Why Rivington is my favourite area in Baldur’s Gate 3

80 hours into Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’ve just completed Act Two. I’ve battled through goblin camps, explored the Underdark, and braved the cursed shadowlands around Moonrise Tower. I’ve saved countless lives, and taken almost as many. I’ve broken my Paladin oath and had it restored. I’m even halfway to becoming a psychic squid man. In short, it’s been a long, challenging journey, and I’m ready to reach my destination.

Now, I can see them. The glittering white towers of Baldur’s Gate. It’s taken me three real-life days to get here, but finally, I’ll get to see the place this game is apparently named after. I descend from the crumbling rampart of the holdfast my party has made camp at, gather our supplies, and venture forth to the next area.

(Image credit: Larian)

After following a dirt path through a narrow gorge, the title card for the next area appears. But it doesn’t say “Baldur’s Gate” or “Welcome to Baldur’s Gate” or “You did it! You made it to Baldur’s Gate.” Instead, it says “Rivington”.

That isn’t how you spell Baldur’s Gate. That isn’t how you spell it at all!

Rivington, it turns out, is a satellite village located on the outskirts of Baldur’s Gate, basically the Sword Coast equivalent of Shoreham-on-sea. I’ll admit, it’s impressive that Larian would not only commit to building a vast, medieval metropolis, but also a whole other settlement that would naturally sprout from the boundaries of such a major urban hub. At the same time though, come on Larian! I just want to see what Baldur’s Gate looks like.

(Image credit: Larian)

And it isn’t like Rivington is just some visual flourish that you just waltz through in five minutes. Within moments of my arrival, it’s clear I’ll be here for a while. There’s a big argument happening in front of a toymaker’s house that’s clearly the start of a quest, while a sprawling refugee camp sweeps off to the right, dotted with people from all over the Sword Coast, each with their own story to tell. And that’s not to mention the crowds packing the cobbled streets that meander downhill toward Baldur’s Gate itself. It almost feels like Larian is teasing me. “You’re almost there, just another 10 hours of questing to go!”

Within moments of my arrival, it’s clear I’ll be here for a while.

Luckily, Larian knows what it is doing. After the big climax of Act 2, Rivington offers the chance for the player to let their hair down a little. Granted, a small village teeming with refugees fleeing a war doesn’t seem like the most relaxing place on the Sword Coast, but compared to the blighted lands around Moonrise Towers, Rivington is practically a holiday destination.

And Rivington does have a more explicitly festive side, as there’s an actual circus in town. And it isn’t some dusty pseudo-Victorian affair with boring old trapeze artists and highwire acts. This is an extraplanar circus, essentially a little slice of Planescape neatly dished out into Baldur’s Gate. Indeed, the shenanigans start before you even get into the circus, as first you need to get past the bouncer, a ghoul that can smell murder.

(Image credit: Larian)

Provided you can make your way past Benji and his handler, you’ll find a fantasy carnival boasting all manner of strange attractions, from a makeup-selling mummy to a djinn with a fromage fixation. BG3 is a superbly written game all around, but with the circus, Larian clearly let its narrative scribes completely off the hook. The concentration of weird ideas and exceptional jokes is higher than anywhere else in the game, a solid hour of fantastic humour.

With the extraplanar circus in town, suddenly I don’t feel quite so desperate to get to Baldur’s Gate anymore.

Crucially, though, the circus’s character don’t feel like one-note punchlines. In fact, they could easily form a brilliant RPG party in their own right. The necromancer leading a skeleton dance troupe would make a natural party leader, while the djinn has the chaotic energy you want from a fun sidekick. But my favourite member of the circus is undoubtedly Popper, the Kobold hawker who sells “treatos” that may or may not have been illicitly obtained. Every line of Popper’s dialogue makes me howl with laughter. If Baldur’s Gate 3 does get an expansion, can it please be about Popper, Larian?

With the extraplanar circus in town, suddenly I don’t feel quite so desperate to get to Baldur’s Gate anymore. But the circus isn’t Rivington’s only trick, and neither is it an incidental aside designed for pacing purposes. As you make your way around the circus, it becomes clear that a more sinister force lurks behind the frivolities, all of which comes to a head when you arrive at the stage of the circus’ star act—Dribbles the Clown.

(Image credit: Larian)

The whole sequence highlights Larian’s skill in narrative design as does what happens next. Not only does this little area have a far more dramatic conclusion than you might expect, but that conclusion both directs you to other points of interest in Rivington, and begins to lay the groundwork for the whole of Act 3. The culminating events at the circus tie into a murder that’s occurred at the nearby Open Hand Temple, where the current detective, a “shitey little elephant” named Valeria, has lazily pinned the killing on one of the refugees. Investigating this case is one of the central questlines of Act 3, but in the context of Rivington, Larian also uses it to introduce the rest of Act 3’s main questlines. 

As you pursue a lead into a brothel located on the vast bridge that spans the river separating Rivington from Baldur’s Gate, you learn the person you’re looking to speak to hasn’t been seen since visiting Fraygo’s Flophouse across the way. But you also hear that Raphael, the devil who’s been trying to tempt you throughout your journey, is waiting to speak to you in one of the brothel’s rooms, forming the setup for another major Act 3 plot point. When you do visit the flophouse, you bump into two of Astarion’s wretched kin, which gets the ball rolling on the climax of his questline.

(Image credit: Larian)

And this is the point where BG3 seals its reputation as an all-timer. Out of every area in BG3, Rivington is probably the most superfluous. It doesn’t have the systemic flexibility of Act 1, the big choices of Act 2, or the eye-popping sprawl of Baldur’s Gate itself. Most if not all of these story beats could be introduced in the city and you wouldn’t feel like anything major was missing. But Larian makes Rivington feel essential in how it uses it to establish the key story points of Act 3, expertly threading you between all these different quests and characters in a way that ties it together into a coherent, flowing narrative, while also making it feel like you’re discovering these elements naturally. Rivington may not be the biggest or most exciting part of Baldur’s Gate 3, but it’s the area that best represents Larian’s storytelling skill.

Oh, and the views aren’t bad either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post NVIDIA Holiday Card Glows Gold and Green on Cold Winter’s Eve
Next post If Alan Wake 2 and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora are a glimpse of what games will look like in 2024, sign me up