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Baldur’s Gate 3’s opening gave me like 8 new phobias

I’m just a kid, and life on the sphincter ship is a nightmare

Astarian, in Baldur’s Gate 3, looking up at an enormous tentacle. Image: Larian Studios
Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is finally out — and even if you were a Divinity: Original Sin 2 head, like me, I still have an urgent warning for you: The opening of the story is quite dark, and also very gross. The game isn’t marketed as horror, but it’s hard for me to think of the opening as anything other than body horror. So here is my attempt to give you the warning that I wish I’d had, for a game that I am absolutely loving so far.

[Ed. note: Spoilers follow for the opening scene and the first playable area (not any of Act 1) of Baldur’s Gate 3, mostly pertaining to how gross it is.]

A gross, fleshy-looking ship from Baldur’s Gate 3. Image: Larian Studios

I was wholly unprepared for the tentacular spectacular of Baldur’s Gate 3’s opening scenes. If any of your triggers include tentacles, parasitic beings, or eye trauma, then I’d suggest hitting that space bar to skip that opening scene! A worm creature (with concentric rows of razor-sharp teeth) weasels its way into your brain between your eyeball and eyelid. Delicious.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of an illithid brain tadpole. What is an illithid, you might ask? Simply one of the darkest parts of Dungeons & Dragons lore. This “tadpole” in your brain will eventually grow to take over your mind, rendering you a meat puppet for the mind flayers (aka illithids). A large part of the rest of the game will involve finding someone who can remove it — or finding a way to harness its powers.

In case you’re thinking I could probably handle watching that (and maybe you can — who am I to judge), I’ll add that “an illithid’s flesh” is “soft, supple, moist, and rubbery” according to the Forgotten Realms wiki. I’ll let you make your own judgment call.

After this scene, you’ll create your character, and then be unleashed into the first area of the game — a nautiloid ship that you must escape from. Unfortunately, the grossness continues, as the ship is made of flesh! The ladders you climb up are called “aortal tissue” and look sticky. Every single doorway is an anus. I’m so serious. Hover over them. The doors are “sphincters,” and going through them feels like getting shat out of the mind flayer’s digestive tract.

During your journey through the nautiloid, you’ll find some delightful corpses — evidence of the mind flayer’s past exploits — and weird brain creatures that waddle around on four legs like fucked-up dogs. In one of the first rooms, you can even trigger a sequence that allows you to have one as a fighting companion. It’s useful, but it will require you to watch another cutscene with body horror, one that I had to look away from.

From there, it’s much smoother sailing. Still, adventure at your own caution. And enjoy!

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