Larian's Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the most immersive fantasy RPGs of all time, with a story and world you’ll get lost in for countless hours.
The freedom of choice has been translated beautifully from the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop universe, adapting very nicely to a desktop PC experience, and it really does feel like you’re sitting down for an epic adventure where anything can happen with your friends – much in the same way Will and the gang do in the first season of Stranger Things.
Baldur’s Gate 3 opens with an exquisitely detailed CGI cinematic, depicting a Mind Flayer ship aboard a Nautiloid ship putting tadpoles into people's heads by exceedingly uncomfortable means (we don’t want to suffer alone, so we’ll leave it for you to find out for yourself).
The ship descends upon the titular town and begins to wreak havoc, but it comes under attack from assailants mounted upon dragons. It tries to escape through multiple realms, but begins to crash as it is picked apart by the dragons, causing you to be ejected from your pod.
From here, you enter the character creator that allows you to change everything from your race, appearance, class... and even your private bits!
Once you’ve made them, the game begins with the central plot surrounding the Mind Flayer invasion, the tadpole in yours and others’ heads, the powers it grants you and whether you will choose to get rid of it or embrace it.
While the opening prologue does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics, make no mistake – this game can be brutally difficult, especially for newcomers who have never played a game like Baldur’s Gate or other classic RPGs.
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You will die and fail dice rolls – a lot. This isn’t a critique per se, as much of the difficulty stems from how open-ended the gameplay is. There are a dizzying amount of choices to consider and making the wrong one is often fatal.
This requires a great deal of trial and error in the opening stages, but as you progress, you get a much better sense of how you like to approach quests and encounters - and the initial difficulty wall lessens into a curve.
As an example, we quickly realise during our playthrough that the innumerable bottomless chasms around the map don’t just exist as set-dressing, but as an excellent way to dispatch high-level enemies who would otherwise prove too difficult to tackle head-on.
We let out a cheer as we shove one such boss from party member to party member like a supermarket checkout belt of doom, until they finally met their unceremonious end at the bottom of a cavern. Job done.
Baldur’s Gate 3 continues to surprise us and the game really rewards you for experimentation. Every problem has multiple solutions and paths to take, making it a game we would happily replay.
While making your way through the world of Faerûn, your party will talk with one another, making it truly feel like you’re all in it together – though not always by choice.
Characters that are suspicious of one another, such as Lae’zel and Shadowheart, will openly goad each other - and you frequently have to come between the two in dialogue to keep the group's uneasy peace from descending into a fight. This all serves to make for a very compelling and real-feeling world.
You need to keep everyone in your party happy, or — at the very least – not openly wanting to kill you, which absolutely can happen. In one quest, we pretend to side with a goblin boss and agree to launch a raid on a grove that we had sworn to protect so that we could lure the boss into a trap. This prompts a party member to question just what we were up to and warn us that they will kill us if it went wrong.
Giving each party member this level of agency, allowing them to have their own ambitions, motivations and stakes in the game, helps elevate them from lowly NPCs to fully fledged characters who are interesting, multi-faceted and ultimately flawed in a very human (or humanoid) way.
It’s not all serious, though, as Baldur's Gate 3 takes immense pleasure in being silly - and it’s all the better for it. There are plenty of moments that get a good laugh out of us along the way, including being tricked into rubbing poo on our faces to gain entry into a goblin camp.
Other than when we’re pushing people into pits, the turn-based combat is immensely deep and requires a great deal of planning and management. It is unbelievably satisfying, though, as you progress from barely getting through by the skin of your teeth to taking on mighty owlbats and warlocks – though failure is never far away.
Visually, Baldur’s Gate 3 is quite attractive, and the level of detail is impressive given how big the world is. It’s clearly been a labour of love over the six years of development. In the starting area alone, there is an impressive variety of locales, from ravaged towns to gloriously spooky caverns with otherworldly flora and fauna.
Despite this, during our review period, it would be fair to say that Baldur’s Gate 3 does feel a little rough in some areas. A game this large in scope does mean that the level of polish expected from a more focused and linear game would be an unreasonable ask, but it’s worth noting as it does crop up from time to time.
While cutscenes are generally well-directed, conversations between characters are a bit stiffer, with repeated animations and some odd facial performances – especially from your own character – that feel quite awkward.
Performance is a little patchy at times, too, and we run into a few crashes every now and then, so it’s advisable to save often – especially during combat.
We get stuck in a couple of places, as well, requiring us to fast-travel and retrace our steps, but this is fortunately a very rare occurrence.
This is made up in spades by a compelling plot and most of the writing.
We say "most of the writing" as there are some characters and interactions that feel a bit forced – especially those who can be romantic interests of the player.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is ultimately a fantasy game, but given how the characters feel so grounded in their reality, we find it to be a bit jarring when the dialogue switches to something more akin to a raunchy Dungeon Master’s... well, fantasy.
Intimacy coordinators were involved in the direction of the mature scenes, so it never feels exploitative - just a little hammy.
Ultimately, there is an absolute wealth of unique gameplay, characters and intriguing plots that massively outweigh the shortcomings. Baldur’s Gate 3 is clearly one of the biggest games in years and we're sure to be playing it and discovering more of its rich world for a long time to come.
Baldur's Gate 3 launches 3rd August for PC. The game will come to PS5 on 6th September, with a Mac release also planned.