Baldur’s Gate 3 Early Access Preview – A Promising Dungeon Masterless Dungeons and Dragons Experience

As a few of you may know, I am a huge RPG fan, and due to the rise in popularity and accessibility of Dungeons and Dragons, I have taken the logical next step of becoming a tabletop RPG nerd. However, this new enthusiasm for collecting and rolling click-clack shiny math rocks has been significantly hindered by the dreaded scheduling conflicts that plague many a D&D group. 

I frequently found myself wishing there was a way to get the same D&D fix on my own. Fortunately, as if someone cast Detect Thoughts, I was invited to check out the early access build of Baldur’s Gate 3 made by Larian Studios, the creators of the acclaimed Divinity Original Sin series.

From the early moments of this build, it’s clear that Larian Studios has done a fantastic job of translating the Fifth Edition D&D rules into a video game. I found it natural to jump in and start playing the same way I’d do for the pen and paper version. 

Every D&D game starts practically the same way. The Dungeon Master gives you an idea of the adventure, and you and your friends get together and roll up your characters. Baldur’s Gate 3 begins similar to that as you are introduced to the world via a cutscene and brought to the character creation screen. 

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The character creation section is a near one to one of how you would generally make a D&D character. You select your background, which gives you specific proficiencies in skills. Your race affects your appearance and gives you race-specific features and abilities. The character’s class dictates your character’s spells and abilities as you level up, and you select your ability score using a point-buy system that determines your strength, dexterity, and more. 

I was honestly blown away by how accurate this character creator is. Although there are some minor omissions from real-life D&D character creation, this could very well serve as a streamlined character creator for those looking to play actual D&D. 

Many D&D players will also know about the three pillars of adventuring associated with D&D, which are exploration, social interaction, and combat. At its core, these three things make up a typical campaign, and they are all tied together by the almighty dice roll. Baldur’s Gate 3 seamlessly takes this concept and applies it to a video game setting. 

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In exploration, dice rolls will appear on top of your character, indicating if they succeed or fail to notice traps or know details such as what god a statue is depicting. You will also roll dice when trying to open locks, inspect certain objects, and more. 

You will have various dialogue options for social interactions you can choose from, similar to the Dragon Age series. Some of these options will have you make dice rolls to see if your character can calm a hostile NPC, gather information from the NPC, or get the NPC to do something for you. Based on these interactions, your party members may approve or disapprove, and you will either gain or lose favor with them because of it. 

Combat is similar to how it is in the Divinity Original Sin series. However, the actions you can do are dictated by the actions available in the D&D 5E rules with some minor changes Larian thought better fit the video game medium. Each turn, you can take an Action, Bonus Action, and a Movement Action. Larian changed up which actions are used with Actions or Bonus Actions, but it is nearly identical for the most part. Casters also use Spell Slots to cast spells, and those rules are taken straight from D&D 5E. 

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While my Early Access experience with Baldur’s Gate 3 has been great, it isn’t without its issues. For starters, the game has a lot of bugs. On the minor end, certain cutscenes are missing, sometimes the character models will glitch out, or the camera will get stuck in environments with multiple levels. On the significant end, multiplayer has issues with being unable to save because the game thinks your friends are still on a dialogue screen, individual NPC party members have their UI freeze so you can’t take their turn in combat, and various connection related issues. 

Additionally, the game doesn’t currently offer a lot in terms of accessibility for new players to D&D. There are tutorials/instruction dialogues that pop up, which are excellent. Still, some tips show up under the minimap that is rather difficult to see. While it didn’t affect my experience since I am familiar with D&D, I can see how new players can get lost by the lack of information. 

Again, the game is in Early Access, so many of these issues will likely be resolved by the time it officially launches, but it is good to be aware of these things before deciding to pay the $60 to check it out. Larian Studios has been upfront in saying that Early Access is for D&D fans who want to help polish up the game as it is being worked on, and they have been vocal about making sure you know what is in store before purchasing. 

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I love what I have seen in Early Access so far, and it has me very optimistic about where Baldur’s Gate 3 is headed. I cannot wait for the final game to come out, as I am sure it will be one of the best D&D video games and one fantastic RPG. I recommend people keep their eyes on this one. While you may not want to dive into Early Access right now due to how unfinished it all is, it is definitely worth revisiting upon final release. 

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Brian Lee

Production Editor and Co-host of the Noisy Pixel Podcast - Professional goof and overall video game junkie. Brian [at] noisypixel [dot] net