I hate to break it to you but Baldur's Gate 3 probably isn't going to be fully released in 2022. Remember, a part of the game has been available in early access on GOG, Steam and Stadia since autumn 2020.
"We think we're in our last year of development," Swen Vincke, founder of Larian and creative director of BG3, told me in an interview last week.
"We do still think we have a year of development ahead of us, so it's unlikely it will be this year . But we are at the end, so we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. We have a pretty concrete plan."
In an adjoining press release, received today, Larian added: "Our internal goal post for release is a quality bar rather than a date. A ton of progress has been made towards that quality bar over the past year in Early Access, but we know many players are waiting for an actual date. That date will come when we're even closer to meeting our goal, but right now our expectation is that Baldur's Gate 3 will be released out of Early Access in 2023."
In terms of what's left to do: Larian is on the last part of the game so the other parts are relatively complete. After that, it's polishing and bug fixing, which is obviously going to take some time. But the "burndown chart", as Vincke calls it, is actually "burning down".
That's the bad news. The good news is that "yes", there'll be more big updates for the early access version this year. This continues with the 32GB Patch 7 that's being released today - the patch Vincke previewed to me.
BG3 Patch 7 most notably adds the Barbarian class to the game. It also overhauls the user interface, adds thrown weapons (and many kinds of them), introduces improvised weapons (you can pick up chairs and things from the environment and smash them on people - you can even pick up smaller enemies and swing them or throw them around) and reworks the light and dark system in the game. I'll explain in more detail below.
But first, more good news, especially for people wobbled by the mega-money acquisitions of recent weeks. Larian doesn't sound like it's for sale.
"No, not - at this moment, we're fiercely going to stay our own course and continue doing our thing," Vincke said. "We have a lot of plans, we have a lot of things that we're working on actually, which will be announced at another date, so for the moment, you're not going to see us move in any direction."
Oh, and Larian has no interest in NFTs. "It's not really a take," Vincke said. "We're not doing it, so that's basically it."
Now, a closer look at what's in the patch. Let's take the Barbarian first. In Baldur's Gate 3, it comes with two specialisation or sub-class paths. These are Wildheart and Berserker, and you select one at level three.
Going Berserker evolves your Rage ability into a Frenzy, which is more powerful, and also unlocks Frenzied Strike and Enraged Throw. It makes your Improvised Weapon Attack a bonus action, too, which means if you work it right, you can do two attacks every round even from level three, which is great.
The Wildheart sub-class, on the other hand, is all about attuning with an animal. Because of this, you get the Speak with Animals spell for free, and then you choose which kind of animal to attune to: Bear, Eagle, Elk, Tiger or Wolf - and, brilliantly, you get special piercings for each, like tooth earrings.
Briefly, the Bear Heart is about tanking. It unlocks Unrelenting Ferocity, which is a kind of heal, and gives you resistance to all kinds of damage (you can basically halve the damage being inflicted).
Eagle Heart, meanwhile, is about manoeuvrability. It unlocks Diving Strike, which lets you slam down into enemies from above without taking fall damage, and it gives enemies disadvantage on attacks of opportunity against you, and makes Dash a bonus action, meaning you've got a lot of scope for moving through a battlefield to the squishier enemies at the back.
Elk is about being fast. It increases your movement speed by 50 percent, which can be combined with Dash for really large results, and gives you Primal Stampede, a rush-attack that knocks enemies prone.
Tiger is about offence. You get a jump which goes 4.5m farther, which is a lot, and Tiger's Bloodlust, which lets you attack three enemies for half-damage and bleed them.
Wolf, finally, is about buffing. You give allies within 2 metres advantage on melee attack rolls, so they'll hit much more reliably, and you get Inciting Howl, which gives allies around you more movement.
The user interface overhaul has been done to improve organisation and clarity. Filters have now been added to the hotbars and inventory menus so you can organise and customise what you want to see. This has allowed the character panel to shrink and no longer obscure the whole screen but only about a quarter of it. It means you're able to bring up all of your party's character panels at once, tabbing around independently in them to compare whatever you like.
Tooltips have been improved too, and now focus on the actual damage they'll do rather than the dice roll equations. It's a legibility thing - it's easier to see at a glance what's going on.
The light and dark system has changed to place a greater emphasis on scouting and abilities that interact with the dark. Areas will feel dark if you have no abilities to mitigate it until you light a torch, at which point they'll obviously be lit. But throwing light around like that will hinder any stealthing. Darkvision will be enormously useful here, throwing a kind of dim headlamp light in front of characters and keeping them 'heavily obscured' in dark areas, which means they don't have to do stealth rolls to stay hidden - which is very useful.
Related to this is a new room portal system where unexplored spaces beyond doorways are now presented as if you were facing a black portal - you cannot see past. This brings with it the opportunities for ambushes if you don't have the means - magically or stealthily - to scout ahead. "Secrets remain secret," as Vincke said. In other words, make sure you can.
These are the top-line features of Baldur's Gate 3 Patch 7, but there are many more additions besides. There are lots more magic items with new effects to consider while building your characters. There are hundreds of new animations coming to the game - something like 400. It means all classes should now have class-appropriate animations for casting spells, so Rangers will use a kind of sign language because they don't use verbal components like other casters do. It speaks to the level of detail Larian is going for in Baldur's Gate 3 and, perhaps, why it's taking so long to make. I spoke to Swen Vincke in much more detail about this back in October, where we also talked about likely BG3 console releases, split-screen play and much more besides.
To get a more in-depth look at Patch 7 - Absolute Frenzy, hop on over to Larian's YouTube channel to catch the Panel from Hell stream.