I'm going to be talking about Karlach's whole storyline here—particularly her endings, both old and new. You've been warned.
Baldur's Gate 3's second patch was a major tune-up, cementing my feeling that this game's only going to get better in the months to come as Larian shakes off their usual third-act wobbling—which wasn't enough to sour my experience anyway. Well, mostly.
I romanced Karlach, and I did feel like I'd been left to turn in the wind with her conclusion. Before the patch, there were only a handful of ways her story could end:
You didn't upgrade her engine, and she explodes before anyone notices.
You let her detonate at the end of the pier.
You go to hell with her.
If you saved Wyll, Wyll goes to hell with her instead.
This baffled me—I was the guy who'd romanced her, and I would've been happy to fight off the whole of Avernus for her. As an Oath of Vengeance paladin, I was basically duty-bound to right that wrong. I'm glad Wyll brought the option up, sure, but the fact that I would've had a more complete romance ending if I'd killed him before the finale is wild.
The ending itself also didn't hit right. Other romance options get these sweet postgame conversations, but if you choose to go to hell with Karlach, she just says: "We need to go, now". Fade to black, curtains fall, that's it. Hope you like Withers' monologue where he calls the dead three cringe, 'cause that's all you're getting.
This patch fixes all of those things. For starters, you get a lot more control over whether Wyll's invited or not.
Besides that, this patch gives Karlach a perfectly fitting end—something that, in my mind, is even better than the fix for her heartburn we were hoping for. I know my fellow lovers of the infernal golden retriever want to solve all her problems, but I'm honestly glad we didn't.
Raging against Karlach's machine
It all comes back to rock. In community update #20, writer Sarah Bylus commented: "In a 2023 setting, [Karlach would] roll in on a Harley with shades and a cigar between her teeth, blaring Sabbath—a diesel-soaked dynamo with a heart of gold. She seeks justice for the oppressed, camaraderie, and revenge on the bastard who sold her to Hell."
Karlach's life philosophy—living every day like it's her last, loving people unapologetically, tearing down corruption—it's absolutely metal. I only dabble myself, but the core concepts that run in metal and punk subcultures of 'the world sucks, life is unfair, let's get mad about it and break stuff together' has spoken to me enough to create a burning affection for that kind of music. Sometimes you've got to get mad.
Whenever I think about Karlach, I'm reminded of folk punk stuff like AJJ's Rejoice or punk rock jams like Against Me!'s Unconditional Love, which are both about raging against the inevitability of death and suffering. They're borderline goth, though I've heard it said that the difference between goth and punk is mostly in whether you get sad about it or mad about it.
'It' being the inevitability of ending—something Karlach has to wrestle with throughout her whole story. Life is unfair, monstrously so, but having people you love around you makes it better. As Wyll says in the new epilogue: "So what do you say? Die now, or live on with people who love you."
Then there's the post-pier cutscene itself. Goofy slow-mo run aside, it's rad as hell to see my character, Wyll, and Karlach charging towards an infernal army to tear it up. Prior to the patch, her ending was just sad—if you wanted her to live, you had to have her accept one of two defeats. Go to the place she hates, or give up on life.
But going back to hell with new friends isn't a defeat, it's a triumph. Because of her initial escape, her whole situation has changed. Instead of feeling lonely, isolated, and touch-starved, she now has allies who are willing to fight for her. Now her ending isn't an abrupt back-off from a fate she'd spent the whole game preparing for. Instead, it's a triumphant declaration from the big red lady herself: "Better let these fuckers know I'm back. And this time, I'm not alone."
It's good enough to make me happy we didn't fix everything. It's a better fit for her story to avoid a magical bandaid that solves all her problems—fixing the damage Zariel and Gortash did to her is going to be hard, bloody work, but that's punk too. 'Let's fix hell or die trying.'
If this were a tabletop campaign that ran to level 20, that'd be the next big story arc—the gang ripping through Avernus to fix Karlach's heart. As it stands now, though, I'm more than content imagining a hopeful future for my big tiefling wife. The new epilogue makes me certain Karlach'll burn on for a while yet.