Get ready, everyone, because Baldur Gate 3 is finally here! It’s been a massive 23 years since the Bhaalspawn and their friends visited Athkatla in Baldur Gate 2, and now we’re back in the Sword Coast, fighting goblins, facing mind flayers, and using magic missiles. Even though I’m an old man who’s a bit tired of regular fantasy, I’m having a great time revisiting my old favorite places.
I wish I could give this game a score and send you on your adventure, but I’ve only had access to the preview version since Sunday night. I haven’t slept much, playing every day until dawn, but there’s still a lot more to explore. That’s why this review is a work in progress. You’ll have to wait a little longer for my final thoughts.
The good news, though, is that this is an incredibly impressive CRPG so far, and it’s my dream CRPG. As I’ve fought, stolen, and played as a Bard in the Forgotten Realms, it feels like I’m experiencing the greatest moments from classic games like Ultima, Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Pillars of Eternity, and Divinity: Original Sin… all the big names in the genre.
Here are a few of my highlights:
- I’m becoming BFFs with an extremely theatrical vampire
- I recently adopted an owlbear cub
- I’ve embarked upon a complicated romantic relationship with a tiefling whose very touch kills thanks to the infernal engine encased in her chest
- I’ve replaced my eyeball with an artefact that lets me detect invisible enemies
- I consistently talk to the dead and animals, the latter of which are always a laugh
- I’ve put on countless impromptu musical performances for gold and applause
- I’ve caused more “accidental” deaths than Agent 47
- I’ve found several excellent hats
Basically, I’m having a whale of a time. And thank god, because it would be very upsetting if I was forgoing sleep so many nights in a row for a game that didn’t rock my world so hard.
Baldur Gate 3 Review In Progress
Brains and brawn
Instead of being a direct continuation of the Bhaalspawn story, Baldur Gate 3 takes a unique approach to Dungeons & Dragons, making it feel like an immersive simulation where almost anything is possible. Every quest and battle has numerous ways to approach it, encouraging creativity and curiosity at every turn.
The game gives you access to spells, skills, and the ability to manipulate the world around you, opening up countless possibilities. For instance, in a fight against ogres, you can knock down pillars to bring down the building they’re in, transform them into gas to slip through small openings or use magic to control animals and make them attack their own masters. You can even use simple objects like an empty box to outsmart enemies by reaching higher places, blocking poisonous vents, or surprising foes with a sudden drop.
This style of gameplay stays true to the essence of Dungeons & Dragons, with Larian serving as a flexible Dungeon Master. It provides a more authentic tabletop experience compared to traditional PC games. Be prepared for lots of skill and ability checks, as they play a significant role in-game mechanics. However, the experience of rolling the d20 dice is enjoyable.
Your chosen class, race, and background significantly impact the way you interact with the game world. Each option offers various ways to overcome obstacles and situations. For example, as a Bard, you’ll have plenty of jokes, clever insults, and colorful lies at your disposal. Being a half-elf drow may earn your trust among certain inhabitants of the Underdark, the drow’s home, but surface-dwellers might react differently due to the drow’s reputation for evil, slavery, and arrogance.
They see me rollin’
During conversations in the game, challenges may arise, requiring you to roll the d20 dice. For example, if you have a charlatan background with skills like deception and performance, you can use these abilities to increase your chances of success when telling lies to get out of a tough situation or performing a spontaneous poem to save your life. Choices related to these skills are clearly indicated, and if you choose one, you’ll need to roll the dice. The result is compared to the difficulty level of the skill check to determine if you succeed or fail.
However, don’t worry if you don’t like relying on random chance, as you have many ways to enhance your role and have more control over the outcomes.
Various modifiers come into play to boost your roll. As a Bard, your charisma ability score can aid you in making a more persuasive argument. Spells like “Friends” can give you an advantage, allowing you to roll two d20s and take the higher result. Your companions can also use their spells to assist you. Another helpful mechanic is D&D’s “Inspiration,” which rewards good roleplaying and allows you to reroll dice. Actions that align with your chosen background or the backgrounds of your companions earn you more Inspiration points.
These mechanics also apply when disarming traps, picking locks, and engaging in fights. However, in combat, you don’t roll the dice yourself for every action, as that would make battles overly long. Instead, the game handles the combat rolls. Skill checks can also happen in the background, indicating moments when you notice or fail to notice something. For instance, an Arcane skill check might help you recognize if a potion is harmful, and perception checks can reveal traps and secret doors. These checks occur frequently, so handling them automatically avoids excessive dice rolling.
