Karlach’s infernal engine was a late addition to her character in Baldur’s Gate 3: ‘One of the last elements to be finalized was the heart’

Karlach stands out as one of the most cherished characters in Baldur’s Gate 3, and for many reasons. She’s formidable, exudes a lively and endearing energy, and is impressively well-crafted. Her narrative of betrayal and punk-rock redemption is engaging and emotional, which sparked some controversy over the absence of a “perfect” ending.

Personally, I don’t buy into that controversy—although the game’s ending initially felt somewhat thin, this issue was later addressed with a substantial epilogue patch.

Nonetheless, Karlach’s missing heart seemed so vital to her character that I was astonished to learn, during BAFTA’s “An Evening with Baldur’s Gate 3,” that it was actually a relatively late addition. This came to light during an interview featuring Larian CEO and co-founder Swen Vincke, writing director Adam Smith, and lead writer Chrystal Ding, hosted by Jane Douglas.

Smith revealed that Karlach’s infernal engine wasn’t part of her character until much later in the development process. He mentioned that Karlach underwent the most changes: “We explored numerous concepts, and one of the last elements to be finalized was the heart. For a long time, she was just a fugitive from hell.”

If you remember Karlach from the game’s early access period, you might recall her as a tiefling without the infernal engine. Many characters, including Karlach, evolved significantly during development—Wyll, for example, had a major rewrite. I had assumed that Larian had simply moved the reveal of Karlach’s heart to Act 1 along with her visual redesign since her glowing ribcage is quite noticeable.

Smith elaborated, “At some point, we sought that extra coolness factor. We wanted to create something unique about this character that players could interact with, and we conceived the idea of this steampunk heart, this hell-heart. But for a long time, she didn’t have it.”

Adding the infernal engine late in development posed challenges for the cinematics team. Smith joked, “When you tell the lighting and cinematic teams that she now has a glowing metal heart, they respond with ‘oh okay, really?’ That made for an interesting Wednesday.”

Vincke added that some changes were also driven by the cinematic teams’ needs: “They’d tell us, ‘You need to change this because otherwise, we can’t position our cameras correctly without too much clipping.’ So, like many aspects of Baldur’s Gate 3, it was teamwork that shaped the characters.”

This collaborative process extended to player feedback, which led to a new ending for Karlach before the epilogue patch was released. For those interested in more details, the full talks from BAFTA’s “An Evening with Baldur’s Gate 3” will soon be available on their YouTube channel.

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