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Baldur's Gate 3: How far can you play in Early Access, when's it likely to be done, and everything we know

Lae'zel the githyanki fighter, a companion in Baldur's Gate 3
(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 is a revival of the classic party-based RPG series set in the Forgotten Realms. It's being modernised by Larian Studios—previously responsible for the excellent Divinity: Original Sin 2—bringing it in line with the current edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules. It's also become turn-based, unlike the original games, which helped popularize realtime-with-pause combat as a compromise between Diablo-style action and squad-level tactics back in the day.

The Early Access version of Baldur's Gate 3 was released in October of 2020. It lets you make a character and play through the first act as you escape from tentacle-faced mind flayers and try to find a cure for the parasite they've implanted in your brain. It can be enjoyed solo, or in online co-op with up to four players.

There are options for good and evil playthroughs as well as shades of gray in-between as you negotiate between druids and refugee tieflings with fiendish blood, make your way through a goblin camp, delve into the Underdark, deal with a devil, defuse inter-party conflict between your five recruitable companions, and more. 

What's the Baldur's Gate 3 release date?

Baldur’s Gate 3 will leave Early Access for a full release in 2023. Despite hopes for a 2022 release date, Larian had been setting expectations that a release this year was unlikely. A recent Early Access retrospective video from a D&D Direct event confirmed a 2023 launch window, asking fans to "come along in 2023 when the game releases." We're still waiting on a firm release date.

The finished version of Baldur's Gate 3 will be on GOG (opens in new tab) as well as Steam (opens in new tab), along with Stadia.

Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access review

(Image credit: Larian)

What we've played so far is very promising. It's a slightly anarchic sandbox at times, letting you sneak around pushing people off ledges, or dropping boulders on heads, like you're some fantasy hitman. It's great! The story doesn't really get going, and you'll finish just as clueless about what's going on with mind flayers and what you're going to do about this pesky tadpole that's been inserted into your head. 

There are, of course, plenty of bugs. Characters jitter in dialogue, and sometimes their eyes glow. It's being patched on the regular, though that means choosing between a new patch that wipes your saves or sticking with an older, buggier build. Give our Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access review (opens in new tab) a read to help you make your mind up. We've also explored how Baldur's Gate 3 compares to the classic games (opens in new tab)

How far can you play in Early Access?

The first act includes a chunk of the Forgotten Realms' Sword Coast, the Underdark beneath it, an ancient fortress called Grymforge, and a brief jaunt through Hell. You won't be able to make it to the city of Baldur's Gate itself, but there's still plenty to do. There's well over 20 hours' worth of adventuring in act one, which will take you to the current level cap of four.

How long it takes you personally depends on how many fights you get into—there are plenty of ways to bypass them—and how much exploring you do. There are clear paths and a main quest that will take you all across the map, but there's plenty to find off the beaten track. If you're in a rush, a speedrunner has finished it in seven minutes because of course they have. 

(Image credit: Larian)

It seems quite a bit denser than Divinity: Original Sin 2's Early Access. Larian shared some stats, and Baldur's Gate 3 launched with considerably more combat encounters, characters, spells and lines of dialogue. These numbers are out of date since even more has been added since, but they show the difference in scope between the state of the two games at their respective Early Access launches.

  • Number of combat encounters: 22 in DOS2 EA vs. 80 in BG3 EA
  • Number of English dialogue lines: 17,600 in DOS2 EA vs. 45,980 in BG3 EA
  • Number of characters: 142 in DOS2 EA vs. 596 in BG3 EA
  • Number of spells/actions: 69 in DOS2 EA vs. 146 in BG3 EA

You're not going to see all of these encounters and conversations all in a single run, of course. Instead, they represent the much greater number of permutations in Baldur's Gate 3—there's more potential, more paths.

How does it connect to the previous games? 

Though it's set years after the events of Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal and stars different characters, there will be a connection to the original games. In a Reddit AMA (opens in new tab), Vincke said, "We really don’t want to spoil anything but we wouldn't call it Baldur’s Gate 3 if there wouldn't be a link. Let me just say that we touch upon the story of BG 1 & 2 in meaningful ways, there are returning characters and what happened in BG 1/2/tob leads to what happens into BG3. You won't necessarily see that at the start of the adventure but you will quickly understand once you get further into the game." 

What classes and races are available?

