With Baldur’s Gate 3 beating all conceivable Steam records in terms of how many people played it this past month and with the console release fast approaching, right now is the best possible time to try the game that is going to determine the trajectory of the entire RPG genre for at least the next generation. However, the game’s gameplay is full of unique mechanics and design concepts that may not be too intuitive at first glance. After all, Larian Studios uses the DnD 5e rulebook as the foundation for the game, which does require some getting used to, not to mention that Larian themselves are known for their unique blend of exploration and highly interactive gameplay.
With all these factors in mind, here are some tips and tricks that would make your first hours with the game easier and the entire experience smoother. Make sure to read to the very end of the list, for Advices 6 and 7 are perhaps the most important to remember.
Advice 1: Use potions wisely
In early levels, healing will be extremely hard to come by. Spell slots will be limited, and if you play a paladin, good luck healing your level 3 party with one lay on hands. However, the game gives you a very generous amount of health potions right from the start, and if, instead of consuming them, you throw them at a square with a few characters standing, you may end up healing several people with one potion. Just make sure that whoever is doing the throwing has decent DEX so they do not miss and completely lose the potion.
Also, I would strongly advise that you distribute potions between party members (whether healing or buffing potions) because drinking a potion in combat is a free action and may greatly boost your capabilities, especially on early levels. For that same reason, I advise that you make use of alchemy, as it allows you to craft potions on your own and then use them to devastating e effect. For example, say you have a wizard and a barbarian in your party. A wizard can either cast Haste or Enlarge Person on barbarian because they can only concentrate on one spell. However, if a barbarian drinks haste potion, a wizard can cast Enlarge, and a barbarian will benefit from both effects. More on concentration in Advice 2.
Advice 2: Before casting a spell, check if it requires concentration
This one ambushed me more times than I like to admit. Whenever you cast any spell, whether it is offensive, buffing, or utility, check if it requires concentration. This can be done by simply reading the spell’s description because spells with concentration always tag that they require it. What is very important to understand about concentration is that a caster can only use one concentration spell at a time, so if a wizard casts Enlarge on a barbarian, Enlarge will disappear the moment they cast Haste.
As mentioned before, I myself am guilty of casting Shadowheart’s Spirit Guardians, a powerful AoE damage spell, only to interrupt it on the next turn before it can do any lasting damage because I forgot that a +2 AC spell she has also required me to concentrate on it. Read spell descriptions carefully, though, and you should be able to avoid my mistake.
Advice 3: Make sure all party members can deal melee and ranged damage
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a revolutionary title for isometric CRPGs, and one of the ways in which it revolutionized this genre is in how it handled one character having both ranged and melee damage. Games like Pillars of Eternity or Pathfinder: Kingmaker allowed you to wield multiple weapons, but it was extremely difficult for you to switch weapon sets mid-combat without choosing some leveling perks that accommodated you. In Baldur’s Gate 3, however, switching between melee and ranged attacks is not just easy; it is necessary.
Larian Studios is renowned for its unique brand of level design that sees you explore multilayered locations with lots of cliffs, labyrinths, and tightly designed rooms. Using terrain to your advantage is crucial to winning combat in a game like this. Very often, you will find yourself in a situation where you are either ambushed by enemies standing one floor above you with no means of quickly reaching them in melee or find yourself in a situation where you have the high ground on the enemies and can easily outmatch them in ranged combat but will stand no chance if you drop your high ground to engage them in melee.
There are even weapons in the game, like pilums, which were specifically designed to be carried by your fighters and thrown at the enemy using the ‘throw’ command.
Because of that, I advise you to ensure that all of your party members have either a cantrip or a ranged weapon they are proficient in so that when you find yourself in a situation where melee is not an option, you will not have useless party members. More about proficiencies in Advice 4.
Advice 4: Before equipping weapons or armor on a character, make sure they are proficient with it
Proficiencies with weapons and armor are usually mentioned in fine print, so they are easily overlooked. The game will also tell you whether the item you equipped is something your character has proficiency in, but every now and then, it forgets to tell you nuances.
