Baldur’s Gate 3’s permadeath honour mode has made Act 1 my own personal Groundhog Day, and I am either having a breakdown or becoming a god

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a breathtaking RPG narrative told in three acts—it’s also been the bane of my life for the past couple of weeks. I’m starting to feel like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day: an indestructible god powered by foresight stuck in a time loop. Except Connors had no choice—I’m doing this to myself for some reason.

I’m not usually a permadeath guy, but there’s something about the game’s Honour Mode (a difficulty where death is final—at least if you want to earn yourself a set of fancy golden dice when you roll credits) that keeps me coming back. Maybe it’s because I’ve already had a satisfying time with the game, and I want to challenge myself. Maybe I like to fixate on insurmountable tasks, or maybe my brain’s just broken. 

On my first attempt, the lingering threat of a final death changed my approach to the game entirely. Instead of my main save file’s unfocused meandering, I made a mental checklist of every combat encounter I knew about—and cheesed the hell out of them with improvised tactics like a little baby. I funnelled enemies through chokepoints, I threw puddles of grease on the floor, I took advantage of enemy AI—I was the world’s wimpiest scoundrel, but I also learned a whole lot.

Feeling confident, I nudged towards completing the game’s first act. All I had left to conquer was the githyanki crèche and Grym the golem. Then Ch’r’ai W’wargaz and his funky disco of psychic blades killed me dead.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Look, I’d only planned on one honour mode attempt out of sheer curiosity. But coming so close—yet so far—made me snap, and I began a feverish quest for vengeance. But on my second playthrough something strange happened: it was easy.

“I’m a god, not THE god—I don’t think.”

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

There’s a scene in Groundhog Day that comes close to the end of the film. Our poor time loop prisoner Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) has been living out the same day for around 30-40 years. I haven’t spent quite that long on Baldur’s Gate 3, not for lack of trying.

In the scene, Connors tells Andie MacDowell’s character Rita Hanson that he’s a god—a speech that’s something between a mental breakdown and a state of nirvana. He’s seen every event play out in every configuration so many times that he knows everything that can, will, and will ever happen in that 24 hour prison. In doing so, he’s become effectively all-knowing.

I’m not claiming to be a master at Baldur’s Gate 3 or anything, but my meticulous first attempt armed me with enough knowledge that I started to know how he felt.

I had every encounter mapped out, I knew the best choke points to take fights, I knew exactly how to exploit the AI with exact pieces of terrain. I knew to hang one character back just in case I beefed deception with the gith near the mountain pass—and surely enough, I did. No biggie, I was already five moves ahead. I came back at level 6 and flattened them.

There were still a couple of close calls (W’wargaz doesn’t mess around) but my new, deeper appreciation for act 1 translated into an intangible power boost. Every number in the game was the exact same, but I was somehow untouchable—give or take a lucky crit or two.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Yet I’ve always wondered: why is the ending of Groundhog Day so victorious? He escapes from the time loop, sure, but it would be terrifying to enter a world that suddenly had novelty again. Wouldn’t Connors be institutionalised by time prison? 

Turns out: yes, yes he would. I’ve just stepped into Act 2 again for the first time in months, and I can verify that the (relative) unknown is horrifying. But in the words of a certain god in a certain diner:

“I wasn’t just blown up yesterday: I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned. Every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender. I am an immortal.” While honour mode still has its hooks in me, at any rate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post The 5 most ridiculously broken builds in D&D history
Next post Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown review