Having played hundreds, maybe even thousands of video games, I can unequivocally state that Baldur’s Gate 3 is my favorite video game of all time. The game is an exciting epic sprawl through the magical land of Faerûn (fay-rune) in a desperate attempt to save the world. Or at least, and let’s be real here – you really want to save yourself. Honestly, the main plot is something out of any five cent genre book (do those even exist?). But it’s not the plot the pulls me in. It’s the companions.
Companions have been staples of Computer Roleplaying Games (CRPGS) since the very start of the genre. Wizardry, the first computer game I over owned, allowed you to custom create series of adventurers to explore a sprawling dungeon. The Ultima series introduced companions in the third entry and they become the core part of the next six games.
Companions allow you to create additional types of characters and make combat tactical and exciting. More importantly, they make you feel like you are part of a living world.
In the early days, these characters were silent. I often filled the “space” with my own imagined conversations. In my mind, these characters took the form of my real life friends. It was strange blending of fantasy and reality.
Over time, companions acquired dialogue and even agency. In time, video game companions grew in importance insomuch as they provided their quests and even romance options.
I’m sure other games have expanded upon them like Final Fantasy and other JPRGs, but I haven’t played many of them.
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes these ideas and turbo charges them. Companions are now major parts of the story with their own backstory weaving into the main quest. Each companion has a rich dialogue tree often weaving into your other companions. Solving the “main quest” is truly about working together with your friends (or frenemies) to solve your own problems first. Only then can you take on the forces of darkness.
The narrative work alone for BG3 must have been exhaustive. The game tracks all the various states and provides rich dialogue for almost every encounter. Devora Wilde, the actor behind Lae’Zel, mentioned in an interview that she was working on the project for years! That’s just one companion out of many.
For a minority, I imagine the companions get in the way of combat, or creating optimal character builds. I imagine these folks skip every cut scene and could care less what happens to the Grove or whether Gortash gets his comeuppance. There’s nothing wrong with that.
For the vast majority – myself included – the companions are the game. Even more, the companions are the narrative. When most people look back at BG3, they won’t be thinking of the combat or even the main plot, they’ll be thinking of kissing Karlach in a stream so they don’t get burned by her infernal engine. They’ll be laughing at Gale’s being stuck in a portal, needing to be rescued. Heck they’ll even look back fondly at Lae’zel when she no longer says, “speak” in a curt tone, but “speak, I’m listening” with the kindness of an old friend.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, the companions are the narrative and it’s a story you weave based on your choices. Do yourself a favor and play the game, even if you don’t like video games. In fact, set the difficulty to easy, and get lost in Faerûn with your new friends.
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