Druids are now among the roster of available classes, and as well as being able to make a nuisance out of themselves by tangling up enemies in writhing vines, they can transform into a bunch of different animals. There’s a ferocious wolf, a mighty polar bear and a menacing spider, among others, but why would you ever select any of them when you can shuffle around Faerûn as a giant, cheerful badger?
The Wild Shape ability is unlocked at level 2, so you’ll be able to shed your boring skin and begin a new life as a beefy badger very early on. And it’s not just during combat. Wild Shape can be cast twice per short rest, and the effect lasts until something—like a sleep spell or manually cancelling it—breaks it. This means you can spend a significant portion of the game exclusively as a badger. Changing shape also nets you some handy abilities.
As a badger, you can burrow under the ground and then erupt beneath enemies, knocking them prone if they fail their saving throw. You can’t immediately follow that up with an attack, unfortunately, but that’s what the rest of your party is for. Even as a badger, it’s good to have some two-legged mates.
Every Wild Shape form has a unique ability, like the spider’s sticky webs, and if you want an extra bit of oomph in battle you might want to pick the Circle of the Moon subclass, as that’s how you get the polar bear—it’s pretty good in a brawl. Well, it was good the one time I tried it, before immediately going back to being a full-time badger.
Larian’s given all of these critters a lot of love already, including completely unnecessary and extremely welcome things like animation and poses for sitting on chairs. Stopping every time I find a chair so I can sit on it and take a screenshot is really slowing down my adventure, but I think badgers probably would take a lot of rests. They’re smart like that.
If you, like me, want to spend as much time as possible as a badger, there are some limitations. You can climb, jump, loot, open doors and most of the things you’ll be able to do normally, but you’ll need to turn back to your regular shape if you want to talk to people. In cutscenes and unskippable conversations, you’ll temporarily drop your animal disguise, but once it’s over you’ll shapeshift again. Most of the time, though, you’ll have to manually break the spell and waste a charge.
To make up for not being understood by humans, elves and the like, you can chat to absolutely every animal whenever you’re shapeshifted. They all seem to know you’re not quite what you appear to be, and in some cases you’ll just get a line of dialogue telling you to piss off, but some of them will be willing to chat and maybe offer you advice or share a secret. They’re all brilliant.
Druid has shot right up to the top of my list of classes for my main playthrough, and not only because of the badger. Just mostly. Druids have loads of utility, letting them comfortably slot into a healer or support role, or something more damage-dealing or tanky, depending on what animal you decide to be for that battle. So far, it’s definitely the class that lets you switch gears the most, and with the four-character party limit, that’s exceedingly helpful.