In the run-up to Baldur's Gate 3 leaving early access, developers Larian Studios have understandably put a lot of emphasis on the game's custom character creation, what with it being much more firmly ingrained in the world of Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing more generally than, say, their previous Divinity games. But before you jump into creating your favourite D&D build, do take a moment to watch the Introductions for each of its fixed origin characters, too. They're great fun, well-written and have some good jokes in them, but they also reveal some important details about your companions-to-be that you might not have gleaned otherwise. They're also very easy to miss if you're not careful.
When you're plonked into the character selection screen after the opening cutscene, I'm sure most mouse cursors will instantly gravitate toward the shadowy 'Custom' portrait right at the top (see above). Sure, you could pick one of the origin characters - the folks who will otherwise become your companions when playing as a custom character - but let's face it, part of the fun of D&D is role-playing as your own creation, and given how many times we've had to recreate them during its three years of early access (as each major patch has required a complete restart of the campaign), I'm sure many long-time Baldur's Gate 3 players will relish the opportunity to finally take them through the entire game.
Before you do that, though, resist the urge to barrel into the custom menu and instead spend seven-odd minutes watching the origin lot's introductions. In the screenshot above, you'll see there's a little Play Introduction button below their descriptions - literally as far away from the Custom portrait as you can possibly get, it would appear - which you can only access from this particular screen.
Each one is only about a minute long, but I just enjoyed how they all begin with them doing a weird little wake-up wiggle, like they've been suddenly possessed to talk about themselves by some unknown presence. It's like some ghost has tapped them on the shoulder and they lurch forward out of shock, jumping out of their skins as they wonder where the hell they are and what they're doing here on this strange stone circle in the middle of a lush forest. They go through the same little shiver shuffle when they finish telling you their back story as well, almost as if their ethereal puppet master has plopped down their strings and has walked off to get the next one.
It's a fun little detail, but the real reason to watch them is just to get an extra dose of Larian's great writing. Despite their short length, these introductions manage to convey everything you need to know about what these characters' respective deals are, while also making you laugh and smile at the same time. As anyone who's had to write magazine captions, boxouts, or indeed several short RPS 100 entries for a living can tell you, doing this much in so little time isn't as easy as it looks, so indulge me as I doff my cap to Larian's writing team for an excellent job well done - and particularly the Astarion, Gale and Karlach crews. A critical success roll if ever there was one.
Even the more serious ones are good watches, though (big love to Shadowheart, Lae'zel, Wyll and The Dark Urge here), as they clearly lay out what's driving each of these characters, which - having restarted the campaign as a couple of characters now just to see what's different - weren't always immediately obvious to me when playing as someone else. I understand them all a little bit better after watching these introductions, and it's already helped inform some of my choices as I'm confronted with their specific character quirks. Some might say that's veering into spoiler territory, but trust me. Shadowheart has been yelling at me for years at this point, but it's only now I know what the deal is with her special orb that I keep trying to sneak a look at that I know why. She's still a bit rude all told, particularly to Lae'zel, but I get her a bit more now, you know? And that's warmed her to me just a teeny bit more, just by watching her intro.
I also say this because several other members of the RPS Treehouse missed them completely and now feel slightly sad about it. So don't miss 'em! I know you're itching to get started in this enormous RPG, but trust me, they're 100% worth the small delay.
Disclosure: Former RPS deputy editor Adam Smith (RPS in peace) now works at Larian and is the lead writer for Baldur's Gate 3. Former contributor Emily Gera also works on it.