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News 27 July 2022, 16:29

author: Matthias Pawlikowski

Baldur’s Gate 3 Returns Goblins to Grace And I Love It

After eight patches, Baldur’s Gate 3 is already a great RPG that suffices for dozens of hours. When recently playing the build, I was thrilled by the original depiction of goblins there, and I think they illustrate well why the direction taken by Larian is amazing.

When I first played Baldur's Gate 3 – which was a moment after the early access launched in October 2020 – I thought it looked good and promised a lot, but... the similarities to Divinity Original Sin 2 made me rather skeptical when it came to seeing this production as a self-contained, serious entity.

Don't get me wrong – I think Divinity Original Sin 2 from Larian Studios was one of the most outstanding RPGs in the history of games, I loved the Red Prince, I loved the engaging and difficult, turn-based combat and a multitude of possible quest solutions. Simply put, Baldur's Gate 3 is the successor to two outstanding games from the past, so I expect it to be a distinct, separate and unique production that I am still missing.

Today, after 8 big patches, I revisited it and this time, the game absolutely absorbed me. Baldur's Gate 3 finally – though slowly – takes a unique shape and now it seems one of the best RPGs of this year, which... wasn't even released – and it won't launch before 2023! What strange times we are living in!

If anyone was concerned that Larian Studios wasn't the right team to restore the dignity of a beloved, rusty-dusty franchise, they really should give the game a chance now. It's already clear that the chosen direction will take us down a path that we won't abandon lightly. The momentum and creativity can be seen in many points of the early-access version, but in this article, we won't analyze in detail all the changes brought by subsequent patches, because, well, it's still early access and literally everything is prone to change still. So, don't get used to the interface, quests or specific mechanics yet, because they're likely change, at least to some extent. Larian got into the habit of releasing really big patches (the last one added, among others, the bard class), which not only adds new elements, but also modifies those already implemented.

So, I will focus on something completely different – on praising the creativity and ingenuity of the developers, who may bring this venerable IP to full glory. And to illustrate this, I will examine the small, green creatures. For the goblins perfectly exemplify why Larian was the best possible choice for this difficult taks.

The best goblins are in Baldur's Gate 3

What Larian Studios did with the goblins in the third installment deserves its own article and tons of pictures (that you can find here). Goblins are a race that hasn't had much luck in gaming – since the 1985 Ghosts'n'Goblins they have been considered rather evil and dumb creatures, whose only purpose in life is to smash heads with clubs and attack the harmless. It was a bit different in Styx and World of Warcraft – especially in the latter, goblins are a race of ingenious, clever and bizarre creatures that fly among dragons and talking, bipedal cows on self-built rockets (I realize this may be the wrongest description of the famous MMO ever you've ever read).

More often, however, goblins – sometimes identified with a different, rather unpopular race of orcs – were stuck with a reputation of gun fodder, generic enemies to farm XP and test your new weapons on. Goblins were usually void of culture and characteristics, other than those of angry little monsters – in fact, they were usually not very formidable opponents, and we never gave them a second though. So, cannon fodder they used to be.

But now, Larian came and mixed it up. The goblins are one of the most interesting races in all of Faerun. You may remember them from the previous installment – dwarf green creatures that made inarticulate noises that our mages and warriors easily dismembered and proceeded on. They weren't even NPCs – just mobs that were immediately highlighted with a red outline as targets for immediate destruction.

Meanwhile, in Baldur's Gate 3, goblins became an unusual kind of NPCs – we can talk to them, trade with them, rob them, accept quests from them or kill them. They can talk – and they say a lot of different, often filthy things – they lead a nomadic, combative lifestyle, and they are evidently extremely pleased with all the turmoil they cause. In the current version of the game, we mostly meet them in the camp (the temple they invaded). The camp isn't so much a place to sleep, as it's a hardcore party – the guards are set up like they are in front of any village or city, but inside, you will take part in chasing poultry (by "poultry," we mean owlbears – half owls, half bears known to D&D fans), talk to the cook who prepares a roasted... a dwarf, or will listen to a human bard, whom the goblins have kidnapped to make their time more enjoyable – or annoying. It all feels like a living place, another hub where you can trade, steal, and receive quests – rather than a place that you just have to invade, kill everything that moves and forget about it in a moment. In addition to goblins, you will meet people and Drow there as well – just as a simple suggestion to show that you don't have to immediately attack them.

And this is one of the reasons why I think that in 2023, Larian's Baldur's Gate 3 will simply rule. It's not just about their prowess and creativity in crafting worlds and characters – it's about originality and searching for those mechanics, stories and events that will simply surprise us. At one point, we even meet little goblin children! I've never met a goblin child before.

