I’m new to Baldur’s Gate, so the concept of video games based on Dungeons & Dragons mechanics is completely foreign to me. As I navigated the game I encountered a number of occasions where I’d get my tiefling’s well-crafted arse handed to me in battles because I was too underleveled or too unlucky with my rolls. Years and years of playing video games conditioned me to use my offensive spells and abilities to batter my way through combat. Hitting things or spell-ing things until they died was the only way I knew how to win a fight.
It took a while to register, but over the course of my quest Baldur’s Gate 3 showed me a better, much more fun way to fight.
Take “shove” for example. Shove is a bonus action anyone can take. “Push a target away for up to 4 meters. Shoving unsuspecting targets always succeeds.” I was in a fight, ambushed by some goblins on the rooftops above me. They were pincushioning my party with their rain of arrows until I finally managed to get my rogue up there for some backstabby action. He missed, because with my luck, of course he did. So, frustrated and upset and out of movement or basic actions I did the only thing I could do: I pushed the goblin. Watching that green-skinned sonofabitch go comically sailing off the rooftop, flailing through the air made me laugh so damned hard that I didn’t immediately realise that he died. That push was fatal. One well-placed bonus action and a confounded enemy went from full health to dead.
Now when I get into fights, I shove everything. ABS: Always Be Shoving — especially if enemies are on an elevated platform. Shoving also helps position enemies to take advantage of another godly spell, grease.
Grease is a great two-fer: You can knock enemies prone, granting you advantage against them (making you more likely to hit) and you can light be-greased enemies on fire. I don’t care for the wizard companion Gale. He’s very much the talkative-tries-too-hard-to-be-charming character archetype and I plain don’t like him. But he is a fixture in my party for his ability to sling grease everywhere and light the entire battlefield (sometimes my own party included) on fire. Triggering the grease/fire combo is my second-favourite way to fight in Baldur’s Gate, it literally sparks joy. My face lights up when I light up my enemies and…alright I’m done with the fire puns, but you get the picture. I’ve downed high-level enemies I couldn’t even hit by catching them in my flames.
The grease spell is great to have handy but it’s not the only way to napalm your enemies. I also take barrels of firewine with me to achieve the same effect. (Did you know you can pick those up? If you come across any, pick ‘em up and throw them at a cluster of enemies — works the same way as grease, just without the capability of knocking enemies prone.) Using a flammable liquid, be it grease or firewine, is one of your most powerful combos because it’s an easy way to do a lot of damage to a lot of enemies at once.
“Jump” isn’t so much an offensive ability as it is an extremely useful one. At first glance, Baldur’s Gate 3 looked to me to be a visually impressive game that lacked environmental depth. It’s an isometric CRPG, and I’m used to these kinds of games telling me explicitly “here is where you can jump” or “here’s where you can climb” to indicate there’s something there worth climbing or jumping for. Again, Baldur’s Gate 3 has proven me wrong. While you can’t really climb without an interactable surface like vines, you can jump pretty much anywhere provided you have the space to land and enough movement speed. You’ll use the ability for mundane purposes like trying to reach the goblin camp, but it’s also extremely useful for finding secrets or accessing otherwise inaccessible places without aggroing 50 million enemies at once.
[Note: Light spoilers for a nifty secret in the goblin camp. If you want to find it on your own, don’t go any further.]
For example, given my penchant for pushing people off things and the advantage granted by attacking from above, I want to be as far above ground as I can get. If I see a ladder, I’m climbing it. In the goblin ruins I saw such a ladder, which led to the rafters that criss-crossed most of the dungeon. I came upon a half-broken wall. I couldn’t walk across the rubble so I thought it was inaccessible, just environmental flavour. But, on a whim: “Can I jump this?”
I followed more rafters until they led down into a room where I could see a locked chest. Since I had my rogue with me, I sent him down to crack the chest. He found 3,000 gold! It’s hard to earn enough money in Baldur’s Gate 3, so you’re often left with the choice of buying the health potion or the resurrection scroll but never both. Three Gs meant that I might never suffer such a choice again.
One problem: The door out of the treasure chamber was guarded and would initiate a fight. No problem, if not for the fact that the room also contained 50 barrels of firewine. One errant spark and everyone dies. How could I get out without triggering a fight that would blow everyone up?
I jumped out of there, completely undetected and 3,000 gold richer.
Then as an added bit of *chef’s kiss* brilliance, I had Gale hurl down a fireball as a parting gift to the guards. I was literally running away as my enemies exploded, because cool wizards don’t look back at explosions.
In Baldur’s Gate 3 it feels like you can do just about anything. No matter your chosen class you are gifted with a number of spells and abilities that can make your character a living god. You can shoot lighting from your fingertips, talk to animals, heal any wound, cure any disease. You can spit corrosive acid at your foes, or inspire such fear that they turn from you and flee. You can even summon demons from the pits of hell to do your dirty work for you. And yet, I was one-shotting enemies with a simple push or immolating them with burning grease. Baldur’s Gate 3 is the Occam’s Razor of video games because despite all the powers you can learn, the most powerful abilities you’ll ever use in the game will often be the simplest.