Baldur’s Gate 3 has absolutely taken the gaming world by storm.
It’s probably a safe bet that your social media feeds, like mine, have likely been flooded with people singing this game’s praises.
And those praises are most certainly well-deserved!
Having spent over 80 hours (and counting) in Baldur’s Gate 3, I figured it’s only appropriate to share my thoughts about this, frankly, incredible game.
However, I also want to touch on what Baldur’s Gate 3 means to us here in the TTRPG space.
There might be some light/minor spoilers, but I will try to avoid them.
With that said, let’s get into it!
A Long Wait
Let’s start by turning the clock back. Way back.
No… even further…
In fact, we’re going all the way back to the year 2000.
Having survived the end of the world (I can’t stress how real some people took the Y2K scare), September of 2000 saw the release of the sequel to one of the most beloved D&D games to date: Baldur’s Gate.
When I was but a wee gamer, I spent countless hours playing and replaying both of the Baldur’s Gate games. I couldn’t wait for the next release!
But a proper follow-up never came and I would eventually move on from my beloved Baldur’s Gate games…
Sure there were some decent follow-ups like the Dark Alliance games (which I did also enjoy) but they didn’t quite scratch that itch in the same way.
But in 2019 we finally got the epic trailer for the third “proper” entry in the Baldur’s Gate series. Larian Studios (the studio behind the cult classic Divinity: Original Sin games) would be helming this.
A Lofty Goal
To say that expectations for Baldur’s Gate 3 were high would be a gross understatement.
I mean, this is an entry with 20+ years of anticipation behind it that is also being released into a market filled with AAA video games that have set the bar of expectation for video games incredibly high.
Sure, there are several stories of “The Little Game That Could” but for every one of those titles how many more lie buried in the Steam graveyard?
Furthermore, Baldur’s Gate 3 is also being released into a market with the most D&D players ever.
Let’s be real: it’s only within the last several years that we TTRPG players are “the cool kids” now!
So, with a colossal fanbase of both D&D and the old-school Baldur’s Gate games in addition to a market full of video gamers looking for the next big title, the potential impact here is simply incredible.
They Actually Did It?!
So now we get to the present where it seems that everybody is obsessed with Baldur’s Gate 3 regardless of whether they are a D&D player or not.
In fact, WarGamer reports that Baldur’s Gate 3 is expected to earn more than an entire decade of films combined for Hasbro.
All the while, Larian Studios has completely bucked the trend of so many video games these days by releasing *gasp* a full game. They aren’t nickel-and-diming fans with endless DLC that puts core parts of the game behind paywalls as a way to dig deeper into fans’ wallets.
In fact, fear of such an approach is why I never even bothered with the Early Access version of the game. (I’ve been burned too many times before with such approaches…)
It’s hard to imagine any real ways that Larian Studios could have better stuck the landing for Baldur’s Gate 3.
I mean, it’s hard to argue against the results of a game that has sold over 5 million copies in less than a month!
This release oozes passion and captures everything that I love about D&D and perfectly brings me back to those old days when I would obsessively replay the first two Baldur’s Gate games.
Of course, that’s very much the expectation with Baldur’s Gate 3 as well.
I don’t know that I expect to achieve each of the game’s 17,000+ possible endings. I might cut it out at a reasonable number.
You know… something like 2000.
What I Like About Baldur’s Gate 3
Right from the very beginning, Baldur’s Gate 3 gets its claws (err…. Tentacles?) into you and doesn’t let go.
It definitely does this with the story, but even when you’re just making your character you’ll find yourself completely immersed in the options presented by the character creator.
As you start into the story, you’re immediately gripped by what’s happening while also given plenty of room to explore the things around you.
You’ll also immediately learn that your performance on relevant skill checks and the decisions that you make absolutely do have an impact on how the story progresses.
Much like with a tabletop game of D&D, the choices that you make in BG3 are incredibly important.
But it’s not just enough to make choices. Where Baldur’s Gate 3 really shines is by visibly showing you how your decisions have an effect on the world around you.
At the risk of sounding too academic, this “realness” is what we call verisimilitude and it’s a hugely important part of the D&D experience.
Sometimes there are minor rippling effects that stem from your decisions. Sometimes they are much bigger than you even realize. But, either way, they are always important and “real.”
This is the power of Baldur’s Gate 3’s narrative. The game lays out the plot points, but there are seemingly countless ways that you can connect them.
Even in minor details that you can find as you poke, prod, and otherwise explore your way through the game’s world, it feels fundamentally “alive.”
For the most part, mechanics work in Baldur’s Gate 3 exactly how they work in D&D 5e. With few exceptions, the mechanics and gameplay are something that any D&D 5e player will naturally take to.
We know it. We love it.
The 5e system forms the framework for Baldur’s Gate 3 to set the stage for an immersive and simply awesome experience.
Larian Studios didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here and that’s a very good thing.
No video game will ever be able to match the literally infinite number of ways that a roleplaying interaction can go in D&D. After all, even if you’re given an insane number of options, you’re still limited to what has been programmed in the game.
But there’s still a clear “freshness” to the interactions in Baldur’s Gate 3.
Interactions with NPCs feel dynamic and the game does a great job of encouraging you to roleplay your character.
