Here’s How to Fight Like a Hero in Baldur’s Gate 3
The land of Faerun and the city of Baldur’s Gate are notoriously dangerous places. Bandits, goblins, vampires, and terrors from beyond the stars will stand in your way from the very moment your adventure begins in these magical lands. And as you might imagine, they aren’t too friendly. Early game encounters might appear easy, but most heroes won’t survive more than a couple of hits, and Baldur’s Gate 3, out today on PC and Google Stadia as an early access title, is unforgiving.
To help you as you make your journey through the Sword Coast (and other realms), we’ve created this guide on the basics of combat that is sure to help you overcome the overwhelming. Do make sure to read our other primer on getting started in Baldur's Gate 3 as a whole.
Be The Bonus Action Hero
Unlike Divinity Original Sin and its sequel, Baldur’s Gate 3 combat is directly modeled on Dungeon and Dragons 5th Edition rules. While a few changes have been made to a couple of spells and abilities to make the game more balanced, players of the tabletop RPG are going to be able to get to grips with the combat almost instantly, while those used to turn-based video games might be a little confused at the way turns are used.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, every hero you control can take an action, a bonus action, and some movement every turn (unless certain conditions are in effect). To make the most of your character turns, you should always try to use your action and your bonus action each turn. Movement is obviously very important, but if you’re in a great position, you shouldn’t move just for the sake of it.
Actions tend to be anything that can damage an enemy or heal an ally. This isn’t a rule set in stone, and some abilities and spells can be used differently, but generally speaking, your fighters will use an action to swing a sword, your wizards will use an action to cast magic missile, and your clerics will use an action to cast healing word. Unlike other Larian games, you can’t save up your action (or bonus action) points to use on a later turn. You get one per turn and if you don’t use it, it's gone. So its always worth using them on, unless there’s really nothing you can do.
Bonus actions tend to have other effects but are no less important. Some spells and abilities use bonus actions, rather than actions, and it's worth making sure each of your party has one or two of them to hand whenever possible. When you don’t have a class-specific class ability to use, heroes still have access to a couple of handy bonus actions you should think about using. Shoving an enemy for example is both hilarious and effective, especially if said enemy happens to be at the edge of a cliff. Likewise, hiding or dashing can be very useful for the sneakiest classes, and disengaging can save a spellcaster or ranger from a deadly opportunity attack. Speaking of which.
Keep Your Friends Close, And Your Enemies Closer
If you thought the only time you could hurt an enemy was on your turn you’d be very much mistaken. Once an enemy is within melee range of a hero, they can’t leave without triggering an opportunity attack, a chance for your hero to score a free hit.
This uses your reaction. Later in the game, you might get access to other reaction abilities, but at the beginning, you’ll probably only have to worry about opportunities. Positioning your melee fighters to stop enemies advancing can free up your spellcasters to score kills from the backlines. They can also be used to pin down and harness enemy ranged units as well.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, a ranged attack suffers a penalty if the shooter is within melee range of an enemy. This means if you put your fighter next to an enemy archer, they’ll either have to take a chance at missing, or try running away and risking an attack. Think about where you’re leaving each hero at the end of your turns and try to make sure they’re going to continue making the monster’s final few moments difficult.
Just remember, the enemies might do the same to you. If you leave melee range without disengaging, you run the same risk of having some health taken away.
Spell Out Your Turns Carefully
Baldur’s Gate 3 is full of spellcasters and during early access content you’ll find clerics, wizards, warlocks, and ranger amongst your party. These magic weaving classes can be used to devastating effect, but only if you know how and when to use them.
Cantrips are the most basic spells a spellcaster knows, requiring nothing special from the caster. Wizards will have an infinite supply of Firebolts, warlocks will be throwing Eldritch Blasts for days and Clerics can produce a Scared Flame every turn if they want. These are like a fighter making a melee attack or a rogue shooting a bow, and can and should be used in most encounters and whenever you see an opening.
But every other spell will expend a spell slot. You’ll unlock more and higher-level spell slots as you level up allowing you to use spells more freely and have access to even more powerful magics. And expended spell slots can be recovered by resting, so even if you make it isn’t the end of the world. But you should always keep try of what spells slots you have available and try and save a few spell slots to help with particularly deadly encounters.