The care with which Larian creates new characters is stunning already. You will notice that goblins often wear whatever they loot from corpses – torn shirts, pieces of worn armor, bloody breastplates and padded helmets. They resemble an army of raiders, not particularly respecting the hierarchy and rules of any society. They spend their free time drinking (if we decide to kill the goblins, one of the ways is... poisoning their booze), eating, playing and being sadistic (I recommend finding a windmill on the map – there, you will see a very unfortunate gnome). I also recommend pulling the lever to increase the speed of the mill instead of freeing this gnome... But at the same time – although they wear trash clothes – they want to dress up and look beautiful, so you will find, for example, colored feathers or simple decorations on their clothes. I love that kind of details!

Bad to the bone

Of course, getting the goblins to grace by the authors of Divinity Original Sin 2 is not only a matter of creativity. The unique opportunity introduced by the goblins is that if we want to, we can lay our virtues aside, take up a solid club, and smash the holy knight's head open. In other words, we can be bad. Goblins are simply one of the factions that we can ally with in the first act of the game.

At the beginning – when we get out of the Mind Flayer' ship – we hit the Druid Grove, under the gates of which we're attacked by goblins. Once we deal with them and enter the grove, we will learn that refugees took shelter in the grove from the goblin attacks, taking advantage of the druids' hospitality. Hospitality, however, was rather short-lived, as the druids soon began a ritual that would close the grove to outsiders. They will save themselves, but not the refugees.

At this point, we come in, and, of course, we can solve the whole situation in several ways, e.g. by getting rid of the goblins or saving the former druid leader, who was more favorable to refugees. However, if we look well in the grove, we will find a she-goblin trapped there, who will guarantee us a peaceful entry to the camp if we help her. Then, we can ally with the goblins and attack the druids, first killing the refugees, and then sending the druids themselves to the "eternal meadows."

And although this isn't my favorite way of completing RPGs, I am glad that in BG3 we can really be bad without being punished for it by the game (apart from the hostility of characters in our team, of course – as in previous parts, our team consists of characters with their own views, so not all of our deeds will appeal to them). It often happens in RPGs that, while the game gives us the choice to be good or bad, being the good one brings the best results, such as the best loot. This way, playing a bad character just doesn't pay off, and most players chose the good path, even if it doesn't suit their virtual avatar. In BG3, taking the evil path is simply one of the choices, neither worse, nor better. If the game really doesn't punish evilness, we will have a really amazing RPG, with great replayability potential, because the next approach to the game will give us different cutscenes, events and results. The first Act of the game that we can currently play shows that this will indeed be the case.

I want to play as a goblin!

In fact, I liked the goblins so much that I think it would be my favorite race to play this game as. I imagine walking around with my unruly green monster, causing hostility or at least distrust among the civilized races. Unfortunately, the chances for this are slim – Larian announced that the game will be released with races that are part of the Dungeons & Dragons Player Handbook (except for the Githyankis), so you shouldn't count on goblins. And it makes sense, because the goblins in D&D are rather pariahs, banned from the life of big cities. Fortunately, however, as usual, the community rose to the occasion and although the game has not been released yet, we can download a mod that will allow us to play as a goblin.

Baldur's Gate 3 can already take tens of hours of your life (there's a lot of content – especially if you like to explore). After 8 patches, the game looks more and more like a finished product, as the developers deepen and nuance the races, classes and gameplay. And yet, there's still plenty of time until the release!

Until 2023

So, to get back to the subject from the introduction – I was afraid that BG3 would not crystallize its own identity, that it would be a carbon copy of a great game of yore, with engaging, thought-provoking combat, great exploration and story, but that it would not really be a "Baldur." And it turns out that while at the current stage of development, you will still find UI elements that are reminiscent of past Larian games, we can learn ever so quickly that there's something completely different waiting here. The presence of many D&D races, iconic spells and skills from parts one and two, or the charismatic heroes and their eternal complaints about our actions will surely evoke the vibes of the classic stories and adventures of Bhaal's spawn. The creators also assure that as the story unfolds, more and more references to the old games will appear. Who knows, maybe we'll even meet Minsc and Boo!

In truth – at least for now – there's not much classic vibe to find here, but I am convinced that Larian will complement their world with a lot of lore in form of books, myths, stories and references to the classic. In terms of unique identity, it's still work in progress – but the creators are definitely going in the right direction.

And with each new patch bringing nuanced content, there's simply more of the good stuff. There are people who have played the early-access build a dozen times over, and discovered (almost) everything. And although the game, for obvious reasons, still has a lot of bugs (unfinished, incorrect animations in cutscenes, missing sounds, regular glitches), it's already very engaging and somewhere between the fifth or tenth hour, we can forget that it's early access. I don't encourage those who are waiting for a finished, full product to play the game already – if you feel like it, wait and stay strong! However, if you have no problems playing BG3 before it's ready, downloading the build and visiting the goblin camp will be a great adventure even today! And remember, you don't have to mow the goblins down.

Baldur's Gate III

Baldur's Gate III

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