Baldur’s Gate 3 is hard. Why? It’s because you are free to do what you want to do, whenever and however you want to do it. So what makes it hard? It’s the fact that you aren’t really guided through anything. If you are looking to have your hand held during this gargantuan experience, then tough luck. This might seem harsh, but bear with me. You see, Larian decided that to have an experience as close as possible to the classic tabletop version of Dungeons and Dragons, they should give players freedom. Total freedom. As such, there is no “correct” nor “incorrect” way to play Baldur’s Gate 3. There is simply, “your way”. Through a series of important, interlinked decisions, you quite literally carve out your own in-game experience.
Want to have some companions join and assist you along the way? Go ahead and recruit some! Do you prefer to be a lone ranger? Then tell everybody you meet to shove off! Perhaps you pickpocket everyone you happen upon for some easy cash and loot (assuming your abilities are up to the job, that is). Or perhaps you choose to cold-bloodedly murder every single person you encounter simply because you feel like it. And then rob them. And then literally toss their bodies away into the scenery. Or would you rather try and hook up with everybody you meet? Then go for it, you old devil! You see, whatever you do, it will be valid. You can also be certain to experience several dilemmas because you wish you’d chosen a different option from the one you just picked!
Get it out! Get it out!
The game begins with you finding yourself held captive aboard a mind-flayer-run vessel. You have just been through the unfortunate experience of having a parasite inserted into your brain via your eyeball no less. The overarching objective of the game is simple: find a cure. What you do in the interim, however, is entirely your call!
You will explore vast landscapes, encounter numerous truly brilliant characters and come across far more loot than you could possibly know what to do with. During your explorations, you will almost certainly become encumbered with the random crap that you pick up because you think it might come in handy at some point. You will also develop a deep connection with the characters and genuinely begin to care about them and what they do.
Things can go south, really fast!
In addition to dice-rolls and happening upon unexpected quests, Baldur’s Gate 3 is highly unpredictable. For example, I entered an area that was essentially littered with coffins. I stupidly thought, “I know – I’ll open one because I want to know what’s inside!” Big mistake. You see, the moment I cracked the lid, the occupant of the coffin reanimated and leapt up. It then sprint-staggered over to the next nearest coffin and heaved the lid open, recruiting one of his fellow deceased associates who also proceeded to leap out. The pair then tag-teamed against me and my crew in combat for a couple of turns before they repeated their earlier tactic. The latest undead recruit ran over to the nearest coffin, hurled open the lid and out hopped yet another late friend. Before long, my group of four was massively outnumbered!
The most interesting thing about the whole experience was knowing that if I hadn’t been so damned nosey, greedy, stupid and just left that coffin well alone, then I would not have just spent 20 minutes battling hordes of the undead only to end up getting wiped out a short time later. On the other hand, it was invigorating and so much fun because I hadn’t expected it at all! I went from wandering aimlessly one moment to participating in an impromptu major battle the next.
There are some occasional bugs, such as land-based characters floating mid-air, suspended above an endless abyss, clearly not in the correct position. Bugs like this, despite being small, are likely to naturally remove you from the immersion, albeit briefly.
The very first task you are presented with in Baldur’s Gate 3 is that of creating your character. Do you choose one of the origin characters (characters you would normally encounter in-game) or do you go all-out and design your own from scratch? There is a plethora of customisation options available, and you could easily spend an hour just creating your characters. Examples of this detail include being able to choose a class within a background within a race, or even choosing from one of literally hundreds of available colours for your character’s skin. You then choose their special abilities, spells, cantrips and myriad other things before sending them off into the world to fend for themselves.
Dice-rolling is at the very heart of Baldur’s Gate 3. Each time you attempt to use a skill to achieve a particular outcome, you need to roll that iconic 20-sided die to beat whatever value is required for success. Such skills include persuasion, sleight of hand, religion and intimidation. Depending on whether or not you are successful, the result(s) could be very different indeed! For example, I inadvertently ran into a group of ogres early on in the game and my first thought was to fight them. All of them. My strength level was 12. Theirs was 59 each. And they had about a dozen abilities. Each. As such, I lost…hard! So, I did what any self-respecting gamer would do and reloaded the point before the meeting.
I then replayed it with hindsight and boy were the results different! Ultimately, I managed to not only convince them that I was an almighty being, but also managed to get all three ogres to work (fight) for me! Not only that, but I got them to work for free by promising them that they could eat as many of my enemies’ bodies as they could kill!
Wait your turn
Combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 is turn-based, which means that players and enemies take turns acting. This allows players to plan their moves carefully and use the environment to their advantage.
On their turn, a character can take the following actions:
Move: Characters can move up to their movement speed on their turn.
Attack: Characters can attack enemies with their weapons or spells.
Use an ability: Characters can use their abilities to buff themselves, debuff enemies, or cast spells.
Interact with the environment: Players can interact with the environment to do things like set traps, climb on objects, or push objects. Generally, interacting with the environment falls under a character’s bonus actions, which are restricted to a set of limited actions.
