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Baldur's Gate III

Baldur's Gate 3

Patrik has packed his survival kit to cope with a lengthy return to the Sword Coast and to see if the third Baldur's Gate makes sense to end the summer with...

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Baldur's Gate 3 offers an unforgettable journey through time and space. I can say without a doubt that it is the best title of the year in its genre. In my hours with the adventure, one thing is clear, there is a phenomenal eye for detail, an evolution of Larian Studio's gameplay elements and a playfulness in everything you can do. It's more Divinity Original Sin 2 than it is Bioware's older classic. There's humour, sadness, tough choices and lots of interesting world building.

My first impression with the third game is that it's not as relentlessly difficult initially. The second required you to have some familiarity with the genre and threw all sorts of things at you right away. It is therefore more reminiscent of the original. You are given more time and better support to learn the basics. With a robust character creator and plenty of well-made classes, it's hard to not find something that works. The classes are all well-crafted and have their own niche. I first chose a Paladin with an oath to defend nature and spread the light. It wasn't an easy choice, as all the classes have their own subclasses and there is always something exciting about each one. Once you have chosen the class and created your character, you also get to choose the difficulty. The difficulty overall is easier than previous titles in the Baldur's Gate trilogy unless you push it up to the highest via the title's difficulty levels. It also doesn't have quite as many options as in Divinity: Original Sins 2.

You have Explorer which is the title's equivalent of easy, it lets you play around with the systems and is perfect for new players. Balanced is the standard difficulty level and in many ways it gave me the right challenge. The enemies didn't feel impossible and the bosses were challenging. In some places it felt a little too easy for me. The last difficulty level, Tactician, was unrelentingly difficult and my hopes were dashed. It was much more challenging than I first thought. I hope that Larian Studios allows us to customize the difficulty level in the future. Where we can change the level of difficulty according to different parameters. I would like something that is somewhere in the middle between Balanced and Tactician. At the moment you can choose between very easy, relatively easy and overwhelmingly difficult.

Baldur's Gate III
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A good role-playing game is also about what it is trying to tell you. The story in Baldur's Gate III draws you in as an adventurer in a way two and one didn't really do for me. You have a threat from the start that can cost you everything in the long run. You never know what's around every corner and the adventure likes to throw surprises at you. It all starts with a kidnapping and a form of larvae inserted through your eye. This creature belongs to one of the antagonists, a Cthulhu inspired race called Illithids (mindflayers). Their way of reproducing is to insert their larvae into living host bodies, which over time transforms the body into something grotesque with tentacles. So right from the start you are infected and the clock is ticking to get it out. We jump through dimensions aboard the ship chased by dragons and demons who want to destroy this ship as it appears no one is a fan of the Ithilids. It quickly becomes clear that you must escape and find a way to remove the parasite.

You don't stay alone for long and start finding others, even those you met on board the ship. The story itself is not only about your troubles but how the dilemmas and concerns of the world get in the way. Often I've noticed that many missions are related to your search for a cure without always being directly connected to it. I can't really put my finger on the size, but it's been many years since I've run through something so extensive. My advice is not to save and load when things go bad, but to let the mistakes shape your journey in the same way as the wins. The massive amount of missions wrapped up with the main quest takes everything into consideration and creates a very unique journey for your character that way. I admire the developers for allowing failure to also exist and shape your character's journey in a natural way. It makes for more believable characters.

Baldur's Gate III

The individuals you meet and accompany you all have their own agendas and interests. Your companions also have their own missions and unique dialogues to discover. You need to be constantly aware of how you are perceived. It is very dependent on you and nothing happens without your involvement. Some missions, if you are not careful, can turn friends into enemies in confrontations. Believe me, it stings to see your fully equipped ally switch sides and hammer you down with a powerful thunder hammer. Therefore, you need to think about how you behave. However, my advice is to let your character make the choices you think they would make in each situation. One of my few criticisms is probably the binary player-driven relationship development, where you alone are the driving force in how all relationships form and end. Even if some companions know each other from before, I don't think they form relationships with each other over time without your presence. You solve all the problems for the companions. They do not develop or change without you.

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I think it's a shame that Baldur's Gate III didn't take a cue from Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which tried a more non-binary system where characters also developed relationships with each other without your direct influence. Conflicts didn't always feel like they were yours to resolve or your fault. Seeing the characters' relationships with each other generates dialogue and their likes and dislikes creates more dynamics in the group you lead. They won't suddenly decide to overthrow your government because they've been talking behind your back because of how their last conversations with each other went. This is one of the future developments of modern isometric role-playing games in my opinion. The group needs to be more than just you and your decisions. Things need to happen between your sidekicks beyond your control without necessarily being predetermined.

