I hope this post finds the team well and I want to offer my congratulations on the efforts of your game designers and the dreams realised with the launch of Baldur's Gate 3 early access. I eagerly look forward to testing future editions of the title and seeing the studio's completed work in a year's time.
To this end, after viewing forum posts and opinions from the game's community, I wanted to more directly convey these player's and my own concerns regarding BG3's portrayal of Elves. Many testers have found the Elf faces off-putting and unrepresentative of the Elven race long time D&D players know and appreciate (And, in many cases, love to hate!). The technical quality of the faces Larian Studios has designed are superb even at this early stage, but their lack of authenticity specifically regarding the Elves has been a disappointment.
Narrower chins and jaws, shifted, widened and slanted eyes, high and prominent cheekbones, an unsettling, inhumanly haunting beauty about them; these qualities aren't being reflected as well as they could be. Tieflings have been brought to life like never before in the artistic medium of game design and I know many of the players and fans would approve of that same life and vivid creative design breathed into Elves.
Current head models don't and shouldn't need to be done away with entirely, but it's my feeling that a not insignificant number of the community would be more enticed to try a race like Elves if they had head model choices that were closer in authenticity to the original material. I hope this has given the team ideas to consider going forward and I would be pleased to correspond further about the matter.
The first piece of feedback that I would like to offer is that, interestingly enough, all of the half elf heads look more delicate and elven than the actual elven heads.
Many of us who have always have a soft spot for elves would be very happy if we could get at least a couple of heads that look more 'traditional', that is, less human and a little more like they belong to a different race. Elves are beautiful, yes, but key words in their description are often overlooked and not given much tought. They are not described as breath-taking, or captivating, although they might be. They are described with words such as unsettling, unnerving, haunting, when it comes to their beauty. This is no casual choice of wording, it clearly states elves are simply not meant to be or feel relatable.
This sketch perfectly examples the physiology of elves; the slanted eyes, triangular/heartshaped features, sharp noses and chins, and a general 'otherly' feel that is not relatable to any of the human heritages of our world.
One of the stances that I have encountered every so often when discussing this around the forums, is people claiming that '5E elves look just like humans in the official artwork', with none of the features that are known to older editions. I disagree with that not as an opinion but simply as a matter of fact, I've done the research around and gathered plenty of official artwork that still depicts these features, if not as prominent as it used to be:
THIS IS ALL 5E OFFICIAL ARTWORK I gathered from the manuals. Many people act like they don't exist. You can still see the high cheekbones, the slanted eyes, the triangular shaped face, all of it is there, if not as extremely displayed as it used to in older editions. Yet none of the current heads look like this. I think we would be happy with a few heads that have this sort of traditional features, the slanted eyes per instance are entirely missing, not a single head has this key feature.
In case you do not genuinelly see the features, here you go:
Likewise, this kind of art is represented in the original Baldur's Gate games, as can be seen in Aerie's and Jaheira's portraits:
I would like for this topic to be open to discuss not just aesthetics and appeareance but also all things elven related. I have not delved into the game deeply enough to give feedback with full confidence yet, but I have had zero meaningful interactions as an elf in the world. The few 'elven' dialog choices that have popped up have been shallow and meaningless, whereas after a quick and short lived gameplay as a drow I was presented with a lot more options (which I was surprised of, very well done there, Larian.)
Elves are also described to be tight-knit as a race, something that manifests not just psychologically or emotionally but, literally, physically, through something known as communion. In short, it is an inborn ability to share experiences, feelings, emotions and dreams with other willing elves. While I do not expect such a mechanic to be adapted in the game -cool as it might be-, it does give a hint to just how important it is for elves to be around, and acknowledged by other elves. I expected to see some special interactions with Astarion and Shadowheart as an elf player, yet there were none. Astarion, vampire or not, simply did not have a single elven trait about him other than the mechanic stats and cantrips.
Well thought out post!
Elves are a combination of the outer appearance and inner person further shaped by their culture.
Larian REALLY would benefit from a dedicated team member to sift through all the posts like this to identify the subtle details that would set their game apart and at the same time connect it to the past.
Too many nose pickers and knuckle-draggers on the dev team...they need an interior decorator!