Just a few short weeks ago, I was coming down from the high of finally playing Baldur’s Gate 3 in early access, happy to hand myself over to the whims of its dice rolls and not get too in my head about where my character was going to be as I played the in-development version of Larian’s RPG. In playing the game with its sixth big patch, I’ve come to see that the rosy vision of playing an invested RPG in this format is not all it’s cracked up to be. Not because I’m uninterested in what Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer, but because it already has its hooks in me, playing it early brings more attention to the walls the development team has yet to break down.
Fanbyte Featured Contributor Natalie Flores came to a similar conclusion last year. And, despite my best intentions to meet Larian halfway with the early access build, there’s part of me that gets too invested in the minutiae of my player characters for this format to work for me long term.
Baldur’s Gate 3’s latest patch is extensive. This includes an entirely new area. The Grymforge is the first new region added to Larian’s take on Faerûn since Baldur’s Gate 3 began its early access run last year. Here you find an assortment of new questlines, world-building, and characters beyond the boundaries of what Baldur’s Gate 3 players have seen before. And while I traveled around it, that same freeing sense of impermanence started to have the opposite effect. My desire to experiment with decisions and outcomes started to give way to thoughts of “this feels almost like cheating.”
One day, Baldur’s Gate 3 is going to be a complete game and I’m going to see all of this content again. By then, I’ll be playing a well and truly “canonical” version of my protagonist, making decisions as I see fit and sticking with the consequences. For those that don’t know, every time Larian releases a big patch for Baldur’s Gate 3, old saves become incompatible. You can still play them, but you won’t be seeing any new content that’s added through early access. As a person who was invested in his own character already, I decided to remake him to play patch six, which also meant replaying over a dozen hours of content I’d just recently seen to reach things like Grymforge. I was provided with saves to skip right to the new content, but these were prepared segments that were part of the game’s demo at EGX last week to show off added areas and the new Sorceror class, thus felt more conducive to an in-person demonstration than me jumping into them without context.
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That slight disorientation was what really pushed me to try and start over and use my own character to reach this content, but doing so really made me appreciate the undertaking of what keeping up with Baldur’s Gate 3’s content updates would entail. Replaying the beginnings of the game to get to the new stuff made my second run of the early hours feel almost like a time loop game à la Deathloop or 12 Minutes. I come in with all this knowledge of every character, decision, and situation. Because I’ve been here before. But this is all still early access. It doesn’t “matter” in the same way it will to me when I boot up the real Baldur’s Gate 3 some undetermined time from now. So there’s a sense of monotony to seeing the game again without those stakes, but it also feels like I’m studying up for a test that I’ll be taking a year or so from now.
If there’s one thing I really appreciated about playing patch six is that Baldur’s Gate 3 looks pretty damn good after a graphical overhaul. New lighting and effects add a bit more dimension to the world and plenty of scenes had a noticeable pop compared to the last update. There’s even some added effects to cover characters in grit and dirt after battle, which got a bit silly at some points, but was indicative of another layer of visual polish Baldur’s Gate 3 has now. It looks great, and I’m eager to see if Larian will continue to tweak the visual flair as we move closer to final launch.
But that day still seems like a distant dream. Even with the new content, I’m only scratching the surface of something that will likely eat up dozens of hours of my life when all’s said and done, but it’s still gated by big “under construction” screens. I’m already sold on Baldur’s Gate 3, so maybe that means its early access is no longer for me. It’s for those who are still unsure if they want to journey into Larian’s take on Faerûn. To those looking in from the outside, know that patch six bringing a prettier, more polished version of what’s already here. And what’s here is enticing. But I’ve played enough of it to be frustrated by its incomplete nature, constantly feeling like I’m pushing against barriers. It’s good, and I’m ready for the final product. But I’m done with the taste test. Bring me the full course meal.