Baldur's Gate 3 Is a Staggering Success and a Once In a Decade RPG

Inverse Score: 10/10

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My plan was foolproof. I’d lure the leader of the Goblin army into an ambush, making her think I was on her side. It all went off flawlessly.

But when I returned to the Goblin camp many hours later, I hadn’t counted on the rest of the army still being there, thrusting me into a desperate fight for my life that I was wholly unprepared for. When the dust settled, I had barely scraped by. Nearly twenty goblins were dead, but all three of my companions were incapacitated with my Paladin the last man standing.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a revelation, one that transports you to a fascinating world bristling with potential. It’s the kind of game that comes around once in a decade, reveling in player choice and even failure. What Larian Studios achieved here isn’t just a great role-playing experience but a visionary one that will influence developers for years — even decades.

Action, Reaction

Baldur’s Gate 3 fully embraces the weird and wonderful world of Dungeons & Dragons, layering whimsy and horror in equal measure.

Larian Studios

Though the third game in the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired setting, it bears little similarity to its predecessors made by BioWare. In truth, it’s more of the Baldur’s Gate setting adapted into the gameplay stylings of Larian Studios, which was previously best known for the Divinity: Original Sin games.

That said, Baldur’s Gate 3 is excruciatingly faithful to the ruleset of Dungeons & Dragons. The complex character creator is filled with all of the classes you’d want — like Druid, Paladin, and Cleric — and all of the applicable skills and perks you’d find in any tabletop outing. The entire experience feels like a massive tabletop campaign where you’re free to approach events however you want.

At the start, your character wakes up aboard an unfamiliar ship after someone’s tampered with your brain. This supposedly will slowly transform you into a Mindflayer, which is basically a kind of psychic alien squid. After the ship crashes, you quickly meet other infected people, and a ragtag group starts to come together in search of a cure. This rather dire setup creates a sense of urgency that seeps into the entire narrative of Baldur’s Gate 3. That palpable drive to see what’s next is especially impressive when a single playthrough can last over 100 hours.

Choices you make can also unlock new sub-classes, like the Oathbreaker Paladin, which gets access to necrotic and undead powers.

Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3 is split into three acts, with each taking you through a different part of the world of Faerun and Act 3 finally culminating in the titular city itself. You’ll experience parallel stories and interlinking quests, but what’s really fascinating is how each act also functions as a tonal shift.

In Act I, you explore a fairy tale-esque wilderness, fighting to save a group of refugees and a sacred location. The second act shifts to darkness both in theme and aesthetic, pitting you against an immortal tyrant, a dangerous cult, and armies of the undead. Act III climaxes by finally bringing you to Baldur’s Gate to unravel a mystery filled with political intrigue, cults, and murder plots.

The quality of writing across the entire game is exceptional, with a major focus on role-playing the character you want to be. Larian packs plenty of whimsy packed into the adventure, and in true D&D fashion, you never know when horror will rear its head — whether that’s being served a deadly elixir by a stitched-together bartender, or traveling across the city to collect the body parts of a dismembered clown.

Embracing Your Failures

The dice roll system gives Baldur’s Gate 3 a uniquely table-top flavor.

Larian Studios

Talking to people is a major part of Baldur’s Gate 3, and more often than not, combat situations can be resolved before they even start through charm, persuasion, and deceptions. Whereas most RPGs conduct dice rolls under the hood for skill checks, Baldur’s Gate 3 puts that front and center, making it feel like you’re really engaging in a tabletop session.

During conversations, you might have the chance to influence someone with your Persuasion skill, or maybe steal something from them using Sleight of Hand. Each time you use any kind of skill, the game pauses and rolls a D20, with a specific number you’ll need to pass in order to succeed in the skill check. Passive bonuses and boosts from other party members can influence this.

But failing a skill check doesn’t mean you just try again. Instead, you move on and simply deal with the failure. More often than not, this actually makes your Baldur’s Gate 3 experience more fun. Maybe failing a skill check means a Djinn turns you into a wheel of cheese, so you simply spend the next 30 minutes playing as a wheel of cheese.

Navigating the world of Baldur’s Gate 3 is a phenomenally reactive and interactive experience. More so than any other game in recent memory, it truly feels like there are multiple ways to solve any scenario. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it. Want to reanimate a dead corpse to solve a murder? Do it. Want to build a tower of boxes and use it to jump onto the ramparts of a locked castle? Do it. Or you can have your Bard distract the crowd with a ditty while your Rogue robs everyone blind, then sell everything for oodles of gold.

Baldur’s Gate 3’s party members are fantastically-written compelling characters, with each having their own narrative arc that runs through all three acts.

Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3 makes sure there are always multiple narrative and mechanical ways to solve problems, and the sheer scope of how the game keeps track of what you do is incredible. Your decisions impact all three acts of the game, and the relationships you forge feel meaningful.

That’s abundantly clear in the fantastically-written main companions, most of whom you can romance. It’s already been said a lot, but it bears repeating: Baldur’s Gate 3 is a horny game, a very horny game. Ten hours in, I was stumbling into situations where companions wanted to jump my bones simply because I was playing a “nice and good” character.

There are abundant opportunities for casual hookups, but Baldur’s Gate 3 also makes these relationships feel meaningful and important, and you can engage in these relationships as much or as little as you want. These systems have their shortcomings, to be sure, but it’s hard to recall any other game that handles relationships between characters with as much nuance and detail as Baldur’s Gate 3.

Battling It Out

Combat can be tough-as-nails in Baldur’s Gate 3, but still provides a wealth of options for different approaches.

Larian Studios

I’ve spent a lot of time sidestepping the topic of combat in Baldur’s Gate 3, but that same sense of reactiveness also applies to fighting, giving you abundant options for causing pain and havoc. The fundamentals of its turn-based combat are familiar enough to be easy to grasp for D&D newbies, but each class feels vibrantly distinct, with a host of unique powers, skills, and options and deep potential for customization and stat management. Combat can be extremely challenging, though Larian’s thoughtful choice to include scalable difficulty that can be changed at any time ensures the action never feels frustrating or unfair.

Much of that is due to the unprecedented freedom you have in combat. I took out one powerful boss by simply using the push ability to send them careening off a cliff. Depending on your choices, you can use mind powers to decimate enemies by controlling their minds or anticipating their next move and reacting ahead of time. If you want, you can even fight every battle as a group of bears.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is anarchy in every sense of the word. It’s a wild experience that adapts to your imagination. Sure, there are flaws: like occasional technical and performance issues, and the seemingly unavoidable collapse of possibilities that comes with approaching a story’s end. However, it’s incredibly rare to find an RPG that so eagerly embraces the idea of freedom and player agency.

Playing Baldur’s Gate 3 is an exercise in wonder. How could anyone manage to make a game of this scope, execution, and quality? It’s thrilling, it’s emotional, and it’s incredibly wacky, all at the same time. The sense of freedom and reactivity is unlike anything I’ve played for years, maybe even ever. and all of that is only heightened by a world that feels simultaneously whimsical and horrifying. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game we’ll be looking back on for years to come.


Baldur’s Gate 3 is available for PC, and launches for PS5 on September 6. An Xbox Series X|S version is currently in development. Inverse reviewed the PC version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.

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