Which Baldur’s Gate 3 difficulty setting will you choose? If you think you’re ready for Tactician, the hardest Baldur’s Gate 3 mode, developer Larian Studios says you might want to think again. During its final Panel From Hell ahead of the Baldur’s Gate 3 release date, creative director Swen Vincke and senior combat designer Matt Holland discuss how the hardest difficulty will truly test your rules knowledge of the RPG game.
If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate 3 in early access, you’ve been using the game’s default difficulty setting, Balanced. This offers “a bit of a challenge but not too much,” Holland explains, while a more player-friendly Explorer mode is there for those who want to focus on the story and roleplaying aspects without having as much trouble in combat. However, if you’re really feeling yourself, Tactician is the way to go.
“That’s our hard mode,” Holland says, “that’s the one that’s really going to challenge you in the combat – and even outside the combat in some ways.” This actually impacts things on two levels. On a basic level, it does all the standard things you’d expect such as increasing enemy health, making it easier for them to hit your characters, and there’s a ramping up of their AI and decision-making (more on that in a moment).
On top of that, however, Holland says he and his team have “gone through every single combat in our game and added in little bits of spice to make that combat shine just a little bit hotter and be that much harder.” To demonstrate this, the team shows off a simple encounter with a group of hostile goblins in a small town. On Balanced, things go pretty smoothly, with just one character getting knocked down and able to recover.
As the group prepares to replay the scenario on Tactician, Holland teases, “I’ve added a few little spicy, explosive surprises.” It turns out that these are tactically-placed oil and explosive barrels, making the team’s entrance dramatically more perilous; a problem only exacerbated by the fact the goblins are now wielding flaming arrows. In just one turn, things have gone completely awry.
Not only will you have to deal with these scenarios stacked against your party, you’ll also have to contend with much smarter enemies, which Holland describes as “like going against a Dungeon Master [in tabletop D&D] that’s trying to push you to your limits.” These enemies will make more thoughtful decisions, such as attempting to pick off squishier characters at the back, or attacking your party members to break their concentration spells, rather than simply running headlong into that Cloud of Daggers.
“You need to know the ruleset,” Vincke tells the audience, “you really need to start getting every single advantage that you can, because otherwise you’re going to get obliterated.” He even goes so far as to tease the watching crowd and the audience at home: “I know you’re all badass, I know you’re all going to play on Tactician because you can handle it, and then you’re going to start crying, and then you’re going to say the game is bad. It’s not our fault – it’s you!”
“Just go back to Balanced, that’s how it’s intended to be,” Vincke advises. “If you go to Tactician you’ve got to know what you’re doing, because otherwise you really do get creamed. I speak from experience.” With the Baldur’s Gate 3 length set to be in the hundreds of hours for a full playthrough, perhaps he’s got a point. You can watch the full difficulty chat and demonstration in the video above, beginning at the five hour, 40 minute mark.
With all that said, Tactician sounds incredibly fun in concept, and it’s very cool to see just how much care and love the team at Larian Studios has put into fine-tuning every single encounter – something that’s reflected in the rest of the game, such as its decision to rewrite entire Baldur’s Gate 3 storylines. Perhaps in a couple of years, when I’ve finally seen it all, I’ll give Tactician a shot and see how well my skills hold up.
For now, make sure to study all the Baldur’s Gate 3 classes carefully to see which you fancy taking on your grand adventure. You’ll also want to match up your PC specs to the Baldur’s Gate 3 system requirements and ensure you’re ready to roll for success.