Welcome to 2024. I’m your host with the backlog, and this is Save State. One thing readers of this column may have noticed is that I haven’t really talked about Baldur’s Gate 3 at all, despite being a huge fan of the first and especially the second Baldur’s Gate game with its expansion. Well, all that changed just after Christmas, when I was gifted Baldur’s Gate 3 and finally able to sink my teeth into what is easily my favorite CRPG experience of 2023. I don’t think I’ve been quite this addicted to a CRPG since playing Baldur’s Gate II on my Grandma’s Compaq Presario.
This isn’t going to be a review of Baldur’s Gate 3, not by any means. The reviews have been out for months, and just about everybody knows that Baldur’s Gate 3 is good if this is the kind of thing you’re into. Instead, this is just going to be my chronicling some of the funny situations I got my party into during my last couple weeks of playing the game…because playing this is legitimately all I’ve done for almost two weeks. I had so much I needed to get done during that 10-day break from work, but I still can’t say I’ve regretted my time in Faerun.
Editor’s Note: Check out our full review of Baldur’s Gate 3.
I’m an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and have been since third edition. While 3.5 was my favorite edition of Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve enjoyed DMing fifth edition games in the past, and have recently been afforded the opportunity to play fifth edition for the very first time. All that time spent DMing fifth edition games meant I was constantly coming up with character builds but not really getting to use them outside of an enemy or NPC encounter or two with my players. So, getting gifted Baldur’s Gate 3 gave me a great excuse to bust out one of the builds I had been wanting to try – a Tempest Cleric who takes multiple levels of Storm Sorcerer to just absolutely wreck things with thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening.
My initial experience playing Baldur’s Gate 3 was in multiplayer with a friend of mine, which mostly led to my following him around and figuring out where all the commands were. Since he hosted the game, I wasn’t able to play more on my downtime so I wound up beginning a game on my own since I had a 10 day break from work. However, playing on my own had some benefits as I was able to go a bit more at my own pace, which resulted in me using the Command spell to force the cambion demon in the prologue to drop his weapon, which allowed Lae’zel to start off the game with an amazing sword.
Knocking enemy weapons out of their hands and stealing them was something I basically did throughout the whole title. A particular Githyanki commander showed up for a cutscene in the first act of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I used a combination of Shadowheart, an invisibility potion, and Command to make him drop his sword, as well, which is something he only gives to you in the third act of the title. So, effectively, my melee characters were set in stone for acts one and two of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I didn’t have to buy either of the weapons they were using.
Another fun thing was, while still getting used to the UI of Baldur’s Gate 3, I somehow accidentally left Shadowheart behind when reaching the Underdark. I was approached by a demon that I had already determined I didn’t like because I saw the cutscene when playing with my friend, but I learned I could switch characters while another was in a cutscene. So, I switched to Shadowheart, walked her up to the demon, pickpocketed him, and then took a swing at him. He immediately vanished and the cutscene of him offering my party a deal was treated as if it didn’t happen.
Much later, after finishing act one, the demon was just relaxing at my camp. I quick saved, walked up to him, and the exact same cutscene from earlier began as if it was our first meeting. I reloaded, controlled Shadowheart (I realize now that she was my chaotic workhorse), and used Silence over the demon so he couldn’t speak. Then I used all of my characters that were nearby to beat on him, seeing if I could kill him in my camp, as he apparently won’t fight back there.
The good news: you can absolutely beat on the demon in your camp with absolutely no repercussions. The bad news: he has a passive that returns him to life almost immediately, so then I tried beating on him again with non-lethal attacks enabled, because if you knock someone out in Baldur’s Gate 3, you can loot their gear… most of the time. After a half hour of beating on this demon who didn’t even try to fight back, I knocked him out at 1HP, checked his body, and got his Helldusk Armor, which grants you 21 AC, the ability to fly, and sets your opponents on fire if you succeed saving throws, before even stepping foot into act two.
Of course, it wasn’t all about stealing weapons for the martial characters and an incredible armor for Shadowheart, for she is my chaos gremlin and must be protected. I also got to exploring and just absolutely annihilating enemies with my Cleric that moonlights as a Sorcerer. The Tempest Cleric feature Destructive Wrath forces your next spell’s thunder or lightning damage to its maximum value, so if a spell can deal four to 32 damage, it just outright hits for 32.
This can lead to funny situations like fighting a hag in her cabin and one-shotting her because you had Shadowheart hit the hag with Guiding Bolt, so your next attack is more likely to connect, and then use your sorcerer to make it rain over the hag which doubles the lightning damage she next receives. A Chromatic Orb cast using a third level slot deals 64 with Destructive Wrath, which then gets doubled using Luck of the Far Realms to force a critical hit for 128. That’s a fried hag, right there. Unfortunately, one-shotting the hag means you also miss out on a special item that can permanently raise one of your stats by 1 point, which I didn’t find out was even a thing until act three, some 70 hours later. With great power comes great responsibility, or so I’ve been told by Tobey Maguire.
Quite possibly one of the best things you can do in Baldur’s Gate 3 is experiment with your build and that of your companions because you can respec for a paltry amount of gold. Even if just to redistribute companion stats, or in Shadowheart’s case move her off of her Trickery subclass to something like Light or Life, you’re given a lot of leeway to experiment as you find items throughout the title. I even swapped out spells in the mid-game to do a fire build due to gear I was finding that increased my chances to hit, as well as spell save DC, when a spell hits an enemy. That item, combined with spells like Scorching Ray that hit multiple times per cast, would effectively let me force bosses prone with spells like Command and Hold Person so my martial companions could beat on them for easy advantage or critical hits.
So, all in all, I’ve had an absolute blast with Baldur’s Gate 3. I’ve been a big fan of BioWare’s original games for a really long time, and I’ve played several titles in the Divinity series and enjoyed them as well, so it’s probably no surprise that I’ve enjoyed Baldur’s Gate 3 as much as I have. I’ve still only barely encroached upon act 3, so I still have quite a bit of time before reaching the end. Embarking upon a new adventure in a world you’ve been familiar with for ages is always great, and even better than that is pushing the limits of what you can get away with so you get some nice shiny items way earlier than intended.
That being said, I think it’s time for this edition of Save State to close, but please visit us again in a couple weeks when I’ve no doubt discovered an RPG or indie title that’s entranced me for hours at a time.