Baldur's Gate 3's Extensive Romance Options Still Have One Big Hangup

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There has only been one choice in Baldur’s Gate 3 that has paralyzed me with indecisiveness. That was deciding whether to romance the tough cleric with a softer side, Shadowheart, or the too hot to handle and excited Karlach. But why should I have to choose at all?

In a year of horny games, Baldur’s Gate 3 easily takes the crown as the horniest of them all. It’s dripping with saucy moments, and companions are falling over themselves to sleep with the protagonist. And while the game’s mechanics offer loads of freedom, multiple romances can be frustratingly restrictive.

Video games tend to frown upon pursuing multiple romances.


The prospect of being able to romance multiple partners in Baldur’s Gate 3 was a surprising but welcome promise from Larian Studios, who confirmed to audiences during the July Panel From Hell that the game would include polyamory.

This felt like a major step up for the representation of polyamory in video games, which until now have mostly been the butt of jokes. Games with romance elements have often used the idea of dating multiple partners as a way to scold players who try to do it, such as Persona 5, Stardew Valley, and The Witcher 3 all include scenes that scold the player for their attempted two-timing.

Baldur’s Gate 3 wasn’t going to be like this.

And by and large, it isn’t. Baldur’s Gate 3 never uses players’ attempts at multiple romances to make fun of the player or make them feel bad. But that’s mainly because the promise of polyamory is barely realized in the final product.

Many players have discovered that multiple romances in Baldur’s Gate 3 exist with heavy limitations. While it is possible to sleep with more than one of your companions (and you might have a hard time not doing so the way they come on so strong) there is little in the way of romance, or deep relationships with and between more than one companion.

In my case, I began my playthrough by romancing Shadowheart. Then when I met Karlach I quickly began to sweet-talk her as well. The two women both had fascinating relationship storylines and I wanted my character to romance both of them. Shadowheart seemed like she wouldn’t mind either, as she is herself a little smitten with Karlach upon first meeting the Tiefling. But once my relationship with Shadowheart progressed to a certain point, Karlach pulled me aside to let me know she was happy for me but that if I was going to continue to pursue Shadowheart then we needed to call off our relationship.

Characters in Baldur’s Gate 3 express interest in each other, but at the end of the day they only have eyes for you.

Larian Studios

This seems like a realistic thing to happen. You can’t force polyamory on everybody; people want different types of relationships. But Baldur’s Gate 3 already suspends realistic romance in its monogamous relationships to satisfy the player. If pursuing a monogamous relationship with any companion, the player will always be able to make that romance happen. Companions don’t have any gender or racial preferences that lock off some players from pursuing that romance. Despite Shadowheart hating the Githyanki, if you play as a Githyanki you can still win her heart.

The world of Baldur’s Gate 3 is rife with racism between species, and almost every party member you come across has some beef with another species in the game. But in pursuit of giving players the freedom to choose their romance without any caveats, the game ignores the narrative realities of its world. Which is a good choice! I am happy that anybody who wants to can ride off into the sunset with Astarion. So why is this approach to romance not applied to polyamorous options?

What limited options there are for multiple romances cap out at two, such as the option to romance both Astarion and Halsin. But even these few chances to have a polyamorous relationship are extremely limited. Rather than a relationship between three people, it is portrayed as the protagonist having two separate romances with the approval of both paramours. And when it finally comes time to have those spicy intimate scenes, the game makes you choose one partner.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a step up regarding romance in video games and representing a variety of sexualities and genders. This is what makes the game's lackluster representation of polyamory feel like a missed opportunity.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is out now on PC and comes to PS5 on September 6.

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