For instance, clerics don’t have infinite access to healing magic, and it's worth making sure they can heal another hero if the fight isn’t going well. Warlocks, on the other hand, don’t get access to many spell slots compared to other heroes, making each of their non-cantrip spells rarer but much more deadly.
You can see the spell slots above your hotkeys at the bottom of the screen. They can be a easy to miss if you’re in a stressful situation, but its always worth making sure to check them before casting anything that isn’t a cantrip. Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t have a human DM that you can trick, cheat, or bribe into giving you an extra spell. If you use them all, it’ll know.
Throw Everything You Have At The Enemy
One of the biggest changes that veteran tabletop players will notice between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Dungeons and Dragons is spell scrolls. While in the pen and paper game you’ll ironically come across spell scrolls only very rarely, Baldur’s Gate 3 has them more or less everywhere. You’ll find them on the corpses of fishermen and goblins. You might find some tucked away in the bowels of an unassuming crate, or at the entrance to an ancient crypt.
Because of their rarity, players of the Dungeons and Dragons might want to hoard these prized pieces of paper, keeping them for what they’ll assure themselves is the most dangerous situation before utilising their inky magic.
Don’t do that.
These scrolls might be randomly scattered throughout the world of Baldur’s Gate, but they’re here to be used. These scrolls can turn an impossible fight into a manageable one by giving you, and your heroes, access to extra abilities you might not otherwise have access to. You should try and save your revivify scrolls only when you can’t beat a fight without losing a hero or two, but everything else should be used whenever the mood, or situation, strikes you.
This is also true of the throwables you’ll be piling into your backpack from the very beginning of your adventure. These grenades can be especially powerful if you find one that matches an enemy's weakness, but shouldn’t just be saved for such a special occasion, as they can also be great crowd control leaving hazards on the battlemap for your enemies to skirt around.
If nothing else, not using them just leaves your inventory page an un-navigable mess of sheets of paper and strange shaped orbs.
Equip Yourself For Success
Another big change between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Dungeons and Dragons is managing your weapons. A lot of Dungeon Masters and players can grow tired and confused when heroes spend some of their actions to swap weapons in D&D, but thankfully Baldur’s Gate 3 is much easier, in the sense that you can spend your action to strike with a ranged or melee weapon, as long as you’ve got both equipped.
Scrolls and Throwables are fantastic for giving heroes abilities they wouldn’t normally have access to. Fighters can whelm magic like your strongest wizard, but even if they don’t have one to hand, they should never be caught out.
Every character should have something that they can use in melee and ranged situations, and making sure to do this can really increase your damage output. This doesn't have to equipment, especially since wizards and warlocks probably won't be proficient with bows, or swords. But if fighters can’t get into melee range within their turn, they should still be shooting arrows in the general direction of the baddies as they run. If spellcasters can’t escape a mob of hostiles, they should be able to at least try and stab them with the pointy end of a dagger. Or better yet have a melee ranged spell to get them with.
Remember, ranged attacks suffer a penalty if the attacker is within melee range of an enemy, and sometimes it will be impossible to get out of range in one turn, in which case its always better to have the option to do damage, even if it isn’t very much.
Making sure to have something that each hero can do at either range means that when they’re not needed to heal or perform some other action, they’ll have the option to do some damage, which is very important when your enemies are always trying to damage you.
Know Your Enemy
And these enemies of yours, what do you know about them, really? Hopefully something.
It might sound obvious to know your enemy, but since Baldur’s Gate 3 is filled with some pretty huge battles, it is worth remembering to know which one is which and take advantage of them where you can.
Having even a vague idea of what each enemy is capable of really helps when you’re selecting targets and positioning your team. Fighters will want to try and close the distance if you’re engaged with a host of ranged enemies, while everyone might want to prioritise that enemy spellcaster that is making its way around the corner.
Thankfully the different enemies in Baldur’s Gate 3 are all quite distinctive so it's not difficult to spot the suspiciously robed goblin or giant warg amongst the fray, but you can sometimes forget to keep track of them as the fight progresses, which can be quite deadly.
With these hints in mind, you’ll find yourself at the vanguard of a party of heroes, rather than a band of ghosts. Look out for more guides for Baldur’s Gate 3 here in the coming days to help you through your adventure in Faerun.
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