Baldur’s Gate 3: The Review

You have been kidnapped and infested with mind altering worms. With a band of down on their luck horn dogs you stand as the realms last hope or the final nail in its coffin.

If your friend group is anything like mine you’ve probably blocked off numerous days off just trying to coordinate a Dungeons & Dragons session. After two years and numerous book/DM shuffles some of my friends stumbled upon Larian’s Divinity Original Sin 2 and sang the praises for all that would hear. When Larian Studios premiered the announcement  trailer for Baldur’s Gate 3 it felt like we might have found our north star towards a successful campaign. And we got some much more than that. We ended up playing for 60 hours and going through three runs in Early access! (With about a dozen failed side campaigns).

Larian Studios has had their tendrils in role playing games since being founded in 1996. After their first title they created Divine Divinity in 2002 which turned into a series that spawned sequels all the up until the Definitive edition of Divinity Original Sin II in 2018. Baldur’s Gate is an RPG series that started in 1998 in a collaboration of Bioware and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. Baldur’s Gate series ran until 2004 before going on hiatus until Beamdog released enhanced versions of the original games. Maybe these two were fated to meet but once Larian’s Studio head Swen Vinckle started wearing a full armor plate around the office for the kickstarter videos I couldn’t wait to see how this game would release.

I am Bard Simpin-Son, King of Kings. Look upon my party, and despair!

Story

Baldur’s Gate 3 starts with a ship of Mind Flayers attacking a village and infesting its captured guests with parasites that plan to burrow into your brain and create more Mind Flayers. You shortly escape and set off on a quest to rid yourself of the parasite before it turns you into a Mind Flayer. There are three massive acts moving you from the crash site of the mind flayer ship all the way to the titular Baldur gates and beyond. But you won’t be adventuring alone. You will come across companions with their own story lines full of little memorable moments. Such as Shadowheart, everyone’s favorite goth cleric, Lae’zel, a prideful barbarian, Gale, a full of himself wizard, and Astarian, the brooding rogue who happens to be a vampire. Alongside several others you will make a four person team and bicker across the forgotten realm with the option to fall in love or murder each other at the drop of a bad roll.

I get by with a little help from my friends Oh, I slaughter the absolute with a little help from my friends!

Starting with the character creator there is an amazing attention to detail. On the first go around you might find an hour to not be enough time to put yourself together. There are two paths towards entry: create a character or a origin character. Origin characters are the same characters you can befriend during your adventure just with a bit more background information revealed to you. There’s also a special character known as the Dark Urge I have to highlight because it changes most of your interactions due to their evil nature (save this character for a second run). Creating a character is my preferred method. You have 12 classes and 11 races to play around with. You can change your characters down to the micro details like giving them vitiligo and having two colored eyes. I’ve also found there to be serious variations in  the world based on my different character builds. Whenever something tried to mind control my Githyanki Bard named Bard Simp-son, he would sing along and it would pass the checks. While my DragonBorne Paladin started honorable but after lying to a group of tieflings that was about to kill a friend got approached to become an oath breaker and suddenly my dialogue choices favored being more aggressive. There is so much agency that it feels like every choice you make matters and I haven’t felt that in a game since The Walking Dead’s “Clementine will remember this”.

At the camp is where most turn for romance or conversation. The Dark Urge however feels bloodlust wihout reason.

Gameplay

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a cRPG, or Computer Role Playing Game. You explore Faerun in third person (if using a remote) or top down interacting with various non playable characters, exploring towns and getting into lots and lots of fights. I got through 20 hours of Act 1 only using keyboard & mouse and then decided to try out the controller bindings and while it takes a second or two longer to navigate I haven’t gone back. The bindings are that good. Fighting is turn-based and depending on your character’s initiative the attack order gets randomized between your party and enemies. The combat starts simple enough depending on your classes specifications you might be proficient with swords & shields, bows, staffs or none of the above and you get thrown into different combat arenas. The opening hours of the game will pose as a litmus test for combat because in addition to your weapons there’s a bunch of things in the environment that can be used for your benefit but they make you discover that for yourself.

I mean who could turn down an offer like that?

There are a lot of choices you will make in the game, but the very first you will have to settle for yourself is if you are going to let the chips fall as they may or are you gonna “save scum”. I quick save every chance I get so don’t let anyone shame you or say your save scumming. So many times I fell into a skill check with a character who couldn’t even answer what their favorite color is. Or I would make a choice and be curious as to what would’ve happened if I chose differently.

Lastly Baldur’s Gate 3 seems like a complete package; there’s no microtransactions, battle passes or dlc plans and it’s refreshing how nice that feels to say in 2023. I have three current campaigns going with at least four secondary ones planned across my friends group, solo and maybe with my audience once I figure out twitch a bit better. This game has consumed my life sort of how I pictured Mass Effect 2 did for sci fi nerds in 2010. I have explained my friend’s murder hobo campaign to people at birthday parties, in the beer line at a music festival, and even in a tinder dm because she had a blurb about the game in her bio. And I think that might be a common occurrence to anybody that gets enamored with what Larian Studios crafted here.

Didnt encounter too many glitches but this invisible violin had my party in stiches!

TL;DR

If you’ve ever been curious enough about D&D to flip through one of their guidebooks before noping out you owe it to yourself to try out Baldur’s Gate 3. Larian Studios have crafted a richly populated world full of situations that will have you explaining character mythos to anybody that catches a glimpse of what you’re playing and then forcing them to try it out for themselves. It’s that good! And the best part is you can play up to four players in co-op. The game is currently available on PC and PS5 with a Xbox version releasing sometime in December.

For more reviews on RPGs that are gonna consume your free time and movies I check out this week keep a bookmark open to FeatMarvinL.com