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Baldur’s Gate 3 Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, macOS, & PC)

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Baldur’s Gate 3 Review

Christmas has come early for fans of Dungeons & Dragons. Or rather, much, much later, precisely 20+ years since Baldur’s Gate 2 hit the shelves. That’s right, the long-awaited Baldur’s Gate 3 is out now, and it’s a thousand times better than I expected. But let’s circle back to 2020 when the early access version aired on PC platforms via Steam.

Depending on how much time you spent on combat and exploration, it took an estimated 25-35 hours to finish the game. However, early access only featured Act One of Baldur’s Gate 3, which meant that the full game possibly packed hundreds of hours of content. True to form, developer Larian Studio confirmed the main story takes 75-100 hours to complete. And those hours barely cover all the content there is to explore. 

Essentially, you may pick a different character in your next playthrough and still enjoy a wholesome experience. Because Baldur’s Gate 3’s adventure is curated around a character’s background, motive, class, and even race. Your conversations will differ, thanks to many exciting dialogue branches and outcomes.

You’ll be free to bring a friend or two along on the journey. And high chances are, you’ll spot something new in your surroundings each time you jump into the game. All that is to say that I’ve barely seen all Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer. So, our Baldur’s Gate 3 review is, more accurately, ‘a review in progress.' Still, in case you wonder whether the game is worth buying or what all the hype is about, here are our first impressions of what we’ve seen so far, which should hopefully be more than enough to decide.

So, the Adventure Begins

Baldur’s Gate 3 Review

Larian Studios has curated a stand-alone story, which in a nutshell, brings back the mind flayers, also known as Illithids. You know, the psychic, squid-faced aliens who wouldn’t look too out of place in one of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu horror games. 

They abduct and infect you with one of their Illithid tadpoles. The mind flayers typically infect as many people as possible to turn them into mind flayers. It’s how their invasion takes root in the Forgotten Realm. And so, the mind flayers don’t hesitate to infect your companions, too, willing you to stick together to find a way to eject the parasites out of your brains.

In the past, RPGs have had issues engaging players from start to finish. Especially when side quests come in, you’d often be distracted by some other totally unrelated, sometimes irrelevant, story. But Larian Studios has found a way around it by making nearly every side quest tied to the main mission. You’ll run into all sorts of creatures offering to help out. From literal devils, goblins, druids, crazy hags, and more. And in the meantime, learn the backstories and take on more side quests, eventually finding your way back to the main story.

Sly Does It

Baldur’s Gate 3

In the long run, you’ll realize that the little snippet I’ve just given here barely covers an inch of what’s to come. Every decision matters. And not just in the sense of what’s right and wrong. No. They actually tie into your personality and your motive as an individual. As aforementioned, they tie into your gender, class, and race, too. The world itself folds (or unfolds) to your will. I played as a druid who can turn into a bear and speak to animals. Each animal has a name and is fully voice-acted. Oh, and every ox, wolf, or other animal seems to always have something to get out of their chest.

As you can imagine, you must remain cautious about what you say to others. Not everyone is out to help you. There’s a healer I thought would cure me of my parasite problem, only to cook up a fatal poison so I don’t become a danger to others. So now, you’re not only on a ticking time bomb of possibly turning into a mind flayer, but also a much rather urgent matter to get the antidote from her that comes down to two choices: persuasion or use of deadly force.

Sweet-talking adversaries work sometimes. Like when I talked an owlbear out of making me his dinner. But the general rule of thumb is the conversations, and by extension, the story runs deeper than surface-level small talk. Not every character has mastered the art of sweet talk. Others rely on other strengths, like the wizard, who can turn into thin air and whisk away through narrow cracks. Meanwhile, your side companions also have unique secrets and backgrounds that also unravel throughout your escapades.

The Forgotten Realm

The RPG genre focuses a ton on exploration, and Baldur’s Gate 3 easily sits atop that pile. Although it’s not a completely open world, it may very well feel like so; thanks to its expansive world, you’re free to roam around however you please. It's a completely immersive space, too, with many ways to interact with the surroundings, particularly with magic spells, which should come easily to you if you’re familiar with the fifth edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons. As well as with skills and actual physical movement. 

If something looks flammable, you can probably use a fire spell to light it up. Or, use an animal spell to have furry creatures do your bidding. You can clash pillars onto enemies with the flick of a wand. Or, pick up and throw stuff at enemies. You can move items to climb over them. Simply, nearly limitless cool options to maneuver, that once you successfully pull them off, makes you feel like Einstein for a minute or two. Ultimately, Baldur’s Gate 3 Forgotten Realm has breadth, depth, and density, far more than any RPG I have seen in recent years.

Roll the Dice

Although Baldur’s Gate 3 is an easy game to sink hours into, it’s certainly not the easiest game to play. Sure, the prologue does a good enough job of showing you the ropes. However, there are quite an immense amount of tools and skills that newbies may have difficulty jumping into. It helps to have prior knowledge of the classic Dungeons & Dragons, the fifth edition rules to be precise, or simply other classic RPGs. If you played early access, the mechanics would also be easier to grasp.

At its core, Baldur’s Gate 3 carries forward the dice system. These often help to perform Persuasion or Intimidation checks, as well as in combat encounters. When you roll a die, the number you land determines your attack and damage. So essentially, your wins or losses ultimately lie on the mercy of a die. It can get tricky because other games usually rely on your skills, which you have control over.

But “Roll the Dice” is at the heart of Dungeons & Dragons and, by extension, the Baldur's Gate series. So it's great to see it optimized for modern platforms. Plus, the uncertainty of the outcome of dice rolls, whether your next hit will be a hit or a miss, causes a cool adrenaline rush that adds to the game's immersion.

On the other hand, combat is much more fluid than the early access version of the game. However, the mechanics come at the cost of a smooth control system, especially on a controller. There simply are too many buttons to master and far too many spells. But since the PS5 and Xbox port is launching a little later, perhaps we can still hold out hope that the control system will come out of the oven fully baked. 


Baldur’s Gate 3 review

Above all, Baldur’s Gate 3 story takes the crown home. It starts with a tantalizing hook that soon grows into multiple branches and outcomes. Act One alone has a myriad of endings. You might chase each of them, but amid all playthroughs, you’ll likely stumble into a rabbit hole that consumes you. Yet even with all the “side quests,” the campaign feels compact, like a well-written, versatile story that adjusts to individual role-playing experiences. And since decisions aren’t the usual right, wrong, and neutral choices, it’s a no-brainer to put in tons of hours in a playthrough because the choices you make actually do matter.

While there are a few minor bugs, they’re hardly the frustrating kind that can break the game. Perhaps all we can stress here is to constantly save your progress to avoid any issues down the road. Though I wouldn’t blame you if saving crosses your mind because, quite honestly, the exquisite detail of the characters and environments, as well as the engaging gameplay and compelling story, totally sneaks up on you as it did me.

Baldur’s Gate 3 Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, macOS, & PC)

Will and the Gang of Stranger Things, But in 2023

Although our Baldur’s Gate 3 review is still in progress, it’s already crystal clear that it’s so deliciously good, enough to win the game of the year. Every element is top-notch, from a deeply immersive campaign to a beautifully curated Dungeons & Dragons tabletop universe. This is a must-play game. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, it guarantees an exciting first try for anyone needing an escape.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.