Baldur’s Gate 3 review: Does it live up to the hype?

Larian Studios
Larian Studios /

Game: Baldur’s Gate 3
Publisher: Larian Studios
Developer: Larian Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed on), PS5, Mac
Early Access Release: October 6, 2020
Full Release: August 3, 2023 (September 6, 2023 on PS5/Mac)

For the first time in more than 20 years, Baldur’s Gate 3 allows you to return to the Forgotten Realms in a tale of fellowship and betrayal, sacrifice and survival, and with the lure and promise of absolute power.

Forged with the new Divinity 4.0 engine, Baldur’s Gate 3 gives you unprecedented freedom to explore, experiment, and interact with a thriving world filled with characters, dangers, and deceit. A grand, cinematic narrative brings you closer to your characters than ever before. From shadow-cursed forests, to the magical caverns of the Underdark, to the sprawling city of Baldur’s Gate itself, your actions truly define the adventure, but the choices throughout your story define your legacy.

Baldur's Gate 3 review
Larian Studios /

Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t your usual RPG. It’s much more than that.

I’ve sunk over 110 hours into Baldur’s Gate 3 and well into Act 3, forging countless relationships along the way. And breaking a few hearts, in more ways than one. My max level 12 High Elf Wizard is quite popular, what can I say?

The story is one of the best stories I’ve experienced in a very long time. Opening up with an epic story arc and ramping up throughout Act 1 (which is what was available in Early Access), it had, and still has me, on the edge of my seat unlike prior games I’ve played from Larian.

What sets Baldur’s Gate 3 apart is its commitment to player agency and the capabilities to explore the Forgotten Realms both in single player or multiplayer. And it’s worth noting that if you want to play with friends, you can’t bring your main character into their world. You will have to start anew or use one of your friends’ origin characters.

The choices you make truly matter, not just in dialogue and interactions, but in how the world itself reacts. The character creator includes options for customizing everything from your gender identity, skin and hair, right down to accessories like piercings, makeup and other things below the belt, if you catch my drift. The world reacts to your character’s identity, opening up different options based on who your character is and what they’re good at: where a Wizard may unlock a door using magical means, a Barbarian may opt to rip the door from its hinges.

But what you can’t do is go into battles without a plan. Well, you can, but don’t expect the best of outcomes. On countless occasions in the early parts of Act 1, I was dying. I was approaching the game like I do other RPGs – aimlessly exploring without a care in the world. Not only is that reckless, but it’s also downright punishing in some instances because of the nature of the game. Your carelessness and actions have consequences. Characters in the world can die, altering relationships or quests that you’re currently on. Many times, this isn’t evident until later in the game. But what’s more astonishing to think about is how much work went into creating every single one of these scenarios from a technical standpoint.

Baldur's Gate 3 review
Larian Studios /

Larian truly did an amazing job bringing Faerûn to life.

The Divinity 4.0 engine allows for an impressive level of environmental interaction, and every object, every ability, feels meticulously designed to offer a myriad of creative possibilities. Want to catch your foes on fire? Just throw some grease and add some flame – BOOM! It’s this attention to detail that keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting even after dozens of hours. No two fights are the same.

The origin character development is another shining gem. Larian has managed to create a cast of companions who feel like genuine individuals with their own desires, fears, and moral compasses. From the enigmatic rogue with a tragic past to the wise and weathered cleric having her faith tested, each character is fully voiced, superbly animated, and intricately written. Engaging with them in dialogue doesn’t just reveal plot exposition; it builds a sense of connection that can lead to deep friendships, romances, or even bitter rivalries between characters that can lead to death.

A prime example of this was when I came across a burning village during Act 1. People were screaming. They needed my help. However, I didn’t give them the urgency I should have. Why should I? It’s just a video game and they’ll wait. I have loot I need to sell back in town. So, what did I do? I ported away, decided to rest for the night and come back after my wizard got a fresh night’s sleep. Bad idea. The residents that needed saving perished in the fire.