Baldur's Gate 3 bards

(Image credit: Larian)

When it comes to races, the usual humans, halflings, elves, half-elves, dwarves, and gnomes are currently playable, as well as the less typical tieflings, drow, and githyanki. Larian is being stingy about adding more in Early Access, but half-orcs and dragonborn will also be options at launch, if not sooner. Here's all the specifics about the Baldur's Gate 3 races (opens in new tab) that are playable so far.

Classes are obviously important too. "The stories are very much tied to class at times," senior writer Adam Smith told us in our first look at Baldur's Gate 3 (opens in new tab). "Class is such a part of identity in D&D, in a way that it wasn't in DOS2." Larian says that in the full release of BG3 we'll be able to play as any class from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset. 

A barbarian holding a greataxe

(Image credit: Larian)

At the moment, you can play as one of 10 classes: cleric, fighter, ranger, rogue, warlock, wizard, druid, sorcerer, barbarian, and the most recently added bard.

As Swen Vincke has said, "we're not going to necessarily put the classes that are easiest to make first into [Early Access], we're putting the ones that are interesting for us also, to see what the community does with it".

You'll need to make a custom character during Early Access, as the bespoke origin characters are currently off-limits, but you can recruit five of them into your party. 

  • Astarion - High Elf Rogue
  • Gale - Human Wizard
  • Lae'zel - Githyanki Fighter
  • Shadowheart - Half-elf Cleric
  • Wyll - Human Warlock

What's the story and setting for Baldur's Gate 3?

Gather your party with these Baldur's Gate 3 guides

(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 tips (opens in new tab): Start smart
Baldur's Gate 3 classes (opens in new tab): Find your perfect profession
Baldur's Gate 3 races (opens in new tab): Pick your favorite face
Baldur's Gate 3 companions (opens in new tab): Learn who's who
Baldur's Gate 3 builds (opens in new tab): Optimise your class

Baldur's Gate 3 tells a new story set in the current era of the Forgotten Realms. The mind flayers—psychic, squid-faced alien tyrants—have found a way to one again travel between worlds, and are invading. 

The player-character and main companions are all infected with a parasitic tadpole that should turn them into mind flayers, but for some reason the process isn't working like it normally does. One of the key quests is to find out more information about the tadpoles and get them removed. 

Though the party doesn't appear to be transforming into mind flayers right away, the tadpole still has an effect. You can link minds with other people with tadpoles and get some other benefits, but the more you use your power, the easier you'll be to control when you happen across another mind flayer.

The mind flayers are an ancient and terrifying force in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. They have powerful psionic abilities, can mind control other sentient beings, and like to feed on their brains for sustenance. They frequently keep slaves to do their bidding and serve as a convenient snack should they feel a bit peckish.

Baldur's Gate 3 mind flayers

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Mind flayers have plenty of enemies though, and at the start of Baldur's Gate 3 we see a battle between mind flayers, demons, and githyanki, all taking place in and around a ship that's rapidly falling apart. The githyanki in particular feature prominently in Baldur's Gate 3, since one of your first companions is a githyanki fighter who was captured by mind flayers. 

The city of Baldur's Gate will feature of course, but the whole city won't be available to the player, only relevant sections. It's still a bit of a mystery, as we've only seen it briefly in trailers and cutscenes. In the Early Access version, you won't reach the city, though you will see it from a distance during a dream. 

Which Dungeons & Dragons edition is Baldur's Gate 3 based on?

Baldur's Gate 3 is based on Larian's interpretation of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. CEO Swen Vincke explained that some rules and systems don't translate well directly from tabletop to digital game, so Larian has worked to create an interpretation of 5th Edition rules that works well as a digital game but still feels true to D&D.

How do custom characters work in Baldur's Gate 3?

Making a custom character in Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access

(Image credit: Larian)

Similarly to Divinity: Original Sin 2, Baldur's Gate 3 lets you choose to make an entirely custom character or one of its preset cast. It's a good option to have, but Divinity OS2's main characters were pretty widely considered the better option as they had more personalized dialogue and a connection to the story. 

Larian said in an AMA on Reddit that in BG3, "custom characters have a much stronger connection to the world and the main arc of the story. … We’re confident that you won’t feel short-changed in terms of narrative breadth and depth if you choose to play as a custom character."

"When we say there are serious consequences to your choices, we really mean it. As you move through your adventure, you’ll discover quest-lines and stories that relate directly to the character you’re roleplaying, and the things that you’ve done"

How does Baldur's Gate 3 play?

For a longer read on gameplay, check out our Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access review (opens in new tab).

True to the series, it's an RPG in which you control a party of heroes with their own backgrounds and motivations. Like Original Sin 2, you'll be able to pick an origin character, which have unique backgrounds and special hooks, as well as making one from scratch. This time origin characters are also tied to a class. 

Vincke says the game will be heavily systems-driven and Larian will be creating its own D&D-inspired ruleset. "We'll stay true to our roots, so we'll give players lots of systems and lots of agency to use these systems and try to accomplish what you need to on your personal adventure and your party's adventure."

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

We definitely found that to be the case in our Early Access review. "Almost every object can be turned into a weapon in a pinch—one of my first kills was with a skull that I picked up and tossed at a monster," Fraser says. "This is a side of D&D that was previously missing from Baldur's Gate—the creative, messy sandbox. Every confrontation is an opportunity to push your luck and stretch the game's systems like you're negotiating with a DM." 

"Along with the ability to shove people and throw objects, you can stealthily slink around, make superhuman leaps, dip your weapon in puddles of acid or ignite them using a torch. These abilities can all be used in turn-based battles at the cost of an action or bonus action, as well as freely when you're wandering around in real-time."

"Baldur's Gate 3 is always rolling dice and making passive skill checks to determine if you're going to notice that sliding bookcase right in front of you. These happen automatically, accompanied by the comforting rattle of dice, but dialogue and active skill checks actually replicate some of the tactile delight of real tabletop roleplaying by making you manually roll a digital D20."

(Image credit: Larian)

Outside of combat, you can force turn-based mode on, which should come in handy when you're sneaking around and need to keep an eye on the movement of guards. You can also have somethings happening in real-time while other stuff is happening turn-by-turn. In multiplayer, your mate could be shopping while you're fighting. 

An option added in patch 4 allows you to turn on Loaded Dice, which Larian says, "helps smooth out the extremes of the bell curve [but] retains the core elements of RNG, ensuring a player can no longer be unlucky or super lucky with several dice rolls in a row." Hotfix 10 tweaked the math further in response to feedback so that strings of lucky rolls wouldn't be punished by increased odds of failure. 

Why does everyone look so dirty?

You need to take a long rest to clean up. Don't worry, you won't be penalized for doing so and in fact you'll need to go back to camp to trigger certain conversations with other party members.

(Image credit: Larian)

How does inspiration work?

One of the mechanics patched into Baldur's Gate 3 during Early Access is inspiration. In tabletop D&D, this reward for roleplaying can be spent to gain advantage on a roll, but each player can only have one point of inspiration at a time. In the videogame, it works a little differently.

Each character in your party has a background, which makes them better at a couple of skills. The urchin background, which Shadowheart has, gives her proficiency in Stealth and Sleight of Hand. Each background also has hidden goals within each chapter of the story—every time you play like a savvy street brat while Shadowheart's in your party, committing petty thefts and protecting kids, you'll earn an inspiration point, as well as 25 experience points. If your player-character has the same background, you'll get two inspiration points and two sets of bonus xp.

(Image credit: Larian)

To spend inspiration, you'll have to wait until you fail one of the active skill rolls that involve a big d20 bouncing around the screen. An option to roll again will appear afterward, noting how many inspiration points you've got left beneath it. It's worth spending them even on rolls that seem trivial, as you can only keep a maximum of four at any time—the same number as the size of your party. Any time you earn inspiration above the maximum you'll still get 25 xp, but that's it.

Let's talk romance

Larian dished some details on Baldur's Gate 3 character relationships and let's just say the game is definitely rated "M" by the ESRB for a reason. Your party members will have opinions about all sort of decisions that you make as the player character, including which factions you choose to support and who you choose to kill. You can debrief about everything back at the party camp, which is also where you can engage in more intimate activities. If you've managed to find your way into a romantic relationship with one of your party members, you'll definitely be able to act on the physical side of it. Yup, you can have sex in Baldur's Gate 3.

"We are trying to make these relationships feel real and feel like the relationships you have in the real world," lead writer Sarah Baylus explained. "You will meet some people who you have nothing in common with, some will be useful to work together, but that is going to be the extent of it. But there could be situations where you get on really well, you share similar goals and you love travelling together."

Apparently so far in Early Access, the most romanced character is Gale the wizard but folks also aren't shy about being evil to get some action either. "They're all horny," Vincke says of early players.

What trailers and gameplay for Baldur's Gate 3 are out there?

You can check out the original cinematic cinematic announcement trailer (opens in new tab) for Baldur's Gate 3 with all its body horror glory. 

For lots more, you can also watch over an hour of alpha gameplay (opens in new tab) , streamed during PAX East 2020. Vincke shows off a detailed look at combat, both when it goes right and when it goes wrong in proper Larian fashion. Note that some changes have been made to combat since this video.

