I disappeared from the world recently. Baldur's Gate 3 momentarily flung me out of spacetime, and I feel like a fish in water in its fantastic wilderness. I see a whole lot of goodies – some of them come from the root of the series and system affiliations (it's the best adaptation of D&D to date), some of it is the legacy of the mechanically related Divinity: Original Sin, and the rest has been completely unexpected, belonging to BioWare's Mass Effect and Dragon Age heritage.
So I received an amalgam of a familiar RPGs, from which – paradoxically – a truly unique title crystallized. The uniqueness of the new Baldur’s hits me every day and every night on the screen of a vintage laptop. Fortunately, this is originality coming from narrative brilliance, emergence and exploration, so I don't need graphical bells and whistles to be happy. The Forgotten Realms in the Larian Studios edition reminded me what a real gaming adventure is all about. It doesn't need adrenaline, it doesn't need numerous plot twists –the constant trance of discovery is enough.
I'm discovering – like a true archaeologist or treasure hunter, like Indiana Jones in his prime, before the times of bitter retirement. I dig up chests that have been sealed for decades, craft weapons in old forges, find powerful items in forgotten tombs, and once in a while wake up an ancient evil. The only thing missing is the Holy Grail. And although this whole frenzy of looting, licking walls and rummaging through skins provides a lot of fun, this isn't exactly the kind of adventure I'm talking about when I speak of staying in a trance and constantly feeling surprised.
The greatest strength of Baldur’s Gate 3 lies in its freedom and diversity. If you combine these two elements, it turns out the player has full freedom in how they explore the world of many genres, conventions, histories and mysteries. In the middle of one quest, we may come across another one, then a third, and then a fourth on top of that, still not having even solved the first one. Suddenly, from a cozy, forested grove, we arrive in a primitive goblin village, only to descend into the darkness and giant mushroom-covered Underdark in the next few minutes. The game constantly draws our attention with new attractions, it's natural to want to know everything at once and it’s incredibly difficult to overcome the FOMO that comes with it.
There's so much content here, and I'd love to test the scriptwriters and game designers from Baldur's Gate 3 knowledge, because I'm sure they'd have considerable troubles with it, forgetting some of the stories, and failing to remember all the implications of a given confrontation or dialogue scene. Especially since all this jumping from flower to flower, from story to story into a others, from a weighty main quests to side stories that drag on for hours – you can lose yourself in it and forget. The “story within a story” nature of this plot and journey further enhances the sense of participation in all of this. We feel, as players, empowerment, freedom, but also respect for the presented world.
That's why I am happy that I get to know BG3 from a different perspective every day. One day, it takes me several hours to get through a dungeon laden with enemies and arcade-logic puzzles, the next day, the RPG turns into a third-person immersive sim in which there are several different ways to get into a dungeon cluttered with rocks, and other times any mechanical gameplay features fade into the background as convention takes the fore. That's why I felt a constant sense of dread for a single night, as the game changed its tone, morphing into a somewhat Lovecraftian and, bit by bit, Burtonian horror movie with up to 20 minutes of dialogue, and the next day I was watching something straight out of a Venezuelan soap opera mixed with visual novel, deciding with whom to establish a deeper relationship, whom to give the trash to and how to get into polyamorous relationships unscathed.
I love the cinematic(ish) experience
The above experiences are intensified by something I wouldn't typically expect from a classic cRPG – interactive cutscenes. Well, I don't know about you, but I've always treated Planescape: Torment, the older Fallouts and Baldur's Gates like books adorned with isometric perspective. I absorbed their content and atmosphere, but approached the adventure with quite a distance, which was also influenced by the camera perspective. I felt like a creator, an observer, something like that. Baldur’s Gate 3 quickly bridges the gap and becomes one of the most immersive RPGs I've played.
That’s all because of the mentioned dialogue cutscenes – there’s a whole lot of them, so each interaction with a character, animal, and sometimes even with a dead thing we observe closely, noticing a range of gestures and nuances, and listening to some great voice acting. Suddenly, from bird’s perspective, we switch to behind the main character's shoulder. We feel the proximity, naturalness, and vitality of all these lands and situations.
And, after all, I haven't yet added the fact that during exploration we also have the possibility to zoom in quite a lot, rotate the camera and look at the objects more closely – and these are full of details. I was quite surprised when, while exploring something like a psychiatric hospital, I noticed boards with drawn plans for human experiments – only clearly visible after adjusting the camera angle. We explore the world of the game far and wide, from a distance and through a microscope. There’s nothing hidden from us, if only we decide to be attentive, to look and to search.
So I can see what kind of resources Baldur's Gate 3 uses to put a smile on my face with every session. However, I still don't know what to expect next, and after all, the titular Baldur's Gate is still looming before me. Already, however, the cloak-and-dagger nature of the story, the variety at the level of gameplay, exploration and conventions, and the immersion-enhancing cinematic nature make this work of art not one of many, but rather one in a hundred experiences. That's why I hope that after I return from exile, the world will forgive me. Or at least will understand. Or... at least I’ll be granted a defensive dice roll.
Karol Laska | Gamepressure.com