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Should you take The Mountain Pass or The Underdark in Baldur’s Gate 3

What’s the best way to reach the Moonrise Towers?

The player character peers over a beautiful vista in Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game of choice. Sometimes that choice is complex and political, like picking sides in a three-sided war. And sometimes the choice can seem as simple as “which route should I take to the next story mission?”

The latter of those two decisions is one you’ll face near the end of act 1, when you have to decide how you and your crew want to reach Moonrise Towers. Should you take the fungal, dark path of The Underdark? Or should you delve into the mysterious Mountain Pass?

In this Baldur’s Gate 3 guide, we’re going to tell you which path to take and break down the two different routes to the Moonrise Towers.

Should you choose The Mountain Pass or The Underdark?

A look at the Last Light Inn in Baldur’s Gate 3, a rare town of refuge in the Shadow-Cursed Lands Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

There are character-critical story quests on both routes, so the answer to “should you go the route of The Mountain Pass or The Underdark” is, simply: Do both. Just make sure you do each route before you get too far into the Moonrise Tower quest, as some players report a point of no return in the latter parts of act 2.

Should you do the Mountain Pass or the Underdark first?

So if the answer is just “do both,” let’s reframe the question: Should you do The Mountain Pass or The Underdark first? That is also an easy one, albeit for reasons that will differ player to player.

The Underdark is significantly harder and longer. If you go through it first, you’ll blast through The Mountain Pass no problem. On the other hand, if you do The Mountain Pass first, you might have a bit of a harder time with the handful of combats encounters there, but you’ll be able to enter The Underdark with more XP under your belt and a ton of magical items from the First Light Inn shops.

Ultimately, we suggest doing The Mountain Pass first, but for reasons entirely divorced from combat or difficulty: Gale.

Gale is a wonderful party member and a delightful person to keep around in camp, but his constant need to consume magical items is a real bummer — especially in the early parts of the game, when magical items are hard to come by. But on your journey through The Mountain Pass, you’ll meet an old mentor of Gale’s — Elminster — who can progress your Wizard’s story quest and put a pause on his hunger for your items.

Because The Mountain Pass route is so much shorter and easier (relatively speaking) than The Underdark, it’s easy to pop over, grab Elminster, stop Gale’s curse, reach the First Light Inn, get the Waypoint, grab some new items, and start your adventure in The Underdark beefed up and ready to party.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, and your second path will be made easier by whatever trials and tribulations you experience on your first path. Like all things Baldur’s Gate 3, take the information the game gives you, pair it with some of the context we’ve provided below, and choose what sounds best for your role-playing experience and party.

What to expect from The Mountain Pass

Gale talks to Elminster, a powerful and old wizard, in Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

The Mountain Pass is an entirely new area located west of the Goblin Camp. And if you click on the loading door for it, it will scare you with a message that encourages you to wrap things up in the starter region first — almost as if it’s suggesting you can’t come back. This is a bizarrely worded warning, as you can still leave The Mountain Pass the way you came in and complete quests you missed earlier in the game.

Anyway, The Mountain Pass route is relatively quick and straightforward. Once you enter the area, you only have two options. You can head to the Abandoned Monastery for Lae’Zel to complete part of her sprawling side quest. Or you can follow the main quest and head straight to the Shadow-Cursed Lands, which is where you’ll find the Moonrise Towers and the Last Light Inn town.

The main route here is very quick, and we only ran into a single combat on our way through the pass to the Shadow-Cursed Lands. It’s also the road you’ll meet Elminster on.

What to expect from The Underdark

The player character talks to an automaton in the Arcane Tower in Baldur’s Gate 3 Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

The Underdark is a dangerous path, but a fun one. You can get in a few different ways, but we recommend taking the path under the Goblin Camp, through the Defiled Temple puzzle. This will spit you out right before a Waypoint, a handful of cool monster battles, and within spitting distance of the Grymforge and Adamantine Forge — which you’ll need to pass through on the way to the Moonrise Towers.

You’ll also be able to nab some sweet gear from the nearby Arcane Tower, if you want a neat side quest to jump into.

Unlike The Mountain Pass — which offers several interesting conversations — The Underdark route is mostly about combat. You’ll need to battle many different monsters and fend off at least one ambush if you want to reach your destination alive. (If you haven’t grown accustomed to quick-saving early and often, The Underdark will be sure to help the muscle memory set in.)

It’s also worth mentioning that this is where you’ll find Shadowheart’s companion quest. If she’s your main squeeze, or maybe just your favorite party member, this route will allow you to progress her story.