Well, the time has arrived. As you’re reading this, Baldur’s Gate 3 is live, after years of Early Access held only a select slice of its first act. And I’m here to tell you that, especially if you’re a returning Early Access player, you shouldn’t just blitz through the whole starting area right away.
I’ve had a little bit of time, roughly a few days, to play the launch version of Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s nowhere near enough to write a full review—that will arrive much later, after I’ve sunk the requisite dozens of hours into seeing this journey through. For the most part, I’ve largely been retreading similar paths to what I played in the Early Access, dealing with the simmering tension around the Druid grove, tiefling refugees, and nearby goblin camp.
So what I’m here to give you today is a tip, a piece of advice, from one Early Access player to some of the others who might be reading this: don’t just speed your way through to Act 2.
Even from the very beginning, Baldur’s Gate 3 is noticeably different between its Early Access and launch state. Those who might want to avoid some surprises or light spoilers may want to skip down to the next header section; I won’t go deep into story specifics, but there was one particular difference that caught my eye almost immediately.
And that was the role of your other created character. In the Early Access, the creation screen would task you with choosing and designing your avatar (which can also be one of the Origin characters now, in full release). Then, it would bring you to another character creation screen and ask, “Who do you dream of?” Larian Studios essentially asks you to tell on yourself, and then uses that avatar to tempt you later on.
Well, that entire set-up is gone. In its place, there is the dream guardian. At first, I didn’t see much of them after I designed them; but over time, they began to reveal themselves, and with it a greater threat to both the party and Faerûn. Or so they say.
The more you talk with this guardian, the more it seems like Larian has built out this plot. In fact, the most intriguing part of the early goings for me has been the illithid powers and how they tie in. Before, it felt like a gamble. Do you want to use the tadpole in your brain to force a skill check? Do you listen to the temptations living in your dreams?
With the guardian, and the framing of the tadpole that’s shifted since Early Access, that relationship feels like a greyer area, full of more unknowns and mysteries, and it’s much more interesting to explore. This aspect really feels most interesting to Early Access players because they’re so familiar with the prior version. Why did this change? How does it shift the story, and your relationship with your newfound illithid powers? I’m really, really curious to see how.
Either way, it’s an early twist that made me realize I wasn’t just playing back through a section I’d seen a few times over in Early Access. And the changes continued.
Crash into me
The entire introductory section aboard the nautiloid ship has also been reworked and redone. Many of the beats remain the same, including who you work with, and who you can assist or not. But the actual sequence itself feels trimmed down to its core pieces and faster, almost like Larian knew that players had seen this part many times already.
Then, of course, the ship crashes and we’re into the journey proper. Baldur’s Gate 3 from here feels very familiar. It’s a CRPG running on Larian’s homebrew of the Dungeons & Dragons 5E ruleset. There are Wizards and Warlocks, Monks and Barbarians. Fights are turn-based, using a looser range system rather than grid tiles, and filled with interlinking systems of actions and reactions.
Igniting barrels to cause explosions, combining spells for devastating effects, or just kicking a goblin into a chasm, it’s all here. At one point, I struggled with a particularly hard encounter, until I lured my foes onto a rickety bridge and took out the supports. I might not be able to loot them for valuables, but it was an efficient way of solving the problem.
All of that is the same as it’s been in Early Access, with some enhancements. If you’ve been away a while, you might be surprised by some of the neat touches Larian has made over the years. The reaction system for abilities like Hellish Rebuke and Reckless Attack is straightforward and easy to use. Menus and interfaces have seen revamps, making most of them pretty clean and easy to get through. There’s a lot of info and cursor hovers to help explain basics as you go.
I do think there’s a bit of assumption that Larian makes, that the player will buy in and either arrive pre-knowledgeable about how D&D works or willing to seek the information out. There are tutorials, but they’re brief. Once the adventure starts, you’re in it.
Gather your party
The adventure feels pretty good, though. As I said before, the first area surrounding the grove and goblin camp will feel familiar at first. But a combination of new interactions, new scenes, and new characters makes everything feel a bit different.
Karlach, the final addition to the Origin roster (alongside the Dark Urge), is a big piece of this. She’s got a great storyline, and it ties closely into the rewritten plot beats for Wyll. Having a cheerful, optimistic Barbarian with a heart of gold and fire is a great addition to the camp.
But all the little details keep pulling me in different directions. I had thought, going into Act 1, that I’d be speedrunning through it. Instead, I’m replaying old quests to see how my new members react to them. I’m testing out my updated powers, exploring areas that feel a bit tuned and tweaked. Certain items are just where I remember them being in Early Access, but getting back there still feels fresh. It’s not all sunshine and roses; I found times where Baldur’s Gate 3 hitches on itself a bit, hit a few glitches and bugs, and I’ve especially noticed some pre-release lighting oddities that I hope Larian patches out soon.
This is good news for those who want to replay Baldur’s Gate 3, at the least. Even the thought of that seems so far off, though. I’m still on my own run, with my own created Tav, exploring the things I want to explore. What’s reassuring about Baldur’s Gate 3 today is that, even after years of this Early Access being available and players digging into its available content, it’s still fun to roll a new character.