Ah, my wasted youth. It has been far too long since those days where I could spend hour upon hour wearing naught but my under crackers, accompanied by sugary sweets, caffeinated fizzy drinks and the warm glow of my monitor playing hour after hour of top-down RPGs. That was my 2020, but now that it's over, I feel I should really start making the effort again, but instead, I am continuing to play Baldur’s Gate 3 and here are my thoughts after 5 hours of playing!
Before we get into the detail, however, the game is in an early access state at the moment, so there were bugs and locked off features, which whilst I can understand will be fixed before launch, this is still a game you have to pay for currently and therefore, I will be taking these into consideration.
I am a huge fan of the old school RPG game and have played many a “retro” RPG such as the original Baldur’s, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape Torment and the rest (really showing my age here). Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel were both fantastic games made all the better by the multiplayer element being able to delve through dungeons and slay mighty monsters with your friends at your side; more akin to the DnD experience I crave (especially since lockdown). D:OS was a great game, but was lacking some of the charm of the Dungeons and Dragons experience, so can Baldur’s Gate 3 capture that same feeling?
Anyone who has played 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons should be familiar with many of the options presented in the character creation screen. You first get to choose your Origin. There are 5 presets shown in the creation screen, but you can’t choose any of these currently and are stuck with making a custom origin. I am guessing these will work in much the way they did in D:OS2 (Fane is the best Origin and I’ll fight anyone on Twitter who disagrees).
In the origin screen, you choose a gender, name and Background with only the background having any real effect. What is nice (and you’ll see this throughout) is that these backgrounds are the same as in DnD 5e and grant unique proficiencies and in-game bonuses. Next up is Race which is again limited to 8 familiar options (not quite the 43 available in DnD, but still a nice mix). They are your traditional races and there are some nice sub-races thrown in to for further customisation and again, each has their own inherent bonuses to stats and traits.
Your class is really where you differentiate yourself from your fellow adventurers and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the selection in this early build, especially considering it only goes up to level 4. Only Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock and Wizard are available with Barbarian, Bard (best character class and again, I’ll Twitter fight anyone who disagrees), Druid, Monk, Paladin, Sorcerer and Artificer notably missing. Once you go into the classes, it’s even more obvious just how much is missing as there are a paltry handful of subclasses for each class with some of the more interesting ones having been left out.
Skills and abilities are the final real parts of creating a character with all the standard expected skills & abilities for you to use to just finally tweak your character to give you the exact character you want. Do you want to be a sneaky rogue who can get the drop on their foes and pickpocket even the most tight-fisted of aristocrats? Then pump those points into Sneak and Slight of Hand. What to be a suave Warlock with the charm and guile to deceive even Sherlock Holmes himself? Grab up those extra points in Deception and Persuasion.
You may have thought I accidentally missed it, but you’d be wrong because, yes, the most important part of making any character is coming up. Your appearance! It might not have any material impact on the game, but you’re going to be spending hours looking at this character and you want your avatar to look just as badass as you imagine them in your head. The options for appearance aren’t as in-depth as many other RPGs out these days with no fine detail customisation of things like nose size or jawline, but all the important stuff is there to make your Tiefling Fiend Warlock look just as creepy and edgy as you’d like. Personally, I think they gave just enough options to make it interesting without you getting too bogged down with things like how many freckles or whether you’re circumcised or not (looking at you Cyberpunk 2077).
I’m sure my score would be different if I had more classes and subclasses available (even just those available in the basic Players Handbook), but as it stands, I can only award 2 mage hats.
Ah, gameplay, the unimportant part that comes after having created your character. I will be covering the experience from a multiplayer perspective as I have not played single player, so your mileage may vary.
This is an RPG at its core and with an RPG, the non-combat sections are just as important as combat, so I will be separating the gameplay into 2 parts. I will attempt to avoid major spoilers, but there may be some soft spoilers for minor things in the opening hours, so be warned.
Dungeons and Dragons really shines outside of the combat. Everyone loves swinging their swords and slinging their spells every now and then, but the social aspect is what I personally love the most, so for any game touting the DnD moniker, it had better bloody well make this part of the game fun. Fortunately, what I’ve played so far does seem to do well at translating the social aspect into digital form.
When you’re walking about with your party, there seem to be plenty on-screen to interact with and the environmental story telling is quite good with some nice non-verbal hints at events that have taken place. The starting location is a good example where you’re given lots of mindflayer goodies to interact with and some slightly off the beaten track areas to discover. It’s fairly linear currently with only a few side distractions, but my guess is things will open up later.
You can talk to, hit, zap, blast, shoot or rob anyone or thing you come across depending on your parties morals which is entirely expected having played Larians previous games, but it’s always a welcome addition to this kind of game.
Talking or interacting with NPCs, you get the usual flavour of dialogue choices where the NPC will talk at you whilst you can select options from a list. I like that you can read the whole option rather than a one-word option that ends up with you punching the NPC when all you wanted was an ice-cream. When playing multiplayer, your friends can click to enter the dialogue, however, this does sometimes result in them missing some of it (they can read the log to catch-up, but a minor annoyance). We found that entering another players dialogue was often quite fiddly and did require us to retry a few times and on one occasion, I ended up just narrating the conversation back to the player who couldn’t enter the dialogue. The converse advantage is that someone can be pickpocketing the NPC whilst another talks to them, so silver linings!
