Baldur's Gate 3 is shaping up to be such a gigantic RPG experience that it's starting to make other developers nervous, with much digital ink being spilt over concern fans will come to expect the "anomaly" it represents. As an officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons product (if you didn't know, Baldur's Gate is the name of a specific city in D&D's Faerun) and carrying the weight of a legendary RPG series on its shoulders, expectations for this one are through the roof. And yet, developer Larian Studios keeps finding ways to exceed them, revealing the game has some 17,000 possible ending permutations.
In an expansive interview with GamesRadar+, writer Adam Smith explains how the game was constructed to better reflect the free-form structure of traditional pen-and-paper roleplay experiences, describing Baldur's Gate 3's narrative as: "more like this big spiderweb - the end of the game is [the centre], and the start of the game is [the outer edge]. So you're always heading towards the same point, and what happens when you get there is very different. But it interweaves, so you're kind of dancing between plots."
Smith points to the return of fan-favourite character Jaheira, a companion from previous games in the series, as an example of this, explaining that: "she's pretty neutral. Her morality is quite flexible. She's a good person, but she's willing to do bad things for the right outcomes... And when we first started building that, the temptation was always that she judges you, but she doesn't because she doesn't know [what you've done in the past]. And this is the big secret, right? People only know what you tell them."
This will be reflected within the city of Baldur's Gate through in-game newspapers, with word of your heroic deeds proceeding you. Even this can be manipulated, with the player able to lie or exaggerate for propaganda purposes apparently, and Smith says that "that's where it gets really complicated. Because suddenly all these different choices I made, they're all building up." He describes his preferred way to play, which he calls "pragmatic evil", where "you find that you've managed to manipulate a lot of people, and nobody actually knows how bad you are."
While the actual number of official 'endings' will likely be a number reachable on fingers and toes, Smith sets expectations accordingly. Then he goes and does it again, leaving us with a statement potentially more ambitious than the last, and which we'd prefer to any number of ending cinematics:
"We're not going to say this is a world that changes with every choice you make. What we are going to say - and it's true - is that the characters react to every choice you make. Everything you click will cause something to happen. Sometimes it's small, sometimes it's subtle, but it all means something from the very first clicks."