Video games continue to emphasise the sheer size and scale of the open worlds they offer, but many fail to justify the immense scope provided to players. This has been a problem I have encountered many times over the last few years, where an open world feels baron, desolate, and devoid of interesting content. Baldur’s Gate 3 is different. There is no denying that Baldur’s Gate 3 is a massive video game, but each location never feels overwhelmingly huge. Instead, each environment offers a generous and dense location to navigate which is consistently filled to the brim with engaging, and downright superb content. This is where Baldur’s Gate 3 truly excels, encouraging players to explore every inch of each map and feel constantly rewarded for doing so. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a magnificent video game, and while some technical setbacks do occur, the overall experience is one that will be remembered and praised for many years to come.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is based upon Dungeons & Dragons, the popular tabletop roleplaying game, but knowledge of the tabletop game is not required to appreciate and enjoy the video game. Baldur’s Gate 3 opens by allowing players to create their own playable character, and in true D&D fashion, the character creation is incredibly in-depth. Players can truly craft their own desired character, with an abundance of classes, visual options, and background information all available to be customised. Personally, I created a Barbarian Paladin of the Tiefling race named Samuel. As a Paladin, he follows a moral code and because of this, when I made choices that aligned with his beliefs, I received bonuses within the game. Players who follow the historical accuracy and beliefs of their created character will be rewarded, which encourages players to roleplay their character accurately. The character creation in Baldur’s Gate 3 is fantastic and I easily spent over two hours creating my perfect playable character due to the vast number of options available.
The narrative follows your created character as they realise, they have been implanted with an illithid tadpole, which will ultimately turn them into a mind flayer if not dealt with. This is the simple premise of Baldur’s Gate 3, which ultimately sends players on an incredible journey that takes place across a multitude of locations, involving villainous entities, chaotic battles with other races, and ultimately, help save the world and Baldur’s Gate from total annihilation. The main narrative is incredibly strong, rapidly introducing the dire situation of your character but continuing to unravel and reveal an interesting plot over the entirety of the campaign.
As a non-D&D player, I felt like Baldur’s Gate 3 did a fantastic job of easing me into this world, never overexplaining the lore and history, and instead rewarding me for paying attention and appreciating the narrative as it unfolds. There is an incredible amount of dialog choices throughout Baldur’s Gate 3, and while the main narrative thread will head in the same direction regardless, I feel like the nuanced nature of each playthrough could be incredibly different depending on how players choose to navigate both conversational and combat-based decisions. The endings of Baldur’s Gate 3 do feel quite rushed, and I would have liked more time to understand the ramifications of my choices (especially for my companions), but the journey throughout Baldur’s Gate 3 is still incredibly rewarding.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has some of the best companions I have ever experienced, and this is coming from someone who absolutely adores the Mass Effect series. Each character brings both their own unique personality and their own personalised quest to your team. I loved almost each and every companion, but most of all I absolutely loved the lengthy quests each individual offered. Whether I was trying to solve Karlach’s ongoing flame-based issue, helping Astarion to enact revenge on his master, or exploring the dark and heartbreaking story of Shadowheart, I found myself loving these personalised stories even more so than the main narrative. I believe almost every companion can be romanced (Team Karlach for life) and due to the incredible voice acting performances produced by the entire cast, these relationships, both romantic and friendship wise, are truly special and unbelievably memorable.
There are also other lengthy quests that can be experienced, and these mostly end in a tough decision or a satisfying/challenging optional boss fight. One fight in particular I will not spoil here, provides one of the most challenging combat encounters in the game, alongside my favourite piece of music. I died so many times during this encounter, but I found myself never becoming frustrated due to the epic music found within this particular battle.
I played over 120 hours of Baldur’s Gate 3, completing the main story, every side mission I could find, and each companion-focused quest, and I still feel like I could have put in almost another 100 hours and continue to encounter new and enticing content. This doesn’t even include the alternate decisions, outcomes, or other missions that I simply never experienced. Ultimately, there is no word that can perfectly describe the ridiculous amount of content in Baldur’s Gate 3, and it is impressive that almost all the content I encountered was of such an extremely high quality. I have not experienced a video game that rivals Baldur’s Gate 3 in terms of both content quality and quantity since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and that is no easy feat. Almost every NPC in the world has something unique to say or interesting information to provide, almost every single area of every map has something amazing to find, and almost every instance is remarkably epic.
I did encounter a handful of side quests that were unable to be completed, either due to a random issue that stopped the storyline from progressing or due to decisions elsewhere that forced the side quest to lock. There are only a small handful of side missions that were affected by these issues, but it is worth noting. Overall, exploring Baldur’s Gate 3 and encountering the plethora of side content available is memorable, thrilling, and ridiculously fun.
Combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 is turn-based and any fans of the sci-fi series XCOM will feel right at home, both in terms of gameplay features and its challenging difficulty. Baldur’s Gate 3 offers a huge number of combat options, from elemental magic, powerful physical attacks, or even the ability to throw enemies at one another. It does take some time to truly grasp what is capable of within this combat system, but once it begins to flow and players begin to comprehend what is on offer, it becomes incredibly addictive. Baldur’s Gate 3 is also very challenging, but it slowly increases the combat difficulty alongside the leveling capabilities of the player. No loss feels unfair, and each defeat usually means you failed to strategise well, or you were simply unprepared.
