Review-In-Progress : Baldur’s Gate 3 : Natural 20’s

I swear, I blinked my eyes and, all of a sudden, I went from having only a handful of games to play to the constant bombardment of titles that all seem to suit my fancy. Naturally, as the resident TTRPG player here who loves checking out interesting takes on the pen and paper hobby, such as the Lord of the Rings variant I recently reviewed, I only thought it would make sense to take on the task of reviewing what I consider to be my personal pick for Game of the Year, and we still have more ambitious games to come!

As a review in progress, I must limit my thoughts. Nevertheless, I would like to stand on the rooftop and obnoxiously shout about Larian’s prowess, once again knocking it out of the park with Baldur’s Gate 3. Their take on the popular Dungeons & Dragons franchise is one that is incredibly robust and rewarding no matter how you play it or how many characters you make. As I am only a handful of hours into my adventure, my Half-Orc Paladin Wumbo, Drow Fighter Tav, and Elf Warlock Rinzler have all been recreated to unleash their own respective sense of justice and apathy upon the lands. 

With Wumbo as my main protagonist in this story (and the character I spent most of my time with), I have come to accept that he is unlike the persona I crafted in my TTRPG podcast, Copper Piece. In our Horde of the Dragon Queen campaign, Wumbo was an unruly and ungovernable force of power. While he can’t fight a noble for hours on end ’til he realizes that burning the place down so no one gets to stay would be the best answer, Baldur’s Gate 3 does its best to give you a vast amount of choices enabling you to explore and develop your character how you want.

Character Customization

I’m not the only one who has recreated their character to adventure through the Forgotten Realms, as many of my friends and family members brought their imagination to life with the characters they had living in their heads for so long. Needless to say, the character creation tool at the start is robust and filled with tough choices to make, making Baldur’s Gate 3 the ultimate replayable title out there. Sure, the adventure could reach the daunting 100-hour mark, but every type of character you make opens up endless possibilities within your adventure. As much as I have discovered amongst my friends, we have each made our own discoveries with different outcomes thanks to a unique dice rolling system.

I created multiple characters, just like I have with my D&D games. I wanted to explore this system and how it plays to the strengths and weaknesses of each of the classes from the beloved franchise. I’ll say, they are very similar. Larian happened to pick some of the subclasses that best work in this scenario. While Wizards of the Coast continues to expand on the design of the race and class combinations, I hope that we see that coming for Baldur’s Gate as well. 

Larian already spoke to the amount of time that people have spent within the character creation system, going to an upwards of almost an hour, perfecting the look of their adventurer. Of course, the biggest options that will have the largest impact are race and class, aside from the personal aesthetic. 

You have the big races available, and each one can play any of the classes available along with various backgrounds to help add a bit of depth into your roleplaying. These variables also determine what you can do, what weapons you are proficient with, and so on. So it is easy to sit there and min/max your character, optimizing a build to always obtain the best results possible. If you are like me, you embrace the failings of your choices, because not everything is a simple result. I have witnessed three natural 1 roles in a row in the roleplaying aspect. I have chosen poorly in how I respond to some enemies. You can’t out-build poor decision making, and that is something I completely respect. For my optimal enjoyment, I made whatever I could that provided me with a rewarding experience, throwing optimization out the window.

Seamless Battlefield Control

I’ll jump the gun and say that Baldur’s Gate 3 feels much better with a controller rather than a mouse and keyboard. While the hotbar is ready for you at a moment’s notice, it is the direct movement and camera control that makes the controller the better option, which should mark as a huge relief for PlayStation and Steam Deck fans. 

The big downside to using the controller over the mouse and keyboard is losing the amazing looking interface that Larian has crafted. While I do love the bells and whistles they have injected into Baldur’s Gate 3, there is unprecedented fluidity in the controller experience that cannot be beat. 

Everything in the controller option works off of radial menus. Everything short of running and controlling the camera is handled through the actions found within the circular design. The great thing is that they are not limited by how many of these radial menus you can have. They are also designed in the context of your character. Green- and orange-coded commands designate action and bonus actions. When hovering over an option, you see a brief breakdown of what each option does. Due to the nature of the game, you can take your sweet time to gaze upon each one and best decide what to do. 

