Archive for Tabletop Gaming

On Baldur’s Gate 3

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on October 6, 2020 by chemiclord

This game is an example of how two things you like don’t necessarily combine into something you will.

Because I like the Baldur’s Gate series. I loved playing both games. I still even have Icewind Dale and the first Baldur’s Gate on a tablet somewhere.

I also have been a big fan of Larian Studios. I enjoyed the perhaps overly complicated system in both Divinity games, and had some of the most fun playing them than most titles over the last decade.

So… Larian taking their shot with Baldur’s Gate should be custom designed for my tastes, right?

Ehhhhh… no. In fact, from my initial exposure with Baldur’s Gate 3, my reaction has been, “Ew”, “Ugh”, and “Why?”

Let’s start with the party, filled with completely unlikable and possibly irredeemable characters (including yourself). I’m reminded why old first edition GMs frowned at the idea of “no parties comprised entirely of evil alignment characters;” because if it isn’t done absolutely perfectly with just the right balance of personalities, it is an absolute chore to experience.

And Larian… well… doesn’t do it right. You spend almost as much time thinking the world would be better off if you don’t succeed as thinking about how to succeed. Maybe Larian’s storytellers make them “better” as you get to know them (much akin to Divinity 2), but after about 10 hours, I haven’t yet seen any sign of positive character building, and have lost the desire to find out.

But if anything threw me off, it was the embracing of dice rolls front and center in the game itself. Not only was it immersion shattering, but it represents the flaws of tabletop gaming, and the shortcuts it has to take, rather than a celebration of what makes it great.

I get that dice are nostalgic, and near synonymous with “tabletop pencil and paper” games, but they really aren’t very good at what they do. They are a necessary evil to add a bit of uncertainty to a game and compel players to think on their feet rather than just turn everything into a convoluted math lesson.

But randomness and uncertainty are actually two very different things. Dice rolls aren’t used in tabletop games because they are good at creating the latter, but because there really isn’t a more practical way to get something resembling the uncertainty that a good tabletop game needs. And trust me, game designers have tried for decades to minimize the impact of dice rolls (if not eliminate them entirely) because… well… dice rolls kinda suck.

So, yeah, seeing BG3 lean into it (not just in a “under the hood” way, but as a centerpiece to the design) was an immediate turnoff to the point of, “I will not ever buy this under any circumstances.” Computers don’t have to do this, at least not in that manner.

Larian is so focused on the appearance of a tabletop experience that they either don’t realize or don’t care about what actually makes tabletop gaming fun. But I’ll give them a hint.

It’s not the dice.