Baldur's Gate 3 Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and a testament to the talent of developer Larian Studios.
- Developer: Larian Studios
- Publisher: Larian Studios
- Release Date: August 3, 2023
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5
- Tested On: PC
- Incredible Worldbuilding
- Excellent Narrative
- Fantastic Combat
- RPG Mechanics
- Build Diversity
- Charming Characters
- Minor Freezing Pre-Launch
Now this might not be immediately apparent to some of our younger readers, but Baldur’s Gate is one of the most iconic names in all of video games. It’s been mostly dormant for over two decades, but the first two games in the series are still some of the greatest CRPGs of all time, and are even credited by some as having bought the genre back from the brink of death.
And with over 20 years having passed since the last mainline entry in the series, many fans were afraid that another game might never really happen. After all, video game history is littered with some absolutely incredible IPs that no one thought were worth bringing back, and for the longest time, Baldur’s Gate seemed to just be another casualty of a changing market.
At least that’s what many of us thought up until 2019, when none other than Larian Studios revealed that they were working on an official sequel. And now, after many long years in an Early Access period, Baldur’s Gate 3 is finally out.
Story And Setting
On the surface, Baldur’s Gate 3 is not a direct sequel to the last two games in the series, but the events of the narrative are directly tied to the original saga in meaningful ways. Taking place well over 120 years after the events of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn and mere months after the Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus module, the title carries forward many canonical events that take place within the Dungeons & Dragons lore.
As such, longtime fans of both the CRPGs and the tabletop game have a lot to look forward to here. The writing is absolutely drenched with references to locations, characters, and events that fans have been immersing themselves in for decades.
The character writing and voice acting in the game is phenomenal, with some absolutely killer performances delivered by some standout companions.
And as someone who isn’t old enough to have played through the games back when they were originally released, but had a chance to play them when Beamdog bought them to Steam as Enhanced Edition versions back in 2012, I even found myself jumping up in my seat when a familiar name I recognized popped up every now and then. So I can only imagine the pure joy these moments will bring to fans that have stuck with the series since the beginning.
Now as far as the actual story of Baldur’s Gate 3 is concerned, the game starts off with a Mind Flayer invasion of Faerûn. The player character is abducted during this attack, and they, alongside a handful of other individuals, are implanted with Illithid tadpoles. Over time, these tadpoles will transform the infected hosts into Mind Flayers themselves, and so now it’s a race against the clock to remove the tadpoles before the unthinkable comes to pass.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, we won’t be spoiling anything about what happens to the player from this point forward, not even how they escape the flying Nautiloid ship where they are initially kept after their abduction. We are doing this because this game is best experienced completely blind. And even if the first act has been available for years now in Early Access, many of us are jumping into it for the first time completely blind. Just know that the story is masterfully written, with twists and turns around every corner. And the thousands of decisions you make throughout your campaign will radically impact your journey in fascinating ways.
It also helps that the character writing and voice acting in the game is phenomenal, with some absolutely killer performances delivered by some standout companions like the devilish yet charming High Elf Rogue Astarion, or the brash and straightforward Githyanki Fighter Lae’zel. There are some other characters I could namedrop as well, but again, we’re avoiding spoilers.
When the game first starts, players are able to either create a fully customized character from scratch or choose from one of 7 different pre-made Origin characters such as the aforementioned Astarion and Lae’zel. While 6 of these Origin characters are set in stone, players are able to alter the name, race, class, and appearance of the last one, The Dark Urge, with the only real restriction being the background.
Each of these characters have their own unique narratives within the story, which is what makes them appealing, but gameplay wise they can feel restricted since you cannot change their classes like you could in Larian’s last game, Divinity: Original Sin 2. A minor complaint really, because as mentioned above, you can also create a fully customized character as well.
Each of the 12 classes in the game are incredibly varied, and combined with the 42 different subclasses available at launch.
Now, whereas the first two games in the series featured real-time combat with the option to pause at any point to plan your actions, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a purely turn-based experience. Just like with traditional D&D rules, or Divinity: Original Sin 2 for that matter, combat is centered around initiative rolls. At the top of every encounter, the dice rolls take place, and a turn order is determined for each combatant based on their Dexterity stats. From here, everyone goes when their turn comes around.