Players must carefully manage their resources to defeat their enemies. For example, players must use their action economy wisely and choose the right spells and abilities to use. Battles can also become overwhelming very quickly. Some characters are able to recruit backup, and before you know it you are massively outnumbered (note the number of participants shown at the top of the screenshot below, of which only four belong to my party).
The action economy is a system that determines how many actions characters can take each turn. For example, your character may have two actions: a main action and a bonus action. Or they may just have one action. Either way, it is important for players to carefully manage their action economy to defeat their enemies.
On their turn, a character can take one action and one bonus action. An action is a significant activity that a character can perform, such as attacking, casting a spell, or using a skill. A bonus action is a minor activity that a character can perform, such as moving a short distance or manipulating an object. Some characters and abilities can grant characters additional actions or bonus actions. For example, the Haste spell grants a character an additional action on their turn, which could prove to be vital in tough battles.
Advantage and disadvantage are mechanics that represent a situation’s benefits and drawbacks. When a character has advantage, they are more likely to succeed on a roll in any given scenario. Conversely, when a character has disadvantage, they are more likely to fail on a roll.
There are several ways to gain advantage or disadvantage on a roll. For example, a character has advantage if they are hidden. If the enemy is unaware of your presence, you have advantage on your attack roll. An example of disadvantage on a roll is if they are blinded; as such, they are unlikely to roll a successful value and will subsequently fail that particular roll attempt.
Mechanically, advantage and disadvantage both take the same format: you roll two d20s (“d20” refers to a 20-sided die). Advantage works by rolling two d20s and taking the higher score, whereas disadvantage works by rolling two d20s and taking the lower score.
Spells and abilities
Baldur’s Gate 3 contains a true plethora of spells and abilities which can be used to attack enemies, heal allies, buff characters, and debuff enemies. Spells become available / unlock at different levels and each class has its own unique set of spells and abilities. For example, wizards have access to a wide range of offensive and defensive spells, while clerics have access to healing spells and spells that can buff allies. It is vital to select the correct spell(s) when in battle as making a bad choice can quite literally be the end of everything for you. For example, a player should use a healing spell if an ally is low on health, or they should perhaps use a debuff spell if they are fighting a powerful enemy.
There are also several cool and really useful utility spells to choose from. For example, there is Knock, which can open any locked door and Dimension Door, which allows you to teleport yourself and up to four others to any location within 500 feet that you can see.
Craft and talk away
There is a huge variety of items that can be crafted in Baldur’s Gate 3. These include weapons, armour, and potions. Crafting can be used to create powerful items that can help players in combat, which is essential when you come up against significantly more powerful enemies. To craft an item, you must have the necessary materials and the required crafting skill. For example, to craft a potion, you require the alchemy crafting skill. It is also possible to create items that are not available for purchase.
Dialogue is one of the most important parts of Baldur’s Gate 3. Players can have meaningful conversations with characters, which can lead to new quests and opportunities. They can also infuriate other characters, offend them or even have the conversation descend into fisticuffs if they say something especially unpleasant!
Be careful what you say
The dialogue system in Baldur’s Gate 3 is well-written and allows players to make choices that affect the story. For example, a player can choose to be kind to a character or to be rude to them. They can even choose to attempt to romance a character.
One of the single worst in-game decisions that I made was as follows: I came across a dying mind flayer. I approached him and read through the dialogue options that were presented to me, which went something like this:
- Say something nice.
- Interrogate him.
- Kick him.
- Kill him.
- Kiss him.
That’s right – I had the option to literally smooch with him…so I did! Allow me to offer you some advice at this point: don’t kiss the tentacled-alien! (Unless you’re curious, of course, in which case pucker up and go ahead!) Naturally, your choices will affect how the character reacts to you and how the story unfolds. For me, unfortunately, the entire story literally ended with a kiss! Overall, the mechanics in Baldur’s Gate 3 are truly excellent and the simple complexity with which they are all implemented is masterful. If you take time to learn the mechanics, you will be rewarded with an incredibly satisfying experience.
Despite the truly immense size of Baldur’s Gate 3, levelling up your characters is something that happens infrequently. As such, each time you do achieve it, you genuinely feel as if you have been putting the work in first-hand to get there. The Dungeons & Dragons ruleset allows players to reach level 20 whereas Larian decided to cap it at 12. According to Larian, this is because it would mean that some characters would become so immensely powerful that the game would become both too easy and would also result in unfair encounters.
Ultimately, it is a matter of personal view. I felt that the time taken between level-ups was long but felt about right. When playing open-world games, I tend to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny, and therefore I consider myself to be a slower player than most. However, I didn’t feel that leveling up felt too slow, nor did it feel too fast.
Each time you level up, you are rewarded with the option to improve a number of aspects of your character. Things such as increasing one ability’s score by two, or even increasing two abilities’ scores by one. You can also grant your character a special ability, known as a feat. This could mean that you might improve your character’s skill level around a certain area or the ability to use new weapons and/or armour. Depending on your character’s class, you also have the option to level up a class feature. This could be a new martial ability for the Fighter class, or a new spell slot for the Wizard class, for example.
Perfect for multiplayer
The format of Baldur’s Gate 3 lends itself beautifully to multiplayer play as it essentially mimics the tabletop Dungeons & Dragon game which, naturally, you would play with friends. To have a good multiplayer experience, you must bear in mind that cooperation and teamwork are essential. By keeping each other informed, you and your fellow players can strategise and coordinate your attacks so that you can take down even the strongest of enemies.
Playing multiplayer also adds another layer of uncertainty – and also difficulty – as you aren’t always aware of what your fellow players are going to do next. They may decide to do something completely unexpected or even take a massive risk without first consulting you. As such, pretty much anything could literally happen.
You can also trade items between one another, much in the same way that you can when playing single-player. You simply open the inventories of those concerned and then drag items across from one to the other. Unless items are equipped, marked as quest items or are being used in a quest, you are free to swap whatever you choose. Progression during multiplayer, however, is restricted to the host’s profile. Therefore, if you want to continue the campaign, you need to either be the host or somehow load the host’s save file.
Now play it again
Baldur’s Gate 3 is possibly the most replayable game that has ever been made. Seriously. Every single playthrough will undoubtedly render new results and paths for your character(s) to take. Decision-making is at the very core of almost every encounter you have, and there are always several significant choices to select from. Each decision will affect the outcome of the game, meaning that you are almost guaranteed to have a different experience every time. As such, this will result in a different ending every time. Oh, and there are 17,000 different endings (yes – seventeen thousand)!
You have the option to play Baldur’s Gate 3 in so many different ways that you will probably think about future playthroughs from the beginning of your very first playthrough. Each time you play, the path you take will almost certainly be different to the last. Of course, there are certain story elements in the early game that we will all encounter, but nevertheless, the vast majority of your Baldur’s Gate 3 experience is down to you and you alone.
And then, there is the Dark Urge option. Dark Urge allows you to play the whole game as with the regular format, although there are some differences. It is a more challenging, origin option than a regular playthrough, meaning that you will have to make some very hard decisions between good and evil. There is also a different backstory, namely the fact that your character doesn’t have a regular background such as a wizard. Instead, they are possessed by an evil force. As such, this force gives you special abilities, such as literally draining the life out of your enemies (or even non-enemies) or even summoning demon-like creatures to assist you. I see the Dark Urge option as a welcome addition to the general format as it allows you to experience Baldur’s Gate 3 from a completely different perspective and even turns it into something of a horror game.
Visually little to be desired
The visuals in Baldur’s Gate 3 leave very little to be desired. They are rich and vibrant, with every single character looking truly incredible. Character models are vast and varied and the environments are adorned with little intricacies everywhere you look. The level of detail is truly amazing and it is clear to see that Larian did not hold back here.
Perhaps the only thing better than the visuals in Baldur’s Gate 3 is the audio. Everything in the lands that you explore sounds amazing, from the animal calls to the environmental sounds of nature all around. It is the voice acting, however, that truly stands head and shoulders above all else. Every single character that can be interacted with has been fully voice acted by a professional actor. Even the animals have dedicated voice actors to voice them (assuming that you have the Speak with Animals ability, that is).
A complete cinematic experience
Another stand-out feature of Baldur’s Gate 3 is the utterly breathtaking cinematics used for cutscenes. Naturally, the cutscenes further the story in some way and truly are of the highest production quality, akin to watching a series of short films.
It is clear from the very onset that character actors and voice actors have been utilised in the best possible way and are of the highest quality throughout. There isn’t a moment where the visuals or sound appear to be lacking in any way. Quite the contrary, in fact. What you will experience is an incredibly deep, enthralling experience that is likely to immerse you quickly and thoroughly in the whole experience.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is nothing short of a masterpiece. It truly is a game that is written and acted exceptionally and one which everyone can make their own. Due to random encounters, varying dice roll requirements and dialogue choices you make, you will almost certainly never experience the same game twice. Regardless of how often you play through it. Every choice you make changes the outcome in some way and you will also almost certainly have several random encounters whilst en route to do something else. This will then lead you down another entirely different and unexpected path, opening up a whole new world to explore. With incredible turn-based combat mechanics and a true plethora of spells and abilities to choose from, you can be as creative as you wish when battling foes.
There is, however, an incredibly steep learning curve, specifically around spells. There are so many to choose from. Several of which sound similar, that you may find yourself suffering from analysis paralysis. In moments like these, however, you should take a step back and use the opportunity to experiment with your spells to see what works for you. Despite this and some minor bugs that are common with new releases, Baldur’s Gate 3 is utterly exceptional and has certainly set a new, very high bar for the genre.
- Total freedom.
- Incredible visuals and sound.
- Multi-layered story.
- Every character has their own voice – even animals.
- You can talk to animals!
- Very steep learning curve that can seem overwhelming at first.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is currently available through Boosteroid and GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Baldur’s Gate 3 review.