Overall 9.90
My gaming history has plenty of gaps when it comes to the CRPG. Seeing that I am mostly a console gamer and an action game fan, I never played the Baldur's Gate series, the old Fallout, or Neverwinter Knights. My one attempt at BG2 ended in frustration when a bat murdered my entire party 10 minutes in. My CRPG fix came from the Bioware school of make it palatable for console folks and boy did I love it; the choices, the branching stories, but those games still felt there was a layer of complexity missing. Divinity Original Sin 2 was the one that opened my eyes to what a more traditional CRPG should be like, and I adore that game but there were some things that I wish it expanded upon, mainly a larger party with better storylines. Enter Baldur's Gate 3, the latest Larian studio masterpiece, they heard me, they gave me almost everything I could want in an RPG. This game is simply put the best RPG I have ever played, and it seems many others who have played far more RPGs than I agree.

The most important aspect for me with when a game is PC centric is if I can play it like a console game, please give me a controller. Yes, I know many of you will throw up in disgust but hey I feel comfortable with a controller, I don’t want to be tied to a table with keyboard and mouse, I just want to relax and play. You can't do that with any of the older CRPGs, it's a big barrier to me as those games don't introduce its concepts in a way that is natural, instead it expects the player to read a 100 page instruction manual, no thanks. Teach me piece by piece how to play naturally, that doesn't mean dumb it down, I can explore the depths as we go along, and BG3 does this masterfully. Fully playable with a controller (yeah some menu navigation is annoying, but I chose this so whatever) and a game with gameplay systems that are presented logically and at a good pace.

Unlike DoS2, this game uses the Dungeons and Dragons license, it's my first foray into that fantasy world and its rule sets. Dice rolls used to scare me, now I learned to love the dice roll. There is quite a bit to learn but the in-game tutorials give you most of the basics. Everything is governed by the dice, sometimes it's in the background like during combat, but for world actions a big dice will appear on screen so you can have the feel of that tabletop experience. I went from not understanding how D&D works at all to looking up play sessions online, to see how it compares to the tabletop experience and wow they really nailed it about as best they can. The key to the D&D experience is that freedom of choice and adventure, where you can do almost anything and the dungeon master (in this case the devs) must accommodate those actions and boy does this game do that.

It's funny how in the same year two games that allow some of the most free-from gameplay ever, Zelda in the gameplay physics side and BG3 with story choices. I cannot fathom the web of different scenarios the devs had to create. It starts off simple like most games, pick one choice and maybe one character lives or dies and you will find them later on. Ok but then compound that with a whole group of them, decide to aid in genocide of an entire group of people, what happens to all those potential allies not just now but 100 hours into the game. What happens when choices upon choices continually create ripple effects, how does a game keep track of everyone. And these are not simple choices, these are deciding who your enemy will be, where you are allowed to even set foot, your party members might disown you, anyone can die. By the third chapter I was overwhelmed with the possibilities, I have to believe someone else is playing a totally different version of this story. I did perform a few experiments of my own to see different outcomes of major events and I was blown away at how different the mission plays out and what occurs immediately after, I have no clue how that affects what comes 70 hours later. Even the miniscule choices are all kept track of, NPCs I forgot about many hours ago will show up and thank me leaving me asking "wait who are you again?" I have never felt more in control over the direction of a story than I have in this game, I am in awe of the possibilities.

All the choices in the world don't matter if I don't care about the story or the characters in it, in this aspect BG3 is once again top of its class. Not since Mass Effect have I had a party of characters I grew so fondly of, characters that feel like family who I want to protect. They also feel alive, independent, they will chastise me when they don't like my decisions. They will bicker with one another, form rivalries and bonds between themselves. Pretty much all of them are extremely horny and all want to sleep with me regardless of gender or even species, that aspect felt a bit much as one night at the campfire I had four party members try to get me to sleep with them and I had to make a choice. That's an area that can use work, I get romance options are fun but when every party member is basically open to everything they seem to lose an aspect that can make them unique, also lose the whole hard to get part when they all line up like a deli market to take a number to try to bang you.

