To say Baldur’s Gate 3 is massive would be more than an understatement. It’s far more than that and not just because of how many different things you can do, but all the ways you can go about doing them. Whether this is something that’s inherently good is a question I kept asking myself during my hours upon hours of playthrough – because let's get things straight; you're going to be spending a lot of time here.
So that begs a bit of a question then: are newcomers being baited into a false sense of security based on peer-generated hype? Or is the heaping praised well-deserved. As a newcomer myself, I certainly wanted to believe the latter.
It's safe to say that Baldur’s Gate 3 does set that bar high all on its own and often it does take a while to reach that sort of full potential. What I mean by that is right away you’re introduced to an intricate character creation tool. This is notable because of the incredible number of options it houses – from several different races to appearances both above and below the belt.
Baldur’s Gate 3 does well to let you create whoever you wish, which I suppose makes sense considering the basis for the game lies in the old Dungeons and Dragon’s style RPGs. That is to say, you’ll also be choosing a class to play as along with some of their attributes, at least to start. It may seem like a lot, but don’t worry – you can swap things around later. The important thing is though that this is really the first taste of what sort of time sink you're walking into here.
The Dungeons and Dragons aspect by itself can take some getting used to, especially because it colors the entirety of Baldur’s Gate 3. If you’re not familiar with it, you’re probably going to have a hard time or at least one that takes more time to ease into how everything works. As someone who has at least a base knowledge of those mechanics, there still was a decent learning curve, but it is that very time investment and conquering of challenges that set Baldur’s Gate 3 apart from its contemporaries.
This type of design philosophy forces you to work for success and the result is this sort of hunger to keep playing and playing and suddenly you’ve put in over 100 hours and you’re not even at the final part of the game. It's not easy either, not even in the "story-focused" mode, so be prepared for that learning curve to come slap you right in the face in a different way than something like Elden Ring tends to do.
That’s what makes Baldur’s Gate 3 a must-play though. The time investment is there, yes, but it never feels like you’re encumbered by spending so much time parsing out how to take on various quests or tasks within the game world. What’s more is that there are so many ways to go about doing even the most menial of things.
Take for example, without going into major spoiler territory, there is a certain camp found in Act 1. Putting in effort, I made my way through peacefully at first. All was well until I died at various points so I kept going back in and trying out different methods, talking to different NPCs, or taking a different route. The most success I had in this location involved stealing a drink and landing myself in jail.
Rather than wait it out, I broke free, met up with a shape-shifting druid, and hacked my way out of there before booking myself back to my own camp to rest. Instead of finishing confronting the rest of the enemies there, the handy fast travel function helped me get away and finish advancing that specific quest.
Another example involves a really hard optional boss encounter of sorts that can lead you to gather up a bunch of resources, explore a treacherous lair and fight said boss in order to save a captive or not. Or you can just die there too and try again by loading an earlier save to see all the outcomes. The loot is worth it for a nice stat boost so even though it’s not required, I found myself wanting to experience everything like this for the immense sense of accomplishment.
That’s just a handful of examples of what you can do, and if I wanted to I could have kept trying the same quest from several other angles as well. Whilst playing around in the world and doing these quests is all well and good, it would be remiss to ignore Baldur’s Gate 3’s main scenario, which is a driving force for your character and the companion characters you can meet during your journey.
Without delving into direct spoilers, Baldur’s Gate 3 opens up with a fancy cutscene and… aliens? Well, it sure seems that way, what with all the infernal imagery going on, people captured – including yourself – and the introduction of the mind flayers, who are another driving force throughout the narrative. Your character, as a victim of these creatures, will have to make various choices as you uncover the mystery of their existence and just what they put in you and your companion’s heads.
There’s a lot to it and the story is bolstered by the presence of said companions quite a bit. Out the gate you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of them and your choices can lead them to join you in your fight. The element of choice comes into play once again here with which companions you choose to talk to, who you might gear up properly, and even who you might try to romance.
There’s just so much to do and it’s fun listening to their dialogue, which is also influenced by your own dialogue with them with regards to gaining their approval or not so choose wisely.
These things are really the tip of the iceberg though. Baldur’s Gate 3 offers so many interesting and intricate details peppered throughout the experience. Even touching back to the Dungeons and Dragons elements, they’re on display in full force through on-screen dice rolls that check against your character's stats both in dialogue, out in the field, and in battle.
These things only increase as you make your way through the story and I found especially, once I reached at least Level 6 on my characters things really started to click for me. This goes for the story too – there’s a point where it really takes off and I felt that feeling picking at my brain, that wave of just pure joy and intrigue that kept me wanting for more.
That’s because Baldur’s Gate 3 is hard to put down and the story, world-building, and characters altogether facilitate that. There’s really no rushing through anything so if you’re keen on sinking your teeth in, you better prepare yourself.
That’s not to say everything in Baldur’s Gate 3 is perfect, however. Whilst many have been fixed since launch, I did encounter some bugs that brought down the experience momentarily. Other things include some clunky switching between characters during cutscenes and awkward animations.
During battle, some of the enemies would also take ages to get through their rotation – just minor things like that that don’t really outshine the overall experience but are definitely worth mentioning.
But again, it’s that experience that makes Baldur’s Gate 3 so great. I was skeptical at first following a lengthy Early Access period, but actually putting the time in, and seeing just what a wealth of content and treasure there is to behold here, it’s clear that developer Larian has created something truly special. Here’s to hoping those few minor complaints eventually get patched out, because this is one of those games I’ll be thinking about returning to for a long time.
Baldur's Gate 3 was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 87 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Depth of player choice and compelling narrative
- Variety of quests and ways to approach them
- World building and map design
- Top-notch voice performances and overall presentation
- Minor bugs and performance issues
- Waiting for some turns can be tedious