And everything within combat mostly follows D&D 5th Edition Rules, since this is an officially licensed game. So each turn, each participant within a fight has a Movement Speed, Main Action, Bonus Action, and Reaction to start with. Certain classes can make better use of some of these over others, but that’s just a part of D&D, and always has been. Advantages and Disadvantages also come into play, when taking into account range and elevation.
Classes like Fighters and Barbarians have high health pools and focus on delivering up close and personal melee attacks, and they also have access to more attacks per Main Action after reaching level 5. Rogues on the other hand only have one attack per round, but they are able to deal an incredible amount of damage via their unique Sneak Attack class feature, and they can also use Bonus Actions to Dodge and Dash. Spellcasters like Wizards and Sorcerers on the other hand have low health pools and are nearly useless with physical attacks, but they have access to powerful Cantrips and Spells instead that are excellent at crowd control.
Each of the 12 classes in the game are incredibly varied, and combined with the 42 different subclasses available at launch, players can completely change the way their character plays. It’s honestly one of the most comprehensive RPG class systems I have seen, plus you can multiclass to create hybrid builds as well, but that’s a whole other beast in itself.
And speaking of races, classes, and stats, all of these different aspects of a character also help you outside of combat. For example, spellcasters can use their arcane knowledge to assist them in situations where magic might be at play, or a Tiefling character could use their race to connect with others of their own kind, or access multiple other dialogue options on top of that. Spells like Friends can even be used to gain Advantage on certain rolls.
And just like with actual D&D play, many of these interactions require you to roll the dice and see if you succeed in the task you are attempting to perform, complete with Critical Success via Natural 20s and Critical Failures via Natural 1s. There’s even an Inspiration mechanic in the game where if a character is true to their background, they can get Inspiration points that can then be used to re-roll bad ability checks.
Baldur’s Gate 3 features a truly vast set of interlinked systems that allow for seemingly endless branching paths. It’s staggering how much choice it gives to its players, and that resulted in a game where each new playthrough is going to be radically different. I have made many choices in my playthrough that have radically altered my campaign from those of my peers, and I’m constantly wondering what would have happened if I had gone a different route. And that’s what makes this one of the most endlessly replayable games in recent memory.
Visuals And Performance
Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the most visually striking titles I have seen in a while, and a significant factor in that is the art direction and the settings you explore. Because yes, on a technical level the game is very beautiful. The God Rays, the quality of the models and animations, it’s all top-notch stuff of couse. But more than that, each and every single location in the world is created with a level of detail that most AAA games are not able to recreate.
Every nook and cranny is hiding something to behold. From small furry animals scurrying about in the bushes, to dead corpses lying around in the aftermath of a battle.
From the dark and fleshy interior of the Nautiloid ship in the opening moments of the game, to the dense woods and decrepit ruins you get to explore, and even the gorgeous city of Baldur’s Gate itself, every single locale is dense with lore and life. Every nook and cranny is hiding something to behold. From small furry animals scurrying about in the bushes, to dead corpses lying around in the aftermath of a battle, the world just feels like it exists separate from the player. Every moment I spent exploring was a joy, because I always knew there was something new the game would throw at me.
I did face one particular issue with the performance of the Press build of the game I had access to, but it’s a sort of half-complaint to be fair. I tested the game on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER, and I could easily run the game on High to Ultra settings at 50-60 FPS with some minor tweaks.
But during my time, I was constantly suffering from an issue where the screen would randomly freeze for a few seconds, and then go back to normal. And I saw this happen to me no less than once every 10 or so minutes. My first thought was to reduce the graphical settings to Medium, because the GTX 1660 SUPER is not exactly a new card, but that still didn’t fix the problem.
And I tolerated this issue throughout my campaign, until a few hours before writing this review when a small patch fixed the freezing problem completely. So now I’m able to run Baldur’s Gate 3 on Ultra with no problems. So yeah, it was annoying for me, but it seems to be mostly fixed now.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the greatest CRPGs of all time, and hands down one of the greatest games I have ever played. Everything about this game is as close to an authentic Dungeons & Dragons as I could ask for in a video game. From the excellent narrative to the charming characters and even the combat, I adore everything about this title.
I have put dozens of hours into it so far, and I was barely able to pull myself away long enough to finish this review. Like Divinity: Original Sin 2 before it, I know that I will dedicate years of my life to this game; the first few playthroughs by myself, and then many more with friends along the way.
This has been our Baldur’s Gate 3 Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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