Baldur’s Gate 3 was supposed to provide over 100 hours of gameplay in a single playthrough. This is awesome news for me – I've always been a massive fan of sprawling RPGs, and I still can't get over how Cyberpunk 2077 turned out to be rather modest in this regard. It leaned more towards being an action game than a fully blown role-play. However, Larian's production follows other trends – it focuses on freedom, liberty, and possibilities. And in all of this, it manages to maintain a very high standard, even though the grumpy part of me has a few complaints.
An unexplored sea of possibilities...
You can really feel the wealth of options from the get-go, right there in the character creator. The developers gave us a variety of races, classes and subclasses, from pre-set creatures to ones invented by us completely – all with their own traits and past. The choice is yours, whatever color you want – it's so bounteous it makes your head spin. And that's the point! With the freedom that the developers give us, comes a certain responsibility, and along with it, the risk of mistakes inevitably seeping through. We're not being led by the hand. Nobody is rushing us either, so why not just spend hours creating our character?
- The story sucks you in from the very first moments…
- ...and gives you great freedom!
- The character wizard is very extensive.
- Cinematic quality of cut scenes and conversations.
- The dialogues are amusing and relaxed.
- Upbeat world.
- The RPG pedigree delivers fun.
- Technical problems.
- Poor romance system and mediocre relationships.
- Easy choices resulting from binary morality.
- Cut content.
You can't check out all possible options in just one go. Individual classes and origin determine, for example, what answer variants will appear in conversations. As a bard, I can, for example, deliver a flowery speech. In the case of narrative characters, they all come with unique storylines that we can explore, becoming their main hero. That's just the beginning, because during the game we make dozens upon dozens of additional choices, determining what the rest of our experience will look like.
This makes each attempt very unique and fresh. There's always the risk that we might get into trouble here and there, but that's what makes it fun. All the tasks big and small put us in front of decisions – from prosaic, whether we will help a tormented character, or lead to her (somewhat spectacular) demise, to major ones, such as taking sides in conflicts of factions. Moreover, there's constant feedback between the world and our character, we get to see the consequences, and we must remember that companions who do not like our decisions, may leave the party.
...yet I still want more!
The flipside – discovered as we spend more time in the game – doesn't look equally fabulous. There's still a myriad of possibilities that overshadows most modern RPGs. But the choices rarely seem to offer dramatic moral dilemmas. And no, I'm not talking about philosophical treatises on a par with Planescape: Torment. Although... why not?
In my opinion, Baldur’s Gate 3 is an enjoyable, engaging adventure, but it seems disinterested in trying to complicate our lives – that's because in its narrative, it often relies on choices based on a clear division of good vs evil. In games, I have strayed from the path of good Jedi for... great love. I have wondered whether to follow a certain elven terrorist, or an honorable commander who has gifted me with freedom and trust. I was deciding the fate of a woman enchanted in a painting and I didn't know what to do with it. But I have not discovered similar experiences here.
On top of that, the fact that being bad doesn't really pay off also makes a big difference. It may be fun, and if someone likes to play like that, they get plenty of leeway, but the moment the companions disapprove of my actions and leave the party, I say "pass." Only after some time did I realize that the loss wasn't that big, because the party we get in Baldur’s Gate 3 is apparently composed of stray swingers. Unfortunately, Larian Studios created a rather shallow romance system and a cast that includes several mediocre characters.
If I had to choose, among the virtual characters with whom I want to swing in the adventure of life, I would choose some of Shepard's friends. I would think about a certain prince and a possessed bard from Divinity: Original Sin 2. I would even consider a robot that constantly refered to me as "meat." Or the flying skull, for a change, calling me "boss." But I wouldn't choose anyone from Baldur’s Gate 3. Don't get me wrong – the companions have (usually) extensive plots, they occasionally comment on things, you can also chat with them in the camp. But to get true sympathy and adoration, you need more – I mainly enjoyed Astarion's ironic comments and the psychotherapy he conducts on Shadowheart.
Besides, since almost all our mates can romance with us, regardless of our gender, we're stuck in conversations where we either have to dump someone, or chat about getting intimate. And, well, too much of anything is no good. Larian went too far for me, since the optimal situation in the team is one where there are also characters to max out friendship with, not romance. The game also poorly signals the initiation of an intimate scene – we activate it unintentionally and when we realize it's happening, we must quickly search for an option that allows us to retreat if we're not interested.