I like my RPG parties to be mixed with all kinds of weirdos and different creatures. DoS2 had four party members, it was way too basic and lacked that party management aspect I love. Here the cast is massive, 10 potential characters, many optional, one I missed out on entirely (I murdered her before I knew I could recruit her, that's the freedom the game gives you). Most of the focus is given to the main 6 companions you get in the first chapter. All of them are so well developed even though they might seem like standard fantasy tropes. Each has such a rich backstory which gives them all incredible depth. Shadowheart is the quintennial female lead, a high elf cleric who worships the god of darkness, she is no nonsense but noble. I thought she is going to be somewhat of a pain most of this game, and she starts off like that but as she confronts her religion and her repressed feelings those defensive layers peel away to a much more interesting character. All the party members are like this, from the witty mage Gale to the devilish snark of the vampire rogue Astarion, or the sweet innocence of the murdering barbarian Karlack; all these characters are so much fun to talk to and play with. As the game goes on you can recruit the optional characters and these mostly have ties to past BG games. I only wish the fan favorite Minsc came sooner, he shows up VERY LATE in the game which doesn't allow him any real chance to grow as a character. This is one of the greatest RPG casts ever, it is Bioware in quality and as fun and quirky as the best JRPG parties.

The main plot itself is standard fantasy fare, there is some world ending threat and a team of heroes must band together to stop it. Coming from D&D enriches the storylines as they have such deep history to pick from, not just from the previous Baldur's Gate games but from 50 years of D&D. This game does a great job introducing you to who and what you need to know for this specific story. I learned about the mind flayers and their war against the Githyanki. I learned about different levels of hells, about how different gods and religions operate, how magic fits into the world and so on. I found all of this so interesting, which led me down a whole D&D rabbit hole reading about different Dragons, different famous campaigns, famous heroes and villains, different worlds and dimensions. There is so much material to take from and every bit of it is handled with such care in this game, as I started to learn more of the lore of D&D my appreciation of all the small details grew. Every inch of this game is filled with stories whether it's told through the environment, dialogue or notes.

Like many of the best RPGs it is not even the main quest that delivers the best stories, though compared to most RPGs this one has one of the better main quests I've played, the side stories are so memorable especially when they are tied to your party members. I have battled demonic hags who have tried to use a small girl to transfer their mind into her as a new host. I have made deals with literal devils and paid the price of trying to break those deals. I've discovered trap filled tombs which hold ancient curses and of course great loot. The more complex ones branch off of the main quest giving you so many options, entire communities can live or be destroyed by your actions. The final act in particular puts so many compounding decisions one after another, I was feeling the pressure of so many factions and characters I care about pulling me in different directions, to give the player choice is one thing its making it feel like it really matters that is the key and not many games achieve that. I loved all the twists and turns of the main quests and the wild shocking moments of side quests. There are moments of humor, love sadness, grief, wonder, awe, it spans all emotions while telling great stories that never feel too stoic, never too comical, it walks this fine line of a world that has a sense of humor but can still be taken seriously. It's a masterclass in storytelling for video games.

Story and choice are top notch, but that is just one half of the equation, the other is the most important to me, how it plays. The only reason I can play this game is because its turn based, I can't do real time CRPGs. Turn based allows the combat and scenarios to play out like a strategy game with loads of crazy powers and emergent gameplay. Divinity 2 had this in spades, incredible reactivity to the game world, that returns with even more options.

