Baldur’s Gate 3 will undoubtedly go down as one of the best RPGs of 2023. A captivating journey with a near-endless amount of possible paths, and turn-based combat where every action keeps you on your toes. But its cast of dynamic characters have raised the bar for video game companions for years to come. Love them or hate them, each party member brings their own talents, morals, and unique questlines to Baldur’s Gate 3, all of which are worth exploring to their fullest.
The Githyanki fighter Lae'zel is one of the very first potential companions that players will encounter, one that has been dynamically brought to life by Devora Wilde through voice and motion capture. On how Lae’zel’s memorable mannerisms and way of speaking were crafted, Wilde said:
“It was just through play and discovery and seeing the way she was written. Seeing how abrasive she was and how warrior-like she was. I think seeing all that, and getting further and further into her character just meant that the voice started to go lower and lower and lower. It just reached this sort of Lae’zel-ly intense place, with a slight rasp, and we settled on that.”
Skilled, focused, and incredibly direct, Lae’zel has been a polarizing character amongst the Baldur’s Gate fan base. She values her duty to the Githyanki above all else, even at the cost of innocent lives, making her a difficult companion to gain approval with if you’re pursuing a ”morally good” playthrough. But, if you can stomach a few unsavory choices, then having Lae’zel along for the ride will provide you with one of the game’s most rewarding arcs.
“It was very interesting to portray a character like that," Wilde said. "When we started, we didn't know, and I don't even think the team knew necessarily, what Lae’zel was going to go through and the different pathways of how she could end up. I think they had a rough idea, I believe, but they didn't have the details. So I was discovering things as I was going along, which was great. And it was all sort of happening almost chronologically. We did Act One in Early Access and that was sort of contained, and then we moved onto the other things.
I was like, ‘Oh, wow. Now this happens. Oh, okay. Now this, oh!’ and things started to change and shift, but to be able to not know that was a massive gift, I think. Because then you're always playing her in the moment.”
Outside of her own personal journey and growth, Lae’zel’s interactions with each of the other party members makes for great entertainment. From Shadowheart’s immediate hostility, to Wyll’s surprising curiosity, the chemistry that these characters have with one another regardless or combination is impressive. More so after discovering that the cast recorded most of their performances in isolation.
“I never actively thought, ‘Oh this is really hard,’ but now looking at it I’m like, 'Wow, that is actually quite a feat.' And I think we all did it quite naturally. Sometimes if the other characters had already recorded their lines, they’d play it to us through our headphones, so then we could react to it. But most of the time that wasn't the case. So the director would say the line before and we'd react to it, or sometimes we just go straight in with the line. So very difficult, and different to film and TV where you’re bouncing off the other actors.”
They must have seen something of the Lae’zel in me. Which is maybe a little bit disturbing, but I take it as a compliment.”
It’s been a long journey for Larian Studios. Having initially teased Baldur’s Gate 3 back in 2019, the game went on to receive an early access release over a year later, in October 2020, which made up the first Act. It wasn’t until August 2023 that fans could finally witness the full stories of the characters they’d been introduced to. As has become commonplace for such large and high-profile projects, the cast of Baldur’s Gate 3 didn’t necessarily know what they’d be in for, either.
“I knew nothing,” Wilde said. “Coupled with that knowing nothing, and everything's code named, was my complete lack of knowledge about video games in general. And the fact that this was my first ever audition for a video game and a motion capture project meant that I just knew nothing, which was great.
We auditioned, as far as I remember, for like stock characters. So it was like a wizard-type character, an elf-type character, a vampire-type character. It was very loose and very hidden, and I don't think anyone knew. Even people who had knowledge of the game wouldn’t know that that's what we were auditioning for. I didn't know if it was for a main character or not — I think it was just a general audition for the project. So yeah, that's how it happened. And it was a filmed audition, because they were obviously looking for motion captures as well. So I just set it up in my living room. They must have seen something of the Lae’zel in me. Which is maybe a little bit disturbing, but I take it as a compliment.”
Now that Baldur’s Gate 3 has been with us for a short while, we know that it feels like gaming at its very best. One that ties story, gameplay, and performances together into a huge, multi-threaded package. And while Lae’zel is just one of the many characters that makes Baldur’s Gate 3 so memorable, her’s is one that introduces players to the game’s intricate world building, thanks to the Githyanki traditions, politics, and hierarchies that make up such a crucial part of the story.
“I think we all knew [Baldur’s Gate 3] was something special. I don't know if anybody knew how much people would love it. Like, we knew people would love it but it's just, the outpouring of love has been incredible. I think for me personally just seeing how well the character was written. How incredibly complex Lae’zel is and her evolution. For me it was like, ‘Wow, this is an incredible character and it will be an incredible game as a result of that.’
If you've been on the journey with her, I think you have a real appreciation of her. If you just decide to let her sit it out then you might be like, ‘Okay, she's just one of those characters that is abrasive for no reason.’ But you discover, as with all the characters, that there are underlying things that motivate them. Underlying trauma, underlying things that they've been through, just like everyone in real life. So I think that's what’s amazing. It's testament to the whole team that they're created such an incredibly layered story and characters for us to play.”
Baldur’s Gate 3 launched on 3 August, 2023 on PC and is available to play across Windows, macOS, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.