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 speculation
Baldur’s Gate 3 launched in Early Access last October. Unfortunately, there’s no hard release date for the complete game. This version includes Act 1 only, with the devs stressing that Act 2 and 3 are still in progress.
Larian Studios famously said that the full game will "be ready when it’s ready.” It anticipates that Baldur's Gate 3 will be in Early Access for at least one year, but that's not to be taken as comment on a firm release window. Judging by all of that, we'll likely see the game finally arrive in full this year.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Early Access
Unlike previous Baldur’s Gate titles, Baldur’s Gate 3 is available in Early Access. Larian Studios has been admirably straightforward about what Early Access entails— and that it’s primarily for people who are interested in how games develop, not necessarily gamers who want a complete Baldur's Gate 3 experience a few months early.
Baldur's Gate 3 went into Early Access on October 6, 2020 on both Steam and Google Stadia. If you want to hop in, it's priced at $59.99 / £49.99. The studio has confirmed that this price won't change at the game's launch.
So what does Early Access get you aside from the self-satisfied glow of helping iron out the kinks before release? Players will be able to play through Act 1 of Baldur's Gate 3 which should take around 25 hours to plough through. There are seven classes and nine races/ subraces available with more to come later.
Given that the RPG will offer players different paths and courses of action to complete Act 1, paired with the different character options, you'll be set for far more than the advertised 25 hours worth of content.
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 will 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.
You can keep up with community updates, as well as new trailers on Larian Studios' YouTube channel. One of the most recent videos to drop was the Druid class trailer back in February. Druids can shapeshift, and use over 30 new spells and abilities which are detailed more in the Patch 4 update. You can check out the Druid trailer below.
Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay
If you’ve played a PC RPG before, you probably know the broad strokes of Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay already. You’ll create a character, customizing your stats, skills, race, class, name, sex ,and so on. 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 NPCs, and shape an epic story based on your decisions.
Larian Studios is at the helm this time around, rather than Bioware. The developer's stable of titles includes the beloved Divinity: Original Sin series, so the legacy of Baldur's Gate is in good hands. There are some major differences between the Divinity series and Baldur's Gate 3 that are worth noting though.
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 titles, Baldur’s Gate 3 will use the 5th Edition D&D rules — or the studios interpretation of them at least. Larian CEO Swen Vincke told PCGamer that sticking to the core rules sucks some of the fun out of the gameplay, as it "doesn't work well in a videogame."
That means the gamplay will feel somewhat different, from exploration, to combat, to conversation, and beyond. 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 3 — is more about crafting an interesting character than about min-maxing your skills for a “perfect” build. We delved into Act 1 on release, and you can read our impressions of Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access for more details.
Baldur’s Gate 3 classes
While the Early Access version of Baldur's Gate 3 only features seven player classes, Larian Studios has said it will add more classes and races between now and the game's full launch. In fact, you'll be able to 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:
- Drow (dark elves)
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. Larian has also added a Vampire Spawn origin character, although we don't know if this race will be available for custom creations.
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. The third instalment takes place 100 years after the events in Baldur's Gate 2. It kicks off not too long after the Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus, with the tabletop RPG acting as a prequel to the title.
The first Act is available in the Early Access version of the game, and is escaping a mind flayer ship, spent gathering up companions, and figuring out how to remove mind flayer tadpoles from the player character and their crew.
Anything beyond that spoiler-free preview is a surprise that awaits gamers in the second and third acts of the story.
Baldur's Gate 3 outlook
It's been over 20 years since the last Baldur's Gate title, and even though the IP has switched hands from Bioware to Larian Studios, the developer has proven itself more than capable of knocking out a stellar RPG.
While the D&D aspects of the game shouldn't prove to be a barrier to entry to those new to series, you can expect a wealth of options and customisation thanks to the system.
For players eager to dive into the game, Early Access should scratch that itch. But bear in mind that there are plenty of bugs to contend with, and the experience isn't necessarily indicative of the full game. With at least seven months (or more) before the launch proper, you might want to wait this one out and go in fresh when the game gets a full release.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.