Larian Studios has recently made quite an impact in the turn-based RPG gaming community. Following the success of their original IP, Divinity Original Sin 2, they are now taking the reins of another classic. Baldur’s Gate 3 will soon be providing players with another chance to adventure through the Forgotten Realms. D&D players and gamers alike will find something to enjoy from this roleplaying adventure. I am all the more reassured by the helm being manned by a studio with merit in this genre of games. However, this isn’t to say there weren’t a few missteps that I wish to see rectified. Learning from their experiences, my hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 include a list of improvements on its predecessor.
The Armour System
This aspect of Divinity Original Sin 2 is a somewhat divisive issue. While it seems no one outright loves or loathes it, players can’t seem to agree on its worth. The system functions by providing players and all other NPCs with two types of armour, physical and magical. Based on their equipment or skills, this is the value that determines their protection before losing health. In other words, consider it a preliminary health bar that must be lowed before you can inflict damage. Similarly, attacks are divided into damage types of either magical or physical. A physical attack diminishes the armour type of the same name and vice versa for magic. This means that once the magic armour is destroyed, magical attacks will start harming them. This is generally considered an improvement on the first game as it prevents first turn knockdowns and status effects.
Whilst not being able to play dirty with crowd control attacks right away is an improvement, there are consequential limitations. The idea is that you should have a mixed damage-type party, having the appropriate teammate attack the correspondingly weak enemy. However, as the game proceeds, more and more enemies have equally high armours. This makes chipping away at their health a chore, and it prevents tactical first turns as you can’t outsmart enemies. Given that you are almost always outnumbered, your own armour suffers greater damages first. This can lead to a frustrating encounter in which enemies constantly have the upper hand. Our hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 include a more balanced system that does not punish parties of a single damage type. Additionally, it would allow for greater ambush tactics if status effects had a chance of succeeding in the first round.
The Dialogue System
As much as Larian Studio’s games are a matter of turn-based combat, they are also deeply seeped in dialogue roleplay. It is through interactions with the world’s NPCs that players can often find alternate means of solving their problems. Additionally, this is the primary way in which a player will feel as though they are roleplaying their chosen character. It can be rather frustrating when the game determines on the player’s behalf, which character can speak. For you see, while you will be controlling a four-player party, they won’t all be equally gifted in persuasion. There are other skills besides speech you will want to focus on, which means divvying up talents. Bearing this in mind, you will likely choose to begin a conversation with the aforementioned persuasive character. However, the game itself will often have entirely different plans.
Dialogue scenarios will often ambush you, appearing without warning and seemingly to a random member of the party. It is often determined by who so happened to be closest to the talking NPC, but sometimes not. Since characters cannot interject into conversations, the only chance of a successful persuasion is on the selected character. If they did not invest in the related skill, they would never succeed in their attempts. Since many chances to sway the conversation are single attempts, it often results in a failure and subsequent combat scenario. Our hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 include a revamped dialogue system that allows greater player agency. Allowing players to interject would allow for more relevant speakers. Additionally, making persuasion a roll rather than a passing stat would give none persuasive characters at least a chance.
Custom Character Backgrounds
The first-choice players will make when beginning Divinity 2 is whether to play a custom or pre-made character. While the former offers a chance for original characters, they will, unfortunately, lack the fleshed-out stories of origin characters. The stories of characters such as Lohse or The Red Prince are more specific yet constantly present in the world. Outside of the main quest, these characters will often have personal quests and constant reminders of their past. When playing these characters, their arc will unfold before you in interesting and unique ways. When they are just members of your party, you often don’t get to see these events. Although they still occur, they happen through text as it remains secretive to your party leader. By contrast, your created character has very little to define them and no backstory related quests or encounters.
