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Astarion speaks to the player character at the afterparty in Patch 5 in Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

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Baldur’s Gate 3’s Patch 5 shows off the game’s defining principle

Larian’s new epilogue adds a fitting afterparty for your cast of companions

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As a storytelling medium, games are strange. In my day job, I tell students that the medium-specific dimension of games is that they respond to our choices in real time: you press a button, Mario jumps. You choose a line of dialogue, and a scene can suddenly turn violent or comedic. This means that games, especially narrative-focused ones, are simultaneously a way for us to tell a story and a way for us to be told a story. Clara Fernández-Vara and Matthew Weise, in talking about world-building, call the world of a game a “story engine”: by creating a fleshed-out and engaging world, the designer builds story potential, which the player then “actualizes” through their play.

Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is a perfect example of that in action: We can and do get heavily invested in making choices during play that matter to us, creating the story of “our” Tav as we go along. On the other hand, part of what makes that interesting is that a good chunk of the story — the overall plot, the setting, the supporting characters — has been made for us and is outside our control. We have fun playing our Dark Urge as a cutesy, murderous maniac, but also enjoy hearing bitchy twink Astarion mutter “I’m going to fucking kill you” at us after we force him on stage with a clown, or taking a shot every time the Klingon-esque Lae’zel calls someone an indecipherable githyanki neologism (“It is Wednesday, is’tik.”).

With the recently released Patch 5 for Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian added an epilogue that thoroughly shows off this “tell your story/hear a story” dynamic.

[Ed. Note: Spoilers follow for acts 2 and 3 of Baldur’s Gate 3.]

An excerpt from the newspaper in Baldur’s Gate 3, detailing some of the events that have happened since the final boss fight Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Set six months after your party kills a giant, floating, princess-tiara-wearing brain and saves the city of Baldur’s Gate, the epilogue is quite literally the BG3 afterparty. Everyone’s favorite bone man, Withers, gets the gang back together for a reunion dinner, allowing you to catch up on your party members’ lives, read newspaper clippings about your exploits, and be nice to the cranky demigod of music that Withers managed to secure as the DJ.

The content here isn’t extensive; most of your party members have a relatively small amount of exposition about what’s happened to them since the death of the Netherbrain, and there is indeed a corkboard of broadsheets about happenings in the city, alongside a chest of letters from the various people encountered during your adventure. Well… the ones who survived, at any rate.

What’s interesting about the epilogue is that the level of drama truly depends on the choices you make over the course of the game, particularly in act 3 with the potential wrap-up of various party members’ personal questlines. Hilariously, because I was more or less scrupulously moral and generous in my playthrough, I got a tide of happy endings: Gale made up with Mystra and is now teaching at a prestigious wizard academy; Karlach and Wyll are murdering their way across hell with manic glee; Halsin is running an orphanage in the newly-healed shadowlands from act 2, and so forth.

Gale  the wizard recounts some of the events after the final boss fight in Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

There were a few highlights, however, Astarion’s story in particular. In my game, I killed Cazador and talked Astarion down from becoming just like his abuser; his payoff for that, after the Netherbrain died, was to become a 25-second joke about burning in the sun before scuttling away. That always struck me as extremely unfair, considering what he had been through; he gave up being able to walk freely in the sun for the sake of personal growth (and not becoming a monster like Cazador).

In the epilogue, he spoke at length about realizing the benefits of his choices and finding a new path, even if that path is apparently becoming a night-stalking, murdery vigilante (direct quote: “I’ve taken a turn as an adventurer and hero. It turns out nobody actually cares about murder, as long as you murder the right people”). As complicated as my relationship with him was, a little narrative justice for Astarion felt good, especially given that him not Ascending was my choice, really, not his.

After perusing YouTube, however, it has become incredibly apparent that all the real potential drama in your epilogue comes from not doing sidequests, or from making choices that are decidedly not the touchy-feely straight-and-narrow path I was on. There’s a new ending scene where Vlaakith eats Lae’zel, and at the party (where the latter is conspicuously absent) Withers can only say “she was happy to die, I guess,” which is frankly fucked up in the extreme. It’s possible, in a Dark Urge playthrough, to end up waiting in the bushes for everyone to go to sleep so you can murder your former comrades. If you don’t handle Cazador in act 3, Astarion effectively begs you to do so because his life is miserable otherwise. Perhaps most grimly, if Gale gave his life to kill the Netherbrain, you get a spectral voicemail from him delivering a final message and a little eulogy from his cat. Yow.

Astarion speaks to the player character at the after-party epilogue added in Patch 5 of Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Do I plan on a third (or fourth, or tenth) playthrough of BG3 for the sole purpose of seeing some of the wackier or edgier epilogue permutations? Not really; the game is extremely long and, as the links above bear out, a lot of it is viewable on YouTube. As Withers himself says — a little metatextually, I must say — at the epilogue’s conclusion, “If thou could only see the paths of fate untaken, thy mind would surely break. Be glad of thy chosen path. It is, after all, thine.”

My epilogue might have had the saccharine sweetness of a Disney film, compared to the dramatic car wrecks other choices might have led me to — but it is mine. Short and sweet though it may be, I enjoyed the game giving me one final nod to the story we made real together.