Like most of the people who like RPGs, I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate II. It’s a sequel to the genre-defining Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II but I don’t particularly care about that since I’ve not played either of those games. It’s also by Larian Studios who made Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity: Original Sin 2, and this is huge because I loved those games. So did it live up to the hype?
In short: yes. Baldur’s Gate III is an utterly amazing and engrossing RPG. The world is detailed and invites exploration, the story feels suitably grandiose, but its real strength is in its characters. And I’m not just talking about your companions. There are interesting personalities in every nook and cranny of the world, all with interesting things to say or exciting ways to interact. For me, the best part of the game was the freedom I felt when interacting with these characters and seeing how they’d react to my particular brand of blurred ethics. It was also refreshing that your companions basically don’t get along, so you were often forced to pick sides or stop a fight. I always did found the “the entire party’s friends now” schtick of RPGs a bit unnatural.
I played as a bard with maxed out charisma because I do like convincing people. As the game progressed my character went from goody-two-shoes to a realm-renowned liar with questionable morals and an itchy trigger finger as I faced more and more intriguing choices. There are just so many things the game offers you to do that you can’t help but try. Whatever you thought your character was when you created it is soon but a memory. I think this humorous music video by Tom Cardy summarizes my approach to the interactions in the game very well:
Beyond talking and exploring, there’s of course combat (when I can’t talk my way out of it). The turn-based combat is great, and as someone who played D:OS2 I felt right at home. Funnily enough the game had a bug that prevented all tutorials from showing when it launched on PS5, but it’s a testament to it (or to me, I guess) that I managed just fine anyway.
And then there’s the dice rolling. While I’ve played plenty of tabletop RPGs, I’ve never played D&D. Still, it doesn’t take long to grok the D20 system and it really does add to the game. If you can keep yourself from reloading to get the “right” result, it really adds some incredible tension to almost every moment and I want to see even more games try visualizing semi-random events.
It’s hard to write about Baldur’s Gate III because it’s so very, very large. You can spend thousands of words just discussing the interactions with animals or the character development of one NPC or how your actions shape the story. So I’ll just leave you with this: it’s great and you should play it.
Things I liked:
- Character interactions are varied and intricate beyond anything I’ve played
- Your choices actually matter, with outcomes both large and small
- Rolling dice just feels great
- Deep and challenging turn-based combat, especially in harder difficulties
- Experience is rewarded regardless of how you solve a problem
- Constant surprises behind every corner
- It looks incredible
- Excellent controller support on console
Things I didn’t like:
- The inventory system is hot garbage, just like it was in D:OS2
- While good, the music can be quite same-y
- Some lingering bugs and scripting issues when I played it dragged things down
OK, once more for emphasis: go play Baldur’s Gate III.