UPDATE 26TH FEB: Rejoice, for Patch 4: Nature's Power has landed! Cow about that? A full and detailed patch breakdown can be found on Steam.
ORIGINAL STORY 17TH FEB: The most important thing to understand is that you will be able to turn into a badger. Yes, the David Attenborough of Dungeons & Dragons classes, the druid, is on its way to the early access release of Baldur's Gate 3. When? "Very soon," according to a press release. There's no specific date yet.
Besides a badger, the druid will be able to become a polar bear, a spider (probably bigger than a house spider), a raven, a cat, a dire wolf, and a curious-sounding "aberrant shape". This is something triggered by embracing the Mindflayer tadpole you have shoved into your eye at the beginning of the game, apparently.
These Wild Shapes are obviously useful in combat, but they have uses outside of it too. If a bear is blocking your path, as they tend to, the great clumsy oafs, why not try changing into a bear and having a chat with them?
This kind of thing is of course where Larian excels: in being a bit eccentric. So it will be no surprise to learn that playing the early access build as a druid will be a different experience to playing as someone else, particularly around the Druid Grove.
In addition to Wild Shape, the druid has a whole suite of abilities and spells, including the nifty ability to heat metal and roast fighters who think they've made themselves very safe indeed. Fools!
The druid will arrive as part of Patch 4: Nature's Power, which has a ton of bug fixes and alterations too - more than all the changes made in the previous patches combined, apparently.
Headline additions are:
- Optional loaded dice, which ensure you can't be "super-unlucky or super-lucky with several dice rolls in a row", though this only governs dialogue and choice moments, not combat rolls, you big dirty cheater.
- Improved cinematics, thanks to a fresh lighting pass, plus specific improvements to special-case cinematics, such as Speak With the Dead and while chatting as an animal, which I have no doubt every druid will do.
- The ability to see your friends' equipment, spells, inventory and character sheets when in multiplayer. And the ability to take and place items in them, ho ho.
- Various quality of life features, such as the ability to target friends and enemies by clicking on their portraits; a Flee button, for when things go south; and a Torch button, because it's easier that way.
Full patch notes and a specific release date for Patch 4 are still to come.
On top of all this, Larian announced it had acquired a game development studio in the UK. The studio is Turbulenz, a Guildford-based developer already working on Baldur's Gate 3. This takes Larian's worldwide studio count to six. As for the headcount: there were about 200 people working on the game in summer 2019. I expect it's comfortably higher now. In brief: Baldur's Gate 3 is a big project.
All of this news and more was discussed in Larian's bumper Panel from Hell 2 livestream today. The panel's special guest was Dungeons & Dragons rulemaker Jeremy Crawford, who went into oodles more druid detail with BG3 lead systems designer Nick Pechenin.
Baldur's Gate 3 is currently in early access on Steam, which includes the first of three acts to be in the game. There's no full release date yet. We hope it will make this year. Only PC and Stadia have been confirmed as platforms, but Larian is openly looking into a console release. Whether this will be simultaneous with the desktop versions I don't know. It hasn't been with the Divinity: Original Sin games in the past.