Baldur’s Gate 3 Review — A critical success

Reviewed August 26, 2023 on PC




August 3, 2023


Larian Studios


Larian Studios

After a long 3-year stint in Early Access, Baldur’s Gate 3 is finally ready to hit the shelves. The buzz surrounding this game has been palpable: not only is it a new epic RPG made by Larian Studios, but it’s got the power of Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition mechanics and lore behind it. It’s simply a match made in heaven. A stream of steady updates has kept community interest in the game high, and everyone is champing at the bit to start their Faerûn adventure. And that includes me! After spending over 100 hours in this game, I can safely call Baldur’s Gate 3 an incredible accomplishment for both Larian Studios and the RPG genre at large and a strong Game of the Year contender.

The game is a hefty download at over 100GB, which is painful but somewhat expected from a game this huge. You’ll want to keep even more hard drive space at the ready to account for the numerous patches this game is sure to receive. Despite the Larian Studio launcher prompting you to create an account, it’s thankfully not compulsory (though cross-saves and cross-play are annoyingly locked behind it).

The beginning cutscenes and opening gameplay, which show your player character escaping a Mind Flayer vessel after being infected with a parasite, are incredibly engaging as an opening setpiece. What is happening to you? What is the Mind Flayer’s goal? Why have you and your ragtag party been chosen as hosts for these illithid parasites? You don’t need any pre-existing knowledge about the world of Faerûn to care about these questions. It really shows off the game’s outstanding graphical power and voice acting.

“Only once in a blue moon do we get such a vast world to explore with this many possibilities and narrative threads.”

When you reach the first wide explorable area, you may just start to realise the scope of Baldurs Gate 3. Only once in a blue moon do we get such a vast world to explore with this many possibilities and narrative threads. Everything about it is big: the map, the number of quests, and the possibilities for how the story will develop. It beggars belief just how much time and effort has gone into such a monumental achievement; although much has been said about this game “setting a new standard” for the RPG genre, the truth is its development time has far exceeded the time and scope of most development teams. We will likely never see anything quite like this again.

You can choose to play a pre-prepared character called an origins character, or you can create an original custom character. Any Origins characters that remain unchosen by a player will be party members that can be recruited later on and controlled by you during combat and exploration, so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on any story or questlines.

The character creator is not as extensive as some other recent games, but that’s actually to the game’s benefit. In a win for inclusivity, you can give your character whatever genitals or voice type you like, and your character is always referred to as “they” by other characters. With only a few set face shapes to choose from, the game can actually animate them properly without having to account for custom eye placement, nose width, or other untenable face shapes. Sorry, McElroys; no Monster Factory potential here!

And the animations are beautiful indeed: I can’t stop staring at the minute details in every new face I encounter. Everyone romanceable is hot, of course, but it’s easy to appreciate the details that have gone into crafting the monsters and baddies of the realm too. When you hit the late game, you might start to notice a few reused NPC faces, but they’re all tweaked so that at least they never look exactly the same. They are all brought to life by a cast of voice actors who do a frankly incredible job with even the most insignificant of NPCs.

The origin characters come with their own personalities and tragic backstories that are interwoven into the story at large. Choosing to play as them will unlock special narration, choices, and dialogue during scenes that relate to them. It boggles the mind to think about just how much narrative content is changed depending on who you’re currently playing. The fan favourite of the origin characters has proven to be Astarion, the flamboyant yet tortured vampire spawn voiced delightfully by Neil Newborn, who can deliver both comedy and drama in equal measure. 

Baldur’s Gate 3 is being called a “horny” game all across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. Your party members can be quick to throw themselves at you, even without having to try. It’s novel at first, but their advances can feel unearned, and even awkward when it happens with characters you’re uninterested in romancing. It can start to feel like you have to keep your unwanted suitors back with a stick; which is ironically similar to the feeling of being the only girl in your D&D group. It’s not just your party members; a few NPCs you come across will even proposition you. While it strains credulity, it’s fun to feel desired, and the romance scenes themselves are exciting and titillating whenever they happen.

A perfect gateway to D&D

All you need is a glance to recognise BG3 as a Larian creation. This new epic shares a lot of gameplay similarities with the studio’s previous strategy RPG series, Divinity: Original Sin, which is not at all surprising given that the Divinity series has been inspired by tabletop adventures like Dungeons & Dragons. If you’ve played Divinity, you’ll be familiar with the UI and you’ll know where to find the initiative tracker, character sheet, and inventory. Other aspects that seem borrowed from Divinity are the trading and looting system, reputation, and narration style.

It’s a tried-and-true RPG system, and it’s been married seamlessly with 5E’s mechanics to create something incredible. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a perfect gateway for anyone who might be willing to try D&D but who has found themselves put off by any of its complexities; either the rules, lore, or the crippling indecision that can come with being told: “you can do anything!”. The game automatically rolls your dice and adds up all your modifiers so that you can focus on the important — and fun — parts of D&D, like strategising during your fight or exploring the vast areas open to you in Faerûn. And while it’s far more open-ended than its RPG contemporaries, it is still a video game, so the possibilities aren’t limitless. While that might sound like a bad thing, there’s a level of comfort in knowing what your options are and aren’t. 

“Baldur’s Gate 3 is a perfect gateway for anyone who might be willing to try D&D but who has found themselves put off by any of its complexities.”

I have some gripes about where some of the limitations have been laid — adventure kit items such as rope have been relegated to be useless inventory stuffers instead of incredibly useful and versatile tools — but Larian could not have reasonably done much better to create a functional and authentic D&D experience. It is a little disappointing that no rules from 5E’s expansions such as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything have been included, but I have some hope that these might make it to future DLC. 

The only thing that drags down this otherwise phenomenal game is the consistent poor performance and the litany of gameplay bugs that can crop up. The game chews up a massive amount of CPU and GPU, and even that is seemingly not enough to keep its performance issues at bay. It took its toll on my hardware once I moved on to Act 2 and 3, which feature heavy atmospheric effects and high numbers of NPCs. I started experiencing lag, frame drops, crashes, characters and objects popping in, and loading screens upwards of three minutes long. Decreasing the graphical quality helped, but the negative effect it had on this otherwise stunningly beautiful game was quite a tough trade. At worst, close-up shots of characters can be completely ruined by low-quality textures that I can only describe as crunchy. A quick glance at the game forums will reveal many players experiencing similar issues. 

It’s a testament to just how good this game is that these performance issues weren’t enough to diminish my experience too much; I remained utterly entranced right until the end. Larian Studios has already released its first major patch to fix a lot of crashes and bugs, as well as gameplay balancing, so I have confidence that these issues are going to wane over time. 




  • The finest fantasy narrative RPG we've seen in years
  • A near-perfect implementation of 5e D&D mechanics, speeding up the slower parts of tabletop gaming
  • A broad, far-reaching story with plenty of opportunity to shape the story
  • Inclusive character creator and romance options


  • Game performance tanks after Act 1 even with graphics settings on low
  • Miscellaneous gameplay bugs may affect your experience

Baldur’s Gate 3 breaks through the recent dirth of huge narrative RPGs to deliver something incredible. It’s an outstanding achievement that will stand the test of time even as we move into the next generation of gaming. It’s a masterpiece in both design and implementation, with only some pervasive performance issues and gameplay bugs to sometimes drag the experience down. Still, the narrative, graphic design, voice performances, and tactical gameplay do a lot to bring the experience back up to amazing.