and almost all will be empty, but by god you’ll still check them all the next time you come into a similar room again anyway, just in case). The levels look good, the maps are well and interestingly made (tactically interesting as well, with great use of verticality and even walls when fighting something like huge spiders), the characters, spells and abilities, animations all look very good when viewed from the normal gameplay camera angle, which is of course all that matters. And some of the models look genuinely good! But some models look not great, not bad but low budget for sure, and it shows in the way the game provides the cut scenes - it does an admirable job, so do the voice actors, but it’s nothing special and it’s not why you play Solasta. That said, I’m hoping some of those moments got some polish for the full version, but even if they didn’t, it’s not a big deal.