Baldur's Gate 3 Character Choice
My partner and I have been playing co-op Baldur's Gate 3 on PS5.
It's good, although a bit clunky on controller, and while the split-screen mode is amazing that it works at all, it's also the source of pretty hefty FPS drops. When cross-play is added, one of us will probably swap to a Mac to keep playing.
How Your Character Choice Works
We found character creation confusing, especially as you're sort of dumped into it… what does it mean to pick an "origin character"—a premade character with backstory—versus a character you build yourself.
If you choose an origin character, you play "as" them— they are your 'avatar'. This sounds reductive, but the differences are simple:
- There are absolutely no voiced lines from your character: you imagine yourself saying things as you choose dialogue options
- You get additional backstory in the form of extra choices, cutscenes during rest, etc.
(This choice is especially confusing because the character picker has a small cutscene where the characters 'pitch' you on choosing them in a fun little voiced story. These are enjoyable, and you'll pick a character you like, but then you'll be incredibly disappointed when you finally realize you won't get to hear them for the rest of the game). 🔇
If you collect origin characters during play, you see their stories from outside. It doesn't matter if you're another origin character or a self-made character.
- You'll get to interact with them, possibly with special lines as an origin character yourself
- They'll be fully voiced
- You won't get their extra cutscnes, but instead only hear about their experiences as they discuss with you.
(There's also a large number of PCs who you collect—like Halsin, the Druid—who come later, so you could never play "as" them. These aren't really origin characters, but act like ones that you could have never taken as your avatar.)
Finally, if you build your own character, you'll need to invent your own backstory. This is almost the most 'observational' way to play. You'll have some particular origin as defined by D&D—in my case, I think I'm a sage or something—and that will effect your rolls and experience. But there's no hidden backstory to your character that you'll uncover or learn more about during the game, you primarily experience the story as an outsider.
Confusingly, even though you have a clear avatar, you can choose any character to 'lead' your party. This is incredibly versatile! You can split your party into multiple groups, have them in different parts of the map, etc. You can even initiate discussions with NPCs not as your avatar. Any dialogue lines at this point continue to be unvoiced, and the relationship implications of your dialogue still apply to your avatar.
For example, "Shadowheart approves" can occur even if Shadowheart (as a 'collected' party member) is the only one in dialogue.
Additionally, there are a number of global states that are applied party-wide. At one point we (in co-op) interacted with NPCs far apart on the map rapidly in sequence, and had differing conversations that included lines like… "we hear you've discussed this problem with «the other party»", which we'd done literally seconds ago.
A Note On Replayability
The origin characters make BG3 especially replayable because every one has hidden development that will only be exposed if you play as them. This is honestly very D&D-like, again, Baldur's Gate is literally D&D, but more in the sense of… here is some backstory that the DM only shares with you, even though clearly playing the game is more or less a shared co-op experience where you want to win together.
If you want my opinion on who to choose in single-player… I think it depends if you're the sort of person who might replay the game.
If you're only going to play through once, I'd suggest choosing an origin character. The experience of extra hidden backstory is interesting enough.
Otherwise, I'd suggest playing as a BYO character, and then you can find the most interesting origin characters to play as next time.
Of course, if you're playing co-op…
How Does This Interact With Co-Op
For Nicky and I, we're playing as Lae'zel and a BYO character. I think that's probably a good combination because we get to experience unique plot as one origin character while still having the full gamet of other collected characters to interact with.
We tend to then have one additional party member under our control, as you have to explicitly assign them in multiplayer—this effects how you move them on the map and who is playing as them during combat. I find the explicit control actually a bit odd, because there's already a clear "grouping" mechanic—but I digress.
If we'd chosen two origin characters (which is possible, if everyone playing joins at the start of the game) you end up in the slightly odd state where your two origin character avatars don't really interact—if everyone playing multiplayer has chosen an origin character, you basically just don't have dialogue together, romance options, etc.
For us, we can't interact between our BYO character and Lae'zel, but that's less impactful as the BYO character is already in that "outsider" role.
Notably the way this works has really hit people who want to play four-player on PC, because then your party (maximum size 4) is literally full of people who… just don't have anything to do with each other. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend BG3 multiplayer for more than two, because it's really fun to have voiced characters hanging around giving their opinions. At this point it already feels restrictive only having two slots for them—we're having to swap them in and out far more than I'd like.
Yes, all the origin characters hang around at camp and have opinions there, and I think it's even possible to finish parts of their side quests without them being actively in your party. But this is just a bit odd.
We're enjoying BG3 as co-op (on easy, ha) but I'd say we're still naïve at some of the mechanics. I certainly haven't really played D&D or anything similar since University times. Our actions tend to be using fire cantrips (always available spells) or just regular hand attacks. The game itself is interesting enough without really getting super complex with our characters, though, as most of our abilities are only impacting our effectiveness in combat.
(We would totally recommend having a character who can Speak with Animals and jump really far, though).