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Conservatives Will Hate the Devotion of 'Baldur's Gate 3' to Its LGBTQIA+ Players

By Nate Parker | Miscellaneous | August 7, 2023 |

By Nate Parker | Miscellaneous | August 7, 2023 |


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Gamers have waited nearly 23 years for the next chapter in the seminal Baldur’s Gate RPG series. In 2019, independent game developer and publisher Larian Studios promised to deliver just that. They’d already delivered the massively popular Divinity: Original Sin series, a pair of turn-based RPGs loosely based on Dungeons & Dragon, so gamers were optimistic. Over the next 3 years, thousands bought in for early access to the game’s first act. Baldur’s Gate 3 is supposed to be a genuine D&D property complete with the 5e ruleset and a truly confounding number of skills, actions, and spells. And after 30 hours in Early Access and another 25 in the full game, I think it’s a rousing success not only in terms of gameplay and visual effects, but in the most important category for this style of RPG: choice.

The overarching plot is simple, on its face. An evil race of squid-headed abominations called the Mind Flayers have placed one of their larvae in your skull. Within days, it will metamorphose into a fully-grown Mind Flayer, like wasp eggs laid in a caterpillar. Players must figure out how to remove the larvae without killing themselves, while also discovering why a wannabe god named the Absolute is intent on controlling everyone sharing your plight. It’s a lot, with an estimated main campaign length of 70-100 hours.

Larian puts most RPGs to shame with its variety of characters and gameplay. Many games offer cosmetic and combat choices. This gun or that, a different color scheme, and a few branching dialogue or plot paths. Larian Studios blessed BG3 players with 11 races, 12 classes, and 46 subclasses to choose from and while not entirely unique, every class and race gives players the freedom to create the character of their choosing. And I do mean in every possible way.

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Yes, players get to choose the type, size, and shape of their junk. With at least 3 vulva and 4 penii to pick from the players are spoiled for choice. Said junk is entirely unrelated to your gender, which is unrelated to your body type and voice. It’s a bold choice on Larian’s part, given the current hostility focused on trans men and women, and one sure to rile conservative bloggers if they stop focusing on Barbie and Sound of Freedom for a hot minute. That seems increasingly likely, given that it took less than 3 days for over 800,000 concurrent BG3 plays on Steam. That puts it in the all-time Top 10.

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But it’s not just appearance, genitals, and graphic nudity likely to ruffle conservative feathers. Players can have multiple straight or same sex relationships. Characters can be nonbinary, asexual, or anywhere along the spectrum they choose. There are few clear moral choices, and the endless (but in a good way) dialogue options give no hint about what will lead to Good or Evil consequences, only whether your companions will approve of them or not. You can help war refugees continue their immigration across the continent, or allow a fanatical Druid to drive them into the unforgiving wilderness. Players can fight for the citizens of Faerûn as a righteous paladin, steal and murder as a callous rogue, or even embrace your new, dark path and become a Mind Flayer. Combat can be as straightforward or complex as you like. Don’t want to bash someone’s brains in? Surround them with barrels of highly flammable whiskey, launch a fire arrow, and watch sparks fly. Find an enemy gazing into the distance on a cliff edge? A little nudge should do the trick. Loot the suspicious skeletons lying around the room so when they suddenly stand up, they’re all unarmed. There are even split-screen and online co-op options so you can play with friends like a proper tabletop campaign. If someone had told me 4 months ago exactly how freeing this game is to play, I would’ve assumed they were high. But even after all this time I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Baldur’s Gate offers.

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Major studios are already cautioning players not to expect similar quality and attention to detail as Larian put into Baldur’s Gate 3. This attempt to manage player expectations is fair in most scenarios, but some, like this one from Diablo 4 senior designer Chris Balser, is ironic given they shared the same development timeline and similar release dates, only for many players to tire of D4 after a few short months. Characters were nerfed compared to previous games. Absurdly expensive cosmetic microtransactions abound. Its storyline, while much improved from Diablo 3, is still barebones at best. That’s after horror stories about toxic environments, gross mismanagement, and excessive crunchtime at Blizzard Entertainment made headlines.

I could go on for another 2,000 words, but it would seriously cut into my playtime. Larian Studios took their time and created a Dungeons & Dragons game I would truly call unique in the modern gaming era. There are no in-game costs or microtransactions. The independent studio worked under sustainable conditions, with little to no crunchtime involved. Happy employees plus patient players ready to throw money at the Early Access portion of Act 1 and help work out bugs made all the difference. It coalesced into a game that’s fun and genuinely unique, right down to the EULA.

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Bottom line: If you have a decent home computer and $60 burning a hole in your pocket, support the independent studio that supports its employees and LGBTQIA+ players. Playstation 5 owners can pick up the game September 6. XBox owners are out of luck for the foreseeable future; Larian Studios is contractually obligated to offer identical versions of the game on all systems, but the Xbox S can’t accommodate BG 3’s split-screen requirements. Larian hopes the game will be available by 2024, but isn’t making any promises. But if you can get it, do. And if you’re still on the fence after my rave review, maybe this one will change your mind:

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