Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 14, 2023
Baldur's Gate 3 - The problem with companions

Dungeons & Dragons has character classes which are designed to have unique advantages, allowing every player around a table of a pen & paper game to shine in different situations. In a dungeon full of traps and locked doors or treasure chests, a rogue who can disarm traps and open locks is so useful as to be almost indispensable. A fireball-throwing wizard is an enormous advantage in a fight against a horde of goblins, as melee characters have a much harder time to kill multiple enemies at once. You need a divine spellcaster to cast healing spells. And so on.

So what happens if a group doesn't contain any character that has a specific advantage? In the pen & paper version the answer is easy: The DM adjusts the adventure. If there is nobody who can pick locks, there won't be many locked doors in the adventure, because that would be frustrating. Even if the adventure module foresees a door to be locked, the DM can simply decide otherwise. Unfortunately, a computer DM in a game like Baldur's Gate 3 isn't all that flexible. If you try to play BG3 without anybody able to pick locks or disarm traps, you are going to miss out on a lot of content, and have a really hard time in certain locations.

The "standard" way to play Baldur's Gate 3 in early access is to custom create a character of any class you want, and then relatively early in the adventure choose 3 NPC companions out of a selection of 5. That selection contains 4 rather essential character classes (fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard) and a warlock, who is an arcane spellcaster like the wizard, and can replace the wizard (although that wouldn't be optimal, given the camp system of BG3). So if your custom character is a fighter or similar class, let's say barbarian, you wouldn't take the fighter NPC, but rather the rogue, cleric, and wizard to create a well-rounded party. And so on, if you want to play a cleric or druid, you might want to take the fighter, rogue and wizard as companions. Yes, you can custom create a sorcerer, and then take the wizard, warlock, and cleric to have an all-spellcaster party. But you would probably come to regret that lack of balance later in situations where you could really have used a fighter or rogue.

So, from a tactical optimization point of view, in Baldur's Gate 3 you will want to choose your companions based on their character class and specific advantages, which will be needed at some point in the adventure. But one of the big selling points of Baldur's Gate 3 is the relationship management between your main character and his companions. And the companions you most want to have for tactical reasons might not be the ones you want to hang out with.

I felt that very strongly when I was trying to play Baldur's Gate 3 as the typical good aligned hero adventurer, helping the weak and trying to not do evil. As it turns out, 3 of the 5 possible companions *are* evil, with a 4th one being neutral, and only Gale the wizard will approve of your actions when you are consistently nice. If I wanted to make an arcane spellcaster as main, and thus not take any arcane spellcasters as companions, I would be forced to group up with a murderous fighter, a blood-sucking rogue, and a cleric of darkness. Then I would either need to play evil myself, or "cheese" the approval system by constantly save-scumming, and reloading after dialogue options lead to disapproval. You can temporarily dismiss a companion, do the dialogue that he would disapprove of while he isn't around, and then get him back into the party. Obviously not a fun way to play the game. But if you constantly play in a way your companions disapprove of, they will leave the party.

Unless you want to play an evil character, Baldur's Gate 3 doesn't have enough companions you'd actually want to go adventuring with. Which is really strange, because lots of story elements revolve around being a hero and helping the weak. You either play against the story, or against your companions. Not really a great choice from a role-playing perspective.

In BG2 there were more companions you would encounter in later chapters so maybe it's just an issue because you are limited to part 1? I think you said something in an earlier post about early access being limited.
It's still early access. They have more companions that are good aligned on the way (like Minsc from the first BG games)
As far as I know, the 5 companions of act I are the only “origin characters”. They have the most interaction, and in the full game you can even decide to play as one of them. Later characters like Minsc are possible companions, but they won’t be infected by the tadpoke, and thus not have them same intensity of common background.
Thats my worry too...

Hopefully they will make a redemption arc story a possibilty (I think there might be a foreshadowing for Shadowheart) or mess with the characters before release.
I believe Larian already confirmed there would be more origin characters. Data mining has found files for some NPCs in Act 1 that suggest they will be companions.

As for why we have a roster of Evil companions right now that seems to be intential on Larians part. I believe the lead dev mentioned wanting to see players interact and react to them.
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