At a time where Dungeons & Dragons is at its most popular, Baldur’s Gate 3 stokes the fire of its continued success. Perhaps I should say it made an explosive burst, because Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate series has never been more in the spotlight. The light shining on this D&D RPG video game reflects back on the growing popularity the beloved TTRPG is getting in mainstream pop culture.
Now I’ve had a lot more time with Baldur’s Gate 3 since my review in progress, and I’m now on the cusp of seeing what everything the final Act has to offer. I’m even more impressed than I was when writing the early impressions review, and I’m still on the hype train every time I load up my campaign. Having nearly put 100 hours into this game, I’ve also come to realize that I do have some small gripes about it. Luckily, none of them overshadow my overwhelming adoration for Baldur’s Gate 3.
Painstakingly detailed and meticulous craftsmanship
This heading here is the only way to describe the detail Larian Studios has put into its third Baldur’s Gate video game. As I said, I’m just about to reach the 100 hour mark according to Steam, and I’m still discovering things to do and see. I’ve also just jumped into a Dark Urge playthrough, which feels like an entirely new game within itself. This level of meticulous care for every aspect of a game is sometimes difficult to come by. All studios have the potential to reach this level of craftsmanship, but Larian Studios got it with a home run.
You start your journey in one of the toughest battles of the game: character creation. I couldn’t help but recreate my long-lost Early Access character, since none of your previous saves carry over. But that didn’t stop me from experimenting with how the races, classes, and hairstyles look like. As someone who’s been into Dungeons & Dragons for a few years now, this game is all any D&D fan could ever hope for.
Other than character creation, I have to point out the incredible environments. Most of your adventures will take place in beautifully-crafted forests, towns, dungeons, and more. The level of detail in every single location you visit is wild. There are always items to interact with, people to talk to, signs to read, and loot to take. That well isn’t just there for decoration, it’ll lead you to a tarantula’s lair. Also, press any button you find. It’s either a secret door or a deadly trap.
A gripping fantasy tale
Set in the Forgotten Realms world, based off of the traditional D&D setting, you’re taken on an epic journey, right from the start. After you watch a cutscene that looks like a blockbuster CGI film, it pulls you into your first mission: escape the Mind Flayer ship. You’re a prisoner of this ship, and you unwillingly received a parasitic friend that’s now bound to you. Throughout the first few hours of the game, you’ll slowly team up with unique and talented companions. The Mind Flayers also infected them, and you join together to try and find a solution before its too late.
Along your journey, you begin to grow your relationship with these new characters. Of course, in true RPG style, you can also kill or abandon them all you like. They’re quite useful though, as each companion is a different D&D class. Every party needs a healer, a spellcaster, and a couple of skilled fighters. Every character in your group has their backstory, and even their present and future stories matter. Just like in a D&D party, every character has their moments that go along with the main narrative.
Throughout my time exploring nearly all my companion’s stories, I’m thoroughly impressed by the unique character arcs everyone goes through. The characters you met in Act One will heavily differ from the level 12 companions you see evolve in Act Three. Also, making friends, foes, and lovers in Baldur’s Gate 3 is highly rewarded, especially when you could have completely different relationships in separate playthroughs. I cared about pretty much all my companions, their stories, and our main story together by the end of our journey.
Terrific turn-based mechanics
Another thing that Larian Studios nails is the flow of combat. In each round, every character in the fight joins the Initiative order. This determines who goes first, who goes next, and so on. Every class is heavily detailed, from level one to five, and hopefully all the way to 12. With each new level comes new abilities, both in and out of combat. The best is used in combat, where each class has their time to shine with their specialties.
I love having time to strategize who’s going to do what during turn-based combat. Even if you don’t enjoy that type of combat, Baldur’s Gate 3 is far from rigid or boring. Action, bonus action, and sometimes free actions come into play. Some classes even get extra actions during their turns. You have to decide whether or not your Cleric should heal someone, or use a damage spell. What about the Wizard, should they spend a spell slot, or just rely on a Cantrip? Even in Balanced difficulty mode, you’ll be scratching your head wondering what to do next.
