Baldur’s Gate 3 has 12 class options – the standard 5e offerings minus the newer artificer class – and ten possible companions. However, as Jaheira and Halsin are both druids, this only covers nine of the 12 bases, leaving bard, monk, and sorcerer out in the cold. My perception on monk flipped 180 after trying the class out, and while sorcerers are powerful, I think it makes sense for the game to leave one magic-heavy class open for Tav to pick up. But it does feel like we miss the presence of a bard at times.
I know you can respec each of the characters as bards, and that doing so even gives them all unique insults. Larian thought of everything. Everything, it seems, except giving us a bard in the first place. You can build Lae’zel as her default fighter class to replicate what a monk offers to the party, and aside from some unique spells and quirks, you get the heavy hitting magic from Gale as a wizard primarily, while warlock Wyll and cleric Shadowheart also give you magical back-up. But unless you play as a bard yourself, you’ll find yourself dragged head-first, bardless. In a storm in your best dress, bardless.
It’s not as if the game doesn’t know how to integrate bards into the story. You pick up several instruments for a Tav bard, while Volo is the quintessential hapless bard, and a key character in your adventure. Bards aren’t only there for comic relief, however. Alfira is another key bard in the game, especially if playing as the Dark Urge. She reappears throughout your journey, and offers a very different style of tiefling from Karlach.
Even away from those two established characters, the absence of a bard can be felt at times. Tav is automatically the party face because they’re the one you’re playing as, but it’s a little strange that in a party as vast as Baldur’s Gate 3, there’s no real charmer amongst them. Astarion is more deceptive, though his history of cons and trickery do make him convincing enough to take the role. Personality wise it’s Gale (canonically clumsy and bit of a Dunning-Kruger wizard), Karlach (boorishly loud and a literal flaming devil), and Wyll (dull as the dishwater after a hearty camp meal and with two demonic horns sprouting from his scarred face).
Gaming has a long and storied history of famous bards
A bard would be a far more natural charmer, as well as providing a core support role in combat. You’ll often find yourself in situations desperately looking for a way to defuse the situation, and that’s where a bard would come into their own. Bards get Jack of All Trades for a reason – they can do anything you ask them to. They won’t be as good as any of the experts in your party, but when you don’t know what you’re walking into, a bard is a very useful pick. Be honest, how many of you took Karlach to pretty much everything on your first playthrough, knowing that if nothing else, there would be something for her to hit really, really hard?
It’s not just viability in the party, either. There’s something to the texture of the game that a bard could help with too. All of the companions have dark and traumatic tales to work through, but the game still introduces Minsc to introduce some late-game levity to proceedings. Whether a bard would be all comic relief or masking a tale of their own that might hit harder with the glittery bows a bard would garnish it with, will forever be speculation with no actual bard to call our own. However, as much as I love Baldur’s Gate 3, it does occasionally feel like a song around the campfire would tie the whole thing together more.
I don’t know what the future holds for Baldur’s Gate 3, or if any potential expansions will bring with them new companions. You have to think that if they do, a bard is right at the front of the line. We could even see one shots with the same gang, non-canonical stories where they take on different roles as they inhabit new characters, including a real bard for once. I need more of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I hope that if it comes, a bard comes along with it.
Next: Baldur’s Gate 3’s Dame Aylin Is Gaming’s Most Handsome Woman