Despite the reliance on dice rolling, the game turns into an enjoyable experience. Larian’s clever approach allows players to understand and engage with the game’s systems better. Mechanics that are typically hidden in most RPGs become thrilling moments in Baldur Gate 3, where you hold your breath and hope for a natural 20.
If you prefer the classic Baldur’s Gate style, you’ll still enjoy exploring large, trap-filled dungeons, interacting with delightful companions who sometimes argue, and dealing with a curse reminiscent of the Bhaal legacy.
In Baldur Gate 3, you have a mind-flayer tadpole in your brain, which grants you telepathy, mind-control abilities, and strange abilities if you consume more tadpoles from others with the same curse. However, embracing these powers comes with a cost – the conflict lies in how much you surrender to these new abilities and risk becoming a mind flayer yourself.
Initially, I resisted using the mind flayer powers, but eventually, I couldn’t resist their fun and decided to fully embrace them. I even convinced most of my party to do the same, although it may cost them their humanity. They’re such likable characters that it’s hard to impose this curse on them, but their charm has won me over.
The women in Baldur Gate 3 stand out as well. Lae’zal, Shadowheart, and Karlach are captivating characters with their unique traits and stories. Each of them can also be your player character, providing distinct perspectives and backgrounds. The character creation process is excellent, offering a wide range of choices, including cosmetic options and even the shape of your character’s genitals.
I initially planned to play as Astarion, but after the advice to start with a custom character, I changed my mind and played as a drow. This decision allowed me to get to know the companions better and uncover their dark secrets while developing my own character. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m excited for my second playthrough in the future.
Murder and mayhem
I’ve spent a long time exploring the Sword Coast in Baldur Gate 3, but I’ve also spent a lot of time-fighting goblins, ogres, bugbears, and others who’ve become my enemies. The combat in the game is turn-based, which makes it a bit slower during battles, but it’s also much better than in previous games.
Fights feel like experimental puzzles with the freedom to try different things. The D&D spells and powers are exciting to play with, especially how they interact with the environment. You can use spells creatively, like firing Melf’s Acid Arrow at the ground to create an acidic surface, and then following up with Firebolt to cause a fiery explosion. As you unlock more spells, the possibilities become even more interesting, allowing you to set up massive area-of-effect traps.
There are also reaction abilities that let you counter-attack, and bonus actions like jumping, dipping your weapon into surfaces for additional effects, or pushing enemies around. You can throw objects from your inventory or use items you find on the battlefield. Sneaking around and setting up ambushes is very satisfying.
The fights can be challenging, especially when outnumbered, but there are always multiple ways to turn the tide in your favor. Strategically positioning your party members and using the environment to your advantage is crucial. Sometimes, chatting with enemies before the fight begins can give you an edge or initiate the battle on your terms. It’s a complex and intimidating system, but it’s also incredibly enjoyable, and I’ve never had such a good time in RPG combat before.
I feel like I’ve already experienced what would typically be a full RPG, but in reality, I’m only at the beginning of Baldur Gate 3. The game has so much to offer, and I’m excited to see how it handles a big urban space like Baldur’s Gate itself, while also enjoying the trek through the wilderness, ancient ruins, and the deadly Underdark.
For players familiar with the early access version, there will still be plenty of new content with additional spells, subclasses, races, and origin characters. The game’s flexibility and the multitude of optional paths and class/race/background-specific options make replaying it a lot of fun, and it promises an enjoyable experience for those planning multiple playthroughs.
The performance has been mostly excellent, especially on powerful gaming rigs, but it also runs well on the Steam Deck handheld system. There have been some minor bugs, but nothing too serious for a game of this size and scope.
While I’m not ready to give it a final score, I can say that Baldur Gate 3 is utterly brilliant so far. I’m eager to see if it can maintain this level of excellence throughout the next 80 hours. I’ll continue updating this review as I progress, covering aspects like co-op gameplay and the titular city, Baldur’s Gate. Many of us at PCG are playing the game as well, so expect plenty of takes, features, and guides on every aspect of this vast RPG.
Is Baldur Gate 3 worth playing now?
Yes, Baldur’s Gate 3 is worth playing now, especially with new content and improvements in the full version.
Is Baldur’s Gate 3 too hard?
The difficulty in Baldur’s Gate 3 can be challenging but rewarding.
Is Baldur’s Gate 3 a good solo?
Baldur’s Gate 3 can be enjoyed solo, and the immersive experience still holds up.
Is Baldur’s Gate 3 connected to 1 and 2?
Baldur’s Gate 3 is set in the same universe as 1 and 2 but not a direct sequel, offering a new story and gameplay experience.