Baldur's gate is the most replayed D&D CRPG of all time
It had 25 recruitable companions and a full party of 6 members.
In terms of the possible party combinations, the "25 recruitable companions" is the more important part of the equation than the 6 member party cap, but they are both relevant.
As pointed out earlier in this thread there are many more combinations available with the cap at 6 than there are with the cap at just 4, provided we have a decent number of total companions available. The number of combinations practically doubles when going from 4 to 6 if the total number of companions is raised to say 10 rather than just the 5 currently available. This increases even more dramatically again if we go from a possible 10 companions to say 15 or 20 companions in the roster.
Right now initial impressions are being based on the 5 recruit-able companions currently available in EA, and a full party of 4 members. But there's no way it could end up just being 5 companions or just one or two beyond that thrown in later as some have suggested. That would be a crazy hard fail from the team holding the crown right now. They'd need like a dozen companions just for it to even hold a torch to the epic glory of BG1. So I fully expect them to double or triple the number of companions by the time this thing goes live just to do it justice by the BG standard. I mean they got what, a dozen writers on it? Seems about right.
It makes sense for Larian to tease them in smaller numbers like this too, so that their EA can focus on the party interactions/compositions they feel need the most feedback, and probably more importantly to give us a reason to keep tuning in when they drop their larger patches to expand the content. But there are bound to be a lot more companions, and if that's the case, a full party of 6 is going to give a huge amount of variety in party composition over just 4... even accounting for a few companion pairings that might not be compatible long term without things coming to blows inside the camp.
There are plenty of amazing ways to make an awesome 4 person game by design, or to make a game with only 2 characters when the goal is a Kurvitz style masterpiece. But we're not taking about just any game. This is the heavy weight title we're talking about! This is Baldur's Gate III
It really should be trying to distill the essence of what made the other two preceding titles so rad, and part of that was the variety of possible party compositions. I just can't see the logic that says giving us fewer characters in our group somehow gives us more choices, or better or more interesting choices. it just doesn't pencil for me. Closes off more doors than it opens and diminishes the replay in the long run. Creating a party building vibe that's concordant with the previous titles in the franchise, and building it out with those kinds of limits in mind is what I'd dig.
I really think the party of 4 is going to become more problematic later on, when the encounters scale to epic territory. This is why a lot of us are hearing the internal alarm bells sounding, and trying to argue for a fix now, while there is time to fix it. I mean we definitely expect a game with a Dragon combat or two eventually right? That's going to be a lot harder to pull off in style with just 4, while still maintaining a classically epic sensibility. I mean unless the plan is just to toss us a bunch of non controllable friendlies? This seems to be the go-to approach in many of these EA battles right now, and maybe it works alright when there are narrative reasons (like "the Blade of Frontiers!" sounding his horn, or NPCs that are part of the story) but as a player I feel less invested in the encounter when this is overused. I'd rather have a party of 6 that I can fully control and really work to defeat the opposing crew, than half a dozen random friendlies appearing in every other encounter, just to serve as fodder so that the combats can be balanced by teams/sides.
Just like a good DM, a good difficulty setting in the options should allow everything in these encounters to scale, whether the player elects to cruise with 6 people or just 4.
But still, if you really want it to hit the nostalgia button and go for broke, I'm chanting 6 6 6! Even though I know I said I'd tap out, the gravitational pull of this thread just seems inexorable for me lol