When you’re out of combat, the dice-rolling mechanics never get boring. There’s no timer during dialogue to say the next thing, so you can take your time. Sometimes, each option sounds beneficial, and some may even require a skill or ability check. This makes you roll a dice and add your ability or skill score to try and succeed at something. It’s the bread and butter of D&D, and it can make for some hilarious moments if you fail.
Issues far and few between
Now that I’ve spent a lot more time with Baldur’s Gate 3, I’m able to point out some of the few issues I have with it. Although it has quite an extensive character creator, I still find some options lacking. Many video games allow you to decide on separate facial features, while Baldur’s Gate 3 only lets you pick from a handful of face options. Even the face options themselves aren’t numerous, which made me yearn for some of those details you’ll see in other character creators.
I’ve also noticed some continuity issues with the story and characters. This happens rarely, but it’s quite noticeable when it does appear. Many characters you meet throughout Act One reappear during Act Two and Three. Because of this, the writing and dialogue leans into that, and characters will remind you of when you’ve met them before. I’ve occasionally met with characters I neglected to speak with in Act One who acted like they knew me. It’s a little awkward, because I know my character was probably supposed to meet them before this situation, but it wasn’t accounted for.
Despite that issue, I’m still very impressed with the continuity that does successfully happen between my character and the intertwining stories of other characters. The final issue I’ll point out are the very few glitches that happen which require me to reload my save. F5 is my favorite button, so I never have to go back far, but it can still be a nuisance. At one point, the UI when controlling my main character looked like the UI when I’m in dialogue, but I was out of dialogue. I couldn’t interact with anything, and had to switch to my other characters to actually do things. Or sometimes I’ve had an important conversation with a companion, but when I leave and talk to them soon after I find out the conversation reset.
Failures can lead to new successes
Your character is trying to convince another to not kill someone, and you roll a natural one. This is a critical failure, so they don’t listen to you and do it anyway. What next? Of course, you could reload your last save, but what if that was ages ago? Even if you’re mad about a dice outcome, the path from that failure may lead to a new success. With every bad outcome comes a branching story you would’ve never seen if you had succeeded.
This is what makes Baldur’s Gate 3 so re-playable. Although I’ve mainly stuck to my one playthrough, I’m now at the start of a Dark Urge playthrough, which feels like an entirely different story altogether. There are so many ways to replay Baldur’s Gate 3 with the custom origin, and even more paths to discover if you play as a companion origin or the Dark Urge. Whether I decide my new choices, or they come flying at me from an unexpectant dice roll, nobody’s story is the same as anyone else’s.
Sometimes I’ll tell myself that my failure to persuade someone or my actions leading to someone’s death should just stay the way it is. And other times I’ll unabashedly load an old save because I’m not happy with my natural one dice roll. I think that’s okay, that’s the fun and freedom of Baldur’s Gate 3! Whether you’re a save scummer like me, or a highly tactical player who refuses to reroll dice, there are multiple ways to enjoy this game. Except for the Tactician difficulty mode. Balanced mode feels hard enough as it is, even Explorer mode can feel tough at times!
Fun with friends
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true D&D experience without your friends being involved. I don’t know how the developers make it so seamless, but co-op multiplayer is just as fun, maybe even more. You can play co-op with two to four people, and you don’t have to stick together in the overworld. When one person is in dialogue with a character, you can watch them and vote for your preferred dialogue choice.
What makes Baldur’s Gate 3 multiplayer even better is how silly it can really get. Although I’m taking my single-player campaign quite seriously, I decided to make a hilarious-looking character while playing with my cousin. It also makes it better when you decide to make choices you would never be brave enough to make in your own game. This game lets you be the purest of souls, or the most chaotically-evil character ever to exist. No matter which you choose, you’ll still have a good time.
A bright future ahead
Overall, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a natural 20 in my eyes, and a critical success for D&D fans, RPG fans, and video game fans entirely. Gamers will be playing Baldur’s Gate 3 for years to come, I’m sure of it. I’m having a blast with every session, and I’ve yet to come down from the high that I feel every time I get to play. From my review in progress to my now completed review, I had a few issues to point out, but even more positive things to say. The Baldur’s Gate train won’t be stopping for a while, as it eventually releases on PlayStation and Xbox for more gamers to fall in love with.