This game makes other games seem basic in comparison. It's funny at first I wasn't too enamored with the way magic and combat was playing out in act one. D&D rules have stringent action and magic rules which limit the actions a character can take to just a primary action and a secondary one. If you use magic you lose a magic point for that level which at the start might just be two or three points, those aren't coming back until you long rest. Long rest isn't something to take lightly, you can't do it in a dungeon and when you do the story advances and certain situations might play out without you. I felt my beginning teams were so limited, fights were feeling basic because of them. Divinity 2 introduced environmental interactions relatively early and often, I feel they were a huge part of the combat scenarios. In BG3 the spells and skills you gain as you play let you create the environments and combos; yes plenty of locations still have objects you can use like of course an explosive barrel. The game doesn't overly rely on those scenarios so it doesn't feel like there is one correct way to play out the fights, I saw the beauty in this the further i went along the game. The combat keeps evolving to the point where it's laughable that I thought it wasn't as interesting as Divinity 2, this game is magnitudes more complex.

To fully describe the breadth of options for the player one just has to read the class listings, of which there are twelve. As you level up those 12 they each split into three different sub classes. On top of that you can take on multiple classes, as many as you like, you can mix and match all classes and create some wild hybrid that might be OP or useless. I can make a warrior that dabbles in wizardry specializing in enhancing spells. I can be rouge monk, sneak up to enemies and then punch them to death. In this game every character can only reach level 12 which sounds low but every level is such an improvement. You know the game will change with each level increase, it's not some random number that just goes up and leaves no impact on the game. Here you will gain multiple new skills, new spells, new spell slots, new spell levels, perks and more. What starts off very limited in the actions you can do expands in so many various ways. Many classes have the ability to attack multiple times per turn, on top of the ability to gain a full action letting you hit again, well what if you have haste on as well that's a third attack, now I can hit an enemy about 6 times in a row. New ways to regain spell slots emerge, never enough to make spell casting wasteful, you better save those high-level spells for the right time in the fight, but at least you can be casting spells constantly during a fight and not run out. On top of all your skills there are a plethora of items that can enhance your character. I suffered from the usual item paralysis many do where you never use your items cause you want to save them for when you need them, which means it's the final boss and now you have 100000 buff potions... I actually had to use them all throughout the third act, especially haste potions. There are also spell scrolls which let you cast a spell with any action, and anyone can use it, that's a huge game changer to have.

Options, options, options, it is the name of the game, you decide how you want to fight, what strategies to implement, its pure gameplay freedom. This is one of those games where you just try things to see if it works and holy shit it does! Have a barbarian, odds are they can throw enemies around or objects. I was on a bridge once and this big armored dude was coming at me, has lots of health, well I just picked him up and chucked him off the bridge. Mages can create ice walls trap hordes of enemies behind it while another can set a blade tornado spell constantly damaging those trapped enemies. There are plenty of skills that let you manipulate enemies, you can create illusions to have them inspect a certain area perfect for traps, or just take over their brain if you are powerful enough. So much can be done even before battle has started using invisibility spells or morphing into different animals as a druid, sneaking into areas with only one enemy around to thin the numbers before the fight even begins. It's not just environmental combos that can work beautifully but the gear and perks of your character which can create wild synergies to make you an unstoppable killing machine. Loot in so many RPGs feel so useless, while there is a lot to collect here, you will still throw away a bunch of gear but only because it doesn't fit for your current play style, each gear has a use if you were going for that skill. I turned my Gale into Raiden god of lightning by giving him gear which charged him with lighting charges with every action, allowed him to be immune to all lightning damage and letting him turn all water electrified by just standing in it. I always had a constant charge and was blasting enemies with chain lighting. I had my other characters use spells to move enemies into position and Gale light a whole row of them up into a crisp. There is an absurd amount of skills and actions you can do, this feels like the X-Men game I always wanted, at some point you can learn to fly so I'm hovering around the battle field creating lighting and tornados like Storm, others are taking over enemies minds like Prof X, I'm launching objects at enemies with my mind like Magneto.

