- Baldur's Gate 3 is an exemplary game, improving on Larian's past work and creating a masterful fantasy RPG.
- The characters in Baldur's Gate 3 are compelling and fully realized, driving the plot and providing interesting stories.
- The game stays true to the Dungeons & Dragons IP, with excellent turn-based combat and visually magnificent graphics, but it can be buggy at times.
Baldur's Gate 3 is a masterfully crafted RPG that improves on every aspect of Larian's past work, and is a worthy successor to the series. DualShockers was provided with a copy of the game for review purposes.
- Compelling characters and narrative.
- Faithful use of the Dungeons & Dragons IP.
- Excellent turn-based combat.
- Massive in scale yet still inviting and exciting throughout.
- Top-notch voice acting and score.
- Visually magnificent.
- Can be buggy at times.
While I can't officially say so yet, I'm confident in saying that Baldur’s Gate 3 is an exemplary game. Every one of the many corners of Larian’s handcrafted world is overflowing with life and creativity. It’s probably going to be an overdone narrative among critics, but Baldur’s Gate 3 is what you get when you take the fantastic formula that Divinity: Original Sin 2 pioneered and improve on every aspect to create a masterful fantasy RPG.
Now, you may think the above is a bold statement considering this is a review in progress. After receiving my code a few days ago, I was able to play about 28 hours. This translates to the entire content available in early access and about five hours beyond that. While it’s entirely possible that Baldur’s Gate 3 has an excellent first third and fails to maintain this momentum for the rest of the game, I highly doubt it. I have yet to lay my eyes on the titular metropolis of Baldur’s Gate friends, but when I do, I’m sure it will be glorious.
One of my favourite improvements from Larian’s past work is how strong the characters are in Baldur’s Gate 3. Your companions are fully realised. They are key drivers of the plot. An excellent job has been done to make these people feel like they’re actual companions, not just passengers in your story. Each companion has a separate goal that is related to but distinct from the player’s goal. This is of vital importance as it facilitates conflict between characters, strengthening their characterisation rather than them being mindless drones of the player character.
Each of these companions’ stories is compelling, too. These aren’t boring personal quests without stakes. Some of these characters have stories with greater worldly consequences than the player’s own. You want to see these objectives through to their conclusion, partially because of your attachment to that particular character but also because they’re just interesting stories period. I’ve been vocal about how I didn’t really connect to the characters in Original Sin 2, but the opposite couldn’t be more true in Baldur’s Gate 3. The voice acting is just fantastic too.
Gale, once paramour to a goddess, has now been tasked with killing another. Shadowheart has had her personality stripped away until she fulfils a task for Shar, the Lady of Darkness. Lae’zel must rebel against her entire way of life to discover the truth. These characters have a lot going on, and it’s a pleasure to help them with their stories. Personally, I made my character a drunk Halfling who would probably be a regular at the Green Dragon if this were Middle-Earth. He doesn’t have too much else going on.
Speaking of worldly consequences. Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t pull any punches in providing you with the full wealth of its source material. After only playing about 30 hours, I’ve already seen a ton of popular Dungeons and Dragons characters. You aren’t being placed in an inconsequential corner of the world. This isn’t about rural squabbles or a low-stakes adventure. This is Baldur’s Gate, baby, and you’re at the centre of the struggle for the future of Faerûn.
The game’s initial hook is that the player character and their companions have been infected with illithid parasites which need to be removed before everyone turns into mind flayers. You’ll have several leads to solve this little conundrum, but you’ll have to pursue these at your own discretion - you’re not going to have explicit guidance.
The visual qualities of Baldur’s Gate 3 are also to be lauded. Everything and everyone looks fantastic. I didn’t realise how much I preferred the conversational camera angles in Baldur’s Gate 3 when compared to something isometric like Divinity until I experienced them. It feels like an actual conversation, not like dialogue options I’m flicking through until the next exciting thing happens on screen. The combat effects are also on-point, with all of our favourite DnD spells being brought to life in a triple-A environment. When you fireball a pile of grease on the ground, it’s burning bright, and it’s burning long.
For those who didn’t play early access, combat is exactly what you’d expect from Larian. It’s turn-based, with your hits and damage being decided by rolls. It’s got advantage rolls, opportunity attacks and all the good stuff you’ve come to expect from DnD-based combat. It’s a faithful recreation, including how mind-numbingly frustrating it is to hit targets with a high armour class. The Divinity faithful might be surprised to find less of a focus on elements and the environment in Baldur's Gate 3. The nature of Dungeons & Dragons combat system locks many classes to an action and a bonus action per turn, giving you less scope for flashy one-turn combos. I won’t lie, I found myself quick-saving and quick-loading a lot during combat. Some encounters can be particularly tricky, and you’ll often need a trial run to survey the battlefield and figure out the best strategy to advance.
One thing I’ve always loved about Larian’s combat philosophy is how brutally simple it can be. Push an enemy off a cliff? That’s instant death. An enemy pushes you off a cliff? That’s also instant death. This can be achieved through the new shove action that's available to every character. Those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons will recognise the new actions you can take, whether they be dashing, disengaging, hiding and so on. Players might find that combat is a bit quicker than in Divinity as you're more likely to miss high-AC targets, meaning they have less health to compensate. Everyone hits harder as a result and that includes when enemies hit you, too.
One aspect of Baldur’s Gate 3 that’s been talked about a lot prior to release is the sheer scale of this game. According to Larian head Swen Vincke, a completionist playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3 takes about 200 hours. I’ve been doing the majority of content, and I’m still in the first act at 30 hours in, so his estimate seems on point to me from what I’ve seen.
There is so much to do on every map, every unexplored nook contains some sort of mini-quest or combat encounter. One thing I appreciate is how off-rails this game is. Sure, you have a primary objective and your companions are going to urge you to do certain things (in line with their own interests) but how you achieve these objectives is completely up to you.
I’ve solved political instability in an enclave of druids, I’ve crept through the fungal-infested Underdark, I’ve harnessed the power of an ancient underground forge, I’ve witnessed unimaginable sadism distilled in a cult of undead surgeons, I’ve fought mythical figures. You just can't predict where you'll end up in Baldur's Gate 3. I’ve also yet to encounter an essential NPC. Want to make your life infinitely more difficult by murdering every single person you encounter? Go for it. It’s not a game that dictates how you play it.
I think that’s the most compelling thing about this game. There’s so much to see, so much to do, but it doesn’t feel bloated. Your map isn’t filled with arbitrary markers or time-consuming radiant objectives. All those annoying features that infect many triple-A games aren’t present here. Baldur's Gate 3 fosters an actual desire for you to explore, not just to tick a box but to genuinely see what’s around every corner. It’s a feeling that’s so special, especially in lengthy games where burnout is a worry. I can safely say that even though I grinded for three days, I never wanted to stop playing at any point.
One of the few minor criticisms I have of the game is the usual choppiness that seems to accompany Larian's engine, especially in combat. Sometimes a character's turn fails to resolve, leaving you soft-locked. One time I was unable to fast travel, clicking the button played the sound but didn't teleport my party. These are all gripes that can be fixed by loading an older save and I'm sure they'll be patched in time anyway.
I won’t be scoring Baldur’s Gate 3 today, but I'm incredibly optimistic and excited about the rest of my adventure, and I’m hoping to have a full review up within the next few weeks. For now, I’ll be grabbing three of Faerûn’s best and brightest to experience this wonder of a game with me.