Baldur’s Gate 3 in its current state can be a technical mess, but its sandbox creativity makes it almost unparalleled in the genre.
I was a little tentative going into Baldur’s Gate 3‘s early access period. After finding out that saves wouldn’t transfer over to the full game once it launched, I thought “why wouldn’t I wait then?” This early access launch is a bit of a tease. There is a wealth of content here spanning the first act of the game, with two more acts coming over the next year before the full release sometime in 2021.
The first act spans about 25 hours of gameplay. Granted, Baldur’s Gate 3 absolutely encourages experimentation and multiple playthroughs. However, no matter how much content there is here, it’s hard to encourage playing through it more than once when none of your saves will carry over to the full game once it releases. I couldn’t find an answer as to whether or not it will carry over to future early access acts. Considering how much change Baldur’s Gate 3 is expected to go through, I would be surprised if it did.
BG3 is definitely early access
To be sure, this is very much an early access title. Immediately upon booting for the first time I dealt with consistent crashes. Early on in my playthrough, I couldn’t access my save state. Occasionally, Baldur’s Gate 3 would just crash entirely. The rest of the experience was still a bit of a buggy mess, but the actual content on display here makes up for it, especially with how much is still to come.
Players can pick between six classes: fighter, wizard, rogue, ranger, cleric, and warlock. It’s a pretty standard fare for CRPGs, but there are also about ten races to choose from, each with their own sub-races. I’ll be honest, the opening character customization screen is really overwhelming. After experimenting to see just how much depth there is to it (spoiler alert: it’s a lot), I settled on my usual build: a standard elf fighter.
I’m not very creative, but most players who really get into and customize their character to the fullest could easily spend a couple of hours fine-tuning the exact character they want. It’s a nice change of pace from most character creators from the last few years, but it’s one I won’t take full advantage of.
Larian Studios are coming in hot off the success of Divinity: Original Sin II, a game I never played but heard nothing but a consistent stream of praise about. This is their first outing in the Baldur’s Gate franchise, and this early access for Act One should have most fans excited at the prospects.
The real gem of Baldur’s Gate 3 is its versatility. Players have a myriad of choices at their fingertips with almost every encounter, in and out of combat. This means thousands and thousands of dialogue options. You can intimidate, charm, or persuade NPCs to get your way.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Since Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules, every action is reliant on a die roll. Fail that roll, and your action doesn’t go through. Luckily, the versatility here means that there is always an option for progression, whether it’s through another NPC or through a different item. It’s a smart move that rejects the idea of just reloading a previous save. In a game as big as Baldur’s Gate 3 will eventually be, it’s a good way of showing the player how to experience more of it, even if your first idea didn’t go as planned.
That game design versatility transfers over to combat as well. Want to sneak up behind enemies to assassinate them? You can do that. Want to sweet talk your way past a group of bandits? You can do that too! Baldur’s Gate 3 does a great job of not limiting what you can do in your game, instead opting to bring that traditional tabletop RPG creativity to the core gameplay.
It’s much more interesting when you vary things up as well. I can’t imagine how bored I’d be if I’d just slash my way through enemies the entire time instead of opting to take advantage of all the little intricacies of the combat, switching up my approach to each encounter to use every option at my disposal. There are also a ton of environmental hazards that players can use to gain an edge in combat. I’m sure I came nowhere close to discovering them all.
Your party can make all the difference here, and each of them comes with their own skillset and backstory. Some help you discover environmental clues or hidden areas, while others can assist with DPS or healing. Larian Studios has done a great job of bringing what they have learned from the Divinity franchise and bringing it over to the D&D world. If you can imagine it, you can likely do it in the game, as long as you pass the die roll.
Detailed and varied environments
Visuals here are great, with lots of detail in the character models and intricate worlds. Baldur’s Gate 3 can quickly go from a dark and dreary cave filled with spider-webs and stalactites to bright and sunny fields or busy towns. There is a lot of variation in Act One among NPCs and a large number of differentiated enemies to encounter. I’m not the biggest fan of isometric RPGs in general, but Baldur’s Gate 3 generally looks and feels great to play.
I was encountering a number of visual hiccups like frame rate drops and game stuttering early on. It seems like Baldur’s Gate 3 will be a pretty demanding game for even higher-end graphics cards. I ironed most of them out but was still only getting around 50 FPS on my 2080 Super at 1440p. So something is likely bottlenecking it, or it’s really unoptimized in its current state. The latter wouldn’t surprise me given how early it is in its early access launch. It is far from unplayable, but I expect a lot of the bugs will get ironed out.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a ton of fun if you’re willing to invest the time. There are certainly a number of caveats to that. You’ll have to be patient in finding the right settings for your rig. You’ll also have to be patient while Larian Studios irons out a lot of the technical issues and bugs, and you’ll have to be okay with losing your saves when it comes out of early access. If these things bother you, you’re going to want to wait until it fully releases sometime next year, but if you’re looking for some dungeon crawling fun with a creative sandbox, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the way to go.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.