Baldur’s Gate 3 is out in early access this week. While noted Divinity: Original Sin II enthusiast Nathan Grayson and I (noted Divinity: Original Sin II hater Ash Parrish) suggest you wait for the full release before diving in, we wanted to talk about some of the different in-game story choices we made and how those differences impacted our experience. Spoilers will abound so tread carefully, adventurer.
Nathan Grayson: Hello, Ash! We have both been playing Baldur’s Gate 3, which entered early access yesterday, bugs (and other bugs) and all. I love its underlying foundation, but I’m also a Divinity: Original Sin II mega-fan, so of course I do. When we talked over the weekend while playing the game using our games press sorcery, you weren’t having the best time. How are you feeling about it now? Are you starting to find a rhythm with it?
Ash Parrish: This game is weird to me because it has a lot of things I don’t like. I hate click-to-run games—it’s why I never got into Diablo or Divinity—I’m also not fond of the steep learning curve that I’m just now getting over. But there’s something compelling enough that I keep wanting more. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m “getting into the groove.”
Playing Baldur’s Gate 3 makes me desire a game where all of these things are working perfectly—combat, questing, etc. You said Divinity 2 is that game, yeah?
Nathan: In many ways, yeah. I think this game aims to refine a lot of elements of Divinity: Original Sin II, though obviously time will tell whether or not it succeeds. For example, Divinity OS2's combat—while inventive and full of fun environmental manipulation and elemental combos—included a finicky armor system and basically forced the focus onto denying enemies their turns. BG3 already seems to have streamlined it in some smart ways. BG3 also already seems to be better at telling a dramatic story, whereas the broad strokes of Divinity’s story are good, as are its characters, but it lacks “gotta know what happens next” momentum.
That said, Divinity OS2 is still an incredible game, and you should absolutely play through it—all 100+ hours of it—before playing and replaying BG3's early access version.
Ash: So how much of a game are we getting in BG3?
Nathan: We’re getting one chapter (out of three), but Divinity’s chapters were not all evenly sized, so it’s entirely possible—probable, even—that chapters two and three will make up more than two-thirds of the game.
Still, it’s meaty! 25-30 hours worth of stuff to do. And tons of replayability, which is good, because Larian (the developer) is gonna be wiping saves a lot during early access.
Ash: Hmm...I’ve said a couple of times here I hate retreading. But after our saves were wiped before early access’s full release, I’m finding I don’t hate doing this over. I haven’t quite caught up to where I was, but already it’s different for me. How are you feeling about it? How many characters have you rolled?
Nathan: Two so far. The second time, it took me, like, five hours to speedrun almost back to where I’d gotten in 15. Amazing how much you can accomplish once you know the lay of the land. On that note, wanna delve into some of the choices we’ve made? I have a big list of moments, and I’m really curious about how you’ve handled them.
Ash: Yeah! That’s one of my favorite things about BioWare games—the branching choices leading to different outcomes that in turn make the game feel different. BG3 is definitely scratching my BioWare RPG itch.
First question: did you save the tiefling child?
Nathan: Yep! Both times. First time I strolled in like I was hot shit and managed to roll an 18 on persuasion—one above the 17 I needed—to get the fascist president of the druids to let her go. Second time I was not so lucky, so I reloaded my save until I became so lucky. But if you don’t manage to save her, wow, what a scene! The druid leader doesn’t exactly mean to kill the child, but she immediately doubles down on her accidental, snake-made decision, even in the face of pushback from her own people. I considered going forward with that outcome because it honestly felt truer to the situation, but then I, also a tiefling, felt very bad for the child and decided to use my time-travel gamer/god powers to save her.
Ash: It was the reverse for me. When I first started playing before early access opened up to everyone, I failed. Then when I went to reload, I realized that BG3 is very stingy with its autosaving! So I had to go back to my first encounter with the brain suckers and work my way back. Then when I got back, I forgot to save again, and I thought, ”whatever happens I’m not starting over, I don’t care.” The roll I needed to pass: A 20. Guess what I rolled: a 20. I was so shocked.
But then all that got wiped and when I tried a third time, I failed. (Even after casting Thaumaturgy to up my intimidate rolls.) So I let it go. Sorry Arabella.
Nathan: Can we get some Fs in chat for Arabella?
OK, my turn to ask a question: When you first scooped your brain friend out of that mostly dead dude’s head, did you cripple the brain to avoid possible trouble in the future, or did you protect the brain like it was your beautiful, moist child?
Ash: I have no idea what you’re talking about. What brain and what head?
Nathan: At the very beginning of the game! Second room. You walk in, there’s a little voice calling to you. It’s coming from a brain monster that you can rescue. It joins your party for the remainder of the prologue.
