Baldur's Gate 3 Difficulty Modes & Setting Differences Explained (2024)

As the full release of Baldur’s Gate 3 grows nearer, Larian has revealed information about the various difficulty modes that the final game will have. During the eighth Panel From Hell developers from Larian Studios explained the different difficultly settings for Baldur’s Gate 3 and how each will affect the player’s experience. Since its release on early access, players have been used to that iteration's default setting; however, more choice is on the horizon.

Baldur's Gate 3 has had a lengthy early access period which restricted players in many ways. There were limited choices of races and classes, and players were only able to experience the first act of what is set to be an epic game, with rough estimates putting the average playthrough between 74 and 100 hours. One of the other restrictions within the early access version was the difficulty setting, which could not be altered, giving some players unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons gameplay a tough time.

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Baldur’s Gate 3’s Difficulty Modes Provide Different Experiences

Baldur's Gate 3 Difficulty Modes & Setting Differences Explained (1)

In the final Panel From Hell before Baldur’s Gate 3’s release (viewable on Larian Studios' YouTube channel), Larian covered many topics such as character creation, the character origins available, romance options, and combat difficulty. It has long been known that Baldur’s Gate 3 was set to have three difficulty modes - Balanced, Explorer, and Tactician - and that is still the case. Each of these will provide a different experience for players, with them able to change the difficulty during play so players aren't locked in once they start a game.

Balanced Mode Will Be The Default Baldur’s Gate 3 Difficulty

Matt Holland, the senior combat designer for Baldur’s Gate 3, explained during the Panel From Hell that every combat encounter in the game is carefully crafted. Holland describes each combat encounter as a puzzle for players to solve, meaning that one strategy will not fit all scenarios. Given the many classes available in Baldur's Gate 3 and the many different party members, that is a lot of unique parties that the combat design team have to cater toward.

The first setting that early access players will already be familiar with is the default normal mode. For Baldur’s Gate 3's difficulty settings in the full release, this will be called Balanced mode and is described as providing players with a good mix between challenging combat and still enjoying the story. Balanced mode will mean players will still have to think somewhat tactically without having to worry about overpowerful enemies.

Those who have played Baldur’s Gate 3 in early access will know just how much of a challenge the combat can be at times. However, difficulty settings don’t just affect combat but determine how easy or difficult it is to progress in all challenges, such as speech checks or saving throws. It will be interesting to see if the balance of Balanced mode can be maintained throughout the entirety of the game; the early access version gives hope that it can be achieved.

Baldur’s Gate 3’s Story Mode Difficulty Is Called Explorer

Baldur's Gate 3 Difficulty Modes & Setting Differences Explained (3)

The second difficulty setting will be called Explorer and will be Baldur’s Gate 3’s story mode. This setting has been described by Holland as a narrative experience where players can put story before combat. In this mode friendly NPCs are harder to kill, and trader prices are better, but the biggest change comes to the player’s proficiency bonus.

In Explorer mode, BG3 player characters will get an extra +2 to their proficiency, giving the player +4 at level one. Experienced DnD players will know how big of a boost this is, as usually, a +4 for proficiency is not given until level nine. This will not only make combat much easier in Baldur's Gate 3, but all other rolls as well, allowing players to worry less about failing and focus on experiencing the story.

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Given how long and deep Baldur’s Gate 3’s story will be, this looks like a great mode for a first playthrough. It will also allow players to experiment with different classes without having to worry about getting stuck on a particular combat encounter or failing to progress because of a bad dice roll. Explorer mode seems to be modeled after roleplay-heavy DnD tables where having fun and telling a story is more important than battles.

Tactician Mode Is Baldur’s Gate 3's Most Challenging Difficulty

Baldur's Gate 3 Difficulty Modes & Setting Differences Explained (4)

The third and final difficulty setting is Baldur’s Gate 3’s hard mode, called Tactician mode. This is the setting for players who want more strategic combat. Tactician mode will provide a greater challenge for even experienced players, forcing them to approach combat in new ways.

It is clear that Larian has really thought about this mode beyond just making enemies have more health. Holland explains that the team went through every single combat encounter in the game to add in "little bits of spice." This took the form of looking at the combat encounters in two layers.

The first layer is more global and did increase enemy hit points and AC. It makes it a little easier for enemies to hit the party and, in some cases, increased or changed enemy types. However, the second layer is what seems set to set Larian’s hard mode for Baldur’s Gate 3 apart.

The second layer is more local, looking at each combat encounter individually. Enemies also change their weapons or ammo, using better versions of what they had for more devastating consequences. So goblins who used regular arrows in Balanced mode, for instance, might be using fire arrows in Tactician or even have their classes changed to give them new abilities.

Related: Baldur’s Gate 3's Combat Gameplay Change Is A Good Move

In Tactician mode the environment will play a much larger role, with positioning becoming even more important. The combat design team added their spice by changing the environments in some cases, adding in things like explosive barrels. However, if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also something Holland called Brutal AI for players to contend with.

Brutal AI means that the AI’s strategies are also improved. Enemies in this mode will behave more tactically, with them targeting squishier party members first or spellcasters who are concentrating. Holland explained that the Brutal AI was designed to make it feel like players are facing off against a real DM.

With just three difficulty modes, Baldur’s Gate 3 looks set to cover every style of gameplay players could wish for. With the careful crafting of each combat encounter the same way a DM would, Larian has taken what could have been formulaic and created a world that feels believable. Players will soon be able to experience the different modes for themselves when Baldur's Gate 3 releases on August 3, 2023, for PC and Mac, with the PS5 version arriving on September 6.

Source: Larian Studios/YouTube (1, 2)

Baldur's Gate 3 Difficulty Modes & Setting Differences Explained (2024)

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