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If any video game truly deserves the mildly ludicrous 'AAAA' moniker, it's Baldur's Gate 3. Larian Studios' latest is a roleplaying experience of the first order, a work of vanishing beauty made in the old ways to modern specifications. This third instalment in the long-dormant series effortlessly makes spiritual progenitors Mass Effect and Dragon Age look like tentative first steps on a grander adventure; Larian's own immaculate Divinity: Original Sin 2, a first draft in comparison.

Baldur's Gate 3, defying the odds and against all expectations, brings the legendary CRPG sequel to PS5, offering console denizens the kind of epic roleplaying experience that was once exclusively the province of their blue-blooded PC counterparts. More next-gen than anything on PS5 in terms of life-consuming RPGs, Larian's latest entered a playable Early Access state on Steam back in 2020. The closest competitor the scrappy studio has in this regard is CD Projekt Red, and even its vaunted offerings fall short in comparative depth.

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A mechanical marvel on all fronts and that rarest of things, Baldur's Gate 3 is a premium product, launching in a completed state that should be standard for a game of this calibre, not an aberration. It's a country mile wide, several fathoms deep, expertly written, and a revolution for the genre.

Players diving in will, broadly speaking, divide their time between exploring an unbelievably detailed depiction of the Dungeons & Dragons universe, engaging its denizens in cinematic dialogue, and doing battle in ridiculously intricate turn-based tactical encounters.

Centred on the storied Sword Coast — the setting for much of BioWare's earlier efforts (Baldur's Gate I & II) — Baldur's Gate 3 kicks off with an intense cinematic bang that wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi epic, foreshadowing the wild ride that awaits. After creating your own or selecting one of Larian's bespoke Origin Characters, you're thrust into a tutorial dungeon that will make believers of even the most grognard veterans, with its bleak parallels to Irenicus' grim lair.

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Larian threads the needle of onboarding newcomers to this relatively niche series, crafting a narrative of such scope, complexity, and skilled artisanship — and one new for all players. Like Disco Elysium before it, the marriage of crunchy CRPG mechanics and reams upon reams of the best writing in video games is an intoxicating one for word nerds or fans of escapism in general. This burgeoning new genre of dice-based literary RPGs (not to be confused with LitRPGs) is poised to explode, with those two titles alone potentially portending one of the most exciting shifts for (predominantly) single-player RPGs in recent decades.

The world of Faerûn is a marvel to behold. Rather than attempting to fashion another massive open world, Baldur’s Gate 3 succeeds in being one of the densest, most intricately crafted games we’ve ever played. The ways in which your character can interact with others and the environment are more detailed, complicated, and ultimately liberating than just about anything we’ve ever experienced previously. Once it clicks, and your lizard brain understands the universe of possibilities offered by simple actions like Jump and Dash, the enormity of the toolbox the developer has created begins to sink in. It invites you to push the boundaries, kick the tires, and test its possibilities, and almost without fail, someone seemingly smarter than you anticipated the move and left you a little gamer treat.

An example is the settlement of Emerald Grove, ostensibly your hub for Chapter 1. A place of sanctuary and security for some, it can also prove an extremely exciting and difficult early combat dungeon for less diplomatic players. While this will inevitably sever story threads, there are many ways to skin a cat, and you'll still be able to get where you're ultimately going. Best of all, you’re amply rewarded with meaningful loot for your hard efforts (manage to slay the boss in the tutorial for further proof).

Like the giants upon whose shoulders it stands, the first, most insidious foe in Baldur's Gate 3 is the character creation screen, which is an absolute doozy. With 12 base classes that branch into a further 46 subclasses (and can potentially multiclass into countless variations), 10 races with their own subraces to consider, not to mention abilities or proficiencies inherent to any of the above, it's a lot to take in. Those prone to chronic restartitis should plan ahead. We loved the general aesthetic of the character models, and while perhaps not as cosmetically freeform as, say, Fallout 4, it's much easier to create a character that looks like they actually belong in this universe.

The writing, acting, and direction are front and centre in Baldur's Gate 3, and it's hard to describe what a step forward it is without trite comparisons. The uncanniness of conversation is still there — we aren't sure that ever goes away — but compared to Mass Effect or even the very recent Starfield, the effort put into the most minor of characters (including each animal, provided you speak their language) is colossal. It's mind-boggling, and individual tastes may vary, but we found the voice work to be stellar, with more memorable characters in its opening hours alone than some games boast in their entire runtime. That's dozens of hours before you meet any of the game's scenery-chewing main antagonists, by the way.