For example, barbarians and monks get CON or WIS buff to their armor class when not wearing any pieces of equipment classified by the game as armor, which includes chest armor, gloves, boots, and helmets. This means that when equipping your monk or barbarian, you need to make sure that all those pieces of equipment do not have an armor tag in their description. Otherwise, you may accidentally make it easier to hit your barbarian or monk.
Another nuance worth mentioning is that different weapons use different physical stat to calculate attack roll buffs and damage roll buffs. Daggers and Rapiers, for example, will use your DEX modifier for both attack and damage rolls, swords and maces will use STR, and thrown weapons like pilums will use DEX for attack and STR for damage.
Advice 5: Your commands are your best and biggest friends
Earlier, I talked about a ‘throw’ command and how some weapons are deliberately designed to be used by it. Throw is just one of a dozen of commands that are vital to make sure that you can explore the maps in Baldur’s Gate 3 properly. Jump, obviously, is the most important one of them because it lets you discover new locations that would otherwise be inaccessible, providing you with unique loot and paths around the game. However, commands like Aid, Throw, Use Improvised Weapon, Dip, Sneak, Retreat, and Sprint are all very useful in combat, allowing you to position your units and use them effectively.
You can throw your shoes at the enemy, dip your sword in tar and fire to give it more damage, sprint to make sure that you get into melee faster, and if you are disarmed in melee, hit an enemy with a mug you were carrying on your person for one or the other reason. Baldur’s Gate 3’s combat was designed to create infinitely interactive engagements, so keep these commands in mind because they will unlock unthinkable doors for you.
Also, remember that Feather Fall, a spell that negates all fall damage, does not cost anything to cast. So, if you do want to ambush someone from the high ground, you will not need to waste a spell slot to do it harmlessly.
Advice 6: Talk to everyone you can, whether it is a human, an animal or a corpse
Within the first location, right after the prologue, you will be able to find four ‘talk to animals’ potions. Each potion lasts until a long rest. That is four long rests worth of talking to animals practically from the moment the game starts. Larian Studios wants you to talk to animals because animals have a lot of secrets for you to uncover. Whether it is a dog protecting its dead master on the road, an owlbear protecting her cub, or a spider who can be convinced to attack its captors instead of attacking you, animals add a lot of flare to any location that they are present in, and sometimes, can even point out different secrets on the map.
Talking to animals has been a perk in the last two games developed by Larian, and in both games, it uncovered unique loot and quest opportunities. Baldur’s Gate 3 happily continues this tradition by adding the corpses to the mix. Corpses in this game can tell you a lot of information you cannot attain anywhere else. Just make sure to cast ‘change appearance’ on yourself before conjuring a corpse that you have slain because they rarely have the desire to talk to their captors.
Whatever party composition you will end up having, one of your party members must know how to speak to animals, and one has to know how to speak to the dead. It is up to you to figure out who you want to do what, but the game provides you with plenty of opportunities to attain both of these abilities. You can even learn a feat that will allow you to cast both of these spells indefinitely.
Advice 7: The coolest loot isn’t on the boss; it’s in their stash
When you fight a boss in any dungeon of the game, please remember that sometimes, not everything that a boss has will be on their corpse. Sometimes, the best loot will be hidden in their stash that they will have a key to. Sometimes, you will even have to solve a puzzle to get to the real loot, but if you do, you will be able to get your hands on the best possible gear your game has to offer.
Make sure to get a character with high perception in your party so that they can notice those secret stashes. Shadowheart, with her high wisdom, could do the trick. Make sure you have someone who can break locks in case you struggle to find a key to the door. Astarion is really good at picking locks. Also, always carry a shovel in case the secret stash is underground. This may happen more often than you think.
There are probably things I missed or forgot to tell you about. This game, after all, is ripe with secrets of all shapes and sizes. I am currently already brainstorming a second playthrough to catch all the secrets I missed on the first one and am recommending everyone to do the same. But if you have read this far, I sincerely hope that the advice I shared will help you find your footing within the world of Baldur’s Gate 3.