As someone who's played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons over the last few years, Baldur’s Gate 3 has been on my radar since it came out on early access in late 2020 and I was even more eager to get my hands on it when I knew it was coming to PS5. This grand RPG is based on the D&D system and is easily the best interpretation of playing a tabletop RPGs on console that I’ve ever come across. As a game that is very heavily focused on the narrative, I’ll avoid main story spoilers beyond the opening and briefly mention side quests.
Your Adventure Begins
Baldur’s Gate 3 really hits the ground running with the story and quickly gives your character their driving force the campaign, an alien parasite courtesy of a mindflayer (a psionic squid faced monster with an appetite for brains) that is fated to turn you into one of these creatures in a matter of days. You and the companions you meet in the early game band together to find a way to avoid this fate and find a cure, leading you on a grand quest with plenty of obstacles and twists along the way. Alongside this, you will inevitably end up picking up many extra side quests which serve to give you new items, friends, or even other party members. These can vary in size and tone, one moment you might be tracking down a murderer, the next you might be saving people stuck in a burning tavern. A lot of these quests I completed ended up feeding into later encounters, especially in Act 3, and I never felt like a side quest was merely a fetch quest to pad out the experience.
The most impressive thing about Baldur’s Gate 3 is that, like playing D&D or other tabletop RPGs, you are given a lot of flexibility to shape your own story. You could completely reject or even outright kill your potential party members if you really wanted to. Personally, I spent my playthrough focusing on curing myself and helping people in need as that fit the character that I made. You are frequently given multiple options on how to impact the story, right until the game ends. Some of these choices were genuinely difficult and the implications are not always abundantly clear until much later. I do think it would be very interesting to replay as a less heroic character and see how that turns out, although I would struggle to be evil towards the other party members and certain NPCs!
At the start of Baldur’s Gate 3, you design your character’s physical appearance and race before choosing their class, stats, and background. My character was a drow rogue which opened up a variety of extra dialogue options focused on their class and race, which leads to some interesting options when speaking to other characters. I can confirm that rogues quite often like to try and get extra rewards or show off that they know people’s scams! These also apply if you switch to any other party members before engaging in conversation, Karlach the barbarian had some brilliant options whenever I had swapped to her, including shouting “Wake up squidface” to a sleeping mindflayer. The background you pick also makes a difference in how you go about playing your character as picking options that fit it awards you inspiration, a resource used for re-rolling your all important dice rolls.
Roll For Initiative!
The main gameplay loop of Baldur’s Gate 3 consists of exploring various areas, talking to a large variety of characters, and, when words may fail you, undertaking strategic combat. The different areas of the game are all varied and have a lot of hidden secrets that you can uncover. Your stats have a role on this too; your perception and survival will impact if you spot traps or places you can dig up loot, while your history, religion, and arcana can help you spot hidden details or lore about your surroundings.
Dialogue in Baldur’s Gate 3 is hugely important as it determines how you impact the story, make allies or enemies, and potentially avoid a tricky combat situation. As mentioned before, your choice of class and race give you additional dialogue options, but a lot of the choices that can steer things in your favour require you to succeed on dice rolls linked to your skills. For example, if you want to convince someone to help you, you could try to persuade them, use your insight to read their body language, or even read their mind. There’s even spells that let you speak to animals, or people who have died. The sheer variety of options open to you and the impact of these choices is genuinely very impressive.
The combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 is another highlight, with a wide variety of strategic options available to you. During combat, the dice rolls are all automatic and give you the percentage chances of your attacks and spells succeeding so that leaves you to focus on the actions you can take. The classes of your party really give you a great deal of variety in combat, with a good number of magical and martial options. As a rogue, my character’s main tactic was hiding to get advantage on attacks and sniping from the shadows with a crossbow, before getting access to magic after a few levels for some illusion magic. My other party members rounded this out with a melee focus and offensive and support spells. I really enjoyed the strategy elements of combat and it always felt balanced despite me feeling a little panicked during certain boss fights. During the final act, there were several boss encounters that led to me having to do multiple tries and one of these required the rather sneaky tactic of using spells to make a bottleneck littered with spike traps and barriers. However, this does come with the caveat that I have played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and so the mechanics of actions, spells, and saving throws are all very familiar to me. Alongside my main character, I’ve also been playing Baldur’s Gate 3 with my partner on split screen with a second one and we really found the combat tutorials to be lacking for a beginner, with her needing to rely on me for help. We had the game on the easier difficulty to help in the earlier stages and it gives you a bonus to your health and saving throws which really helped her get to grips with it
Throughout my time with Baldur’s Gate 3, I was really impressed with the characters and environments that you encounter. The party members that you can recruit are all quite complex and interesting in their own way and there’s opportunities to learn more about them and deepen relationships. Even my least favourite of these began to grow on me once their story began to unfold. Karlach the barbarian and Shadowheart the cleric were both permanent fixtures in my party, and not just because their skills complimented my characters, but because I found them to be the most likable, although I am quite aware that everyone will have their own favourites! The voice acting for the party was all done brilliantly and really brings them to life. The fourth slot in my group tended to rotate between who had business to deal with and it was really interesting to see how different characters react to who you meet and what you find. In Act 3, one of my party members came across an old friend of theirs and caught up with them, and that’s an interaction that could go completely missed if you chose a different lineup at that point.
There are some less impressive parts about the presentation of Baldur’s Gate 3 and they mostly appeared during the game’s final act. The environment during this section is quite densely packed and so seems to suffer with textures and the occasional bug. I had an interesting fight with someone who turned into a pair of legs, and as wacky as the game gets, I’m very sure this was not intentional. The main other issue I came across was the game freezing on a reward screen, leading to a full restart and redoing an entire section, which was frustrating but nothing game breaking. Playing in split screen also impacts the overall performance, which is to be expected, and it does make the already quite fiddly inventory menu even more condensed.
End Of The Session
If you have ever played or had an interest in trying Dungeons & Dragons, I would strongly recommend Baldur’s Gate 3. The main story is focused and is enriched by the side quests you come across, the combat is deep and strategic, and the sheer range of options you have in going about your adventures really makes this game feel more like a tabletop RPG than other games. If you are less familiar with the tabletop game, then I would suggest playing on the easier difficulty to get you started as it really does help you in combat. This is a game you can easily get lost in and will keep you thinking about for a long time.