Baldur’s Gate 3 embraces the horror of Dungeons and Dragons
If you have been on the internet anytime in the last few months, I am sure you have seen the immense following Baldur’s Gate 3 has garnered, and for good reason. Besides being created by one of the best CRPG studios, it is also an incredibly well-developed game. If you weren’t aware, Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on the DnD ruleset, specifically the 5th edition. There is one thing Baldur’s Gate 3 does that few others do. It lets the horror of DnD soak into it, and for that, it manages to have this undertone and sometimes overtly horror feel to it, not to mention the fact that it’s a master-crafted video game and quite possibly the game of the generation it isn’t afraid to dip its toes in the horror pool, and when we get to later acts there are quite a few sections that deal with some pretty dark, ritualistic horror as well.
This can easily be seen in its opening cutscene, where a Mind Flayer is seen inserting these leeches into unsuspecting beings that will eventually corrupt them and turn them into mind flayers themselves. To add onto this, very early on, you come across this Hellraiser-esque torture area that has left a man with his brain hanging out. Then, the brain speaks. It wishes to be free, and it wishes to be separated from the body. As you remove the brain, there is just blood and viscera abound. It’s just very dreadful.
There are more significant spoilers for Baldur’s Gate 3 after this, so you have been warned…
But that’s the thing with Baldur’s Gate 3, it lives in these moments and constantly puts us in these horrifying situations that they somehow managed to make a horror game with no one noticing. They made it so players are experiencing all the horrors found in DnD 5e. While there is the dabble into horror here and there throughout the first two acts, looking specifically at the Auntie Ethel questline. She is an older woman who lives in a swamp, where she traps unsuspecting folks, either killing them outright or torturing them as she has been with an NPC named Mayrina, whom she promised to bring back her dead husband but for a price.
Or Act 2, where the entire arc takes place underground, where it is impossible to walk around in the darkness without taking damage. You will spend the majority of the time running from light source to light source, avoiding the painful dark but also what lurks in the darkness. This is more of a broad approach to the horror held within, but in Act 3, things get….horrific.
Act 3 easily has some of the most downright capital H Horror in it, not only in the subject matter but in the environment and characters themselves. Suppose you have Asterion in good standing. It’s time to figure out his quest line. This leads you to a vampire’s hideout, where the head vampire has brainwashed all of his servants to do menial tasks, hoping one day Asterion will return, where he can sacrifice all of his children to become the most powerful vampire. Or traveling to literal Hell, where you have to face down an archdemon to procure an item that will let you take hold of The Master Brain.
But, by far, the most significant leap into horror is the Cenobite-esque Orin. She looks ripped straight out of Hellraiser 1 and 2; in her fleshless, we have such sights to show you bloody red skin. She acts like it, too, as she is a Bhaalspawn and devoted follower in the Temple of Bhaal. Basically, she has a lust for murder, considering this is her most notable quote: “ Yes, yes, give me agony. Pluck me bone from socket. Stroke me with a jagged edge until my skin shreds wet and red.” She is crazy, and every scene with her is dripping with malice and contempt. There is so much bodily horror discussed and implied with her it is somewhat unnerving. Considering she is also a changeling, she could be anyone and, at other times, surprises the player during their journey in Baldur’s Gate 3 that you begin to question everyone.
We never get these massive RPGs diving too deep into the horror, but I am so happy that Baldur’s Gate 3 does. Because it’s dark subject matter, it just makes sense. It also makes it so when you can. You enjoy the calm times when you don’t feel like you are about to be tricked by a hag, avoiding the dark, or having to talk to Orin. If you couldn’t tell, Baldur’s Gate 3 is excellent.
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