For example, I’m playing as one of my beloved characters in my main playthrough: a Drow Open Hand Monk.
The “default” dialogue choices give good options for roleplaying. However, some special options open up because he is a Drow or because he is a Monk. Still, some other options open based on certain social skill checks like Persuasion, Deception, or Insight.
I’m genuinely impressed at the level of freedom this game gives players to experience and interact with the world THEIR WAY.
Of course, this is made even more enjoyable by the simply incredible cast of characters you’ll encounter in the game.
Regular readers know that I love Druids and Fey things, so it’s not a surprise that I particularly enjoyed those interactions in the game. Journeying into the Underdark was also a rich and amazing experience.
However, there is a wonderful level of depth to many characters in the game and not just those who join your party!
If I had to choose the single moment that I knew I adored this game, it would be the incredible and brilliantly orchestrated interactions with a totally-harmless-and-not-at-all-evil old lady. My jaw was on the floor the entire time and I literally and audibly chuckled with sheer delight.
When I say that Baldur’s Gate 3 brings out the richest potential from interactions and encounters, I mean it.
What I Would Love to See from Baldur’s Gate 3
There’s an important distinction to be made between DLC which locks parts of a completed game behind a paywall and DLC which expands on the game itself.
It’s that first one that’s really irritating.
Thankfully, Larian Studios hasn’t pulled that kind of stunt. This, of course, really flies in the face of how the gaming industry operates these days.
That’s a seriously good thing.
We might see new races and classes become available, though I think it would just put the game over the top if Larian didn’t even charge for these.
With so much attention given to building out the world in Baldur’s Gate 3, I think it’s inevitable that we’re going to see new adventures become available in this game.
I’m definitely open to new original adventures considering how wonderful the main story of Baldur’s Gate 3 is.
But just imagine what this could look like if the game took us to Castle Ravenloft to experience
That would be second only to a DLC that allows us to romance Withers, but you take what you can get, right?
What Does Baldur’s Gate 3 Mean For D&D?
I’m going to be completely open and transparent here. Ideally, this is less like me standing on my soapbox and yelling and more like us having a “real” chat by a warm fire.
It’s difficult for me to fully express just how much of a breath of fresh air Baldur’s Gate 3 has proven to be.
There is an honest and open level of passion that has gone into creating this game that simply could not have been matched by a studio that didn’t actually care.
It’s not just a great video game. Baldur’s Gate 3 is proof of just how magnificent and magical D&D is!
I mean, how many people will fall in love with Baldur’s Gate 3 and then start looking to form or join D&D groups of their own?
This is a very good thing for the TTRPG hobby.
But even personally, Baldur’s Gate 3 has been an incredible reminder of why I love D&D so much in the first place.
Let’s be real: between the OGL debacle earlier this year and the large amount of other scandals and questionable decisions that followed, D&D has been having a serious brand problem.
As regular readers of this site and my newsletter know, I even had to take quite a bit of time off from publishing guides on this site. What can I say? It felt like the game that I love so very much was being completely run into the ground.
It was honestly hard to take. But, after taking some time off, I’m nothing if not optimistic!
New to D&D 5e? Here’s How to Make Your First Character!
An Important Takeaway
Baldur’s Gate 3 has proven what gamers (both tabletop and otherwise) have been saying: give us what we are paying for.
I don’t want malevolent paywalls, corner-cutting, and rug-pulling.
I want something that brings passion, adventure, and inspiration to the table for my friends and I to enjoy together.
An encounter might be over in a few hours. A story arc might last a few months. But the memories that come from the adventures that we share together will last a lifetime.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has rightly received praise for raising the bar in the video game industry. But I think we need to acknowledge that it’s raising the bar for Wizards of the Coast as well.
If WotC can start putting the same level of passion and goodwill into D&D that Larian Studios has put into Baldur’s Gate 3, we could be entering the greatest period of D&D’s entire history.
But if they refuse to learn the lessons that Baldur’s Gate 3 (and its clearly evident commercial viability) is teaching, there will be very rough times ahead for the brand.
The bar has absolutely been raised and that is a very good thing for D&D fans.
Conclusion – Thoughts on Baldur’s Gate 3
I hope I wasn’t too ranty there at the end. But as I have been playing Baldur’s Gate 3, those thoughts kept coming back to me over and over again.
There’s not really anything that I can say about Baldur’s Gate 3 from a review standpoint that hasn’t already been said.
I can’t remember the last time I paid $60 for a game and absolutely felt that I got my money’s worth. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be enjoying this game for many years to come.
But more than anything I hope that the success of this game goes to show just how much love there is for D&D out there.
Sure, you’ve got people like me who have been playing D&D for decades. But more importantly, you’ve got countless people all over the world who are just discovering what D&D and other TTRPGs have to offer.
While the last several releases for D&D 5e have been, honestly, quite stale, it’s not too late to bring that passion and fire back to the game, hobby, and community.
For all of the praise that Baldur’s Gate 3 is getting, it proving this point is perhaps its greatest achievement.
Bravo Larian Studios!
But what are your thoughts on Baldur’s Gate 3? Got any predictions for how its success will affect D&D?
Let’s chat in the comments!