The visuals are nothing short of breathtaking. The transition to the new engine has done wonders for the game’s aesthetics. Whether you’re exploring the ethereal beauty of the Wilderness, descending into the grimy depths of a goblin hideout, or taking a stroll in the Underdark trying to avoid bibberbangs, the environments are rich with detail and atmosphere. The lighting and particle effects, especially during spellcasting, contribute to an immersive experience that is a feast for the eyes. On occasion, I would just stop, in awe, and take in the scenery. Oh, and let’s not forget about the amazing narration in the game!

Baldur's Gate 3 review
Baldur's Gate 3 review /

Larian Studios

Unfortunately, Baldur’s Gate 3 is not without its flaws. Why can’t you be perfect!?

While Act 1 was nearly flawless, rightfully so since it was in Early Access for the better part of 3 years, Act 2 and especially Act 3, suffers the brunt of the issues.

For example, multiple cutscenes in Act 2 were plagued with graphical issues depending on which characters I was using, sometimes blocking the screen. Other times, cutscenes are played multiple times, especially if you talk to certain characters a little too early after a quest is completed. Unfortunately, I can’t go into too many details without revealing major spoilers.

Act 3 is where things start to fall apart at the seams. Countless times I had to load up a save because quest doors wouldn’t open, or doors would make the opening sound infinitely. Crashes were frequent, even though I’m playing on a top-of-the-line PC (i9-13900k and 4090). Enemies would attack through houses from the street. I had a group of soldiers run across the street because they heard me pick a lock in a completely different house. One of them must have been blessed with a super hearing spell.

But one of the most frustrating bugs really hindered my immersion in the world – the item management system. Sorting was nearly impossible on controller because nine times out of ten I wouldn’t be able to select anything afterwards. In a game with endless looting potential, that became downright heartbreaking. Especially when trying to find specific items during battle. And don’t get me started on the item split mechanic. Splitting camp supplies would cause me to lose valuable resources many times if I would attempt to split them during the rest screen.

I will note that the review details provided to us advised controller support is still in development and would get better as we get closer to the PS5 release. However, the game is fully launched, and I’m basing my experience on both MnK and controller since it’s advertised as having “full controller support.”

While Larian has been diligent in releasing patches and updates, some quests can still be hindered by unexpected technical hiccups. For example, some of my quests would still be marked even though you are following the directions and wouldn’t progress. These moments of frustration can momentarily break the immersion, but it’s evident that the development team is actively working to resolve them.

Additionally, the sheer depth and complexity of the game’s systems might be overwhelming to newcomers (1d4+1 anyone?). Character creation, skill progression, and combat mechanics can be intricate and require a substantial investment of time and understanding. While this complexity is undoubtedly a boon for seasoned players seeking a deep experience, it might pose a steep learning curve for those less familiar with these types of games.

Does it live up to the hype? It absolutely does!

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a remarkable return to a beloved franchise, embodying the essence of the classic games while boldly embracing new ideas and technology. The dedication of Larian Studios to delivering a true role-playing experience based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop system is palpable in every aspect of the game. The commitment to a strong narrative, meaningful choices, and immersive world-building sets it apart as a shining example of modern RPGs done right.

One thing that many games can’t do for me anymore is capture my attention enough to warrant a second playthrough. However, Baldur’s Gate 3 changes that. I want to create multiple characters because I want to feel what it’s like to be bad.

Despite a few technical rough spots and a learning curve that might daunt newcomers, Baldur’s Gate 3 stands as a testament to the genre’s potential. As I continue my journey through the game, I’m reminded of the profound impact that RPGs can have in creating not just games, but living, breathing worlds where our choices shape the story and our experiences become legendary.

Baldur’s Gate 3 (PC) Score: 9/10

If you’re a fan of deep storytelling, strategic combat, and a world that responds to your every action, Baldur’s Gate 3 is an adventure you won’t want to miss. The path ahead is treacherous and filled with uncertainty, but isn’t that what makes a journey truly unforgettable?

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.