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I’m going to use a guide for Baldur’s Gate 3, and so should you

I know I’m not the only one who has been intimidated by the sheer complexity of computer role-playing games (CRPGs) in the past. Games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 have always intrigued me because of just how deep and flexible these experiences are, and yet the systems and mechanics have always kept me away. I’ve just been too intimidated, but that needs to change soon.

With Baldur’s Gate 3 about to drop in its full release, I realized I couldn’t resist any longer. If I was going to enjoy what’s shaping up to be a landmark CRPG, I’d need to overcome my onboarding worries if I was going to find the fun. With the release just a few days away, I’ve made a decision that I think will finally get me into a CRPG as dense as this: I am going to read the heck out of some guides during my adventure. And I encourage you to do the same.

Guide my hand

For a very long time, there’s been an elitist mindset in some gaming circles that using guides or looking things up about games in any capacity somehow sullies the sanctity of the experience. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, extra assistance might spoil a solution-based puzzle game if you look up every answer without trying to solve it yourself, but guides can also enhance one’s experience. Some may find joy in the process of solving esoteric riddles, fighting a boss with unclear mechanics, or unlocking hidden weapons for hours on end. But that’s not true for everyone.

When deciding whether or not I’d swallow my pride in Baldur’s Gate 3, one important design philosophy guided my decision: it’s willing to let me fail. CRPGs, including ones made by developer Larian prior to this, are built on the bones of the classic pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons rulesets. While they are modernized to a certain extent, a clear focus is on retaining the open-ended nature in as many ways as possible — including the fact that you can build a character that is bad, or even untenable, for completing the game.

This is certainly a selling point for some, but for those like me who don’t have the time or patience to realize five hours into a campaign that I made a character I don’t like and may need to start over, a guide can ensure I avoid those pitfalls. It means I’m able to get to the parts of the game I am looking forward to experiencing, which is crucial in an adventure that’s rumored to be 100 hours long.

A mage holding a flaming object.
Larian Studios / Larian Studios

Even in preparation for the game, looking at class guides has helped me feel more confident I can get into Baldur’s Gate 3. There are 12 classes to pick from the start, as well as 46 total subclasses within those 12. That alone would give me choice paralysis before even getting into how I would distribute my ability points, which weapons to focus on, and more. Thanks to some early guides, I can at least set myself up with a build I know will be functional. Even if I don’t end up liking it as much as I thought I would upon actually playing it, I can swap to another recommended build once I figure out what I do enjoy. I can make my decision knowing that it isn’t my fault I don’t enjoy certain characters because of how I built them.

It is in those early hours that guides can be vital for those like me, who are approaching this game looking for a deep and reactive story. And yes, I do look forward to the combat as well, but I believe a lot of newcomers will be attracted to how much Baldur’s Gate 3 promises to let them play however they want on a scale we hardly ever see in games. Especially for those who have never touched a hardcore CRPG before, a little help can keep us from bouncing off the game before getting to the entire reason we tried it in the first place.

There’s no shame in using guides for any games — and I’m not just saying that because I write them. Games offer separate experiences to different people who all play for a variety of reasons. Using a guide doesn’t cheapen those experiences; it simply helps players get to what they came for.

Baluder’s Gate 3 launches on August 3 for PC and September 6 for PS5.

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Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
Baldur’s Gate 3 drops Series S splitscreen support to release on Xbox in 2023
Jaheira in Baldur's Gate 3.

Larian Studios promises to release Baldur's Gate 3 on Xbox Series X/S later this year after pushing the game back because of performance problems on Xbox Series S.
Baldur's Gate 3 is available now on PC and will come out for PS5 on September 6, but an Xbox Series X/S version won't be available for a little bit longer. In a July 2023 community update, developer Larian Studios explained that this is because it needed "to ensure that the game is performing without compromise across the entire Xbox X/S ecosystem, in multiplayer and with split-screen. The Xbox Series X version was running fine, but the Xbox Series S version of the game was struggling a lot more. The Xbox versions of Baldur's Gate 3 didn't have a release window until now, when Larian Studios co-founder Swen Vincke took to X to confirm it'd come to Xbox platforms before the end of the year. That said, it will exclude one notable feature.
"Super happy to confirm that after meeting [Phil Spencer] yesterday, we’ve found a solution that allows us to bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox players this year still, something we’ve been working towards for quite some time," Vincke wrote. "All improvements will be there, with split-screen coop on Series X. Series S will not feature split-screen co-op, but will also include cross-save progression between Steam and Xbox Series."
Thankfully, it looks like Xbox players won't have to wait too much longer to play this excellent game, but it will be one of the first games to notably drop a major feature between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S versions. This follows comments by Head of Xbox Phil Spencer where he said he doesn't believe Microsoft will drop support for Xbox Series S in the foreseeable future. "I want to make sure games are available on both, that's our job as a platform holder and we're committed to that with our partners," Spencer told Eurogamer. "And I think we're gonna get there with Larian. So I'm not overly worried about that, but we've learned some stuff through it. Having an entry-level price point for console, sub-$300, is a good thing for the industry."
Baldur's Gate 3 is available now for PC, launches for PS5 on September 6, and will finally come out for Xbox Series X/S before the end of 2023.

