- Hand crossbows in Baldur's Gate 3 are a unique and pleasantly surprising ranged weapon option.
- Dual-wielding hand crossbows allows for backup attacks and doubles the potential damage output.
- While hand crossbows are rare and have shorter range, they are ideal for characters with high Dexterity and lack magical abilities.
Baldur's Gate 3 offers many weapon types and spells that players can use to overcome any adversary, many of which are standard to a fantasy setting. This includes many ranged options, including fireballs and longbows, but one type of physical ranged attack stands out as one of Baldur's Gate 3's most pleasant surprises.
Hand crossbows are what one would expect from the name as they are tiny crossbows that a character holds in one hand. They are almost as capable as any other crossbow in the game but have lower maximum damage than even the light crossbow. Yet, a characteristic that differentiates hand crossbows from any other ranged weapon type in the game that arguably makes it one of the best options for any characters lacking unable to cast any of Baldur's Gate 3's reliable cantrips for reliable damage at a distance.
Dual-Wielding Hand Crossbows is a Surprisingly Optimal Ranged Option
Unlike any other ranged option in the game, Baldur's Gate 3 allows players to dual-wield hand crossbows, much like how many characters can dual-wield smaller melee weapons. This means players who opt for a ranged attack that misses have a backup attack that can be taken with a bonus action.
That alone would make a hand crossbow worth considering, but what makes them stand out even more is that, unlike dual-wielding melee weapons, there is no damage reduction from using the off-hand crossbow which more or less doubles the potential damage output from attacking at a distance. This would have the damage dealt from a hand crossbow far exceeding even a heavy crossbow, assuming both hits are optimal. Even if both attacks hit for minimum damage, it would still mean an enemy gets almost as hurt from the hand crossbows as they would from the bulkier alternative.
There are also no accuracy penalties for using the off-hand crossbow, meaning it functions as a second attack. When some classes gain an extra attack at level 5, this applies to the hand crossbows, bringing the total number of potential attacks to 3 within a few hours of starting a Baldur's Gate 3 playthrough.
Given that hand crossbows scale with the Dexterity stat, these would be ideal for characters who use that as their primary stat. Some of the best Rogue builds in Baldur's Gate 3 would no doubt benefit from primarily using this weapon type for great damage at a range, but it does benefit any character who also uses Dexterity and lacks any magical abilities.
Monks are a surprising example of Baldur's Gate 3 class that would benefit from utilizing hand crossbows as they come with proficiency in the weapon type. Dual-wielding hand crossbows would help them remain powerhouses in turns where they haven't closed the distance yet. As great and versatile as using these weapons are, they come with some drawbacks, namely that finding hand crossbows is incredibly rare when compared to their two-handed counterparts. Players might have to spend chunks of the game with only a single character with this option.
This extends to finding unique hand crossbows since they individually won't rank among Baldur's Gate 3's best ranged weapons. Much of their worth does come from using them in a pair, and any modifiers would most likely have to come from using elemental arrows or wearing an accessory that adds modifiers to ranged attacks.
Another thing is that they have a shorter range compared to other crossbows, meaning they might not be the best for ranged stealth attacks or ensuring the attacker remains out of harm. This is not a huge concern as many fights are in close enough proximity to utilize their full potential.
Despite those minor drawbacks, dual-wielding hand crossbows is one of the game's most pleasant surprises and ideal for Baldur's Gate 3 party setups. As long as players can find a couple of these weapons, it's a surprisingly optimal way to play the game if a player is looking to deal as much damage from a distance as possible.
Baldur's Gate 3 is out now on PC and will come out September 6 for PS5.