Baldur’s Gate 3 has its fair share of intimidating bosses, but one that stands out as especially creepy isn’t even everything that it could be. Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop inspiration for Baldur’s Gate 3, is filled to the brim with fascinating creatures, and not all of them are able to make the cut. One major limiting factor is encounter balance, as ensuring that fights go down fairly at the point where they can fit naturally into the campaign can make incorporating some of the most memorable enemies impossible.
Humanoid enemies have a big presence in Baldur’s Gate 3, which isn’t surprising considering its major focus on politics and roleplaying. Many of the most disturbing foes fall into this category, as characters like Malus Thorm and the villain Orin the Red are imbued with vibrant but chilling personalities. On the opposite end of things, however, delving into eldritch designs and inhuman horrors can cause discomfort on an even greater level. One such example is the Spectator, which appears in a couple of different spots as an optional boss in Act 1.
Act 1 of Baldur’s Gate 3 has much to see, like recruitable characters, hidden bosses, and other secrets that might require a checklist.
Spectators in Baldur’s Gate 3 appear near the main entrance to the Underdark in Act 1 and in a mysterious iron flask found in a cave on Risen Road, and it only takes one glance to register that either of these creatures are particularly intimidating specimens. With four alien eyestalks surrounding a central Cyclops-like eye, the Spectator is a strong indication that the horrors of the Underdark are less familiar than the threats aboveground. For DnD veterans, however, the sight may not be all that strange, as the Spectator’s resemblance to its more famous relative, the Beholder, is immediately apparent.
Although the pop culture presence of Stranger Things has given a big boost to some classic foes like demogorgons and deadly DnD mind flayers (the latter of which Baldur’s Gate 3 obviously leans into as well), few DnD monstrosities can rival the enduring popularity of Beholders. These creatures tend to be convinced of their own superiority over all other beings, and they possess both the ability to back that up and the hostility to convince others. Unlike many DnD creatures, Beholders don’t stem from prior mythologies, but they can be even more interesting to fight than challengers like dragons and demons.
Baldur’s Gate 3 grants players access to some Illithid Powers, but doesn’t make immediately clear whether they have any long-term consequences.
The Spectator in Baldur’s Gate 3 features a standard bite attack that it can employ in combat, but its real battle prowess comes from the eye rays that it can shoot from its stalks. With four different negative status effects to apply to its enemies, these give it a variety of interesting ways to disable opponents. Compared to a Beholder, however, four rays is nothing, as the larger aberrations have ten different powerful eye rays to employ. They’re also significantly more powerful, as clearly displayed by a Challenge Rating of 13 as opposed to the comparatively measly 3 of the Spectator.
That being said, the Spectator in Baldur’s Gate 3 is actually a good bit more powerful than its tabletop counterpart. Although its overall set of abilities is much closer to the traditional spectator than it is to a Beholder, it has a significantly higher health pool and doles out more damage. Since the main encounter is intended to be faced by a party of level 5 or so, it makes sense that it’s been modified. Lowering a Beholder down to the requisite level instead might have been an intriguing alternative, but there are ultimately a number of reasons why that wouldn’t work well.
Level 5 represents a significant power jump from Level 4, so it’s best to face a few more enemies before fighting the Beholder if the party isn’t there quite yet.
Outside the fact that a Beholder would require more extensive modification to make it a reasonable low-level fight — it’s an especially fearsome foe — its iconic status within DnD lore means that any appearance of a Beholder has to get it right or is likely to face some backlash. Introducing players to a weakened version of a Beholder claiming the name of the memorable monster would be underwhelming, while meeting a souped-up Spectator raises no cause for complaint. It might seem like a shame not to have a villain as iconic as a Beholder in Baldur’s Gate 3, but Beholders could always show up in potential Baldur’s Gate 3 DLC or future games.
One especially terrifying feature that isn’t in Baldur’s Gate 3 is the Beholder’s disintegration ray, which can reduce a target to a pile of dust if its damage downs them. This isn’t an easy thing to come back from, as accessible spells like revivify or even resurrection, necessitating the use of the 9th-level spells true resurrection or wish. It’s no particular surprise that this feature doesn’t appear in Baldur’s Gate 3, as it would be incredibly frustrating to lose a major character permanently due to a fairly random consequence of a fight.
Beholders have actually appeared in the Baldur’s Gate series before, as Baldur’s Gate 2 picks up where the EXP of the first game leaves off and consequently deploys some high-level challengers. It also moves in the opposite direction from Spectators by featuring even more powerful variants of Beholders, like the undead Death Tyrants or the devastating Hive Mothers. Their depictions aren’t quite as grisly as Baldur’s Gate 3‘s rendition of a Spectator, so it’s hard not to think about how exciting it would be to see them come to life through Larian’s hands.
Beholders aren’t the only iconic creatures that didn’t make the cut in Baldur’s Gate 3, with some other notable omissions being orcs, wyverns, and a variety of monstrous combinations like manticores and chimeras. Nevertheless, the game crams in its fair share of fearsome foes, and the overall variety in how combat encounters can play out is excellent. The lack of a Beholder in Baldur’s Gate 3 misses one of the best parts of DnD, but at the end of the day, Spectators make for a respectable consolation prize.