Bulgur groats remind mi of fantasy more than any other food. I mean, say the word aloud. Bulgur! Sounds like the name of an evil lord, or something. "There are shadows in the land of bulgur" or "Gandalf fought bulgur for three days, and three nights" or "I saw bulgur's gate 3 in action." That is, Baldur's Gate 3.
I am not a person who believes in fate, karma, and angels. But even I had to feel a magical little something, a fingernail of fate scratching the back of my head, when on the very day I finished the first Baldur's Gate and started the second, Larian announced they will develop they third! Even before the official announcement, it was suggested that the studio responsible for the Divinity series would take over this iconic brand. Other rumors also considered Beamdog studio, responsible for the Enchanted versions of games on the Infinity Engine as well as... CD Projekt RED. However, no one seemed to take this rumor seriously.
I received the news about Larian doing Baldur's Gate 3 with great enthusiasm. I liked both parts of Divinity: Original Sin, so I understood it made sense. If I had any doubts, they were dispelled within a few hours of the game's presentation, which I had the pleasure of attending recently. I could see the game in action for the first time and understand what systems it consists of. And there's really a lot of systems. If you're hoping that Baldur's Gate 3 will send you on a nostalgic journey into the days of yore, you'll be very disappointed.
As much as I like the Pillars of Eternity or Torment: Tides of Numenera series, I always thought that the formula of RPGs that seem to yell "HEY! Remember The Infinity Engine? Remember the old role-playing games?” is, in my opinion, long exhausted. Baldur's Gate 3, although part of the series that started the series on the Infinity engine, mostly severs that connotation. And if there's a game that looks a lot like the new Baldur's Gate, it would be Divinity: Original Sin 2. And that's awesome.
Oh, I'll tell you right away – the date of release is still unknown. Swen Vincke, Larian's creative director, who conducted the presentation, said that they wanted to share a playable version with us. Unfortunately, this will only be available in a few months. Probably when Baldur's Gate 3 appears in early access. That's right – in a few months, Baldur's Gate 3 will appear in early access. And, frankly, it was predictable. Larian already has experience with early access and managed to successfully run several games through this service in the past. As Vincke says, early access primarily serves as a platform for communicating with players who will have a real impact on the final form of the game. Of course, their influence will likely be limited to details, because from what we have seen, almost all the mechanics, history and world are already in place and require only polishing. Oh, I know who it is, it's the, uhm... Cthulhu!
You probably know Hitchcock's opinion about what the proper beginning should look like. The earthquake can be pretty destructive. Say, as destructive as Nautiloid, the ship of the Illithids who invade the Baldur's Gate. In doing so, they destroy several buildings and kidnap dozens of people for breeding, before being chased by three dragon riders. All of that was depicted in a nice, pre-rendered intro that would fit a game from Blizzard. The Nautilod is destroyed, and the protagonist is released.
But I started from the wrong end. Before we get to this exciting battle in the skies, we learn that a Mind Flayer has planted a "tadpole" in our head, which begins to go through puberty called ceramorphosis. Which makes us sort of his parent. But it's not the kind of parenthood that involves taking your kid for ice cream, watching your offspring learn to walk, and crying with tears when it says "video game" for the first time. No, it's much more Freudian; the tadpole consumes the host from inside, turning them into a fully-developed ithilid. Well, what a way to go....
Once the hero becomes infected, we're taken to the character creation panel. And this is the moment, when you will feel at home. First of all, people familiar with Dungeons & Dragons and Infinity Engine games will see familiar statistics, options, and so on. Character is described with attributes: strength, dexterity, endurance, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. In addition, we will choose a character (from lawful good to chaotic bad), its class, initial skills or spells, and race. Here we will meet old friends from previous hits, that is, a standard bunch of people, dwarves, elves, halflings and other Tolkienesque beings, processed by pop culture; most importantly, though, there will be new faces. We can play a horned tiefling (I know they've already appeared in Neverwinter Nights 2, but they're new in Baldur's Gate), a drow, a gythianka, and a vampire. And these are just the revealed races – there's more to come, still.
Those who have not played previous parts of Baldur's Gate, but are familiar with Larian's games, can also feel as if meeting an old friend. The character creator is very similar to what we've seen in Divinity: Original Sin 2. As in previous games from Larian, we will be able to create our hero from scratch, but we will also have a pool of template characters to choose from. The advantage of these characters is that, as in D:OS2, they have an additional storyline, specifically designed for them. Will we be also able to change some of these characters' features? We don't know. We know, however, that they will accompany us during the journey, and the first of these characters we meet right after the Mind Flayers' ship crashes.
For the presentation, Swen Vincke chose a half-elf character who is also a vampire. The surprised hero realizes that the Sun does not harm him for some reason (he's still reluctant to walk on water). He also quickly realizes that it is due to the parasite in his head, the tadpole, who will soon feed on his brain and liver to turn a boy into a real ithilid; the perk is that he can admire sunsets and rises for an unspecified period of time before that happens.
This is how the adventure begins in Baldur's Gate 3. Initially, the story focuses on finding a way to get rid of the unpleasant visitor. The main storyline is also pretty much an unknown entity, but it will certainly have something to do with the invasion of the Mind Flayers. After all, this noble collective of fine gentlemen and intellectuals plans on, you guessed it right, taking over the world. Nevertheless, the few hours I was allowed to witness were devoted to a rather personal, intimate story. It seems that the game will allow us to keep the germ inside, as it provides some special bonuses. It also turns out that the hero and other companions in misfortune are unusually immune to the consequences of ceremorphosis.
Ceremorphosis is a very interesting way of reproducing. The "tadpole" grows over time and eats almost the entire brain of its host, and then replaces it. In this way, the unfortunate person loses memories, personality, and eventually life, becoming only an empty, parasite-controlled vessel. A week later, the physical transformation of the carrier occurs. That's how ilthids are born.