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I beat Baldur’s Gate 3 in 30 hours (and killed everyone in the process)
Gale talks to the player in Baldur's Gate 3.

Baldur's Gate 3 is such a long game that even though millions have played it, far fewer have seen the ending. Only 0.4% of players have gotten the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement for beating the game at the time of this writing, according to Steam. It's a game someone can put dozens of hours into, with no end remotely in sight.
That is. unless you beat it way earlier than you were supposed to.
During the climax of Act 2 in Baldur's Gate 3, I accidentally reached a premature ending -- one that my party members weren't too happy about. The ramifications of the ending definitely weren't good for the Forgotten Realms, but finding a way to wrap up Baldur's Gate 3 early just gave me an ever deeper appreciation for how personal each player's journey through this game can feel. 
Note: This article contains major spoilers for Act 2 of Baldur's Gate 3.
One last gust of Weave
Anyone who has played Baldur's Gate 3 probably knows Gale, the smooth-talking wizard who you can pull out of a portal early on in Act 1. Throughout that Act, I had to keep giving him magical artifacts to satiate some sort of curse he has, although their positive effects on Gale dulled with each new item. After doing this enough, I learned the truth: Gale was cursed by the God Mystra after betraying her. At the start of Act 2, though, Gale's former mentor, Elminster, arrives and tells Gale that Mystra has a new task for him: destroy the "Heart of the Absolute" with a Netherese Orb Blast that will essentially nuke and destroy everything around him.

This option appeared alongside Gale's other spells in menus throughout the entirety of Act 2, although using the Netherese Orb Blast early typically results in a message that said my party had been defeated and tasked me with reloading. But there is a real opportunity to use it and end things at the end of Act 2. Most of this section of the game is spent finding a way to defeat Ketheric Thorm, a Baldur's Gate 3 villain voiced by J.K. Simmons. I confronted him on top of Moonrise Towers with the help of Nightsong, who I freed, but before I could beat him, he retreated to a massive Illithid Colony underneath Moonrise Towers. Obviously, my party followed, ultimately stumbling upon Ketheric and two other villains -- Lord Enver Gortash and Orin the Red -- activating the Elder Brain that seemed to be the "Heart of the Absolute" that Gale needed to destroy.
Gale told me that this and asked me me for permission to explode and destroy everything. The first option is to tell him not to, which makes sense; there's still a whole third of the game left to play! But seeing that every major threat in Baldur's Gate 3 was here in one room and knowing how much the game had already taken over my life in a week, I told him yes.
After saying, "One last gust of Weave. One last gale to end them all," Gale blew himself up, and there was nothing else I could do as my Dream Visitor shouted, "No!" Gale blew up, killing Ketheric, Orin, Gortash, and the Elder Brain and granting me the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement you're supposed to get for beating Baldur's Gate 3. The post-explosion dialogue paints a gimmer future for the Forgotten Realms, though.
"Beneath the smoking ashes of Moonrise Towers, the elder brain lies destroyed," the narrator says. "But what of the tadpoles it commanded? Freed of the Absolute's control, they will complete their transformations. A plague of illithids will soon descend on the Sword Coast, enslaving all they do not affect." Credits rolled as I blankly stared at the screen, processing that this was the ending I'd worked toward.
An imperfect ending
This definitely isn't a good ending for Baldur's Gate 3; it's pretty terrible, actually. Still, the fact that I could do that speaks to a wider strength of the adventure. The best thing about Baldur's Gate 3 is how much choice it gives players. It's not just freedom in completing set objectives, but freedom to circumvent them entirely. The most fun I had with Baldur's Gate 3 was finding ways to avoid major boss fights or set pieces. Instead of picking a side in the attack on the Druid and Refugee camp, I destroyed the bridge Minthara could use to escape in the Goblin camp, killed her before having a conversation with her, and then pushed Dror Ragzlin off a ledge to kill him.

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Baldur’s Gate 3 and Hades have made me an early access believer
Astrion holds his chin in Baldur's Gate 3.

Until recently, early access games -- which allow players to buy, play and provide feedback on games during development -- still had a bad rap in my mind. Half-baked games that took advantage of the process (like DayZ, Godus, and The Stomping Land) are what still came to mind whenever I'd see an early access label on Steam or the Epic Games Store. I'd refused to even play many early access games because I was worried they’d go unfinished or not live up to expectations.

I'm finally coming around though, and that's thanks to two recent success stories. Hades, one of my favorite games of the past decade, and Baldur’s Gate 3, the Dungeons & Dragon RPG currently taking the gaming industry by storm, both started as early access games. Each came out of early access as such fully formed, enriching experiences that it’s begun to reshape my perspective on how powerful a tool early access can be.
The benefits of early access
I remember actively not being that interested in Hades back when it was announced in December 2018, and that was because it was an early-access title. The joke was on me; I felt like quite the fool when I finally got around to playing it at launch in 2020, and it became one of my favorite games of all time. I was in a similar boat with Baldur’s Gate 3, which I originally got access to on Google Stadia but didn’t play that much until its August 3 launch. Fool me twice and all that.

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