And then the characters don't accept rejection and try their luck again after some time. Clearly, something is wrong with this system of LIs. Despite all that, you can commend the execution of intimate cut scenes, bold display of nudity, the creation of a romantic atmosphere, and the richness of options. It's just a shame that the game doesn't read our intentions properly and there's basically equivalence between "I support you and I like you" with "sit on my face."
Baldur’s Gate 3 really draws you in with its evolving stories and discoverable content. It unfolds a vision of adventure that can only grow in scope. It unexpectedly raises the stakes of events and introduces new, mysterious characters, only followed by new intrigues. Who should we form an alliance with? Whose help will we take? It entirely up to us. In these stories, evil is more interesting – more intriguing. It does not have to pose moral dilemmas, what matters is that it can surprise and excite (more than some teammates!).
The cutscenes that push the story forward are very cinematic indeed. There's plenty of exciting, sudden situations, like getting teleported to another, grand location, to hold a mysterious discussion with a stranger. Hats off! The way conversations and action are presented is important. During exploration and turn-based combat, we have complete freedom over the camera. But then this game also shows all the conversations and events from another perspective, one you'd expect from The Witcher 3, for example. This allows us to see the characters' faces and expressions, as well as admire the dramatic moments such as a dragon attack on the Illithid ship (early on), which looks vevry spectacular.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a great adventure that's fun to be in. I adore this game despite all the potential pitfalls. Its freedom and possibilities really stand out – I think about the only game that could rival this RPG would be Fallout: New Vegas.
There might not be two identical characters in this game, at least I haven't seen and doubles. I have the impression that every creature here is unique and could just as well be our companion. The attractiveness of NPCs contributes to more interest in the story and building a sense of familiarity. You can be sure that some people will remember you and come back – unless they're dead.
The writers, on the other hand, demonstrate their prowess in creating compelling dialogues and weaving humor into the story – not being afraid of showing some more intense stuff, like in a certain... stable, I guess? You might see. I generally enjoyed how free it all is. Of course, pompous, heroic fantasy has its charm as well, but for some time now I prefer a more casual approach to the story and a bit of edge here and there – after all, it's a game for adults, so there's no need to hold back on serious stuff.
More joy than sadness
What I liked less so far was the similarity of the first major location to that of Divinity: Original Sin 2. I had a deja vu and although it didn't affect the rating and the world still captivated me, the visual experience felt somewhat lackluster, nor really fresh. Fortunately, this is a game for about 100 hours, and later stages looked completely different. However, it's worth comparing it further with the mentioned production – both positions opt for a different vibe.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is hitting a more joyful tone. It's hard for me to see this world and events in any other way than entertainment. I get knocked out of immersion, noticing the more decorative, ornamental nature of the story, which may stem a bit from the particular RPG lineage, making even dramatic threads just part of the stage events. Meanwhile, DOS2 had the capacity to overwhelm you with its gloom, the darkness was more dangerous and unsettling, and the tragedies, even small ones, such as a mother looking for her child who was already dead, were quite heart-wrenching. I felt powerless. There are no such emotions here.
Besides, you can encounter various technical problems in Baldur’s Gate 3. My colleague suffered from them more, but as hours passed, I began to experience them too. Different variations of events were also overlapping – as if something got tangled in the history branches. You can also feel the cut content, which could make the final act more interesting, and the ending – more satisfying.
A great, imperfect RPG
The preservation of RPG elements is definitely pleasing. Casting dice that will decide the success of a given action keeps you on edge, and the clashes can really be satisfying – also when you occasionally just persuade your opponent to kill themselves. It's pretty great in these terms! the game could really benefit from faster combat execution, especially since the opponent's AI can stutter, resulting in a few seconds of, apparently, extended deliberation. When there are many opponents, waiting for everyone else to make their move can take quite some time.
But none of this changes one thing – Baldur’s Gate 3 is a great adventure that's fun to be in. I adore this game despite all the potential pitfalls. Its freedom and possibilities really stand out – I think about the only game that could rival this RPG would be Fallout: New Vegas. At the same time, BG3 fails to realize its full potential, it's not presenting a story and characters that I could fall in love with, and can be really cheesy sometimes. After the first few hours, I was hoping for a game to stay with me for years, but now I know it won't happen – it's more of an affair of reason than passion. It was fun while it lasted, but ultimately, this title doesn't have that special something.
Krzysztof Lewandowski | Gamepressure.com