This is both the curse of Early Access and the curse of my own insurmountable impatience. I was desperate to play Larian’s D&D opus, having convinced myself the save wipes, the incomplete content, and the inevitable bugs were a small price to pay for the immersive, emergent experience I was bound to have.
Quite aside from the fact that $60 for a third of a game is actually quite a high price to pay for all that.
I played only a little of the original Baldur’s Gate games, dipping my toes into the remasters, but adored Larian’s last, the outstanding Divinity: Original Sin 2. But to this day, however, I still haven’t finished it. What can I say? There are a lot of games to play, and this Football Manager addiction isn’t going to feed itself.
That and somewhere deep into Act 2 I got so hopelessly burned—insta-killed for the umpteenth time—by some random encounter in the wilderness that I had to step away, even 46 hours into my adventure.
But sadly I stepped so far back that when I eventually returned to the game I had no idea where the hell I was, nor could I remember my previously well-worn party stratagems, and was therefore in even more trouble in the tough world of Rivellon. I could, of course, knock down the difficulty level, but the challenge was what had engaged me so much early in the game.
So I held out for Baldur’s Gate 3, knowing that Larian’s polish and skill with the top-down RPG would surely make it the game I wanted it to be. And I’m still sure it will be, but after 12 hours getting increasingly frustrated with my own expectations and BG3’s Early Access state I’ve had to let go. I’ll be back, but I’m going to need it to be more or less finished when I do choose to return to the Forgotten Realms.
My biggest problem has been with the game’s openness. I mean, that’s exactly what I want it to be, I want it to be as close to playing a game of D&D with a reactive human dungeon master as it’s possible to be while being based on a couple billion lines of code. Baldur’s Gate 3 promises to give you ‘unprecedented freedom’ and that is absolutely to be lauded.
But it’s meant I’ve become obsessed with experimenting. I can’t approach any situation in the game without trying to think a way around it that isn’t just wading in with a sharp axe and some shouted incantations. That’s Larian’s way, and I spent a whole lot of my DOS2 playtime messing about with the environment, saving, screwing up, and reloading.
With Baldur’s Gate 3, however, I’ve come to realise that’s all I’ve been doing, and haven’t actually been enjoying the experience. I’ve been struggling because I’m not sure if I’m failing because the game’s Early Access state means some parts are a little bugged, what I’m trying has not been factored into the game yet, or the thing I’m trying is simply a bad idea anyways and will just not work. The unfinished nature of the game lends that doubt to any situation I find myself in so I end up frustrated with it, even when it definitely is just me being dim.
Which is how I knew I had to step away.
There are things you can do in combat which don’t translate to the rest of the game. Turns out, for example, that sneaking up on a lone goblin guard and putting them to sleep, so as not to alert their entire beweaponed brood, is not so straightforward as I’d hoped.
It seems that creeping up behind them and SHOUTING my cunning li’l sleep spell only results in them toppling over for a fraction of a second while the entire gob squad spins to face you, looking over their crooked noses and nocked bows, ready to spill adventurous blood.
Then, in the big ol’ goblin camp I’ve got to find a way to execute the Priestess Gut. She just wants to see me on my own—y’know, for shenanigans—I’ve got a good shot here. So I’ll be quiet about it, see?
I’ve got a snazzy scroll of silence, which it says creates ‘a sound-proof sphere’ and should be perfect for a wee slice of sneaky slaughter. Thinking ahead. Smart, eh? Not going to get caught out here… this is definitely going to work. Definitely. The sound-proof sphere goes up, I hits her with some sick knife skills, and she calls for the guards who summarily smack my party down in no time.
So yeah, combat spells aren’t really meant for experimenting.
And then there are the situations where the game seems to be telegraphing an interesting solution to a situation or an enemy. Pass a perception roll and a weakened timber support becomes obvious, or you spot a chandelier dangling dangerously above some ogre. Only when you destroy the support to collapse the ruined house on the trolls, or cut the chandelier so it drops on the ogre, it only knocks an unfeasibly small amount of health off the creatures that mostly just equates to a particularly hard sneeze.
But I’m experimenting, and as I say that means I’m saving and reloading more than I would want to or would normally expect to, and that’s ruining the experience for me. So yeah, it’s mostly on me.
My perception, however, is still partly a result of its position as an Early Access game. And I know more lines on the internet have been written about the effect of Early Access on our favourite projects than anyone cares to read, so I’m not going to add overmuch to that here. But however much the devs might want to talk about the opportunity to test the unfinished game as a way for fans and gamers to help the project, impatient fools like me are simply desperate to get their hands on a game they’ve been waiting ages for and just want to play.
So I’m going to have to practice some patience, and wait for the final game to be complete so I don’t end up ruining the whole experience for myself. At that point I’ll know any failures aren’t down to the game’s state or some unexpected bugs, and will be purely as a result of my own ineptitude.
As a result I’m back in Rivellon anew. Slipping into the Definitive Edition of Divinity: Original Sin 2 to start from scratch, and it’s like slipping into a warm bath at the end of a long day. Admittedly a warm bath filled with acid and voidwoken, but it still feels a little like coming home. And that should tide me over ’til launch time comes.