|#39||Baldur's Gate III (early access)|
Baldur's Gate is one of my most beloved gaming series. But for 20 years the series was dormant. Black Isle studios are no longer in existance. So it seemed that was it for the series. But somehow Larian Studios got the rights to the name and a contract with D&D license holder Wizard of the Coast and now we finally have a third entry - although still in early access.
Larian Studios is known for it's Divinity series, which is strongly influenced by the Infinity engine games including Baldur's Gate. With the Divinity series Larian already modernized the formula and developed it further with more gameplay options and ideas. Now all this experience flows into the successor to the series.
The biggest change at first: to my surprise and initial confusion this game no longer employs real time with pause combat, but instead true turn-based combat. Which is fine, after I was initially confused because I expected it to follow that tradition. But generally turn-based combat is closer to the pen&paper RPG roots and makes it also much easier to control the flow of battle. The pause-based combat was in the background counted in turns anyways, and the combat was either letting them autoattack if I was more powerful, or pausing every second or so to issue new commands. Having outright a turn-based system makes it all actually feel more natural.
Another big change: if you roll some important action you actually see a 20-sided dice being rolled. This may feel not as immersive, but on the other hand you see why your action fails or succeed, instead of it just happening.
Besides these two changes and the obvious visual upgrades, a lot of the series workings are still present. The game is all about player choices. That starts with character generation in which you can detail all about your hero, from looks to skills. That goes on with combat, which offers you a lot of options, often depending on the abilities of the characters in your party. And that includes conversation options, which also often depend on your skills. And it is kinda interesting, if you for instance try to persuade someone you still throw a dice and it can fail, which influences how the conversation will go. So like in previous entries, different playthroughs can feel and go very differently.
The game starts off pretty epic and at the same time strongly rooted into D&D world setting. D&D has creatures named illithids or mind flayer, very alien creatures that float andhave tentacles on the head. They procreate by infecting the brains of intelligent species with their larvae, which enthralls the victims and makes them suspectible to the mind flayers mind control and feeds of the brain, until it turns into a fully grown illithid. The intro starts with a nautilid ship (think flying squid) attacks a city to harvest people for infection.
But on their trail comes their sworn enemies, dragon riders named githyanki, and the dragons attack the nautilid. The mind flayers jump to another plane, as the world in D&D has many different planes of existance. The plane they are entering is an evil domain, otherwise known as hell. The githyanki follow and the demons are pissed at the intruders, so a three way fight between these three factions start.
You play a character that is victim of the mind flayers, a larvae already implanted, but not yet mind-controlled. The fighting and damage to the ship frees you from the pod you are in and you can now move over a nautilid ship that is partially destroyed and place of a fierce battle. That is a very engaging start and already the stakes are set for your characters, because few people really like their brain getting eaten.
The game is still in early access and there are a few glitches I hope get fixed until the final game. And so far it only has the first chapter. But it already gives me a lot of enjoyment. If the glitches are fixed and the game gets bigger, this game might very well rise a lot in my list next year. Or the final game disappoints, in which case it may decline. But for now, for the early release it is my #39 spot, still considering it's status.
I played the game on Stadia, but it is also available for PC on Steam and GOG. Both shops are also offering the old games, if you want the comparison (and these are great games, although 20 years old).