Much of my teenage years was spent on the old classics of fantasy computer games – Diablo II, Warcraft (before there was a World of) and Baldur’s Gate II.
The latter always held the fondest spot in my heart for its complexity and loving detail. Hearing Baldur’s Gate III was finally being released therefore led to almost unbearable levels of excitement, mixed with a healthy dose of trepidation.
Would this be an overwrought, sad attempt at capturing previous magic? Was there such a thing as too many cooks?
Turns out I need not have worried. Baldur’s Gate III has occupied 55 hours of my life at the time of writing, and it feels like I have barely touched the sides.
The storyline is engaging enough to want to follow it, but not so overwhelming as to detract from the myriad of side quests.
Much like the recent Dungeons & Dragons film, this is a game made by D&D nerds for D&D nerds and yet it manages to be universally appealing by not expecting the player to have deep knowledge of its underlying lore.
The visual dice rolls replicate the thrill of physical tabletop gaming surprisingly well and a close pass is exhilarating.
The game encourages and rewards clever solutions to problems: do you keep hitting your foe with your sword or can you set fire to the bridge they’re standing on, sending them plummeting towards immense fall damage? Will you walk into that ambush, or do you happen to have cast Talk to Animals and chatted to a blue jay who warns you of your impending doom?
More fundamentally, do you side with the ostensibly good folks or the bad folks? The many, many choices are yours and no two playthroughs are the same.
I have had plenty of conversations with other players where we both discover encounters the other hasn’t had, despite both of us thinking we had combed every inch of that region of the map. Your character’s choices also have actual, tangible consequences much later – the small ones as much as the big ones.
Much has been made online of the various companions the player can recruit to their party, especially Astarion, the suave High Elf with questionable morals.
While he’s the crowd favourite, most of the available companions are entertaining and well fleshed out, with unique characters and engaging backstories.
But it’s not just the origin companion characters who are well crafted; NPCs of all levels of importance are fun, extremely well voice acted and rewarding to interact with.
My particular favourite so far is an Ancient Giant Eagle who, upon talking to her with magic, has the primmest Morningside accent and attitude.
The voice acting in general is outstanding and beautifully diverse in accents. Players are guided through the game by a fantastic female narrator who truly feels like a GM at your table, making sardonic comments when your dice roll was abysmal and giving away just enough information if it was good.
The one caveat for me is that this is a very big game with very big saves. If you’re at the lower end of the required computer specs saving and loading will get significantly slower as you make your way through the story, so make sure you have the most powerful platform you can get your hands on to play.
From callbacks to previous games to classic D&D monsters, Baldur’s Gate III is unquestionably a love letter.
It proudly showcases and celebrates all that is best about gaming, be that computer or tabletop: collaboration, diversity, creative thinking and the joy of playing. I don’t think I have spent triple A money on a game this good since The Witcher 3.
Baldur’s Gate III is currently available on PC and PlayStation 5 from £49.99
Feature Image credit: Larian Studios press kit