Every gamer I know is furiously working through Baldur’s Gate 3 right now, and for good reason. The game has been praised for its flexibility, the depth of its choice and consequence system, how it has embraced different playstyles, and even its approach to nudity. Larian has managed to create an unimaginably complex game, but one thing that sticks with me more than anything else is the greatness of its acting.
The characters’ performances are part of what makes this game so easy to get sucked into. Each character is fully voiced and motion-captured, meaning you’re relying on more than just rolls and dialogue to decide whether you trust a grade. Body language actually plays into the way you judge them, which is extraordinarily rare for a game of this scope. An early example of this is in the mission you embark on to find Karlach. A paladin tells you she’s a demon and to find her and kill her, and you can either accept or tell him to bow out. I didn’t trust this guy because he seemed a bit rude, but I wanted to find Karlach so I continued on my merry way. The moment I actually found Karlach, I trusted her with my life. She seemed so open and honest that I couldn’t help but want to help her, and also be her best friend for the rest of our lives. She led me back to the paladin to kick his ass, and my suspicions were right – the guy was strange.
It’s the same with every companion and every character. Baldur’s Gate 3’s IMDB page lists hundreds of actors, many of whom have spent years on their characters. My colleague Jade King interviewed Jennifer English and Devora Wilde, who played Shadowheart and Lae’zel, and they talked about how much the characters have evolved over the years, whether through their own growing understanding of the characters or in response to feedback from early access. . They understand the depths and nuances of their characters in a way that many actors don’t get the chance to – as English says: “As the characters have evolved and changed so much throughout the game, so have we. Our imaginations are bigger, our craftsmanship is better, and it’s been a real honor. How often can you play the same character over four years?”
In a tweet, actor Dave Jones, who played Halsin in the game, talked about the large number of voice actors in Baldur’s Gate 3, saying: “Two things about this: First, the human voice is a superb narrative device. Second, and primarily , you can shove AI up x’s ass.” We’ve seen an increasing trend of people using AI in game development, and companies adding features to make it easier, despite the huge number of ethical issues that come with the practice. Unity announced Unity Sentis in June, showing how it could allow you to “create, animate and interact with AI-powered characters.” Voice actors have spoken out about how their voices are being unethically appropriated by fans, and how studios are already trying to collect motion capture and performances from actors so they can use them without paying the actors more.Artificial intelligence cannot put this level of nuance and skill into a performance, nor can it commit to the long process of developing a character over the years. Still, studios will surely try to replace actors with artificial intelligence to cut costs – why pay people to give amazing performances when you could just steal their existing voice and motion recordings for your own purposes?
Baldur’s Gate 3 wouldn’t be the game it is without its compelling, diverse characters, and those characters wouldn’t exist without the actors who consciously worked to develop them, understand them, and shape them. You simply couldn’t have made a game as good as this with shortcuts, and that’s something the studios need to understand. Craft has a place in all aspects of gaming, especially those that are critical to making your players care about the game they are playing. This game is a good example of that. I can only hope that other studios sit up and pay attention.
Next: When I start a CRPG like Baldur’s Gate 3, I want to play them all
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