Baldur’s Gate 3 may feel like a colorful fantasy adventure, but it’s flecked with darkness, with plenty of pitch-black plotlines to entertain anyone at the spookiest time of the year.
One of particular interest for me this Halloween is the Dark Urge, a unique backstory that you can choose for your protagonist, making them a murder-happy amnesiac. The idea of going through one of the best RPGs of all time as a serial killer instead of a heroic do-gooder is intriguing and was more than enough to pique my interest.
The premise is simple, if unremittingly dark. If you choose the Dark Urge backstory, your character has no memory of their past from before the game begins. Instead, they have a constant desire to spill blood with no consideration for whether that blood comes from friend or foe. You can opt to resist this impulse but even the most well-meaning adventurers will find themselves challenged by the Urge’s disquieting demands.
In the time since Baldur’s Gate 3’s release back in August, the Dark Urge has taken on an almost mythological status amongst my friends. Buddies of mine whisper of secret endings and unpleasant decision points offered up by this novel route through Larian Studios’ high-fantasy epic. I was reminded of being on the playground as a kid, children gathered as they discussed the latest video game rumors in hushed murmurs. However, unlike the relatively tame Pokémon mysteries that occupied my tween brain, the Dark Urge is something altogether more sinister.
With the start of October now upon us, we are now well and truly in the Halloween season, and what better way could there be to immerse yourself in this time of ghosts and ghouls than to embark on a journey of bloody psychological horror?
Minor spoilers for Baldur’s Gate 3 ahead.
The Dark Urge is more than just a gimmick. Not only is it tied into Baldur’s Gate 3’s central plot, but it also turns the whole conceit of the RPG on its head. RPGs like Baldur’s Gate 3 place a huge amount of emphasis on player agency. You’re the one making the decisions. You decide how your character looks and acts, where to go, and how to approach the RPG’s open-ended main storyline.
However, the Dark Urge puts a bloody spanner in the works, undermining your sense of control. For starters, even should you attempt to resist the urge, you will still find yourself succumbing on occasion. Early on in Act 1, you meet a well-meaning Tiefling Bard called Alfira. Play your cards right and she’ll serenade you with a beautiful song and ask if she can join your party on your adventure.
Alfira won’t survive the night.
You awake covered in blood, the mangled corpse of the Bard at your feet. You have no choice in this, no chance to resist the Urge. It overtook you and now you must confront the consequences. Do you attempt to hide the body and pass it off as if nothing happened? Do you come clean? Do you embrace the Urge? What if your companions find out?
Baldur’s Gate 3 compels you to wrestle with all of these questions, forcing you to handle the consequences of your loss of control. No matter your response, it’s an upsetting experience, on par with what you might expect from some of the best horror games. If you resist the Urge, you start to live in fear of what’s inside you, worrying that your dark inclinations might hurt the people you care about. Should you embrace it, however, you’ll become the monster - a murderous villain in the center of your own, personal slasher story.
Taking the high road isn’t easy. Should you have a love interest, the Urge will attempt to make you kill them. One night you’ll stand over their sleeping body, the Urge demanding that you take their life. In a chilling moment, your lover’s life comes down to a Wisdom saving throw - a single roll of the dice. Succeed, and you’ll maintain control of yourself. Fail, however, and you’ll murder them on the spot, before having to explain yourself to your surviving companions. Though I was lucky enough to succeed on the critical dice roll, this moment of truth was utterly chilling, the feeling of horror lingering long afterward.
You’ve got red on you
The Dark Urge doesn’t just rear its head in major setpieces. As with any great horror element, it plays a constant, understated role. Baldur’s Gate 3 will regularly offer you additional, creepy Dark Urge-based dialogue options that veer from the darkly amusing to the genuinely upsetting.
For instance, when given food during an otherwise gentle scene in the Druid Camp, I was offered the chance to say “I much prefer roasted dwarf” - an amusing, if fairly dark response. However, perhaps creepier than that, I could have said nothing, instead opting to “stop thinking about delicious dwarf and take the bowl.”
Even should you opt for neither of those options, Larian has, in that moment, reminded you of the Dark Urge’s influence, ensuring that you never quite forget about the murderous beast inside of your character.
Less subtly, you’ll start to have visits from Sceleritas Fel, a creepy supernatural butler who will furnish you with items should you give in to the Dark Urge and sate your murderous appetite. This comes to a head in Act 2, where Fel urges you to murder Isobel, a well-meaning Cleric of the moon goddess whose magic is responsible for keeping the entire settlement of Last Light safe from a terrible shadow curse.
Even should you refuse to act on this request, your dialogue options with Isobel will remind you of your murderous disposition, offering choices like “My blood… it’s telling me to kill you” and “Attack her, the Urge aches for it.”
Even in the game’s safer locations, you can never quite escape the Urge. Objective markers for potential murders hover in your peripheral vision, reminding you that you’re only a few clicks away from going into full Hannibal Lecter mode.
This is the horror at the heart of any Dark Urge playthrough and why it fits Halloween so well. Jump scares are all well and good, but the creeping dread that comes with knowing that you are only a bad dice roll away from turning into a blood-hungry serial killer offers a distinctive kind of horror - one you may not want to miss over the course of the spooky season.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.