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Baldur’s Gate 3’s hardest difficulty is a brutal DM who’s going to make you cry, say Larian

And it’s your fault if you choose to get punished

A character swings an axe at enemies while fighting in Baldur's Gate 3
Image credit: Larian Studios

Baldur's Gate 3 devs Larian have gone into more detail about the upcoming D&D video game’s difficulty levels - and, honestly, it all sounds a bit intense. There’s a beginner-friendly mode, sure, and a default balance of challenge and fun. Then, there’s the game’s Tactician difficulty: a brutal bastard of a D&D DM who’s out to leave you in tears - and then say it’s your fault.

Larian’s recent Panel from Hell stream showed off a healthy slice of their official Dungeons & Dungeons follow-up to Divinity: Original Sin 2, showcasing various enemy encounters and the game’s tabletop RPG-like approach to solving its puzzley combat.

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Senior combat designer Matt Holland explained that Baldur’s Gate 3’s three difficulty levels don’t just ramp up the base layers of the game, such as granting enemies more HP and upping their accuracy rolls. They also play around with enemy placement, environmental factors and AI to add “little bits of spice” to each and every of the game’s 300 encounters.

Where Explorer mode offers a fairly easy combat experience, allowing players to enjoy the story, and default Balanced is, well, balanced to present “challenge but not too much challenge” - that’s what you’ll be familiar with if you’ve already played in Early Access, by the way - the hardest difficulty of Tactician is explicitly aimed to be seriously nasty.

In Tactician mode, the AI is “cranked up” to a level that Holland and creative director Swen Vincke described as “brutal AI”.

"We want to make it feel like you're going against a DM that's, y’know, trying to push you to your limits," Holland said.

The city of Baldur's Gate in a Baldur's Gate 3 screenshot.
Image credit: Larian Studios

Combat encounters might be remixed for a more intense challenge, with more environmental dangers, enemies and different loadouts. Holland made clear that enemies aren’t just placed randomly during fights, with encounters more akin to a puzzle - meaning that Tactician might add an extra goblin up on a roof to shoot down on you during a battle with a bugbear, extra explosive arrows or equip the gobbos with flaming arrows to make things more difficult.

The punishment will continue away from fights, with Holland saying that that brutal AI will go “even outside of the combat in some ways” and force players to use every tool at their disposal to make it through. In return, the AI might target more squishy characters to spell-casters in an attempt to break their concentration spells, rather than just running into the Cloud of Dangers you’re about to cast.

“You really need to start getting every single advantage that you can, because otherwise you’re going to get obliterated,” Vincke said.

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If you’re like me, Divinity: Original Sin 2 was no cakewalk on the standard difficulty, so the idea that Baldur’s Gate 3 will be even tougher has me tempted to reach for Explorer mode from the off. For those who do relish the challenge, Vincke promised that you won’t be disappointed - but warned that when you start complaining, you only have yourselves to blame.

"You're going to start playing on Tactician because you can handle it, then you're going to start crying,” he said. “You're going to say our game is bad. It's not our fault - it's you!"

You’ll be able to walk yourself into the Nine Hells of difficulty on August 3rd, almost a full month earlier than Larian originally planned.

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