Baldur’s Gate 3 came out of nowhere during E3 2019, and fan response has landed somewhere between “about time!” and “why now?” Nineteen years after the Baldur’s Gate saga concluded (or so we thought) in Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal, the series is set to continue with a new story, a new developer and a new Dungeons & Dragons ruleset.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is exciting for two reasons. Not only is it the return of one of PC gaming’s most beloved RPG series, but it’s also the first time that fans will experience the massively popular Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules in a video game. A lot has changed since Baldur’s Gate 2, so read on to find out everything we know about the latest digital adventure in the Forgotten Realms.
Baldur’s Gate 3 release date
Baldur’s Gate 3 will be out in early access on September 30. Unfortunately, there’s no hard release date for the complete game. Early access will include only the earliest part of the game, although there will still be plenty of options to play with for people who simply can’t wait to experience Baldur’s Gate 3.
Baldur’s Gate 3 early access
Unlike previous Baldur’s Gate titles, Baldur’s Gate 3 will be available in early access. Larian Studios has been admirably straightforward about what early access will entail — and that it’s primarily for people who are interested in how games develop, not necessarily gamers who want a complete BG3 experience a few months early.
Baldur’s Gate 3 will be available in early access on September 30 on both Steam and Stadia. Larian hasn’t announced a price just yet, but players will probably have to pay to play, even as they help Larian troubleshoot various issues.
Early access will include the first few hours of Baldur’s Gate 3 in as complete a form as Larian can provide. Players can expect about 80 combat encounters, 46,000 lines of dialogue, 600 characters and 150 spells. They can also play good or evil characters, both of which will provide radically different story options.
Baldur’s Gate 3 trailer
Baldur’s Gate 3 had a short announcement trailer that debuted for E3 2019. The atmospheric video showed off the city of Baldur’s Gate, and hinted that the intellect-devouring mind flayers would be the big villains this time around.
You can also watch the complete intro cinematic from Baldur’s Gate 3, which gives a lot more context about the overall story and setting. It’s got dungeons, dragons, portals — pretty much everything you’d expect in a high-fantasy RPG.
Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay
If you’ve played a PC RPG before, you probably know the broad strokes of Baldur’s Gate 3’s gameplay already. You’ll create a character, customizing your stats, skills, race, class, name, sex and so forth. Then, you’ll set off into a fantasy world (the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms, specifically), where you’ll gather a party, fight monsters, explore dungeons, converse with non-player characters and shape an epic story based on your decisions.
Unlike the first two Baldur’s Gate games, which BioWare developed, Baldur’s Gate 3 will be in the hands of Larian Studios. This is the company behind the beloved Divinity: Original Sin series, so BG3 will not be its first high-fantasy RPG outing.
Like Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 before it, Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game. Unlike the first two BG games, though, Baldur’s Gate 3 will use the 5th Edition D&D rules rather than the now-outdated AD&D rules. This may seem like a subtle difference, but the choice of ruleset will change the entire structure of Baldur’s Gate 3’s gameplay, from exploration, to combat, to conversation and beyond.
If you can feel your eyes glazing over as you read about various D&D rulesets, here’s a brief explanation of why it’s important:
Dungeons & Dragons debuted in 1974, and like any game, its first edition wasn’t perfect. As its creators refined the rules (and sold the game to various companies along the way), D&D went through a number of revisions, generally making the rules more cohesive and accessible as time went on. Each version of D&D tends to be a major revamp, reworking the system from the bottom up for better balance and smoother gameplay.
When Baldur’s Gate came out in 1998, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition was the prevalent rules system. By modern standards, it’s a fairly arcane game (try explaining what “THAC0” is to a newbie, and watch their interest in TTRPGs evaporate in real-time), and by the time Baldur’s Gate II came out, it had been superseded by the much more comprehensible Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition.
Since then, the controversial 4th Edition has come and gone, and the user-friendly 5th Edition looks like it’s here to stay for a while. Without recapping the entire 5th Edition rulebook, the game lets you customize your character’s strengths and weaknesses organically, without forcing you into a single archetype defined by your race and class. The bottom line is that 5th Edition — and by extension, Baldur’s Gate III — is more about crafting an interesting character than about min-maxing your skills for a “perfect” build.
If you want a deep dive into the gameplay — dialogue, combat system, character-building and so forth — check out my Baldur’s Gate III impressions from a press demo back in February.
Baldur’s Gate 3 classes
While Larian Studios could still add more classes between now and Baldur’s Gate 3’s full launch, here are the classes and subclasses we know about so far:
- Barbarian (Path of the Berserker | Path of the Totem Warrior)
- Bard (College of Lore | College of Valor)
- Cleric (Life Domain | Light Domain | Trickery Domain | Knowledge Domain | Nature Domain | Tempest Domain | War Domain)
- Druid (Circle of the Land | Circle of the Moon)
- Fighter (Battle Master | Eldritch Knight | Champion)
- Monk (Way of the Open Hand | Way of Shadow | Way of the Four Elements)
- Paladin (Oath of Devotion | Oath of the Ancients | Oath of Vengeance)
- Ranger (Beast Master | Hunter)
- Rogue (Thief | Arcane Trickster | Assassin)
- Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline | Wild Magic)
- Warlock (The Fiend | The Great Old One | Archfey)
- Wizard (School of Abjuration | School of Evocation | School of Conjuration | School of Divination | School of Enchantment | School of Illusion | School of Necromancy | School of Transmutation)
These are essentially all of the classes and subclasses from the D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, but there are other classes out there in a bevy of supplementary sourcebooks. We wouldn’t be shocked if Larian adds some of these — but don’t expect to see every single class ever published, either.
You’ll also be able to select a playable race. Here are the ones available so far:
Not all races and classes will be available in early access, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t build your Githyanki Transmutation Wizard the second the game becomes available.
Baldur's Gate 3 story
Since the story in Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t seem to follow directly from the first two games, there’s no real point in rehashing the complex and sinuous series lore here. If you’d like to reenter the city of Baldur’s Gate and see for yourself how it’s changed in the last two decades, you’ll be able to do so on September 30. If you want the full story, of course, you’ll have to wait at least a few more months.