If You Loved the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Movie, Do I Have the Video Game for You
With all the well-deserved praise coming in for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, I’d wager that there’s a good chunk of viewers now interested in D&D—possibly for the first time ever! By all means, seek out an established group/party to play with or make your own. However, I’ve got a suggestion for those looking for an alternative (or an addition) to an in-person game.
Baldur’s Gate is one of the locations referenced and shown in the movie. Baldur’s Gate 3 is also a videogame in development by the respected indie developer Larian Studios. After almost two decades of educational and RPG games, they released their magnum opus, Divinity: Original Sin II, to the world in 2017. While not an official D&D game, the mechanics and classes are nearly identical. This game is excellent if you’re already a D&D player or familiar with RPGs, but not helpful for newcomers. After the critical acclaim and new bar set for RPGs, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) tapped the Belgium studios to make Baldur’s Gate 3.
Heads up, this game doesn’t come out until later this year and has been in early development since 2019. The $60 game releases on August 31 on PC and PS5. While I’m already playing twice, going on a third time, it hasn’t actually come out yet.
Trekking to Baldur’s Gate
I’m not quite at the “calling rolls in conversation” stage of obsession, but I’m pretty damn close. In my first run, I played as a half-Elf ranger (alongside my partner’s Gnome wizard). We got over 20 hours into the game before hitting a roadblock due to the game’s pending release. After level capping (no more XP can be gained) at level five, I was eager to play again. I decided to rerun the game with a new character and new story decisions—well, as much as I could, considering I’m committed to neutral to chaotic good. So, I joined up with fellow TMS writer Madeline Carpou!
Here, I played as a Tiefling bard and Madeline a half-Drow sorceress! For those new to role-playing games, things like Tieflings, Gnomes, and half-Drows are species (formerly and sometimes still referred to as “races”) akin to Human, Dwarves, Elves, etc—all of which and more you can play in the game. In my third and (maybe?) final playthrough closer to release, I’m set on playing as a Druid. Like in real life, people will respond differently based on the character’s species. I learned this by seeing the ways people would discriminate toward Tieflings. Early in the game and still now, I called Tieflings—easily identifiable as horned and often red people—”the people of color.” So when I made mine, I made her my favorite color, purple!
However, “ranger,” “bard,” “wizards,” etc. are classes, and each comes with its own specialties in fight styles. Think of this as an occupation. In the movie, each character’s class contributed to their fighting style. What I’m not so sure it affects are the character’s romancing style because, in this game, you can … roll around between the sheets at camp. There are at least five companions that can join your party. Baldur’s Gate 3 limited the party (a.k.a. group) to four characters. So, since both of my games are me plus another person, we are two companions in our party. The rest we left behind or sit at camp sharpening their weapons.
While you can play by yourself with three in-game companions, this is best when played with friends. It doesn’t matter how familiar they are with D&D or RPGs. However, if there are people there with more experience, that can make for a more memorable experience. Many moments in the movie resembled my time playing Baldur’s Gate 3. However, the most memorable included moments between characters mirroring conversations (almost verbatim) between my partner and myself while playing this game. The good and the bad.
Seeing yourself in an open-world RPG
Despite the mass involvement of people that don’t fall under the category of ‘cis white man’ with D&D and other WOTC properties, it’s no secret that this community is often not kind to us. Like any geeky collective, the treatment only worsens the more marginalized identities you have. That has kept a lot of people quiet about their love for media like this. That’s if they ever got the chance to join community spaces in the first place—many don’t feel welcomed enough to even try in the first place. This feeling I’ve encountered before is part of why I am so enthused about Baldur’s Gate.
Not only is it fun as hell, but that gatekeeping is literally removed from play. Also, the studio and publisher are working on making the game with us involved and in mind, and it shows. Regarding race and gender, the game is not perfect (another story for another day as it’s mission-specific), but it makes a great effort to do better. Between efforts at WOTC (even one’s decades late) and Larian Studios, the game strives to be inclusive. It also avoids some (but not all) of the core of the issue in the fantasy genre across the medium.
For example, there are three gender options in the game (man, woman, and non-binary), and there’s a WIDE variety of ways to customize your character. If it wasn’t obvious, my and Madeline’s characters have distinguished Black and Asian characteristics, respectively. This is important to both of us. It’s not just customizable characters in the game as people of color or present throughout the story and available companions.
(featured image: Paramount Pictures and eOne)
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