Baldur’s Gate 3 is a beast of a game and a new gold standard for classic, hard-core computer RPGs. Six years in the making, the game spent the last three in early access, where it was perfected by the tight synergy between devs and the community. Larian proved themselves the masterful artisans with Divinity: Original Sin 2, but with BG3 they emerged as the (arguably) number one studio in the RPG sphere. Right now, they are on top of the world as everyone and their displacer beast is playing Baldur’s Gate 3. The biggest irony is that BG3 was released a month early to avoid clashing with Starfield. After experiencing this beautiful game to the fullest, I’m not sure who’s going to steal the thunder from whom.
Being an order of magnitude bigger, more complex, and polished compared to any similar game out there makes Baldur’s Gate 3 very special. It’s almost overwhelming at times. In terms of pure content, it demands the absolute surrender of all your facilities for at least seventy hours. If you desire a more detailed playthrough, you can easily add thirty more. Or infinitely more if you plan to explore different outcomes, playstyles, or party compositions.
Sword Coast can’t catch a break
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes place roughly a hundred years after your intrepid party defeated Bhaalspawn Sarevok and saved the city of BG from annihilation. Sword Coast is largely unchanged in the sense that fresh local threats pop up regularly. You and your future gang got a literal front seat in the latest calamity. Obducted by Illithid, gruesome squid-faced monsters that procreate by planting a parasite in their victims, you streak the skies in their living Nautiloid vessel, helplessly stuffed inside a bio-pod. Suddenly, the squid ship comes under attack by dragon-riding Githyanki warriors and subsequently crashes. Bruised, free but infected by an Illithid tadpole, you will gather your party and venture forth.
Searching for a cure for you and your companions is an ignition primer for a very complex, multi-layered story. The number of surprises, apocalyptic revelations, and twists you will encounter is gargantuan. Through three massive chapters, you will pursue one lead after another, putting your mark on a troubled world. The main story is excellent, but your companion storylines are peerless. You all share the same infection, but your backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Each has an individual affinity meter which depends on your decisions, and some of those decisions can have pretty big repercussions. Last but not least, the game offers unbridled options for romantic (and sexual) relationships. That’s some ultra-quality fantasy content there, compared not only to similar games but to any and all modern fantasy TV shows. Why watch shitty Witcher if you can lose yourself in this interactive bliss?
The latest D&D rule set
Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on the 5th-edition Dungeons & Dragons rule set. If you somehow slept through the last couple of decades and wonder why D&D is no longer AD&D, you have a lot to catch up on. Underlying systems are much different than the ancient ones from Baldur’s Gate II – THAC0, negative AC (armor class), and other stuff that is either removed or completely redesigned. This is a non-issue for anyone who keeps up with current events but could be significant for a civilian, unfamiliar with D&D, who only recently played Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. The gap between rule sets is immense, so BG3 almost feels like a completely new franchise, save for familiar monsters, places, and people.
The bestiary you’ll face in this game is pure D&D’s greatest hits. From Gnolls to Githyanki, Driders to Duergar, and Devils to all sorts of extraplanar beings, you will always face fresh horrors. You will evolve and level up by surmounting threats, but characters are capped at level 12. According to Larian, later levels are problematic due to uber-powerful spells that make balancing almost impossible. That’s why they, at least for now, rule out the possibility of story DLCs. If memory serves, Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark had characters capped to lvl. 40, but that was some ancient, now obsolete rule set.
Big and complex maps stuffed with lore
From a purely technical standpoint, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a marvel of design and production. The zones are huge and very complex, with multiple layers and ever-present verticality. Every square millimeter of the game is densely packed with lore, narrator’s remarks, or, at least, bits of the flavor text. I can’t begin to imagine how many people and hours it took to create and playtest all that. The visual fidelity is consistently excellent, even in traditionally monotone environments like Underdark.
The signature element of Larian RPGs is the specific form of kinetic freedom that encourages experimentation. Similar to Original Sin II, Baldur’s Gate 3 allows for, at times, an insane and/or comical or ingenious approach to some situations. Pushing the ultra-strong enemy over the cliff instead grinding it with blows or spells is always an option, provided there’s a chasm nearby. The synergy between flammable or conductive materials and fire/electricity spells is my favorite group of exploits. The general rule with BG 3 is that if something feels possible, it probably is.
One of a kind
With Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian Studios managed to create the finest isometric fantasy RPG of the 21. century. Pretty big words, eh? Note that I’m not comparing it with the likes of The Witcher 3, Dark Souls, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or Elden Ring. Its peers and competitors are Arcanum, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Divinity: Original Sin II. I played all of them to completion. My friends did the same. The uniform conclusion of my ancient cabal is that BG3 dominates the current zeitgeist like an indisputable sovereign. Do yourself a huge favor and dive headfirst into it.
- Stellar acting, interstellar writing.
- Fantastic story with several TV show seasons worth of content.
- Companion side quests are the best part of the experience.
- Technical masterpiece, if you have a reasonably powerful PC.
- Verticality and complexity of the architecture sometimes create navigation problems.
- Technical nitpick: the game uses AMD FSR 1.0 instead of 2.0.