Like analogue literature before it ("books"), Baldur's Gate 3 has a lot to say. It's verbose in every level of its storytelling, in spoken and written format, which continues into item descriptions, taking a page out of the FromSoftware playbook. Unlike more traditional forms of media, however, this is the work of hundreds and a labour of many, many collective years. So much more mature in its narrative than just leaving players to ponder the consequences of their moment-to-moment actions, Larian explores themes of domination, submission, and freedom that will stick with you, and its Origin characters are its best exemplars.

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Lae'zel, Shadowheart, Astarion, Gale, Wyll, and Karlach comprise the core group of companion characters, and each one contains multitudes. You can elect to play from the point of view of one of the above six (rather than creating your own), seeing a different perspective on the events of the game and accessing unique, substantive content only possible when playing as that Origin Character. The Dark Urge Origin, meanwhile, allows players to create a custom character and still experience an Origin story. Far more than simply being an evil-inclined playthrough, it adds a compelling extra narrative layer that feels like the 'canon' experience in our mind. We'd go so far as to recommend it, especially for those returning players of the earlier games, who, doubtless, already know deep in their bones the reasons why.

Combat is likely going to be make or break for a lot of players, and there's just no getting around it. Brilliant and engaging, we love it, and you can throw down virtually anywhere, with nearly everyone. Encounters are tense, turn-based tactical affairs that are animated lovingly and offer insane options for well-rounded parties. Larian's masterstroke was getting this undeniably slower outing into the same conversations as comparably action-packed efforts like The Witcher 3 or Skyrim in the first place. That's not an accusation of deception, to be clear, because fans of those games are likely going to find a lot to love here; their respective combat systems aren't why they're both still held in such esteem, anyway.

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Mechanically complex, the translation of D&D's 5th Edition tabletop ruleset is an unmitigated triumph, with its many dense and crunchy numbers converted into a digestible, readable format. Forget Baldur's Gate, let's go back to Amn: a platform and template now exists for a larger D&D exploration in the coming years, which is kind of incredible in its own right. It's complicated, but the principles are simple and sound.

Advantage, for example, is an essential mechanic that you'll be punished for not understanding and determines how easy a target is to hit. There are many, many different ways to gain Advantage, but as long as you know you want it over enemies and not the other way around, you're golden. Similarly, each turn, a character can move, make an Action like attacking or casting a spell, as well as a Bonus Action, like shoving an enemy or quaffing a potion. Near-infinite complexity lies beneath the surface, but so long as you get that, you're ready to get started.

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While the basics are simple to grasp, the ceiling is in the stratosphere, with insane builds and party compositions already demolishing the 'hard' Tactician difficulty. There's no shame in turning the difficulty down from Balanced to Explorer in Baldur's Gate 3; it's a fairly difficult game by default, and in an awesome nod to the hardcore crowd, the AI gets a significant upgrade in the game's most sadistic mode for still more replay value.

But for your first playthrough, you may be tempted to wait for Larian to patch out some of the game's slight technical hiccups. Performance on PS5 is largely serviceable, whether you're playing at a heightened resolution or a more responsive 60 frames-per-second — although some particularly busy areas do force a few dips here and there. Thankfully, that's not a huge problem in a game that's so methodical by design, which means that our only real gripe with Baldur's Gate 3 is its bugginess.

For how mechanically complex this RPG is, the overall lack of bugs is actually astounding, but it's still difficult to ignore blemishes like character animations snapping into place, and odd terrain collision issues during combat. To be clear, we didn't run into any game-breakers, but there were a couple of instances where reloading our save felt like the best course of action, lest an especially noticeable bug reoccur.

A lot of digital ink has been spilt about what this all means for the RPG landscape, that the standard it sets is, for whatever reason, unattainable to others. That building a community of dedicated fans, working with them over years and polishing a game until it shines like a gleaming suit of plate-mail is an advantage unique to Larian Studios. There's an implied insinuation that it was given the leg-up of the official Dungeons & Dragons IP and inherent gravitas the name Baldur's Gate still commands rather than having earned the right to bear it, with (largely) the blessing of those still playing the classics today. Baldur's Gate 3, more than anything else, proves that when it comes to truly legendary video games, players are willing to wait.


Baldur's Gate 3 is the new reigning RPG monarch, demanding your homage with its insane level of depth and detail. Even if its gameplay might move too slowly for some, it's hard not to be astounded by the sheer scope of this adventure. An epic in the true sense of the word, Larian's latest is a game that can utterly consume your life for days, weeks, months, even years, should you embrace its brilliance.