Cinelinx’s resident Dungeons and Dragons nerd Becky dove headfirst into Baldur’s Gate 3 on PS5 to see what all the hype was about.
As much as I love RPGs and Dungeons and Dragons, I initially didn’t follow the development of Baldur’s Gate 3. As my gaming experience was limited in my younger years, I’d never experienced the first two games in the Baldur’s Gate series and let’s be honest, it can be hard to get hyped for a threequel if you’ve ever experienced the first two entries.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Developed by: Larian Studios
Platforms: Playstation 5, PC, Mac OS
Release Date: August 3, 2023 (PC), September 6, 2023 (PS5)
Then the game released on PC on August 3 and the reviews started pouring in, and I , along with everyone else, realized that something special had been released into the world. After impatiently waiting for the game to reach early access on the PlayStation 5, I jumped in at the first opportunity to experience the phenomenon for myself. For this review, I played the game on PS5 and used Explorer Mode. As near as I could make out, this was the game’s equivalent to story mode.
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes place in Faerun, the world of the Forgotten Realms. The player enters the story as a random person taken captive by a mind flayer aboard their ship. After escaping, the player finds out they’ve got a big problem: the mind flayer has infected them with one of their young and it’s a race against time to find a cure before the being takes over and kills them.
How the story goes from there depends entirely upon the player. Baldur’s Gate 3 features a story with numerous branching options that can change things entirely depending on what the player does or does not do. On that note, I need to make it clear that this review is only scratching the surface of what Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer. There is far more going on in this game than what can be covered in a review, so be aware that what is being described is far from comprehensive.
Where Baldur’s Gate 3 really excels is in the overall gameplay. The system essentially brings the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons to life. As the characters explore, skill checks are automatically rolled based on what is encountered, with the results depending on whether the check succeeds or not. I think the game developers made the right call by making most of these skill checks an automated process; it still feels like Dungeons and Dragons, but it doesn’t slow the game down.
Equally as engaging as the exploration is the combat. As you might expect in a game based on Dungeons and Dragons, Baldur’s Gate 3 uses turn-based combat, with the combat order indicated at the top of the screen. While I have no complaints about the combat system, this is where things will get tricky depending on how much knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons one already has.
It quickly becomes apparent that strategy is needed during combat, as each character can only move a given amount during each turn, along with making one attack if they’re in range. This means the player really has to think about who they want attacking each enemy before they commit to it. There’s also a lot of combat options to choose from, and it might be hard to know what’s available if you didn’t pay attention during your most recent leveling up, for instance. Fortunately, the game doesn’t pressure the player to hurry up and decide, which will be great for players new to D&D mechanics.
Speaking of gameplay, the game does have a semi-useful feature, though it may not be what the game developers intended. Assuming the player has manually saved on a semi-frequent basis, if the player finds themselves in over their heads in a fight, the game makes it easy to reload an earlier save and thus find a way to avoid that fight entirely. An important thing to remember in Baldur’s Gate 3 is that many of the fights are completely optional and there are often ways to sneak around and avoid them.
Character Creation Galore
Outside of the stellar gameplay, my favorite part of Baldur’s Gate 3 might just be creating my character. There had been a number of jokes made about how in-depth the character creation process is when the game first launched for PC, and having now experienced the process on PS5 I can assure you all the stories are true.
Character creation in Baldur’s Gate 3 is insanely detailed. There are a number of races and sub-races to choose from, each with their own distinct look and traits. Add on top of that the numerous classes to choose from and their respective sub-categories and it’s no wonder some have reported spending hours on character creation alone. And this isn’t being reported as a bad thing either. Having such a detailed creation process allows the player to build a character that truly feels unique and their own. In fact, I suspect if you told five players they each had to make an elf ranger, for example, they would all look completely different from one another.
You should absolutely feel free to go wild in character creation and make your character your own, it’s absolutely worth it in the long run.
A Lot of Options- Not All Required
One thing players will quickly notice is that there are a lot of side quests and tasks that become available even in the opening hours of the game. It can honestly become overwhelming to look at the journal and see just how many things can be done.
Permit me to share a word of advice, especially if you’re new to this game: do not feel obligated to complete every side quest, especially on a first play through. Yes, the side quests do add flavor to the main story, but they are by no means required. So if you ever begin to feel bogged down by side missions, don’t feel bad about moving on with the story.
Also, with all the options to choose from, try not to overthink whether or not you’ve made the “right” decision or not. The story of Baldur’s Gate 3, as mentioned before, is designed to branch in any number of directions, meaning there really is no “right” or “wrong” way to play out the story. Remember, there is always the option of starting a new play through with a new character, allowing you to try other story options.
Just Have Fun
As mentioned at the beginning, there is way more going on in Baldur’s Gate 3 then can ever be covered in a single review so I will end by saying that this is easily one of the greatest video games I’ve ever seen. One could easily spend the next year playing nothing but this game and not have to worry about running out of things to do. The game runs incredibly well on Playstation 5 and is an easy contender for Game of the Year.