Baldur's Gate 3 pleads for more polyamorous romance options
I have a romance with Karlach! We are now a couple, which means I can go to her at any time to ask for a little kiss on the cheek. It's adorable, and ...
I have a romance with Karlach! We are now a couple, which means I can go to her at any time to ask for a little kiss on the cheek. It's adorable, and I admire how Baldur's Gate 3 integrates emerging romantic relationships into everything else you do in this epic role-playing game. Character dynamics can change, and it feels like you're fighting for something tangible. You form a lasting bond that requires protection, and this comes to life through intimate conversations at the camp before venturing out into the cold, dark world to defeat demons and forever change the realm.
As much as I love these characters and the relationships I build with them, I may have accidentally broken both my own heart and Shadowheart's by being a flirty little tease in the camp and not realizing the emotions I was playing with. Throughout my gameplay, I courted Shadowheart and did my best to penetrate her prickly facade and reveal the sensitive soul beneath. I reached that point and even gave her flowers while we sat together on a waterfall, drinking wine and talking about our pasts. However, I failed to seal the deal, and during that time, a huge, red fool appeared in the camp and put me under a spell.
I couldn't help but flirt with Karlach when the opportunity arose, and it didn't help that she was obviously smitten with me as well, constantly seeking my approval and hinting that she wanted to finally feel my touch once her infernal engine was tamed. We slept together that same night, solidifying a romantic relationship that soon spread throughout the camp. But what I hadn't considered was that the game was smart enough to take into account previous relationship attempts and the feelings that certain characters had also developed for me.
Karlach mentions Shadowheart the next morning and notes that she is pleased to be called my girlfriend but pities her fellow campmate as they both compete for the same prize. No matter how spontaneous it was, I made a romantic decision and now have to live with the knowledge that unrequited love will constantly be present in my gameplay since I don't want to remove the cleric from my party. Not only is she incredibly useful, but she is also fascinatingly written. But I feel like an asshole because I misled her. Our first conversation as just good friends was filled with bittersweet disappointment as we failed to establish some kind of normalcy. It seems that Baldur's Gate 3 allows for separating from group members and starting new romances with others, and I don't even want to think about the kind of dialogue that would result from that. I'm passive, so I naturally hate conflicts and want everyone else to be happy, but Larian wants me to face the harsh reality.
However, this could have been avoided if the game accepted polyamory. I don't want to be a game developer and assume that it would be easy to integrate shared love among any number of characters with whom you can have a romance, but it would be incredible. For me, I have developed fictional feelings for Shadowheart, Astarion, Karlach, and even Lae'zel after setting aside her desire to slit my throat in my sleep. And who knows which other allies will join my camp in the coming hours and easily captivate me in the same way.
But there's no way to experience all these romances in a single playthrough unless you're willing to break countless hearts. You probably wouldn't want that either, although my idea of polyamory isn't simply a collection of different relationships without consequences. Rather, it would reflect the realities of polyamory and what it means to be a singular partner in a constantly evolving network of people for whom you would burn the world. They would be there for each other. Some characters in the game itself are interested in polyamorous relationships, but you have to figure it out like some kind of uncomfortable puzzle on your own. It restricts the romantic possibilities in a way that goes against the usual approach of Baldur's Gate 3. It practically begs for an expansion of these ideas or at least an expression that doesn't shy away from making itself known.
Karlach expresses her concern about Shadowheart after getting involved with me, and conversations like this or similar ones could easily be framed in a polyamorous context, where partners care for each other and turn to different members of the circle to seek advice or figure out what troubles those in urgent need of help. There are concepts of jealousy, intimacy, love, and camaraderie that could be beautifully woven into a polyamorous romance in BG3, and I am confident that Larian would do them justice if they ever addressed them.
You wouldn't have to change many fundamental aspects either, as I would expect these characters to behave no differently in the field if they were in a polyamorous relationship. We would still find ourselves in life-threatening situations and come up with absurd solutions, there would still be jokes and observations about everyone we encounter and everything we see. If anything, it would serve to give far more significance to every single line of dialogue and interaction, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Each of us would have cute nicknames or personal dilemmas that now carry more weight due to the increased number of loved ones we can connect with. I would certainly care more and do my best to share the burden whenever possible.
Unless you count mods, which I don't, I can't imagine any mainstream role-playing game that has ever attempted to approach romance in this way, or if the medium is even ready for it. If any game were to do such a thing, it should be Baldur's Gate 3, because I can't think of any other recent title that has captured our hearts like this, and it's all thanks to a cast that will go down in history. Now, please allow me to kiss them all at once.