Spell slots are also displayed, telling you how many you have at your disposal. Spells and other abilities, such as smites, will tell you how many resources will be used when committing to these actions. It is all so seamless, though you must pay attention to what you are doing as you start to develop your flow. For instance, if you are a druid, it is best to look at your bonus actions first and then see what they do. Depending on how you play, you might want to cast sheleighleigh before striking a foe with your weapon. This is because it turns your weapon magical, which is very useful when taking out enemies that might have resistance to standard weapon attacks. But I digress.

Performing actions like “jump” is key to traversal. You’ll need to think about how you maneuver around the environments, both in and out of combat. You’ll also need to consider who you are playing as since each character you can control has varying strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. For instance, Astarian is a rogue with sneak attack. Using the hide ability and then using sneak attack to deal a huge amount of damage is paramount to thinning the herd before jumping into full combat.

When it comes to navigating menus, the mouse and keyboard can’t be beat. While the two different interfaces can change in a hot-swappable style, there is still a delay. Sometimes the system doesn’t fully load up either style, creating some really odd bugs. Aside from that, it is nothing unmanageable. No matter how you play, both options are viable in their own way. 

In the Thick of It

For those who may be itching for a tactical, turn-based combat title, look no further. Baldur’s Gate 3 feels like an experience reminiscent of the old Bioware days where there are two instances of conflict. There is the art of conversation where your charisma and wisdom come into play, allowing you to act and react to the topics that come up. There is a large array of options for which you could retort with, including some options which are available thanks to your class or background. Wumbo had a good time influencing those around him thanks to his status as a charismatic Paladin, despite his negative wisdom modifier. 

When it comes to the actual battlefield, the world seamlessly transforms, rolling your initiative and placing everyone in order instantly. On occasion, enemies outside the battle can notice that there is some foolery about and enter the fray. This immersive style of interacting with the world through the art of violence brings about a deeper and tactical feel, giving me this experience unlike anything I have played before. 

It goes further than just viewing an enemy and using your spells. The environment around you can be used as a weapon. In one instance my party was on their last legs, out of spell slots and low on health; I had to take out one of three bosses in this abandoned and decrepit castle. With quick thinking, I was able to destroy the supports of a bridge, sending my healthy and swift foe down to meet her fate. I don’t think I have ever experienced this type of agency within a game.

After that moment I ventured around the area only to realize that I could have snuck behind her with one of my roguish characters for a quick sneak attack, but watching them fall into the abyss also does the job. As you are reading this, you may have come to the same realization, or you may have your own anecdote that you wish to share (and please do in the comment section below). 

While others may be turned off by the turn-based combat system, it is worth fully exploring and diving into simply because Baldur’s Gate couldn’t work as a hack and slash. The idea of the TTRPG is to provide a sense of agency to the players. While they may be on an adventure that has a linear story, the way you manipulate a story at the table with your dice and character sheet matters more. With limitless options within your mind, there is no fathomable way that you could recreate the endless amount of possibilities in a virtual format. And, yet, Larian did it. 

There are elements of synergy between each class and combat style. There are several build options that you can leverage when leveling up to enhance your prowess in conversation and combat alike. Best of all, it feels natural within the game’s context. Spells in the TTRPG have been manipulated to better suit the style of the game as it’s a virtual experience, and for the better. 

As I mark this as a review in progress, I don’t want to totally show off my entire hand. I don’t want my review to constantly revisit this piece. I also don’t want to say that this is a perfect game right out of the (Baldur’s) gate, but, alas, I would be remiss to say that I am strongly considering it. There is so much heart put into this lovely title. No matter what you play it on, if you enjoy the feeling of playing an old school RPG, you’re going to love this. If you love having your own agency, then you’ll love this. If you love experiencing rewarding gameplay that doesn’t funnel you into specific situations, then you will love this.

Just like the TTRPG counterpart, Baldur’s Gate 3 lives up to the feeling of “Dungeons & Dragons, but a video game.” It is absolutely worth throwing your life away session at a time, learning more about this world that each character inhabits. It feels like a game that Larian made just for me, and I will be playing it over and over again. The last Baldur’s Gate title was released back in 2000, so I fully expect this iteration to last me another 23 years. 

By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

Let Us Know What You Think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: