Baldur's Gate 3 Review: So good I kind of want to throw up just thinking about it
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Featured Image Credit: Larian Studios
I was out at the pub one night, when my quiet cigarette in the smoking area was cut short by a bloke slithering up to me and slurring about how incredible and massively underrated The Beatles are.
This one-sided conversation lasted for about 20 minutes - I’m far too polite - and I stood there, silently, as he screeched at me about the songwriting genius of John Lennon and Paul McCartney as if anyone could possibly be on the other side of his opinion.
I’m reminded of this encounter as I sit down to sum up my feelings on Baldur’s Gate 3 after nearly 90 hours of adventuring on PlayStation 5. Like the intoxicated stranger sloshing his pint on the floor as he woozily recalled half-remembered lyrics and continually hammered home the brilliance of the most celebrated band in history, I find myself in a position where anything I have to say will surely only add to the overwhelming din of one unified voice: Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the greatest video games of all time.
You already know this, of course. Baldur’s Gate 3 hit PC back in August and earned itself a mountain of 10/10 reviews, with the overwhelming majority calling it the most important RPG of this generation. Surely, I thought to myself, it can’t be that good. Honest to God, I almost wish I had a contrary opinion just so I had something different to say, but I pretty much just compared Baldur’s Gate 3 to The Beatles in my opening. And given John Lennon once said The Beatles were better than Jesus… well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to my thoughts there.
I was concerned Baldur’s Gate 3 wouldn’t work as well on PS5, the game so clearly being the kind of deep RPG that’s usually designed specifically for PC. Well, consider that a one rolled for insight, because it manages to work on every level, making incredibly smart use of the console’s controller and radial menus to ensure navigation through the world, maps, character screens, and inventories never feels like a chore. It can very occasionally be a little annoying trying to get the cursor to focus on the enemy you want it to during combat, but that’s it. That’s literally the only complaint I have about the game. If you’re reading this article for the negatives, you can stop here, because that’s the only one I’ve got in the chamber.
It’s also an absolutely gorgeous game, from characters to environments. Whether you’re exploring the sun-dappled forests that skirt mighty fortresses and abandoned towns, or delving deep into the terrifying - yet hauntingly beautiful - Underdark, Baldur’s Gate 3 is constantly surprising me with stunning new vistas. Around 20 hours in, after I thought I’d scoured every inch of the Underdark, I stumbled across a village of sentient mushroom folk - and a wealth of new quests and stories along with it.
Perhaps even more impressive is that every single character, from lowly NPCs to towering primary antagonists, look and act like actual people. After playing several hours of Starfield, it was refreshing to play an RPG in which I was never taken out of the moment by a quest-give that looked like a piece of cardboard with a rough approximation of a human face scribbled on it. I’m certainly not the kind of person who believes graphics are everything (and I actually do love Starfield before anyone comes at me), but Baldur’s Gate 3’s motion-captured performances make an incalculable difference to the overall experience.
The PS5 port also launched with all the hotfixes and updates issued during the first month of the PC version’s release, meaning it’s infinitely more polished than anyone had any right to expect for a game of this scope and scale. In 90 hours, I’ve encountered one slightly odd sound bug that was immediately fixed by restarting the game. I can only assume Larian Studios have a wizard or two chained up in their basement, because the fact Baldur’s Gate 3 works as well as it does on PS5 is nothing short of black magic. I say this as someone with well over 100 hours logged on Divinity Original Sin 2 on Switch: this is hands-down the best translation of a game made for PC to console I have ever played.
As I march ever nearer to the 100-hour mark, I think the thing that amazes me most is that I’m already looking forward to starting Baldur’s Gate 3 all over again with a new character and new goals. Every action has a reaction. Every choice has a consequence, be it long-term or immediate. It’s fascinating to see how differently my adventure has played out in conversations with friends, and how sometimes my best intentions in-game can lead to seriously unexpected fallout. And yet, I never find myself reloading or going back after a decision doesn’t quite unfold the way I wanted it to. Part of the fun, at least for me, is rolling with the unexpected and seeing where the adventure takes me.
I’m currently a noble fighter with a heart of gold, capable of talking my way out of most situations, but equally able to stand and fight should the need arise. I’m dating the ultimate goth gf Shadowheart and, in a hasty decision that I know will infuriate fans everywhere, I staked Astorian through the heart when I caught him trying to bite me one night in camp. On my next playthrough I intend to be an asshole bard, and I’ll make it up to Astorian in this second life as we travel the world together and bully our way through the realms.
The sheer number of stories to experience and characters to meet is dizzying. I spent roughly 30 hours in the game’s first act alone, simply because every new path led me down a warren of fresh adventures. While searching for a goblin camp, I ended up falling down a well and just barely fighting off a nest of terrifying giant spiders. While attempting to aid one friend, I took a wrong turn and found myself in the lair of an evil hag. You’ll never see every single quest the game has to offer in one playthrough, of course, but that makes it all the more thrilling.
The beauty of Dungeons and Dragons is that you really can do anything, and Baldur’s Gate 3 has beautifully translated this design philosophy. Like The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom - my other favourite game of 2023 - Baldur’s Gate 3 is content to sit back and give you near total freedom to solve problems. This ranges from obvious tricks, like being able to cast a water spell followed by a cold spell to create a sheet of ice that enemies slip on, to much subtler and more imaginative systems. When I reached the aforementioned goblin camp, tasked with picking off its three leaders, I was able to take a full-on Hitman approach and trick them into a series of hilariously gruesome deaths which could never actually be pinned on me. I could have simply stormed the front door and killed them all if I’d wanted to (and was strong enough), or I could have sided with them and helped them find what they were looking for. The choice is always, absolutely, 100 percent yours.
Then there’s the main cast of characters, and a hornier, goofier crew of idiots you won’t ever find. From my absolute bae Shadowheart to the rizz-drenched wizard Gale, I love each and every member of my party with all my heart. Every single one of them comes with their own fascinating backstory, and watching their personalities and personal goals clash over the course of the game leads to some seriously tough decisions further down the road. If they’re not trying to bang you, they’re trying to kill one another. It’s gloriously dramatic, and the writing and performances are consistently stellar across the board. Whether you’re helping a gnome stage a jailbreak or engaging in fate-of-the-world encounters, every single story, every single choice feels relevant and weighty.
The scale and scope of Baldur’s Gate 3 is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Again, I know I’ve become the drunk bloke in the pub hammering on about The Beatles, but I can’t stop myself. I have gleefully joined the ranks of Baldur’s Gate 3’s evangelical, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In a year groaning under the weight of so many exemplary games, it is frankly astounding to me how much taller Baldur’s Gate 3 looms over the rest of the pack. I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything quite like it again.
Pros: A massive world to explored filled with stories and meaningful choices, incredible writing and performances, hundreds of hours of content
Cons: If I ever think of one I’ll let you know
For fans of: Dungeons & Dragons, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Mass Effect
Baldur’s Gate 3 is available now on PlayStation 5 (version tested) and PC. A review code was provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.
Topics: Baldur's Gate 3