It’s no secret that Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t hold your hand. The game offers more freedom to conquer puzzles and combat challenges than most other RPGs on the market (with the exception of Larian Studios’ previous game, Divinity: Original Sin 2). But that carte blanche comes at a cost: you sort of need to use every tool available to you since Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t pull its punches. However, you can tweak how much damage those punches deal.
When a player starts the campaign, Baldur’s Gate 3 provides three different difficulty options: Explorer, Balanced, and Tactician. These choices are described as “A narrative experience placing story before combat,” “A balanced adventure full of challenging choices,” and “A tough campaign emphasizing strategic combat,” respectively. What do these descriptors mean? Basically, the “difficulty” of Baldur’s Gate 3 stems from its combat. Gamers will have to make a ton of choices throughout their adventures, but the ability checks and save targets won’t be affected by difficulty. That is a huge relief since depending on the selected challenge, players will need to reserve all their luck for turn-based battles.
Since the “Balanced” option is in the middle of the difficulty tier list, it is the “default” and “normal” challenge of Baldur’s Gate 3. In this mode, fights test players’ skills but won’t overwhelm anyone with at least an iota of tactical knowledge. “Explorer,” meanwhile, is essentially Baldur’s Gate 3’s “easy” mode. Enemies have less health and deal less damage. Plus, dice results are more in players’ favor due to lower attack and saving checks, and item shops always provide a discount. However, using Explorer mode requires a sacrifice. While playing on this difficulty mode, characters cannot multiclass. If your custom character is a Warlock, they will have to stay a pure Warlock until you turn up the heat.
While the Balanced difficulty should be more than enough for most players, anyone who wants a true challenge (or is feeling masochistic) can try out Tactician. In this mode, enemies take more punishment and deal more damage, and they are also harder to hit and more likely to land their attacks. Moreover, enemies on Tactician are smarter and use more strategic maneuvers, including ganging up on the squishiest party member. And to twist the knife in even deeper, while in Tactician mode, long rests (i.e., the most reliable source of healing in Baldur’s Gate 3) cost 80 Supplies instead of the regular 40.
While these difficulty modes provide vastly different experiences during combat scenarios, players are ultimately in charge of how much Baldur’s Gate 3 challenges them since difficulty modes aren’t set in stone. If the game is too difficult or easy, gamers can quickly change difficulty settings by bringing up the game menu with the Esc button, selecting “Difficulty,” and then the new mode. Plus, Baldur’s Gate 3’s difficulty extends beyond difficulty options…sorta. Within the Gameplay tab of the Options menu lurks the “Karmic Dice” option. This selection prevents players from experiencing dice roll success or failure streaks while also keeping the results mostly random. Karmic Dice is on by default, but anyone who wants a potentially easier or more difficult journey can untoggle the option. With Karmic Dice deactivated, the already random dice rolls will get even more randomer.
And that’s all you need to know about Baldur’s Gate 3’s difficulty, at least at launch. Larian Studios could easily patch in more difficulty modes. For instance, Divinity: Original Sin 2 includes an “Honour Mode” that gives players only one save slot, and if the party wipes, the game deletes that save. While not for everyone, some gamers relish that sort of challenge and would love it if Larian added that hardcore difficulty to Baldur’s Gate 3. But for now, we’ve only got Explorer, Balanced, and Tactician modes…and Karmic Dice.