If you were to ask any fan of RPG games which game developer is the hottest right now, chances are they’ll point you in the direction of Larian Studios. This Belgian powerhouse has earned its claim to fame with the Divinity series, and now it’s taking on a whole new challenge – Baldur’s Gate.
I recently got the opportunity to sit down with one of the Senior Designers from Larian Studios at EGX 2021, Edouard Imbert. There, we had a delightful conversation about a surprise content drop the team is releasing for Early Access players. Beyond that, we also discussed how the team is making an RPG deep-rooted in Dungeons and Dragons mechanics accessible for a wider audience.
What’s new in baldur’s Gate 3?
From today (October 14th), early access players of Baldur’s Gate 3 are able to download the biggest patch for the game yet. It’s called ‘Forging the Arcane’ and comes with a brand new ‘Sorcerer’ class as well as an all new area to explore, called ‘Grymforge’. Check out the reveal trailer below!
I could just regurgitate all of the new features from a press release, but I feel like it’s far more interesting to have a developer explain what’s new.
“Mainly, we’re adding the Sorcerer which is the new class that allows you to add effects to your spell casting’, explains Imbert. ‘As you level up, you unlock new features. So for instance, you’re going to unlock the Tides of Chaos ability, which allows you to get advantage on the dice roll on whatever it is that you’re doing.
‘But the thing with the Sorcerer is that there are consequences to what you do.You can have what’s called a Wild Magic Surge. This can just make sh*t explode, blow sh*t up, kill everybody around you, cover the whole area in fog – you don’t really know what’s going to happen.’
That feeds into an all new dynamic lighting system that Larian has implemented in this new patch. You’ll find that some areas of Grymforge are covered in thick fog. You’ll have to be mindful of which character you choose to see the way ahead properly.
Grymforge is exploring the Underdark area of Baldur’s Gate 3, which Imbert tells me is an iconic location from the Dungeons and Dragons lore. With all new enemies to fight and plenty of loot to collect, players will no doubt have an excellent time exploring this new content drop.
What made Larian release a new content drop for Baldur’s Gate 3?
Larian is no stranger to releasing games into Early Access. In fact, its last game ‘Divinity: Original Sin 2’ followed along the same trajectory before it was released fully. However, releasing such a big new content drop for early access players is new territory for the team.
‘We were not planning on expanding our early access because we’ve never done that before,’ Imbert tells me. ‘But then I think someone thought it would be a nice thing to do, you know? We wanted to have Grymforge in the final game anyway, and since it’s part of the first Act, why not just put it out? We just wanted to give players something new and exciting to play. It’s as simple as that.’
What’s the relationship like between Larian Studios and its players?
While veterans in the RPG space, Larian has the difficult task of catering to an audience of a license that isn’t original. As such, that comes with responsibility to fans who expect a new game in the Baldur’s Gate series to be like the old games that they remember.
‘It’s really important to us that Badlur’s Gate 3 nicely ties in with Baldur’s Gate 2, because it is indeed the sequel. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bit of a love and hate relationship,’ Imbert laments. ‘They’re gonna be tough on us, right? The fanbase sends us a lot of feedback through Reddit, through our forums and through a number of other websites. We do not implement everything because some ideas would be unreasonable. But we do read everything and we do discuss everything.’
As such, a lot of the quality of life features appearing in this new early access update are at the direct request of the community. One example that Imbert gives me is that attacks from some enemies hit way too hard. As such, they were toned down as early as just two weeks ago in the development timeline.
‘We’re listening because we gotta! We’re making this game for them!’
How does the team decide where to draw the line between Dungeons and Dragons and Baldur’s Gate?
The original Baldur’s Gate games are based almost entirely upon DnD rulesets. While this is also the case for Baldur’s Gate 3, some tabletop mechanics just don’t translate well into a video game. As such, the team has to be selective about where to take creative liberties.
‘It is indeed a bit difficult for us. Are we making your Baldur’s Gate game? Are we making a D&D game? Which one is it?
‘To be fair, it’s both! It has to be both in terms of Baldur’s Gate – it has to be the locations, the story, the plot, and the themes. And in terms of rule sets, it has to be D&D, the current edition, with different classes and different possibilities.’
What’s the best thing about working on a Baldur’s Gate game?
I spent over an hour with Imbert, and in that time I could feel his passion for Baldur’s Gate and D&D radiating. He was captivating to listen to. As such, I asked him if a passion for D&D was an essential quality for a developer at Larian.
‘No, you do not need it. But it is cool when you’re creating content for this game that you’re already familiar with. It also gets you out of bed. Like “SH*T YEAH, I’m making a D&D game!”
‘And the stuff that we’re making, it’s probably going to be canon at some point. So we have the chance to leave a mark on that world and we’re really happy about that.’
Is Baldur’s Gate 3 purely for D&D fans or is it more accessible than that?
To begin with, I was actually quite nervous about speaking to Imbert. Although I have plenty of hours in Divinity: Original Sin 2, I’ve never touched a Baldur’s Gate game, nor dabbled in D&D. Thankfully, Imbert was there to walk me through the gameplay demo and was adamant that Baldur’s Gate 3 should be accessible to a wider audience.
‘I absolutely refuse to believe that you have to either know D&D or know the world of D&D to play this game. If that is the case, we f*cked up,’ Imbert tells me bluntly.
‘Ideally, you don’t even have to know what a 20 dice is to play this game. We would like anybody to, to sit down and just have fun.
‘The thing that will happen though, and I’m pretty sure of this, is that if you’ve never played D&D, after 10-hours of Baldur’s Gate 3, you’ll want to play D&D.’
That’s something that I can attest to. The passion that Imbert exerted throughout our conversation stuck with me my entire train home. It’s something that I’ll be keeping in the back of my mind while exploring the depths of Grymforge.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is available now in Early Access on Steam. If you already own a copy, the ‘Forging the Arcane’ update is available to download right now. Will you be playing Baldur’s Gate 3 this weekend? Let us know across our social channels.
Shop with GameByte!
Don’t forget, you can find some of these great games and more through the new GameByte Shop! The GameByte Shop is stocked up with the latest games, merch and accessories. We might even have a new-gen console or two! Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of our console drops. Please note the GameByte Shop is available for UK customers only.
[Featured Image Credit: Larian Studios]