Now a game can give you all this freedom and have repetitive boring fights forcing the player to "make their own fun", thankfully they don't do that. Every single encounter, every location, every NPC, it seems like every single moment of this game is hand crafted to give the player a new situation to work through. There are no junk mobs, no copy pasted activities all over the map, it is all curated and it is HUGE. How?! How can I be 200 hours in, and I am in a wild dungeon playing a deadly game of chess for a puzzle which uses my spells to move the pieces and that is unlike anything else in the game before it. The game world isn't close to the size of these massive open world games, this game is broken into smaller areas but every 30 steps there is something of note and not a fetch quest, if there is a quest it's going to be good. If it's a battle it is going to be interesting whether its stumbling into a spider's nest and babies sprouting from eggs all around you or accidentally triggering a curse in a graveyard and hordes of zombies burst out, every situation is so well done. Oh and the dungeons! A bunch of games are fine with loads of hallways and enemy encounters, here there are multiple ways to approach a dungeon, sometimes you can skip huge chunks of them.

One of the early ones that I had no business being in at such a low level was this lair of a hag. You have to overcome an illusion to gain entry and then descend a trap invested lair which goes down down down. I used certain spells to let me bypass many of the traps like feather fall and super jumping which let me land from great heights and not take damage, so instead of going through the traps I just leaped down into the chasm. The problem was my whole team couldn't use those spells, so some had to go the long way, I used my advance team to find ways to disarm some of the traps and clear the way; then all kinds of ambushes happened which took a bunch of my spell slots to deal with. I reached the boss not at full strength, like many bosses in the game this had all kinds of unique elements to it, for this one a maiden trapped in a cell hanging over a pit, its being held by a rope that gets on fire and has two turns before it snaps. This hag can make fake versions of herself all over the map, I need to use a water spell to shut down the fire, let's just say the first go didn't go well for me. So I reloaded and now I had a gameplan, I snuck around the area before the hag was aware of my presence and set my team up so when the fight started every one had a clear goal, one to save the maiden, one to immediately dispatch the clones and another to stun the hag, plan worked to perfection. That entire section had me problem solving step by step, it was not some mindless location, the entire game is like this.

There are thrilling moments where entire structures are going to collapse, and your entire team only has a few moments to escape. Prison escapes where you can only save so many people in so many turns, trying to save everyone is like a gigantic logistics puzzle. Dungeons filled with trials that test all kinds of skills from stealth to knowledge, to brute strength. And again, I cannot stress how many options you have, not just in the free form gameplay which lets you approach and handle any situation in a variety of ways, but simply talking to NPC characters can drastically change the outcome of any situation. I managed to convince an entire kitchen staff of werewolf creatures to turn on their masters because they were actually being used, so when the revolt started, I had a werewolf army burst out of the kitchen. There are so many amazing situations, memorable encounters and deeply unsettling choices to be made all the time.

I must talk about the boss battles, many devs will just pump some enemy up with a huge health bar and big damage and call it a day, not Larian. Like the aforementioned hag battle, these fights have layers to them, they have different variables which test your teams in various ways. In the great forge there is this massive iron golem that comes alive to protect it. This area was circular with a gigantic hammer in the middle that would crash down to forge an item, around the circle the area would constantly fill with lava. This golem was immune to almost all attacks but blunt damage, so I got my barbarian, gave her a hammer and used my teammates to buff the shit out of her and have her attack nonstop, literally brute force it. It worked for me but then I thought, wait a minute that seemed messy, there must be something else I could do. Turns out I could have activated the giant hammer lured the golem into it and let it come crashing down for an instant kill. There are bosses where certain party members are about to be scarified or need to be saved or lost forever creating complex scenarios where you need to keep the enemies at bay while doing the actions that need to be done to save your compatriot. From gigantic undead dragons to powerful vampires and all kinds of wild things in between the games bosses always surprised me and tested me in the best ways.

