A Push in the Right Direction: Baldur’s Gate III and the Art of the Shove
Shoving people is really fun. In video games that is. A lot of games give you the ability to knock your enemies back or even off a cliff. The Spartan Kick ability in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is the first time I remember the ability being really fun but Baldur’s Gate III really takes the concept and runs with it, all while putting it’s own spin on it. If shoving a druid off a lift to their death so that they splatter on their own sacred altar below is wrong then hell, I don’t want to be right. The mechanics of Baldur’s Gate III’s D ‘n’ D-style turn based combat can be boiled down into that one move. All of the game’s grace and gracelessness crystallized by a heavy push.
The fundamental change to Baldur’s Gate III is in it’s combat. Where the first two games had their combat take place in real time Larian Studios, taking over from BioWare, decided that a turn based system like they used in their Divinity: Original Sin series would be more appropriate. It’s safe to say that it is considering the Baldur’s Gate series’ roots in the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset and it makes the game feel a lot more tactical too without ever feeling less tense. Your character and their party members will, ideally, have a mixture of ranged, close combat and magic attacks to use against the varied enemies you’ll come across but Baldur’s Gate III’s hidden weapon is it’s most physical.
The shove action comes in handy not just for when a foe is balanced on a precarious ledge but also when you need to clear some room. Getting mobbed by goblins is no fun but it happens to even the best players. A well-timed shove will clear the air around you and often open up an opportunity to an attack with a higher percentage of landing. But that’s not where true satisfaction comes from though. No, true satisfaction comes in goading or guiding a high level boss enemy onto a high platform, hitting shove and watching them drop like a stone to the earth below. Fall damage, rare as it is, is no laughing matter in Baldur’s Gate III. Not only will it knock an enormous chunk off an enemy’s health bar – if it doesn’t kill them outright – but it will also leave them prone on the ground for a turn or two.
*Spoilers for the first area of Baldur’s Gate III begin below.*
Baldur’s Gate III begins with your created character and those that will become your party captured by Mindflayers – Lovecraftian tentacle monsters – who put a tadpole in your brain. If the tadpole isn’t removed in a matter of days it will supposedly turn you into a Mindflayer. Seeking the creature’s removal you hear of a druid’s grove where that may be possible. Of course, the grove is about to fall to infighting between the druids and the Tiefling – devil people – refugees they took in. That’s without mentioning the goblin fortress nearby with plans to raze the grove in the name of their goddess, the Absolute, who they believe sticks the tadpole in people’s heads as a sign of Her favour. So, there were two choices: side with the druids and save a bunch of poor refugees or ally with the goblins and torch the grove with everyone in it.
I went into the goblin fortress fully intent on rescuing the druid Halsin, a man apparently capable of removing the tadpole, and saving the grove in exchange for some free neurosurgery. But life and death are what happen when you make plans. Halsin died during a hard fought battle to rescue him. I thought about reloading to try again but then I remembered a convenient spell I’d picked up along the way. So I spoke to Halsin’s corpse and got the information I needed. It was a watershed moment for Tav (yes I’m terrible at names), the female Wood Elf ranger I’d created, as she realized that saving the grove would expend a lot more energy than destroying it. And so to the dismay, indifference and joy of her varied party members Tav woke up the next morning and chose violence.
Both of the major battles within the grove take place on high platforms. The first sees the goblins trying to destroy the front gate with the few Tiefling fighters up above. There aren’t many but they are tough. Still a little bit of maneuvering, a high strength character like the Githyanki warrior Lae’zel and some luck will send the toughest Tieflings plummeting to their deaths. It’s a cruel fate to see a devil-man who believed he was saved survive such a bone-breaking fall only to then be crushed underfoot by an ogre. But if you’re going for an evil playthrough you may as well go all in.
In Baldur’s Gate III the high ground is your friend more often than not. Nearly every character in your party from the vampire spawn Astarion to the half-Elf cleric Shadowheart is capable of using a bow and those that can’t will usually have a vast arsenal of spells. So it’s important to remember that even a poor shot like Lae’zel might be better served taking pot shots with her party around her than down in the shit. Which is exactly how I massacred some forest priests and the civilians they were guarding. Some decent archery weapons and strategic use of the elevator I was based on yielded terrific results with minimal damage to my party, physically at least. I fear I’ve emotionally damaged the supposed hero Wyll beyond repair, considering he left in disgust as soon as we got back to camp. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
I’ve spent a thousand words writing about one uniquely fun feature of Baldur’s Gate III and ignoring almost everything else. It can be difficult to talk about even a small part of what will one day be a massive, sprawling game. I like Baldur’s Gate III as a whole but it’s the specifics that keep me coming back each time. The beautiful, if currently small, game world, the tricky road to friendship and maybe even romance with resident Ice Queen Shadowheart and yes, of course, the shove button.