Baldur's Gate III

The companions you collect are amazing. Shadowheart is a mysterious Cleric who harbors many dark secrets. Astarion quickly proves to be more than just a charming Rogue. You will also meet a friendly wizard named Gale and a noble Warlock named Wyll. All of these characters offer plenty of dialog, interesting perspectives on everything you do, and offer unique quests and dilemmas to solve. In addition to this, you also meet the authoritarian Githyanki warrior Lae'zel, who believes she is the main character of the title. You also come across the demonic motorcycle-obsessed killer barbarian Karlach. Some of the characters know each other from before and others are meeting for the first time. In addition to the aforementioned, there are a number of others you can recruit and my advice is that you try to get as many on board as you can.

If you are a veteran of the series and/or D&D, you will get much more out of it than someone brand new. Not just because of your knowledge of the rules. The systems that underpin the adventure are numerous, complex and very well implemented. I think this will delight fans of the series. Larian Studios has not forgotten its predecessors and there is plenty of fan service. Of course, I do not want to reveal this in the review. If you are completely new, you usually get very solid explanations of what's what. To help you, you also have the journal with quests and some other material where you can get a picture of the individuals or situations. Often you need to talk to strangers to find out things. It's not just typical creatures that do a great job. You can also talk to animals and I recommend that you do so. To do so, you need an ability or brew a potion that gives you the ability.

The animals can offer quests, help you in battles or otherwise entertain on royal terms. I tried to convince a squirrel to cross its territory, it ended up attacking my leg and I had to choose between kicking it to the next kingdom or backing off. An ox had delusions of grandeur and I actually suspected it was a demon. Another example is a tiny blue bird that sends you on a quest. The mission was to climb a giant monastery to kill eagles that had built a nest at a rooftop super weapon of astronomical proportions. The little bird wanted their nest but I had a hunch that it probably wanted to attempt world domination. However, the eagles were a bit unpleasant and didn't want me to get close as I could be carrying germs. I put lots of explosives in the nest and drew lots of flammable liquid in a trail from the nest. I set everything on fire and watched the fireworks from a distance. Of course, you can also ignore the tiny bird's request and let the eagles live. That's a small sample of encounters and the animals' quirks are amazing. There's a lot of humour in this universe. Of course, you will also encounter undead and other forms of creatures. They are basically always superb in both voice acting and in their personalities. You can tell that Larian Studios has spent time on things others would turn into insignificant anecdotes.

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In addition to conversations and other things, you can take more drastic measures and use violence against the wildlife. This brings us to combat, which is nothing short of fantastic. The verticality along with the freedom of every battle does wonders for my ingenuity. There is always more than one way to approach the battles. How about using cats or other animals to lead enemies to a large pile of explosive barrels. You can position a rogue with poison weapons at a height above many rooms in stealth before the battle begins. You can turn the enemy into sheep and send them to another dimension. If that's not enough, you can get factions to fight each other.

I liked a spell which gave me a magic hand to interact with everything in the world. The ghost hand acts a bit like an extra ally. It's also great outside of combat for navigating environments to activate levers you don't want your companions to pull. It can cast healing items and offer new ways to approach situations. This is where the strength of the adventure is seen, both the combat and the world map are stitched together in a way that only Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2 come close to. It's a welcome addition as this creates more interactions with the environment and allows problem solving in a way Baldur's Gate 1 or 2 didn't even come close to. You are constantly encouraged to think outside the box and improvise crazy plans. The turn-based battle mode also allows you to take your time in doing so.

Should you be wounded, you can always go back to camp and rest, talk to your comrades and take care of equipment or sort out your supplies. You can short rest twice in the world but this doesn't always replenish all your abilities which can be used a limited number of times. Much of the adventure is also spent around the campfire where quests and storytelling take place. Although very popular in modern entries into the world of isometric role-playing games, there is no base building. It feels good that the alternatives are there whether you like the lighter system of Pillars of Eternity, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom or the ambitious mode of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. You don't have to worry about anything other than your companions, your items, the battles and the story. Once you've done everything you want to do in the camp, you can quickly return to where you last left off. You can't use the rest feature in the turn-based battles so preparation is the key to success.

Baldur's Gate III

Not having a real-time combat system may divide older fans. I was never sold on that system myself, preferring robust turn-based systems. Especially considering that it's hard to get the computer to do competent things when playing in real time. You need to constantly pause and yet it's hard to stay efficient and constantly make sure the minions are doing what you want. Those problems are gone, instead it's all about how you prepare for battle. You have everything from elixir, equipment, grenades, health potions, and rest. Don't forget about room preparations like traps, positioning and much more before the battle begins. There is a depth and layer of complexity that will test your ingenuity. There's nothing wrong with preferring the other system from older titles but I find that this works for me in a completely different way. There's also a bit more strategy and tactics thanks to all the environmental interactions.

