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A beginner’s guide to beginning Baldur’s Gate 3

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After six years in development and three years in early access, Baldur’s Gate 3 is now live everywhere in the world. Due to the sheer size of the game, with reports boasting 174 hours worth of cutscenes and over 17,000 ending variations, and an impossible review window — The Verge received our code on Sunday — it’s going to take a while before formal reviews start popping up. (Or at least it should, but there will inevitably be some places that mainline the game in service of an uncaring SEO machine.) But thanks to the limited time I did get with Baldur’s Gate 3, I can offer some tips, tricks, and thoughts that will get you through the first 20 hours or so of the game.

Make sure you meet the recommended specifications

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a chonky-ass game, taking up around 120 gigs of space. My computer’s only about three years old, running an Intel i5-10400 with 16 gigs of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660. With these specifications, I’m solidly between the minimum and what Larian recommends, and it is evident. While I haven’t experienced any serious performance issues, it’s obvious from the constant sound of my desktop fans whirring that BG3 is a very resource-intensive game. So make sure you’ve got a rig capable of running it beyond the minimum requirements. Or simply wait until the game comes out on consoles. The PS5 launch is on September 6th; the Xbox launch is… well… considerably later after that.

Make sure you’ve got a rig capable of running it beyond the minimum requirements

Say goodbye to those early access saves

BG3 has been in early access for three years, which, according to a Bloomberg profile of the game’s development, was a successful way for fans to experience bits of the game while giving developer Larian Studios more time and money to finish this gargantuan endeavor. However, with the game now live, Larian recommends that you delete any early access saves to guard against possible save corruption calamity.

“We’ve taken measures to ensure a smooth transition into the launch version of BG3, but we still recommend deleting your in-game Early Access save files if you still have access to an Early Access version of the game,” read a blog on BG3’s Steam page.

Larian also recommends deleting any mods and uninstalling the early access version of the game and reinstalling it now that it’s live. No word yet on if early access mods are compatible with the live game.

I’d save right after doing something cool like this.
Image: Larian Studios

Save early, safe often, and prepare to die

I think my biggest complaint about BG3 is how sparingly the game autosaves. This, combined with how relatively easy it is for your party to just straight-up die, makes for an incredibly frustrating early game experience.

Many games use their early encounters to onboard the player, letting you go from fight to fight to fight, mowing down enemies with nary more than a scratch.

Taking this approach in Baldur’s Gate 3 will get you killed. Often.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is basically Dungeons and Dragons: The Video Game, and players should not approach combat as one typically would a non-D&D-based game. In one of my early adventures, after just mopping up a band of goblins, I stumbled upon three very low-level goblins enjoying some day drinking. Though my party wasn’t at full health, I thought, “It’s only three of them, four of us, and I surprised them. This should be light work.”

After my party missed three out of four of their surprise round attacks, one goblin managed to climb to a higher elevation, chucked something at my grouped-up party, hit an explosive barrel I could not see, and outright killed us all.

Frequent saving is your friend

I went from fine to FUBAR in the space of one (un)lucky dice roll. And, better yet, Baldur’s Gate doesn’t do the whole “restart at the beginning of an encounter” thing (WHICH IT SHOULD!), and my last autosave was some 10 minutes previous. Even if you’re not in combat situations, frequent saving is your friend because it is very easy to say or do the wrong thing in front of the wrong NPC, and suddenly a bear is chewing on Astarion.

Save often — you can even do it mid-combat! Your sanity and your downed party members will thank you.

If all of this looks overwhelming, it is, but the game will sort it out.
Image: Larian Studios

Don’t sweat the small stuff… or the big stuff, for that matter

If you don’t have experience with D&D or Baldur’s Gate (and, hell, even if you do), BG3 can be intimidating as hell. There are so many races and classes and subclasses with domains and archetypes and spells to choose from that it can get overwhelming.

Being honest, I cannot accurately describe half of what my party is supposed to do. I just know that Gale, Wyll, and my sorcerer do the pew pew, Lae’zel and Astarion do the stabitty stab, and Shadowheart does the heal-y heals. Despite this, I’m still pretty effective at murder-hoboing my way through Faerûn because the game does a good job of laying out my party’s abilities and the conditions needed to make them effective in the moment I need them.

Though I’ve never played a rogue, BG3 taught me pretty effectively that to get the most out of Astarion, his targets should either never see him or be distracted by another party member. Shadowheart didn’t seem to have a lot going beyond her healing spells. And since I figured potions already do a decent enough healing job, I shouldn’t waste a party slot on her. But because the game showed me that her Guidance ability can be cast anytime I need to talk my way into or out of a situation, she immediately became an indispensable party member. So when you’re reading all the class, subclass, feats, traits, or spell descriptions and start to feel your eyes glaze over, don’t worry about it. Pick what sounds cool, and the game will teach you the rest. The game is also decently flexible. I’ve found that building my party around combat hasn’t hampered my ability to role-play successfully.

There’s a lot more discussion to be had about Baldur’s Gate 3, but this is a good starting point for those starting out. Good luck, have fun, and for the love of Tyr, don’t forget to save your game often.

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