Like D&D, many combat decisions (and narrative choices) come down to the roll of a die. Combat-focused die rolls usually occur passively, whereas narrative choices actively show the player the die being cast. However, if you outfit characters with better weapons and armour, alongside strong abilities, you will have more success at delivering and avoiding attacks. But nothing is ever 100%, as is the luck of the die. Intense moments are created by an unfortunate failed attack or a thrilling critical strike. There are countless options for players to utilise to their advantage, and a well-prepared player can handle any encounter that comes their way.
But how does a PC-based combat system, with a plethora of options and abilities handle on a PlayStation 5 console? To its credit, extremely well. Larian Studios implements radial menus which are basic, yet intuitive. Everything feels natural and I never felt overwhelmed by the number of buttons, icons, or options on screen. The menus never lag and are incredibly precise, making the console experience feel brilliant.
Aside from combat, players can also explore the environment of each area. There is always something to do, always something to find, and always a reward for the player willing to explore. Baldur’s Gate 3 also allows players to simply send valued equipment and gear to their camp on the go, which is truly appreciated. This allows players to manage their inventory on the go and avoid having to return to camp to constantly store their treasures. Exploration does provide the biggest annoyance in Baldur’s Gate 3, which regards your companions and their ability to follow you across the map. For the most part, they follow fine and rarely get stuck on the environment. However, almost every time I was required to utilise the jump feature in any form, many of the companions stopped following and this happened almost every time. Players can take control of your companions directly to try and fix this issue, but this does cause your now non-controlled characters to jump back to previous areas, thus causing a frustrating and annoying problem to solve. The issue can be fixed by setting camp or fast traveling, but as this issue occurs so frequently, it simply became a problem I wish didn’t exist.
The soundtrack in Baldur’s Gate 3 is brilliant. Fantasy fans will find a range of memorable, whimsical, and gripping tracks across the experience. As I mentioned previously, my personal favourite track appeared in an optional boss fight, which I will not spoil. However, it helped create one of my all-time favourite boss battles, due to the pure unexpected epicness of this Disney-like villainous track. Baldur’s Gate 3 is able to help emphasise the intensity of battles, conversations, and moment-to-moment exploration with both its soundtrack and sound design. Dark areas feel ominous, vibrant forests will feel fantastical, and battles feel truly grand all thanks to the incredible music on offer. I have also mentioned the brilliant voice acting performances from the main cast, but this quality is found throughout the entire game. I have yet to find an NPC that repeats dialog or sounds similar to another character, which makes each NPC feel unique. This helps make the world Baldur’s Gate 3 feel truly immersive.
Baldur’s Gate 3 allows players to have full control of the camera, which means players can zoom far out or zoom in to appreciate visual details found across the world. Baldur’s Gate 3 feels intricately designed and every location feels expertly crafted to be visually appealing and feel like a unique location. The environmental storytelling found throughout Baldur’s Gate 3 is top tier and that same quality can be found in the visuals. Whether exploring the gorgeous greenery of the Emerald Grove, the dark and ominous Temple of Selune, the dense ridiculousness of an active circus, or the bustling metropolis that is Baldur’s Gate itself, there is always some visually distinct aspect to appreciate and behold. Each location is densely filled with quality content to experience and distinctive visuals to encounter, which help improve the immersive nature of the experience. Over the course of my 120 hours within Baldur’s Gate 3 I did encounter some texture issues, where the texture either never appeared, or slowly loaded in during a conversation. This is such a minor detail when compared to the visual density of Baldur’s Gate 3, but fortunately, the majority of the experience is devoid of any visual issues.
For the sheer size and scale of Baldur’s Gate 3, it runs particularly well. The first two Acts of the game run impeccably, with almost zero frame rate issues or issues in general to speak of. However, Act Three does provide technical issues. During Act Three I encountered almost a dozen game crashes, as well as the previously mentioned locked quests and texture issues. Although I rarely found myself losing much progress due to the autosave features found within Baldur’s Gate 3, it did become apparent that as your choices, interactions with the world, and general save file grow larger, it seems to affect the technical performance. This save file size theory becomes more valid when I restarted my adventure with a new character, and once again, encountered zero issues with a save file in its infancy. Again, due to the sheer size and scale of Baldur’s Gate 3, the fact the majority of the game goes without almost any technical issues is astounding, but I would suggest that players save more frequently during that final Act to ensure any potential progress loss is minimal.
BALDUR'S GATE 3 REVIEW
Baldur’s Gate 3 is magnificent and will become the new standard for the RPG genre and what it can provide players. It delivers a fantastic main narrative, an incredible cast of loveable characters, a nuanced number of choices and side quests, alongside a satisfying/challenging combat system, with a brilliant soundtrack and sleek visuals. Even the aforementioned issues of companion following, and late game crashes hardly hinder what is a true gaming masterpiece, and my current frontrunner for game of the year 2023.
Rewarding main narrative, with high replay value
Fantastic cast of companions, with entertaining personal quests
Incredible amount of quality content to encounter
Radial menus would well on PlayStation 5
Brilliant and addictive soundtrack
Inconsistent following by companions when exploring
Third Act technical issues
A review code was received from the publisher for purposes of this review.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is now available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.