‘Baldur’s Gate III’ fuses tabletop, video game origins with livestream twist

'Baldur's Gate III' takes place within a classic Dungeons & Dragons setting. — Picture courtesy of Larian Studios
'Baldur's Gate III' takes place within a classic Dungeons & Dragons setting. — Picture courtesy of Larian Studios

NEW YORK, Feb 29 — Talk about high stakes.

“What you’re about to see is a game that’s still in development, so it’s literally pre-alpha footage. We’re not going to show you a video, we’re going to just play. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

That’s Swen Vincke, CEO of Belgium’s Larian Studio, introducing the world premiere gameplay demo of his company’s lavish, high-profile tentpole, “Baldur’s Gate III.”

It’s being made at a time when, thanks to the enthusiasm of various online communities, fantasy “Dungeons & Dragons” tabletop adventures have been on the rise, propelled upwards into the popular consciousness through videos, livestreams, actual play podcasts and crowdfunding campaigns.

“To make it even more exciting, the save game system is broken,” Vincke continued. “So that means that if I die, I’ll just have to restart. So we’ll try not to have that happen.”

Traditionally, debuting your studio’s next big thing with an Ironman Run like this would be insane; with Larian’s reputation for quality and transparency, the stage is set for a win-win.

Audience members cheer, jeer and laugh along as the affable, confident Vincke gets mired in a basic combat encounter.

Along the way, there’s a whistlestop tour of character customisation, dialogue influenced by physical and psychological status and the use of high ground for tactical advantage (and the launching point for satisfying, almost comically sturdy shoves).

Yet, starting over shows how the same stretch of Baldur’s Gate III accommodates different approaches.

Vincke adopts a more cautious game plan, making sure he has every advantage going into combat and cruising to victory as a result.

As well as drawing on computer game role-playing staples of combat and conversation, “Baldur’s Gate 3” surfaces its Dungeons & Dragons heritage in an unusually forward manner.

Rather than obscure the calculations that decide key outcomes, players are instead shown a dice that they roll to pass or fail an aptitude check. It’s a frequent and very visual reminder of the game’s tabletop ancestry, and one which elevates cross-media potential for Dungeons & Dragons as a whole.

The live pressures bearing upon Vincke’s demonstration also tie into how aspects of Baldur’s Gate III are made with a livestreaming audience in mind.

Not only is Google Stadia a partner, but Larian wants viewers to influence on how dice rolls proceed.

As well as livestreaming, Baldur’s Gate III will contain standard multiplayer modes: as with Larian’s Divinity: Original Sin II, it will have two-player, same-screen multiplayer, then online multiplayer for a group of four.

Announced for PC and Google Stadia, an initial Early Access release is expected in the next few months; Divinity: Original Sin II released on console after a PC debut, and Baldur’s Gates future is likely similar. — AFP-Relaxnews

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