More recently, a live playthrough of the Grymforge region (opens in new tab) highlighted the sorcerer class, and the chaos possible in multiplayer.

What are the best Baldur's Gate 3 mods?

Just like the previous Baldur's Gate games, the latest entry in the series is moddable. Over 100 mods are already available, some of them adding features of D&D that aren't present in the current Early Access version for players too impatient to wait for Larian to add them officially. These are a few of the best Baldur's Gate 3 mods so far.

  • ImprovedUI (opens in new tab): Mods for additional classes rely on ImprovedUI, plus it adds an option to drop the interface completely so you can take sweet screenshots.
  • LVLUp (opens in new tab): Raise the level cap to 20, and cast new spells like the classic fireball.
  • Paladin (opens in new tab), Monk (opens in new tab): More playable classes.
  • Sorcerer subclasses (opens in new tab): Adds the Aberrant Mind, Clockwork Soul, Divine Soul, Shadow Magic, and Storm Sorcery subclasses.
  • Enhanced Gear Progression (opens in new tab): There are some items in the game files that can't be found in-game. Unless you install this mod.
  • Tav's Hair Salon (opens in new tab): More hairstyles for ladies.
  • Basket Full of Equipment (opens in new tab): Over 150 additional items of clothing and armor, some of them NSFW. There's a SFW version too (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 system requirements

Baldur's Gate 3 system requirements are surprisingly gentle for such a pretty game. Be aware, though, that Larian has amended storage requirements slightly. The game used to require only 70GB, but has now more than doubled to 150GB.

The Act 1 content releasing in early access will only take up 80GB, so the rest of that space is reserved for updates down the line.

Minimum:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel i5-4690 / AMD FX 4350
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 780 / AMD Radeon R9 280X
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 150 GB available space

Recommended:

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel i7 4770k / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB / AMD RX580
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 150 GB available space

Cross-saves will be supported

Fans of Divinity: OS2 will remember that Larian added a neat feature that allows saves to transfer from the Steam version to the Switch release. Larian is pulling a similar trick in Baldur's Gate 3, but this time more expansive. Instead of running cross-saves through Steam's propriety system, player saves will be tied to a dedicated Larian account. That account will be accessible on every platform that Baldur's Gate 3 eventually releases on.

Don't expect cross-saves to be working anytime soon. They might not even be live by the time the game leaves Early Access.

Where are Minsc and Boo?

Minsc and Boo fight goblins

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

Minsc and Boo might just show up in Baldur's Gate 3. Larian CEO Swen Vincke told VG247 (opens in new tab) that it's a real possibility, saying: "If you look at what the Fifth Edition has done, characters like Boo and Minsc are still alive," Vincke said. "Bhaal and maybe a couple of other guys are still around. What’s gonna happen with that? You’re gonna discover when you play BG3."

Vincke wouldn't drop that kind of hint without following through, right? Surely there will be some "Butt-kicking! For goodness!"

Other D&D celebs may show up, too. We've already seen famed scholar and exaggerator Volo, who crops up more than once in the current build. 

Look at this baby owlbear

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

During the Early Access announcement date stream, Larian showed off a super short snippet (opens in new tab) in which the player encounters a frightfully large and angry owlbear. Turns out it's protecting this adorable owlbear cub. Larian CEO Swen Vincke says that this is one of a few possible encounters with the cub and "if you really, really play your cards well and your dice roll well you can actually recruit the owlbear cub into your camp." If you recruit the dog as well, there's a special scene that can play out with both of them at your camp.

How is Wizards of the Coast involved?

As custodians of Dungeons & Dragons Wizards of the Coast are involved in clearing storylines and keeping the D&D lore consistent. The quality of Divinity: Original Sin 2 convinced Wizards of the Coast to greenlight Baldur's Gate 3. 

"I went to them [Wizards of the Coast] after Divinity: Original Sin and I tried to convince them back then," says Vincke. "But they said we were a bit too green. They got back in touch during Divinity: Original Sin 2—they saw what we were doing and asked if we were still interested. That got the ball rolling. During DOS2 we had to submit the design for it, but it was annoying because we were about to release DOS2. So we sat in a hotel for a weekend the month before release, me and a couple of writers and designers, and we made the initial design document. It wasn't very good, but it had the core ideas and they did like it, so they asked us to make another version, and we did that and they loved it."

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was published in 2015, he edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and actually did play every Warhammer videogame.

With contributions from