I am going to cop out and not give the game a perfect 10 but a 9.9 and I guess i should explain why. When I think of my 10s they are my absolute favorite games ever and this game is near that list, but I don't think it surpasses any of my all-time favorites and part of that could absolutely be genre bias. The few negatives I can think involve the presentation and scope of the game. While graphically this game is really good looking for a Larian game, it's a huge step up from Divinity 2, with better models and environments that are detailed enough to be played from a near behind the back camera rather than top down. Every character is now fully voiced, they went above and beyond to make this world feel alive. That said when the cutscenes happen and it's supposed to be a big action moment it feels like I am watching a bad school play. The animations are extremely stiff, camera work and cuts are almost nonexistent. I love to be wowed by spectacle, its why I love Final Fantasy so much, that gives me the HOLY SHIT setpieces. If this game had those moments, even just like two of them, in the way that gets me excited it probably pushes it over the edge for me. Sadly I was always reminded that this is a lower budget game in graphics and presentation. The next issue I had is the scope of the adventure felt limited to a small region. This is the same structure as Divinity 2, three acts, each act is one location, and they are all sort of close to one another and you basically don't ever go back and forth between them. On one hand this keeps the game focused, that's great, but I feel I lose the sense of a globetrotting RPG adventure. Coming from a JRPG background those are my favorite kinds of quests, when the whole world opens up and I am on an airship exploring a magical new world for secrets. This never feels like exploration, the area is small and so dense with things every few steps, I didn't find that on my own, I was always going to see it on my way to my next objective. There is a lot that you can miss in BG3 for sure, tons of it is optional but I wouldn't call it exploring or finding secrets and I like that in my RPGS.

I have read online that many people criticize the third act for being rushed and not as well made as the first two. I don't get that complaint; I think the third act is the strongest of the three with by far the most intense consequential choices to be made. The final dungeons are also very well done, it has the strongest boss battles of the game. The city itself is amazing to behold, they pack it with things to do and explore. Yes, I could see sections where something more was clearly supposed to be there, but the game is huge already, a few missing quests is ok.

I already mentioned the graphics, a huge step up for Larian and for games like these which usually don't get the AAA treatment. I love the new camera system, not always being isometric view really allows for immersion. I want to give massive praise to the music which has a very beautiful recognizable theme that has many variations to it as you play. Fully voiced songs appear, and they are well done, some are soothing, and some are surprising. The best one happens during a boss fight where out of nowhere the boss has a whole Disney style bad guy song during the fight, I was overjoyed. The voice cast is tremendous, I feel bad for the amount of dialogue they had to speak, I hope they were paid well. Oh, glitches or lack thereof. Games this complex always come with issues, it's natural, that said compared to most other games of its kind and other games by much bigger studios which I won't name names, this game is relatively bug free and functions so well considering there are like a million ways it could break. Now I did play it a few months after release, maybe some big bugs were ironed out, who knows, for me it was relatively smooth. Yes I had multiple crashes, once maybe every 60 hours, ohhh I restarted from my recent save no big deal. If there was ever an argument for early access this game is it, I am almost certain that the years of testing early access gave this team allowed them to make such a relatively glitch free game that has all its complicated game systems working in perfect harmony.

Baldur's Gate 3 is a masterpiece of the highest level, top of the genre, a new standard by which every other RPG will be judged by. The freedom of its gameplay is breathtaking, its level design is top notch and the storytelling pushes player choices and consequences to its limit. I feel I can play this game again and see 50% of new scenarios and having alternate storylines playing out. I missed out on an entire party member because she didn't align with my good guy run, that is waiting for me. Oh I didn't even touch multiplayer, yes you can play this entire game with friends, it's crazy! I am the type of player that loves to play a game and move on, 100 hour games test my patience, and this one never did. I played for about 3 months straight, took a small FF break, but went right back to it. Night in and night out waiting for my chance to jump back into the world of D&D, never bored, always surprised at what I was playing. There isn't any more I can say, it is a must play and the best game to come out in over a decade.
Posted by Dvader Fri, 03 May 2024 05:24:01
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