Baldur's Gate 3: A Game of Endless Choices
Baldur’s Gate 3 has offered me the kind of freedom I never knew I needed. In what I’ve played so far, I’ve found myself in an endless number of improbable, yet real-feeling, situations with no obvious solution. Unlike other RPGs, Baldur’s Gate 3 takes a different approach to consequences. It’s not that the outcomes of my choices are less obvious; rather, I’m faced with uncertainty and potential negative outcomes that add to both the depth and the realism of the game.
Having played both the original Baldur’s Gate and its sequel almost to completion, I was excited to see what Larian Studios could do with the license in a modern, isometric perspective. But while the gameplay has been updated to match the modern era, the core of what makes an RPG great remains the same. So, too, do the negative consequences of my decisions.
In the opening moments of Baldur’s Gate 3, I’m faced with a simple decision: do I fight alongside my fellow mage Halsin in a goblin camp or do I leave her to fend for herself? It seems innocuous, and I could have made a different choice without second-guessing myself. But as I play through the game, I find myself questioning whether there was another potential party member I could have recruited by siding with the Goblins. Perhaps there were even greater consequences for choosing to assault the Emerald Grove, resulting in the death of my fellow Drow.
In my first dungeon crawl, I can choose to let the Tiefling twins go or threaten them into giving up their treasure. It’s a seemingly inconsequential conversation, but there are whispers of a grander story involving the Aumyran Empire and the fate of their people. Perhaps I made them feel threatened enough that they’d make a run for it, but would they have run back to the Emerald Grove and tipped off the Drow about our presence? Or would they have stayed and fought, killing one of my party members in the process? It’s uncertain, but it feels right.
I’ve found myself in similarly bad situations in other RPGs. Every decision in Baldur’s Gate 3 feels like a bad idea: you know they could have serious consequences that are yet to be fully revealed. But where other games fall short is in its presentation of these outcomes. It’s not always clear whether an outcome is a result of my choice or a consequence of the game’s story. It’s a testament to Larian Studios’ writing and world design that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and accept that my decisions have consequences.
There are times when the game doesn’t offer me the opportunity to avert a potential disaster.