Baldur’s Gate 3 has received widespread acclaim from both critics and fans, and for good reason. The game offers an almost absurd amount of creative choices to its players, giving them the ability to tackle its various encounters as they see fit. Take the first main hub, the Emerald Grove, as an example. There are so many storylines and interactions in just that small area alone, that you’ll likely miss a ton during your first playthrough.
Do keep in mind, though, that this is all highly intentional. The developer behind it, Larian Studios, has purposely worked to make the game brimming with thousands upon thousands of interactions. It might feel overwhelming at first, but it’s what gives the game its charm, and its great replayability factor. However, despite all these opportunities, there’s one essential element that feels woefully missing.
And that’s a proper Evil playthrough. In a game that offers so much to players who wish to carve out their destiny, anyone wanting to go full-blown evil during their run is severely punished in multiple ways. The worst part is the game fails to make up for the losses you undergo simply for choosing to be evil, resulting in a fairly lackluster experience overall.
Forced Into A Strict Path
Characters in Baldur’s Gate 3 can define themselves in a ton of ways. You’ll have spell-wielding Sorcerers who are lovestruck over a goddess. And blood-sucking vampires with a weirdly intimate fascination with bears. But here’s the thing. Those wanting to go on the Evil path in the game, generally need to make one pretty important decision in Act 1: and that’s killing off the Emerald Grove.
You see, while you can still around around, doing evil things every now and again, this vital encounter serves as the bread and butter of most evil playthroughs. That’s because it allows you to recruit Minthara, who’s just about the only new companion you get during an Evil run. Here’s the problem though. The fact the game makes the distinction between evil and non-evil runs so massive ends up reducing a ton of player agency.
Players have been trying to do everything to somehow get Minthara, without having to outright slaughter the entire grove. From mods to even glitches, it’s been tried and tested. You might think, “what’s the harm in killing a bunch of druids and Tieflings?” It is supposed to be an evil playthrough after all. Well, as it turns out, this is one of those things the game really decides to punish you for.
Evil Comes At A Cost
Baldur’s Gate 3 gives players the ability to make thousands of choices during each playthrough. But more often than not, choosing the generally lawful good thing to do, comes with very few consequences. In fact, you’re often rewarded for your heroism, by being able to add new allies into your party. This holds true, even after the initial cast of adventurers you come across.
But that’s not all. Being a good guy generally nets you more friends and allies in the world too. Going back to the Druid Grove for a second. You’ll want to stick around and acquaint yourself with all the folks there. Because chances are, you’ll be running into them later in the game, as you venture into Acts 2 and 3. By choosing to kill them off at the Grove, you’re prematurely ending tons of storylines and interactions.
And the worst part is, the game fails to add anything new to replace these interactions. This makes parts of the game feel incredibly hollow, whereas generally, you would have returning characters being present and continuing their journey with you. This wouldn’t be a problem if you had a new set of evil-run-only characters accompanying you. But this simply isn’t the case.
In fact, some players have even reported that their playtime on an evil run has fallen to as little as 40 hours. This is despite Baldur’s Gate 3 offering, on average, 75 hours of content to its players. But of course, that’s not too surprising. After all, all the characters who are supposed to offer you that content are already dead in Act 1 if you decide to go evil.
Take Barcus Wroot from Act 1 as an example. While seemingly just an annoying gnome you’re likely to kill off during an evil run, he’s part of a much larger questline that continues all the way till the game’s third Act. The game has such a huge tendency to keep characters returning in later parts of the game. And so, killing them off like a murder hobo does nothing but detract from your own experience.
Losing Out On Close Allies
It gets much worse. Turns out, being evil doesn’t just mean some NPCs will be missing in later stages of the game. In fact, even your own party members will turn their backs against you. Particularly, Wyll and Karlach will refuse to continue their journey with you. Even Gael takes a bit of convincing to continue staying after the whole fiasco.
It’s not too surprising why their characters wouldn’t be up for the unadulterated slaughter of innocents. But as a player, you can’t help but feel disappointed to see them go. Both Wyll and Karlach have amazing interactions and storylines that continue till the game’s final stages. Losing them as early as the Grove can not only deprive you of the content but can seriously weaken your party. You’re better off killing them yourself.
By killing the grove, you also never get to recruit Halsin into your party. He’s an important character in Act 2, being involved in the Thaniel questline, and lifting the curse. Without Halsin present, it’s likely players will never get to understand the source behind the curse, or even get anywhere close to solving it. In the end, it ends up being yet another aspect of the game you forgo for being evil.
Of course, missing out on all these companions starts to take its toll on your ability to fend for yourself in combat too. Depending on what difficulty you’re playing, having access to a wide range of characters and abilities is a much-needed positive. But if you’ve kicked out tons of party members by being a murder hobo, you might find yourself traveling the roads of Faerun on your own.
Luckily, the game’s Hireling system does make it so you’re not completely without options. So it’s not like you’ll completely lock yourself out of the game. But still, that doesn’t make up for the dozens of unique items, vendors, and questlines you still lose with no replacements during an Evil playthrough.
The Minthara Factor
It’s pretty clear that with everything you stand to lose during an Evil playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3, it ultimately comes down to how much you want Minthara in your party. She’s the only real tradeoff for going evil, as she’s the only part of the game that’s mostly locked off for lawful good characters. So whether you feel like going Evil in the game is rewarding or not, entirely depends on how much you’re nuts for Minthara.
And honestly? The game didn’t exactly make a great case for her. For one, thousands of her dialogues from the game were outright missing. This was thanks to a bug that plagued the game for a couple of weeks after release. After Larian fixed it, players realized Minthara does more than slightly emote at you every now and again. And for what it’s worth, she does have a great redemption.
Minthara goes from being an Absolute cultist to someone who wants to eradicate the Absolute for what they did to her. She’s an interesting character, especially because she’s still got that urge for power inside of her, making her a fun ally to have for evil playthroughs. But it doesn’t really need to be said, she simply doesn’t make up for everything you lose along the way.
Dozens of NPCs and their interactions. Entire questlines. Karlach, Wyll and Halsin. Not to mention, you most likely won’t get to recruit Jaheira either. There’s just simply too much taken away from players if they decide to tread on the dark path. But hey, maybe Minthara might be enough to get you to make the plunge regardless. But for most players, it’s just not a realistic or worthwhile tradeoff.
Stick To Being Evil In Repeat Playthroughs
With how the game is designed, it really does feel like Larian wanted players to try out going full-blown evil in a second, or even third playthrough. It’s like a great alternative take on the game for folks who wish to get some new interactions and don’t mind losing out on some major parts of the game because they’ve already played it.
In that case, missing out on characters like Karlach and Wyll doesn’t sound too bad, because the assumption is you’ve already played their individual storylines in your first playthrough. But for anyone who wants to jump directly into the game as a bad guy, well, Baldur’s Gate 3 might leave you underwhelmed. Sure, the game still offers a plethora of content as a baseline. And even with all the things you lose, that’ll still be there.
But prepare to be a bit out of the loop when folks discuss the game. They might talk about an interesting storyline or character interaction from Act 3. Only for you to realize that it involves a character you unceremoniously killed, all the way back in Act 1. It’s one of those things that might make the game feel a bit underwhelming, despite the sheer amount of content and quality it offers overall.
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