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Baldur's Gate 3 absolutely trains you in the noble art of savescumming

I quicksave this game on average every 6.27 minutes

The player character rolling a dice to attempt to calm a boar down in Baldur's Gate 3
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Larian Studios

After doing some back of the fag packet style calculations, I have determined that I save Baldur's Gate 3 - the ole' F5 quicksave, baby - a bit over every five minutes. This is not something the game discourages. In fact, I would say that Larian's Dungeons-&-Dragons-but-digital game actively encourages it. Both Edders and Graham found out that you can die almost immediately upon finishing the tutorial and encountering a dying bit of ocotopus sashimi in a crashed ship; fail a roll involved in talking to this unfortunate mind flayer and that's it. Kaput, in about an hour. As Graham observed, the lesson that this teaches you is not "mind flayers are dangerous", because you have already learned this lesson on account of the opening cutscene being all about that. The lesson is "the DM is a prick, so savescum often".

That's not a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a thing. In Dungeons & Dragons in real life, your DM can (depending on your DM) give you some leeway or fudge some things so even if you fail a roll you don't instantly get your face liquidated. Most DMs I've played with will appreciate you making the effort to actually roleplay, so if you can think of an appropriate in-character, in-universe response, or reason to role a different skill, eh, they'll let you. Because the aim is to all have fun together, right?

Now that Baldur's Gate 3 has left early access, vid bud Liam reckons it was worth the wait.Watch on YouTube

But though the DM in Baldur's Gate 3 is beautifully voiced to give some flavour to your playthrough, this is a veneer over what is essentially a complicated calculator with no feelings. There might be some goings on in the code to nudge things a little in your favour, but you'll fail skill checks often enough, often with no way to get out of the failure, that the savescum is the solution. It works! We should have a less negative term for it when it's basically built in to the process. It's not scummy, it's sound common sense. We'd quicksave our way through life if we could.

It's not just the skill checks in BG3, of course, although they're certainly the most frequently annoying fails. You can control any character in your party at any time, so you can, for example, take control of the rogue Astarion to lockpick an important chest, but when he fails at that, what recourse? But even combat (which you spend about 70% of your time doing) is hard, and can turn on a dime based on one whiffed fireball. Even though you can talk your way out of a bunch of combat interactions and still be rewarded with XP (which I appreciate), there are still unavoidable ones where BG3 says, "I see you getting that necromancer to self-yeet into a chasm, and raise you a giant skeleton with a gold hat." So: you save before fights. You save before opening suspicious doors. In a sense, it makes you less risk averse, because there is no risk.

The player character in Baldur's Gate 3, a half elf in a leather helmet, pets a white mongrel dog called scratch
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Larian Studios

But it also makes me more risk averse, in the sense that the minute a fight starts going against me, I have to stop myself reaching for the quickload. The point of the game is to get yourself out of sticky situations by the skin of your teeth, using all your adventurer's wit. It's not to get out of it by getting a Mulligan. I'm not erasing all my roleplay choices with it, either. Just last night I killed an ox and then thought to myself, without spoilers, "probably should have waited to meet that ox again, bet he had another encounter lined up." But I killed the ox, so that's on me.

Still. It's a feature of the game, so there's absolutely no harm in doing it for the inconsequential things, i.e. talking to animals. I think at least an hour of my 35-ish hours playing so far can be accounted for by reloading to succeed in talking to a rat. Most of the time it is useless and gets me nothing. But sometimes it's important. And on at least one occasion, it got me a dog to live at my camp (see above). Scratch is my absolute best mate. So in conclusion: savescumming is right and good.

Disclosure: Former RPS deputy editor Adam Smith (RPS in peace) now works at Larian and is the lead writer for Baldur's Gate 3. Former contributor Emily Gera also works on it.

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