Until very recently, I was resigned to the fact that it would be months before I played Baldur’s Gate 3 in multiplayer. Trying to coordinate play sessions with my friends on our individual PCs would be more trouble than it’s worth considering we are all adults with jobs and social lives, and I’ve been taking it slow, so the idea of dropping into a friend’s campaign when they’re ahead of me in the main quest put me off the idea.
If I was going to play through a campaign with someone else, the easiest way to do so would be in split-screen co-op. With this, we could discuss decisions face-to-face, coordinate attacks more easily, and best of all, there would be no miscommunication. We would simply sit in front of the TV and play. The crucial part here is, of course, the TV, because I have a single desk chair and neither of us particularly enjoys playing games on PC.
There was another problem, though. I have an Xbox, not a PlayStation, which until this week meant I wouldn’t be playing in co-op till 2024. That was alright, since I wanted to have time to finish the game once before jumping in again with another person. That’s all changed, now that Larian Studios will be moving ahead with shipping the Xbox port this year, and I may have jumped the gun a little bit.
“Want to do a Baldur’s Gate 3 playthrough with me?” I asked my partner this week, and he agreed with surprising enthusiasm. He’s been getting a lot of targeted Karlach content on TikTok, and my nerd friends have pulled him into our Dungeons & Dragons games, so he’s fully bought in. The moment I asked, though, I began to regret it a little. In my excitement, I’d forgotten how our personalities differ, and how that’s probably going to get in the way of us having a smooth, frustration-free experience.
The major difference between us is that I play with a goal, and my partner embraces chaos. This means that I will be fighting to commandeer all conversations in order to engineer my ideal scenario. This might not be a big deal if I choose to do a Dark Urge playthrough for my second run, but I also want him to have an authentic experience with his first playthrough, so we’ll likely be trying to get a good ending.
By the time Xbox gets co-op, I will have already finished the game once. That means that I’ll know my path towards success, and knowing that means I’m going to be constantly fighting the urge to say “Don’t say this”, “Don’t do that”, “For god’s sake don’t start a fight right now”, and “You can just knock the bridge out while she’s walking across, actually”. Watching him running free and doing whatever he wants is going to drive me out of my mind because I simply cannot let people enjoy things if I feel like I know better, and I do know better. Playing alongside him will mean biting my tongue the entire time.
Even worse is the fact that I know he’s going to get obsessed with the little details. We played Diablo 4 together for a time, and he would constantly stop to sort his inventory. It didn’t matter if we were in dangerous areas, dungeons, or mid-travel to another waypoint – he loved a little organisational break. He’d constantly respec as well, which made me want to weep – I’d just picked a build guide and stuck to it, but he refused to settle on a single build until it felt perfect to him.
I predict something like this happening in Baldur’s Gate 3, especially because inventory management and respeccing are both parts of the game you can get bogged down in. I’m winging it completely this time round, throwing things into my inventory and camp chest willy-nilly and making my build according to what sounds coolest, but my sweet partner is going to get completely sucked into the tiniest details and spend an hour deciding what to do every time he levels up. I will sigh. I will put my controller down. I will have a little snack, maybe read a book for a little bit, and doomscroll Twitter. Eventually, he will decide he’s happy with what he has, and he will confirm his leveling choices. And then he’ll repeat the process for every other character.
There’s nothing wrong with playing games this way, and there’s nothing wrong with him wanting to get stuck into the smaller systems. I, however, don’t play games that way, and I never have, which means I am going to have to draw on all the patience I have. It shouldn’t be that big a deal – games are meant to be enjoyed, and creating a story with a loved one is a great way to bond and spend downtime together after a long day of work. But the problem is that I am a deeply impatient person, and I will have to take a deep, long look at myself in order to keep my frustration from bubbling over. I’ll have plenty of time to do that while he’s respeccing for the ninth time, I’m sure.
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