Ash: Oh! That’s what was making that sound?! I heard the sound but I couldn’t find out where it was coming from so I thought it was just ambient, creepy atmosphere.
Nathan: Yep! There’s a little elevator you can take up to the second floor of the room. There, you find—for lack of a better way of describing it—the brain inside of a body. The brain does not want to be inside of the body.
Ash: The map is one of my frustrations, because I think I saw brain-boy marked on the map, but I can’t tell when there are different elevations on the map, So I had no idea how to get to him.
Nathan: Hm! Not sure if he’s marked on the map, but either way I think it’s also neat that there’s so much to discover, even in the game’s mostly linear prologue. Anyway, your turn to ask me about another choice.
Ash: Did you let Astarion...you know...did you give him the succ? 👀👀
Nathan: Haha! Yes, yes I did. I did this for multiple reasons
First, I generally play these kinds of games with an eye toward which decisions seem most narratively interesting, even if they hurt me or piss people off. So it was a no-brainer to let Astarion bite my neck and feed on the precious liquids within.
Relatedly, Astarion seemed to like me the least of all my party members at that point. Disapproved of everything I did. If I tried to talk to him, he barely offered any dialogue options. So I wanted him to like me more, and I was like, “while this spits in the face of consent and then kicks it off a cliff, it seems like an...expedient means of achieving my goal.” And, uh, I was not wrong. It worked!
Lastly, I like Astarion! He’s a cliche in a lot of ways, but he’s a Cool Cliche. He’s the kind of guy you just want to like you for some reason. And he’s a vampire! Generally, it is a good idea to have vampires on your side, when possible.
Also, it was a sexy scene. I’m sure you have more to say about that part.
Ash: It was disturbingly sexy!
I don’t know how I feel about Astarion yet because as you say—he’s the cool cliche and it’s so overdone. Even his vampirey-ness isn’t that interesting to me. But I let him feed on me just to see what would happen and I’m generally the people-pleasing type. I know I didn’t want to when he asked, but I thought “hey, why not” and it ended up not being too bad. Interested to see where it goes.
How do you feel about the other companions?
Nathan: Well, this is a Shadowheart fan account. She is definitely who I’m angling to romance, lol. I’m also inextricably drawn to people who do not seem to like me, at least up to a point. Turns out, my video game fantasy is to behave the way I do in real life. Who’d have guessed?
Ash: There’s also a startling dearth of options. Because Lae’zel...is not it.
Nathan: Yeah. She’s just not very likable at all. At least, so far. This is one of the issues with doing early access for a game like this. You can get a bit of a ways into who these characters are, but not far enough to feel like you really know them. This is compounded by two issues:
- Most of these characters are kinda pushy and prickly personality types.
- They’re in a stressful life-or-death situation, and they act like it.
So you’re seeing everybody at their worst, and it leaves a bad first impression. But since this is early access, it’s the only impression you really get. As for the other folks, they’re fine? Wyll, the warlock guy, seems fun, but also a little too upstanding for my tastes. Gale, the wizard, is a tall glass of boring.
Ash: OK, when do you meet Wyll?
Nathan: Oh, he’s not hard to find. He’s in the tiefling/druid enclave. You find him training a bunch of young tieflings. If you do a dialogue with him, your brain worm spidey sense goes off, and then you can recruit him.
Ash: Does he fight in the goblin-attack sequence before entering the grove? Because there was a non-controllable ally named Wyll and he died in that fight. I think Wyll is dead in my game. Or there are two spell casters named Wyll.
Nathan: Huh! I mean, I don’t think he fights in that sequence, but I could be misremembering? It is also entirely possible that your game glitched out. Who knows! It’s early access, baybeeeeee.
[Ash: I went back to check, Wyll is very dead.]
Nathan: OK so, how are you approaching the broader kind of moral dilemma in the game’s first real area? I assume you’re trying to help the tiefling refugees, but how are you doing it? Are you just murdering goblins left and right? Are you talking to them? Siding with them?
Ash: I haven’t gotten to the meat of “save the tieflings” yet (and I’m playing a tiefling too so I want to save them). In the early-early access, that part of the quest bugged out for me so I couldn’t advance it. At the goblin ruins I was surprised that I didn’t immediately aggro everyone when I arrived. They just let me walk in. And I didnt know what to do or what I was looking for. I would explore, fail a roll, get my shit wrecked, start over, fail a roll again, get my shit wrecked again, and decide to go somewhere else.
In my new post-release playthrough, I’m slowly making my way back to that part. I found the drow that’s controlling them, and I know I can deceive her and use the tieflings to ambush them. I think that’s what i’m going to do.
Nathan: Whoa what? I didn’t know you could do that. That’s wild! Oh wait, you mean deceive her about doing the invasion and then let the tieflings know?
Nathan: Ah. I don’t think I found my way to that option, but that’s what I was trying to do. Also, I have feelings about that whole segment.
Ash: Such as?
Nathan: I like that you can talk your way through most of the goblin stuff, But I’m torn on the goblins in general because on one hand, the narrative is like “tieflings are evidence that you can’t judge books by their covers and everybody is different.” But even once you start talking to goblins, it’s like “oh, they’re all either warlike or treacherous—even the one you saved from prison.” And I know they’re being manipulated by mind flayers, but it seems like they were religious zealots even before that, just with a different god.
By the way, you can save one from prison in the druid/tiefling enclave. Not sure if you’ve come across that. You get led there only if you come across a couple characters immediately after the first goblin attack. If you camp, however, time passes, and those characters leave that spot.
And! It might be frustrating, but I love the game’s chronological element. Such a neat spin on how this sort of RPG usually unfolds.
Ash: I like how, after you rest, you are teleported to the spot you left, and how you can fast-travel from anywhere and not just a fast-travel location. Good quality of life there that more games need to do.
Nathan: Agreed! OK, OK, I have a very important question for you. In the goblin ruins, did you encounter the pain priest?
Ash: No, but he sounds like someone I’d be interested in speaking to.
Nathan: Oh Ash, it is one of the horniest sequences I’ve ever encountered in an RPG.
Ash: Oh so he is definitely someone I’m interested in speaking to for the exact reason I was hoping. Excellent.
Nathan: I will not spoil too much, but I will say that I had BDSM done to me, and Shadowheart, who watched, uh, approved heartily.
Speaking of horny, are you gonna make a deal with the devil?
Ash: Not the one he was proposing but hopefully there will be an opportunity to make another *ahem* different deal later on. Speaking of sadism, why is BG3 utterly sadistic when it comes to combat, in that at any given moment, my party can stumble upon 32 level-4 creatures that absolutely destroy me?
Nathan: Alright so, this never happened to me! Which area/encounter are you referring to?
Ash: Uh....all of them. More recently: I was exploring some ruins and I came upon those bandits behind a locked door. There were like eight to my four.
Nathan: So that encounter is actually super easy. BG3 just seems to expect you to use tools that it does a poor job of explaining. You’ll note that the bandits are in three separate rooms, meaning you can stealth up to them and dispatch them group by group. But the game never really explains stealth or how OP it is.
Ash: How does Astarion “stealth”? Is that a spell he has or...?
Nathan: He does have abilities that enhance stealth, but for any character, all you need to do is pick the “hide” bonus action outside of combat. Your character will immediately drop into a crouch, and then you’ll see vision cones for every enemy near you.
It owns. I took out all of those bandits without getting hit. Managed to kill two of them without even starting a combat sequence.
Ash: Note to self: stealth. Any other general “not get my shit rocked” tips?
Nathan: Honestly, the game should just fully tutorialize that exact encounter. It’s perfectly set up to teach players the usefulness of both stealth and splitting your party.
That’s my main tip. Otherwise, adhere to good party composition: Have at least one tankier character, somebody rogue-y or DPS-y, and a spellcaster or two (at least one of whom should be good at healing).
Ash: So noted. OK I got one last choice question: Did you kill the druid? Nettie.
Nathan: First time, no. I persuaded her to give me the antidote. Second time, yes. I kept fucking up rolls and was like “You know what? These druids suck! Their acting leader is a fascist, and this woman immediately tried to murder me after meeting me because she thought she knew better about brain worms that literally nobody knows anything about. Fuck these people.”
There is a non-zero chance that when I play the final game, I will just kill all the druids immediately.
Ash: So because this game delights in watching you flounder, I have a story.
I was unable to convince Nettie. However, I managed to kill her. But! I looted the antidote off her with one of my other party members. I thought, in order to give myself the antidote, I’d have to just drag it to my player-character’s inventory and click “use.”
Little did I know I “used” the antidote as my other, non-poisoned party member
Now I had no antidote.
Ash: And I was still locked in the room with no lockpicker. So I could not figure out how to get out.
Ash: Baldur’s Gate 3 really does encourage r/dndgreentext moments, huh?
Nathan: Yes. And while it’s frustrating in the moment, it leads to some great stories! That is both a pro and con of this and Divinity OS2. They can be finicky, but even that finickiness has its charms.
Ash: I don’t know if I’m charmed yet, or just spiteful.