Baldur’s Gate 3 looks set to be one of the greatest RPGs of its generation, both in terms of quality and scale. It’s also a revival of a classic, beloved series from more than 20 years ago – a lineage which can be a bit daunting for newcomers.
Not au fait with the history of Baldur’s Gate? Don’t fret. Below, we’ll cover exactly what you need to know about the story, history, and gameplay of Baldur’s Gate 3 before starting, including whether you need to have played the original games, a recap of their key story beats, and quirks of the series that look set to return.
More interested in an intro to the D&D mechanics Baldur’s Gate 3 is built on? Learn the basics here.
Do I need to play Baldur’s Gate 1/2 to enjoy Baldur’s Gate 3?
No. Though all the games exist in the same world of Faerûn, Baldur’s Gate 3 begins a brand-new story that doesn’t directly follow the events of Baldur’s Gate or Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (more on those shortly).
That’s not to say that there aren’t connections. Developer Larian Studios has already confirmed that several characters from the original games will make appearances. Jaheira, a half-elf fighter/druid who was a warden, companion, and potential love interest to the protagonist of Baldur’s Gate 1/2 will play a key role in the story. Another returning favorite is Minsc, an indefatigable human ranger with a straightforward set of morals and a pet rodent he believes to be – in his own words – a ‘miniature giant space hamster’.
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes place after the events of the original two games, meaning any returning characters have aged and had their own travels and adventures since. Baldur’s Gate 2 and its expansions had multiple potential endings depending on player choice and alignment, but Baldur’s Gate 3 will begin with one canonical worldstate.
Baldur’s Gate 1/2 story recap
If you’re really keen to swot up on world (and gaming) history before diving into Baldur’s Gate 3, this segment offers brief summary of the main storylines of Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, and the Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal expansion. None of this knowledge is essential for Baldur’s Gate 3, but it never hurts to have a bit of background context.
Be warned, explicit spoilers follow.
In the original Baldur’s Gate, the player takes the role of an orphan who later discovers that they, and their childhood friend – a human thief/wizard named Imoen – are the divine offspring of Bhaal, the god of murder. After the god’s death, his throne lies empty. Until, that is, one of his numerous children amasses the power required to claim it.
The primary antagonist is another Bhaalspawn, a man named Sarevok who has been studiously killing off as many rivals to the throne as possible. Sarevok murders the protagonist’s guardian, leaving them and Imoen on the run and in search of answers across the Sword Coast.
The player and their party steadily grow in strength, eventually unmasking Sarevok’s scheme to instate himself as the leader of the city of Baldur’s Gate. The final battle sees the two Bhaalspawn face off in a temple of Bhaal, with Sarevok eventually defeated.
Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn
Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn follows the same lead character, this time as they clash with a manipulative and sociopathic elven wizard called Jon Irenicus. The game opens with Irenicus capturing and torturing the player and their companions. Irenicus even murders longtime companion Jaheira’s husband Khalid (another potential companion from the original game).
Irenicus intends to steal the divine essence of Bhaal from the player and their sibling Imoen, transplanting their souls into himself and his vampire sister Bodhi. After Imoen helps the player escape, she and Irenicus are arrested for unlawful use of magic and trapped within the prison of Spellhold.
After raising enough money to free Imoen, the player discovers that Irenicus has taken control of Spellhold. He uses his power there to successfully steal Imoen and the protagonist’s souls. This has the unexpected effect of allowing the player to transform into a brutally powerful but uncontrollable monster called a Slayer.
After defeating Irenicus at Spellhold, the party chase him through the underdark, kill his sister, and eventually track him to the elven city of Suldanessellar. The group confront Irenicus during a ritual intended to grant him immortality, fighting him both in the mortal plane and then within hell. When Irenicus is finally slain, the souls of the player and Imoen are returned to their bodies.
Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal
Finally, Baldur’s Gate 2’s Throne of Bhaal expansion concludes the Bhaalspawn saga with a showdown between the remaining and increasingly powerful contenders for the god of murder’s throne. The player faces and defeats five legendary Bhaalspawn, only to discover that their rise was orchestrated by another: Amelyssan, a former Bhaal priestess entrusted with the god’s resurrection.
Instead of attempting to revive Bhaal, however, she schemes to kill the player and assume full divinity herself. After beating her, the player can then choose whether to ascend the throne of Bhaal (with benevolent or malicious intent) or destroy it and continue life as a mortal.
The events of Baldur’s Gate and its sequel dramatically ramp up in scale and power. No matter the player’s alignment, the journey heavily impacts their companions, often permanently scarring them. As such, expect returning companions in Baldur’s Gate 3 to be weathered and experienced from the events they’ve survived.
Unique aspects of the Baldur’s Gate series
At more than two decades old, the original Baldur’s Gate games played quite differently to modern RPGs – and we don’t just mean in terms of controls or the fact that combat is now turn based. Baldur’s Gate 3 will modernize many aspects, but developer Larian Studios definitely looks to have embraced the following design philosophies from the originals.
Companion disagreements and deaths
Most RPGs these days let you pick and choose companions as you please. If they disagree with you or other members of your party, the worst you can expect is a little bickering and back chat. And once they’re part of your group, they’ll stick with you until the end of the story. Baldur’s Gate, however, has historically taken a harder approach. If companions disagreed with your decisions or choice of other party members enough, they’d threaten to leave your party permanently.
Harsher still, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 also let you kill companions, often before they’d even had a chance to join your story. On this latter point, Baldur’s Gate 3 is definitely following suit. Depending on your origin story and the choices you make, it’s possible to murder or cause the deaths of several potential early companions, removing them from the story entirely. In short, choose your actions and words wisely – they all have consequences.
Messing up is often more interesting
When the results of your actions are decided by the roll of a dice, failure is to be expected from time to time. And in Baldur’s Gate, things going wrong is often the path to a more interesting story. Sure, losing in combat will see you killed off and in need of a reload, but in most other cases you’re encouraged to play things out. Perfection is overrated – a bumpy, complicated ride is always going to generate a better tale of heroism and strife that’ll last through the ages.
If you’re also new to D&D systems, we can help you there too with an intro to the basic D&D mechanics you’ll need to know in Baldur’s Gate 3.