Dialogue choice could also be voted on by the non-participating players (and for crowd choice, this would include viewers) which made it easier to see what option others wanted to select. It was, however, the choice of the player who initiated the conversation who had the final say. I like the ability to override the party if you’re talking as it gives that player more control, however, one thing that did come as a slight annoyance was the inability to pass the conversation over to a player with better skills for dealing with it. This led to some awkward moments where our non-charismatic tank was leading the pack in case we got jumped only to end up in a conversation with some Tieflings that our charismatic Tiefling Warlock would have been able to shine. I really hope that they add the ability to swap lead character in conversations because that would improve this aspect of the fame tenfold rather than having to anticipate where a conversation might go with no prior info.
Finally, skill checks! The dreaded D20 (20-sided die) roll that will make or break you. I absolutely love that they added an on-screen D20 for your checks, it’s a small thing but it really makes the skill checks feel more tense seeing the roll. The one nit-pick (and this is a nit-pick) is that instead of adding your modifier to the roll, they subtract it from the difficulty. As I said it’s minor, but I think having the skill check be the same no matter what and seeing your modifier added at the end would add to the tension and better demonstrate the importance of your skills.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has some really nice out of combat gameplay but requires more polish. I can easily see this getting a 5 with more polish, but as it stands, I can only award 4 mage hats!
Ah, the part of the game every murder hobo and vanilla fighter has wet dreams over. Where we finally get to whack, wallop, pew, swoosh, zip, bang, wazzle, wabbalabba…. Sorry, I lost myself there. Where we finally get to put our abilities to the test.
The combat so far is interesting with the common feel of turn-based, isometric RPG mixed with some nice QoL additions. One of those additions is for characters next to each other in initiative being able to act simultaneously. This cuts down massively on the time it takes to get through a combat for multiplayer as one of the issue I had in D:OS2 was waiting for 3 other players to take their turns. It also allows for comboing with other players better too as I can just wait until the rogue has completed their sneak attack before you yeet the goblin off the hill you’re currently on. I also love the fact that you can attempt a non-lethal finisher instead of having to kill everyone you fight.
The skills and spells are familiar from DnD and as this version only goes to level 4, a lot of the more interesting spells haven’t come up yet, so I can only assume the combat will get even better as time goes on and as additional classes and subclasses get added, this can only get better.
This is hard, because the combat is more of the same from other games in its genre with only QoL changes differentiating it in any way. I was going to give it a 2 at first but on reflection, it’s got some things that are above and beyond, so I will grudgingly award 3 mage hats.
Story… What is a story? A tale we tell each other to entertain? A journey into a world beyond our own? In this case, it’s a tale of a creepy tentacle man sticking a leech in your eye! As before, minor spoilers, but as I am only a few hours in, I don’t know too much of the overarching story.
The cutscenes in this game so far are brilliant and in typical RPG style, it drops you right into the middle of events with little in terms of build up relying on you to piece together who you are, where you’ve come from and for the story to build up over time, which I really like. The conversations with NPCs so far are interesting and varied (chatting with an intellect devourer is not something I expected in the first 10 minutes of gameplay) without overstaying their welcome. The cutscenes are well rendered and interesting without being epics of Kojima proportions is again a definite bonus given I’m playing it as a shared experience.
It’s nothing too complex so far, so allows you to watch casually and still understand what’s going on whilst also interacting with fellow players and for this type of game, that is a strength.
I don’t feel I am able to rate the story yet as I am not far enough in, so I will leave this unrated.
Graphics and audio
This is a pretty game, there’s no denying that the concept artists have done a good job at capturing the environments and the ambient audio combined with the detailed environments really help to set the mood of the game for the area you’re in. Textures are high quality (when they load properly) and the shadows are nice and sharp. Models are good with few visible edges, though when zoomed out, things like that are a lot less noticeable.
Facial animations are very nice, you can recognise the emotions of the characters and the voice acting was varied depending on character (with Astarion being a particularly annoying character), but overall didn’t detract too much from the experience.
A big problem with this game is texture pop. There were many times when playing that a low-resolution asset would be used to later be replaced with a higher quality texture and it was very noticeable. This could be down to the early access nature of the game, but it’s a game I have paid full price for, so I am perfectly willing to score it down based on what I can currently play.
The game aims to have a realistic aesthetic and it does a good job for the most part with detailed environments, nice lighting and characters. The soundtrack is good, but not one I’ll be listening to on Spotify on a car ride home. Were it not for the graphical glitches, this would have scored higher, but for now, I will award 2 mage hats.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is overall a great blast from the past that’s has been competently brought to modern audience. I had a lot of fun with the game when playing with friends and once you get into it, you don’t notice the issues as much. The game fits the definition of an early access game with many bugs and missing features. Trying to get into a game together was a pain, the cross-platform multiplayer doesn’t yet work and we had a couple of crashes back to desktop.
Knowing Larian these will very likely be fixed in the time between now and full release, however, at present, those issues are currently in the game, which makes it hard to recommend buying now. If you have friends to play with and you’re ok dealing with some bugs and issues, then you won’t necessarily regret the purchase, but I would strongly advise waiting before playing for the game to be in a more complete state especially as they will hopefully be adding in even more character customisation options.
Overall, I would award this game 3 out of 5.
3 / 5
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