I don’t know if I’ve waxed lyrical about Dungeons and Dragons before, but given my adoration of the game, it seems likely. I’m involved in roughly three DnD campaigns at any given time, as a constant rotation of roleplaying games scratches both a creative itch and allows for some great stories to be told with friends. I suppose that’s why I’ve been so excited for Baldur’s Gate 3, a game that was promising to take the system and world I’ve fallen very much in love with and adapt it into what was (probably) going to be an excellent video game going by Larian Studio’s previous endeavors.
I’ll be the first to admit that my expectations were high: The unity of some of the most beloved and well-revered classic RPGs married to the developers behind some of the best modern games in that genre. For the most part, I’m pleased to report that after the ceremony, fans of both entities have been blessed with a truly special honeymoon, one filled with love and respect for the source material and is yet maybe not worth leaping into right away.
I think a lot of people had the misconception that Baldur’s Gate 3 was going to deviate heavily from the mechanical roots on which it was based. Speaking with friends and fans, the general expectation seemed to be that the game was just going to be Divinity: Original Sin 2 but with a DnD flavour, a misconception that becomes fairly obvious the second you start it up.
The appreciation and adoration of the tabletop system Larian is using to make Baldur’s Gate 3 is almost staggering if you’re an RPG nerd like I am. The best aspect of Baldur’s Gate 3 is how open the developers have chosen to be with a system that many often hide from, so that the player may better immerse themself within the game. If you need to roll a perception check, you’re actually presented with a twenty-sided die on the screen, told the target you have to roll above and the die rattles on.
It’s something I began to appreciate the more I played the game; being able to know why I was failing or succeeding at something rather than just being given a percentage and the deciding factor hidden behind the computer. It makes for a more tangible, hands-on roleplaying experience.
Something which is reinforced even further by the game’s storytelling. Firstly, I’ll always appreciate an RPG for including a narrator to serve as a Dungeon Master. It offers a level of explanation and perspective that otherwise might be missed and not having something like that in a Dungeons and Dragons game would have felt very odd to me.
The rest of the game’s narrative unfolds as you’d expect but is fortunately bolstered along by a wonderfully diverse cast of supporting characters that play off each other in the most stereotypically authentic way possible. Hearing a Half-Elf party member chastise me for accepting the help of a Githyanki fighter or hearing Astarion, an elf with some very shady hobbies, squabble and bicker with Gale, a human wizard, it all just reminded me of situations I’ve played through with friends in real life.
The petty little arguments between party members, the tense moments of praying that you’ll roll the killing blow on the enemy, the discussion that goes with leveling up, and figuring out how to improve a character. It all felt weirdly relatable to me, despite the game taking place in the most hardcore fantasy worlds imaginable.
Even better is that Baldur’s Gate 3 actually does something with those compelling characters. I’m not going too deeply into the narrative, mainly because there are some fantastic reveals and the story isn’t exactly done yet (such is the case with early access titles) but I don’t know if there was ever a situation or conversation I had that pushed me to check Twitter while everyone chatted. I was onboard and invested all the way through the first act and I can’t wait to see how Larian continues the tale. Maybe it’s just because I adore Mind Flayers and think they should be in more campaigns. If anything, Baldur’s Gate has convinced me to be the change I want to see in my DnD sessions.
Perhaps the thing that bothered me most about Baldur’s Gate 3 was how overwhelming it can be at times. I suppose one of the benefits to having a DM is that they can explain rules off the fly without requiring players to click through a dozen different buttons to figure out which one is the journal with all their quests. The game doesn’t do a great job of onboarding players, seemingly expecting most people to just understand how most of it works from the get go.
Sure, if you know DnD 5E you’re all set but I pity the poor soul who’s coming into this game without that knowledge. Look, there’s a fairly robust tutorial menu in the game but you’ll have to go looking for it when you need to know something, a process that could be a whole lot easier and welcoming to newer players.
There’s also the expected level of jankiness that comes with an early access title except Baldur’s Gate 3 feels slightly rougher than most. Perhaps that’s just due to the scale of everything. Even this first chunk of the game has a surprisingly large amount of content. Yet it’ll still splutter and stutter when entering a new area, animations for characters and objects just won’t play and plenty of audio clips aren’t in the game. It’s clearly a very early build of the game and if that’s the case then I’m surprised at how playable it is. Just be warned that if you go into Baldur’s Gate 3 at this point in time, you will be met with a lack of polish that doesn’t ruin the experience but certainly tempers excitement.
If that current rough edge is something you’d rather not deal with, I’d recommend waiting a few months. Larian Studios has already rolled out two small patches to stabilise the game a bit but it still needs plenty of work. While what’s on offer currently is a great deal of fun and an excellent start to the journey, it’s difficult for me to recommend it as it currently stands. If anything, the current build of Baldur’s Gate 3 is an excellent indication of what we can expect down the line, a beautiful projection of the excellence that is to follow.
Just maybe wait until the second act drops and Larian addresses some of the bugs and expands on what’s already been put in place. Seriously, give it a few months and Baldur’s Gate could be a monumental success on all fronts.
Last Updated: October 13, 2020