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Larian’s Next Big Move: What the Future Could Hold for Baldur’s Gate 3

It has been a long, quiet waiting period for supporters of Baldur’s Gate 3’s early access, but project director and all around conduit of positivity Swen Vincke has finally brought nourishment to his hungry flock.

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It has been a long, quiet waiting period for supporters of Baldur’s Gate 3’s early access, but project director and all-around conduit of positivity Swen Vincke has finally brought nourishment to his hungry flock. We’re almost 5 months removed from Larian’s last major update, which brought a host of mechanical changes as well as the highly touted Druid class. While Larian has been largely silent since the Druid’s release, Swen assures us that “if we’re quiet, it means we’re working.” Larian’s previous critical darling Divinity: Original Sin 2 saw a similar development process through early access; long waits between larger updates seem to be Larian’s style. In an interview with GameSpot shortly after this year’s E3, Swen promised fans that the next big update is “just around the corner.” In addition, Larian has just recently announced their “Panel From Hell III” for July 8th, which will serve as their traditionally cheeky gameplay reveal for the upcoming patch.

What’s in store for Baldur’s Gate 3 fans is anyone’s guess at this point, but the community has been plenty vocal about changes and issues they’d like to see addressed. Larian has made it clear that there will be no new content in terms of quests or story progression (just like Divinity: Original Sin 2, early access will only ever be Act 1), but they have discussed a wide array of mechanical changes inspired by community feedback. Swen Vincke described the upcoming patch as “being more about features than content”, so players can expect major changes to the familiar forests and swamps of Act 1. With such potential on the horizon, how could we pass up the opportunity to partake in some (mostly) baseless speculation? Larian has been tight-lipped so far as to the new features they’re introducing, but we’ll take a swing anyway at what we hope makes the cut this time around.

You must gather your party before venturing forth…


Reactions

Baldur's Gate 3
Photo courtesy of Eurogamer

Without a doubt, the community at large seems to be rallied around at least one feature that’s long overdue: the implementation of a reaction system. Now, you’ll have to bear with me for a moment, as my knowledge of the tabletop D&D ruleset is dubious at best. If something isn’t quite accurate to the rulebook, that’s me with the stupid grin on my face at the bottom of this article for you to point and laugh at. In tabletop, characters have the ability to “react” to certain situations, which allows them to take an action as a result of a criteria being met, occasionally regardless of whether or not it is their turn. 

This system plays a big part in most rulesets as it allows for all kinds of special actions from buffing attacks to raising defenses if an enemy’s attack connects. Given that these can activate independent of turn order, Larian has been ruminating on a way to implement these reactions without breaking game flow. They’ve been hesitant about implementing any solution that might pause the game, but the recent D&D-inspired indie darling Solasta: Crown of the Magister has shown that such a system can work perfectly well while maintaining the wider function that reactions serve the overall ruleset. 

Take Solasta’s Wizard class, for example. In combat, they have the ability to shield an enemy attack if said enemy scores a hit. Before the attack lands, a window opens, providing the Wizard and opportunity to use a spell cast to block the swing. They have the option to either cast their shield spell or conserve the resources and tank the hit. A momentary pause in gameplay, sure, but in a methodical turn-based combat system, it can hardly be said to “break the flow” of gameplay. The more Larian brainstorms on how best to implement reactions properly, the more likely they are to overthink what could very well be a simple solution. Larian’s commitment to innovation is admirable, but sometimes the simple approach is the best one; not every mechanic has to reinvent the wheel.


Playable Origin Characters

Photo courtesy of PC Gamer

**This section contains mild character-specific story spoilers for Wyll and Astarion in Baldur’s Gate 3, as well as general spoilers for Divinity: Original Sin 2**

When it comes to storytelling, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is at its strongest when the player decides to play as one of the preset “origin characters” Larian provides. They have fleshed out backstories that place them firmly in the world as opposed to a fully custom character with a more ambiguous and detached backstory. These Origin characters have all kinds of relationships with people we meet throughout the game, they have character-specific interactions, and they can sometimes alter substantial chunks of the narrative given their unique connection to the overarching plot (looking at you, Fane). It’s the sort of interwoven interactivity that’s hard to accomplish with a completely custom “tabula rasa” character that can be anyone, and so is often relegated to the role of being a generalized ‘outsider’ or ‘newcomer.’

With the Origin system from Original Sin 2, we not only get the main story to play through, we also get to tackle the fascinating character quests that Larian has so lovingly crafted from a first-hand perspective. This system offers a whole different beast from something like Mass Effect 2; we are not simply shepherding side characters through their story missions, we’re the active participant with direct control over how these intricate character stories unfold. Wyll’s constant struggle with the succubus he bound himself to is a fascinating quirk from the outside looking in, but that struggle would take on such greater depth if we were the ones conversing with the demon. It’s no longer a quirky side-story that’s referenced in dialogue every now and again, it’s a constant battle we see first hand that we as the player now hold sway over.

The possibilities don’t end with Wyll, either. If we choose to play as Astarion, for instance, our main character is now a bonafide vampire. Which of our party members do we choose to feed on for sustenance? How will holy characters like Paladins react to us? How will critical quest characters react to our affliction? Are there other vampires that we’ll have unique interactions with? Original Sin 2 experimented with playing as an Undead, and Baldur’s Gate 3 has the chance to expand on that idea substantially with a character like Astarion. The possibilities that come with these unique characters and their integrated stories open up a world of staggering potential; we can only hope that Larian is up to the monumental challenge that such a system presents.


Reworked Jumping Mechanics

On a much more functional level, one of the major quality-of-life improvements that Larian could tackle would be to refine the game’s already controversial jump mechanic. As it stands, the “jump” ability in Baldur’s Gate 3 serves as a bizarre catch-all for traversal as well as disengagement in combat. In tabletop, vertical traversal usually requires some sort of climbing equipment (usually rope) or special spells and abilities. In Baldur’s Gate 3, the levels have clearly been designed with verticality in mind. Ranged characters get height advantages on higher terrain and disadvantages on lower terrain much akin to Original Sin 2’s system, and exploration often takes the player up cliffsides or steep rock-faces. This is where Larian is faced with a dicey crossroad.

To their credit, a literal 1-to-1 translation of a tabletop ruleset into the medium of video games isn’t as clean as one might think. Sure, needing climbing equipment in a tabletop setting where it isn’t necessarily being used hundreds and hundreds of times throughout the campaign is fine, but in a video game, it simply adds unnecessary steps and inventory clutter to a process that will be repeated countless times over such an expansive RPG. Certain mechanics being trimmed down to reduce monotony or excess micromanagement is unavoidable when making the leap to video games, and fluidity of traversal in such sprawling maps seems as good of a place as any to favor ease-of-use. Perhaps Larian could have special areas that are well out of reach of the jumping mechanic that can only be reached with special equipment, thus adding value to being prepared with items like rope while also preserving the spirit of the D&D ruleset. 

That being said, the current implementation of the “jump” mechanic hits that very unintuitive pitfall mentioned prior. When confronted with a gap that needs to be cleared, for instance, it’s not as simple as clicking on the other side of the gap and automatically jumping over if you have the proper athletics (which is how it is handled in Solasta, for what that’s worth). You have to select the character you wish to jump with, click the “jump” button (and I do mean “click”, it currently can’t be bound to a hot-key), and then target your jump manually to the opposing ledge. That’s three clicks and a targeting reticle for a single jump. The frustrating cherry on top is that we know the technology for auto-jumping in traversal is implemented; every time the player controlled character jumps up to a ledge, the AI-controlled party members behind them automatically use their jumps to follow in tow. 

It’s worth noting as well that the current jump mechanic is also severely broken in combat situations. Jumping is not only a near-free disengage, but it’s a near-free disengage that creates a massive amount of distance in proportion to the resources spent to use it. Once you’ve got a handle on just how powerful of a tool the jump action is in combat, it’s hard not to be jumping every turn for the optimal range of movement as well as risk-free backstab opportunities, which can’t possibly be the intended experience. While the implications of the current system are numerous and certainly game-altering, we’re also four paragraphs deep in relation to a game’s jumping mechanics. Agreed, it’s time to move on.


Fully Implemented Rest System

Baldur's Gate 3 Update
Photo courtesy of Screen Rant

Resting is a huge part of any D&D inspired game. Resting heals the party and restores their ability to cast spells, usually at the cost of camping supplies or rations. This presents a tactical level of decision-making unique to these types of games: Do I cast my level three spells now, or do I save them for what might be around the next corner? I’m out of camping supplies, so my next use of Haste will be my last. Do I spend my last heal spell on the half health Wizard or my frontline fighter next turn? The weight given to every spell cast is palpable when your supplies are limited and there’s no telling when you’ll be able to cast it again. That sort of tactical decision-making is strangely absent in Baldur’s Gate 3’s current state, unfortunately. As it stands, the game’s rest system comes across as a temporary placeholder. Long rests that recover the party to full HP and grant the party’s full array of spell casts currently cost nothing but a couple of loading screens, and have no restrictions on where they can be activated from. With no discernible penalty or cost, long resting simply feels like a flow-breaking hassle between fights.

Nothing is stopping the party from blowing every spell and ability they have in every encounter due to the fact that they can get them right back at no cost immediately after. Resting in a spider-infested cave hundreds of feet below the ground simply teleports you to your cozy camp for a quick nap before a second loading screen plops you right back where you were, fully loaded and ready to unleash the full payload of your Wizard’s arsenal in the very next encounter. Again, this is most likely not the intended implementation of the rest system, and will probably not be what we see in the finished product (a sentiment that should be kept in mind for all of these suggestions and criticisms).

Out of all of these proposals, this one is probably lower on Larian’s priority list, and its current state could very well be intentional so that players have constant access to a character’s entire kit at any given time for the sake of experimentation and feeling out class abilities. Regardless of purpose, it’s safe to assume the rest system is sitting comfortably on their radar, and will most likely be addressed before the full release due to the drastic shift in game flow that such a change would entail.


New Class

Baldur's Gate 3 Update
Photo courtesy of Screen Rant

Larian, you did this to yourselves. Your last major update was heralded with the release of a new class, and now the precedent has been set. Don’t shoot the messenger, Swen; it’s what the people want (well, some of them). Reworked mechanics and proper rest systems are all well and good, but new classes are what sell tickets around here. New classes turn heads. New classes bring home the metaphorical bacon. Following the release of the Druid, speculation seems to be leaning towards the fan-favorite Paladin as Larian’s logical choice for their next class reveal. 

In that aforementioned GameSpot interview, Swen Vincke touched on the fact that a large chunk of player feedback was centered on the lack of variety and depth for melee-centric classes and builds, so what better way to ring in a newly revamped melee combat system than with a heavily plated warrior of the light? The stars certainly seem aligned with what few crumbs of information we’ve been given about the content of this coming update, but the Paladin isn’t the only class that could potentially make a splash on the July 8th Panel From Hell. If they’re truly looking to spice up the melee combat, the ever-popular Monk could prove a dark-horse contender. Perhaps Larian want to dip their feet in a more support-style class, maybe shock the crowd with a show-stopping Bard reveal. Can you imagine? What an absolute power move.

Realistically, any new class Larian might be revealing in this update will most likely coincide with some sort of theme, much like the Druid’s release. Perhaps a rework of the melee combat will debut alongside a more structured alignment system, and the Paladin will release as a logical complement to that particular duo. The folks over at Larian are a smart bunch; when the time comes to premier a new class, it’s going to be a calculated and deliberate affair.

Larian’s approach to early access is a controversial one, to say the least. By the time full release comes around, we may only see 5-6 updates total over the course of more than a year’s time spent in early access. With that kind of schedule and that amount of time spent on each patch, every new update is a literal game-changer in every sense of the word. Whatever happens on July 8th, the Baldur’s Gate 3 we see in that presentation is going to be vastly different from the one we’re playing today. Whatever the outcome, I’m sure Swen and his team will be happy to have hit this milestone, and will be looking forward to a long, well-earned rest.

Provided they have the necessary supplies, of course.

Gaming has been my passion, and RPGs have been my sweetheart. I learned to type playing EverQuest with my brother, and I've never looked back. While isometric old-school RPGs are a personal favorite, as long as I've got a stat screen and build variety, I couldn't be more at home.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Haaliax

    July 5, 2021 at 11:14 am

    I tried the first iteration of this game and really liked it but my gripe with larian’s RPG is the camera. I’d love if they implemented a 3rd person camera mode. It worked really good in Dragon Age Origins

  2. KOVERAS

    July 5, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Larian did stated the game was set for a 2022 release date. Also comparing it to a fully released game seems a bit unfair. while at it, why not, compare it with what was within Baldur’s Gate 1 and Baldur’s Gate 2 then?

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