Since the enemies don't scale with you, you have to be prepared that there are battles you can't win right away. It's never too late to come back later. Often, however, there are many ways to get rid of an enemy. You can push enemies into chasms, get rid of enemies before the battle starts. If you are skilled, in some situations you can peel off all enemies except one or two, which makes it easier. There are some risks with this, one is that others can see and if you are not yet an enemy of the characters around you, this can be a result if you are seen. Another could have implications for your character and the story. There are several classes that not only have aspects to them that affect the battles but also the character.

Baldur's Gate III

I was trying to eliminate all the guards in a boss room so I wouldn't have to deal with them during the battle with the boss itself. I discreetly pushed an angry elf into a deep abyss and that led to my Paladin's oath being broken. I collapsed and lost my powers, the boss saw my murder and now I was in a personal conflict as well as one in the outside world. There are unexpected things thrown in all the time and the adventure goes in different directions. I usually avoid the Paladin class in other contexts, but I wanted to test it with the Oath of the Ancients subclass. Suddenly I'm meeting new characters and having consequences for my actions. Instead, I became an Oathbreaker who can control the dead and has access to dark magic. My opinion is that the class became a bit more of a hidden Death Knight archetype even though the subclass doesn't require you to commit evil with these powers. You can re-swear the oath at any time, so you're not locked out forever if you change your mind or want many of the powers you lose back. But it's kind of funny that a subclass is hidden behind decisions that clash with the character you play. Above all, I like that we don't just lose our magic but we get something else in return.

It's in things like this that I find both replay value and a dose of genius. Never locking the player out of their decisions. You can undo your class if you chose wrong and you can undo choices. It allows you to experiment, because some decisions may leave you with a weak character and what you decide as you level up may be wrong choices in class building. Unlike many action RPGs and isometric RPGs of the past, you don't have the headache of remaining unnecessarily weak 50-60 hours into the adventure. The user interface for doing all this and much more is, for the most part, robust and intimate. It's clear that the developers designed a user interface for the PC and didn't just copy something designed for the controller. My only real criticism is that I would like to be able to sort with headings between items and magic for clarity. I would also like the ability to see all companions' supplies while in camp without having to ask some to leave my party (you can only have three companions at a time) ask others to join and then leave. This is mostly an annoyance and feels like an unnecessary restriction.

Baldur's Gate III

One feature I've really grown to like is the research button. It allows you to quickly, easily see what the enemy can withstand more of and gives you clues as to what the enemy is weak against. This could have been something more game-like where you search or find information about the monsters. Speaking of information, both the user interface and everything in the world is stunningly designed. It's easy to find everything you need and you can freely search your supplies. Besides the usefulness of it, the game is beautiful and inviting to look at. The characters' armour, clothing, buildings, grass, and everything else is consistent and technically sound. The music brings the world to life in a magical way and I find that it draws me into this cozy fantasy world. The sounds are phenomenal whether you're up in the mountains or underground in the deepest of temples. The problems I've had with the tech are bugs, several of a game-breaking nature and what I think are memory leaks. The game gets slower the longer you play and starts to hack. A reboot alone solves these problems. The camera can mess with you but thanks to the turn-based mode it's rarely a problem when it counts.

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If you have an acceptance of bugs, potential performance issues over time and a sometimes mischievous camera, this is one of my big recommendations of the year. It impresses with strong stories, inviting personality, beautiful and varied environments, and an encouragement to experiment with the total freedom the game offers. The music is delightful and I like almost everything about the adventure. It really lets you make your character your own and offers memorable moments. There are also secrets of varying sizes everywhere. If you like role-playing games, Baldur's Gate 3 is the highlight of the year and one of the best games in its genre in recent years. There are no microtransactions but a complete adventure for one to several players in the cooperative mode and I encourage you to consider this as the summer comes to an end. It is undoubtedly the studio's best game to date in my opinion. While I was never wowed by Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, it is thanks to their monumental success that we now have an even better third. The title sets a new standard for the series and I hope that Larian Studios has the honour of developing a possible fourth in the future.

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Baldur's Gate III
10 Gamereactor UK
10 / 10
+
Immersive story, complex game mechanics, interesting characters, surprises all the time, good replay value, incredible amount of dialogue and cutscenes, better than its predecessors, beautiful environments and offers good humour.
-
Occasional game-breaking bugs, sometimes annoying camera
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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