Despite being able to pick two background tags, such as noble or outlaw, they only open up a few vague dialogue options. They’re often very one-dimensional, with barbarian just making you seem dumb or noble as snobbish. Your custom character will often feel overshadowed by the other party members whilst also being unable to view their full stories. Your roleplay opportunities are also limited by this shortcoming. Our hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 include a more detailed custom background system. Having more unique encounters based on your personal history would be more immersive. Something similar to Dragon Age Origins would be ideal, establishing a base background to refer back to. In that game, your tutorial section was unique to your background and resulted in more call-backs later. In summary, less hollow custom characters would go a long way to improving the individual adventures of players.
Perhaps the most frustrating issue with subsequent playthroughs of Larian’s game is the railroading caused by level-gating. While the game is filled with numerous quests, of which there are often multiple solutions, the order is less open. Tackling enemies with even a single level more than your party can be punishing. As such, this means players will likely play through events in a set order every playthrough. This is quite disappointing when considering the various unique outcomes that occur from mixing up the sequence of events. Whilst games such as Dragon Age or Skyrim allow drastically different paths from start to finish; Divinity 2 doesn’t. Even in the tutorial area of Fort Joy, some quests are upwards of two levels above your starting point. As such, you will be given an open area that punishes you for exploring out of sequence.
What makes this even more frustrating is that quests in the journal don’t specify a recommended level. It’s very easy to begin pursuing a narrative, only to find out after it’s too late that it’s too overwhelming. It even more jarring when the game presents you with various choices for solving your quest. In Act II, your party must find masters to teach you how to expand your Source powers. Each presents different means of doing so, and for roleplay purposes, you will likely prefer some over the other. However, due to the level-gating, you will encounter them in a set order. This can result in you picking the first two prematurely. Alternatively, players may have to wait until they meet the last masters, subsequently punishing them by depriving them longer. Our hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 are a more liberating level-scaling system for greater player agency and exploration.
No Sneak Attacks
Stealth is an aspect of the game that is tricky to master at best and barely functional at worst. Exploring in stealth is not too difficult due to the very basic line of sight system. However, using it for the purpose of combat is a real challenge. D&D players will be familiar with rogues entering stealth to launch extra powerful sneak attacks. This is also a useful way of opening a fight, launching a devastating surprise attack. However, launching a sneak attack, outside of the late-game assassinate skill, rarely improves your odds. It is also functionally useless in combat, as hiding without an invisibility technique is just a waste of AP. The issue is that rogues, who need to be behind enemy lines, have no hope of defending themselves. They typically have weaker armour and will launch a single stealth attack and make themselves vulnerable.
However, it is at its worst when trying to use stealth for the purpose of positioning. In Divinity 2, where you place your characters is a vital strategy. Not only can it keep them out of harm’s reach, but there is also a high-ground mechanic. This means that ranged attacks have their damage increased or lowered depending on whether you are higher than your target. This means that when danger is ahead, you will want your ranged fighters to take hidden elevated positions. The issue is that you need to sneak them into position by unchaining your party. This means your party no longer moves as one.
The issue with this is the inconsistency of registering the beginning of combat throughout the party. Sometimes you will launch a surprise attack, beginning the encounter, with only one party member actually in the fight. You can make the others enter the fight after, but they are immediately placed at the back of the initiative order. This gives the enemy an entire round of moving first, often targeting a single character for massive damage. Essentially, the game often punishes attempts to be strategic. Overall, our hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 include a complete stealth-mechanic overhaul. More ways to open an encounter on your own terms is a must. Additionally, players should be rewarded in combat for clever uses of stealth, perhaps even providing ways to avoid combat entirely.
We’ve Walked, Now Let’s Run
Undoubtedly, Divinity Original Sin 2 was a great second step for Larian Studios in the realm of turn-based RPGs. However, it is our hope that they will innovate rather than simply replicate. We have already witnessed improvements to the dialogue cinematics, as well as the inclusion of dice rolls. With luck, perhaps many of the issues raised on our list will also have been addressed come launch. What are your hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3? Perhaps a rolling a natural 20 will see your wishes realised.