Baldur’s Gate 3 – PS5 Review

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a role-playing game based on the Dungeons & Dragons (Fifth Edition) tabletop system and it comes to us from Belgian Studio Larian Games otherwise known for the Divinity series.  The game itself has been out on PSN for a couple of weeks now and is already a shoo-in for pretty much all of the ‘Game of the Year’ awards but we’re approaching it from a slightly different angle, which is to ask ‘what is it like for people who aren’t D&D players and have no previous experience of the Baldur’s Gate series?’

But before we go anywhere near that, let’s set the scene.  Baldur’s Gate 3 asks you to immediately either pick your main protagonist from a selection of ‘Origin’ characters or to create your own using the game’s incredibly powerful creator.  This will be your main character but along the way you’ll also meet companions who are other Origin characters who will join your party.   We picked Astarion as our main due to him being a Rogue (making him ideal for stealth and long-ranged attacks) and also a vampire (because vampires are cool).  We rescued Lae’zel early on, with her filling the role of tanky melee fighter and Shadowheart, a versatile cleric who is good with magic and weapons.

A great opening sequence sees you aboard some sort of ship with a monster, known as a Mind Flayer, putting some sort of angry tadpole into your eye before all hell breaks loose and you begin your escape.  However, the ship crash lands in Faerûn at which point you and your fledgling party have to figure out what to do next in what is the first of three very large acts of the game.  It’s pretty much from here that you’re free to do what you want in any order, a design choice that provides the player with incredible freedom but also might immediately confuse players expecting a more guided experience.

The way forward is to talk to people and this is where Baldur’s Gate 3 shines.  There are many NPCs in the land with many of them given deep back stories that you can explore via multiple dialogue choices.  These choices can be approached however you see fit.  Do you want to be the hero or a mercenary?  Or in our case, we just went with Astarion’s most cutting responses because aside from being a vampire, he’s also a complete dick but in a funny and sort of charming way.

As the conversations occur and quests start filling up your journal you’ll end up with more and more choices of where to go next.  Along the way you’ll see dice rolls happening in the background, making the difference between you seeing traps, identifying nature or just having various insights or none of those things happening.  It’s a little bit daunting at first, as are those dialogue choices as you wonder if you’re making decisions that might ultimately lock you out of potential story lines.  I mean for most conversations you’ve got the option to just attack the NPC.  What happens if you do that?  Will you miss out on anything?

This is what might take players new to this particular sub-genre of RPG a little bit of adjusting to.  Unlike games like Skyrim or Diablo, the game here isn’t really presented as a story for you to play through but rather a world where you can create the story you want.  For the first few days of playing Baldur’s Gate 3, I was constantly asking my wife (who took a week off to play the PC version) what I should be doing before realising that really there are no wrong answers, just different ones.  That’s why people have been doing multiple playthroughs, the see the story unfold in different ways.  However, if you’re the kind of gamer who really suffers with FOMO, then your anxiety might be spiked when playing this.

The mechanics of the game are deep and complex.  There’s no dumbing down taking place here as the game makes the transition from complex tabletop game to CRPG.  The PC’s giant toolbars are replaced with a series of radial dials offering all manner of attacks, spells, movements and other actions and it can certainly be quite overwhelming in a world where there is so much to interact with but that’s also where the game’s main strengths come from.  And this all applies to the game’s combat which is also incredibly rich in tactical depth.

Once combat starts, the game switches into a turn-based mode.  Here each combatant gets a turn where they can move (with limited range) and perform an action and a secondary action.  So, that could involve moving out of the line of sight, going into stealth (secondary action) and firing off an arrow or a spell.  Or you try any number of other tactics.  As a turn-based strategy game, this is as deep as any X-COM or JRPG.  However, the success of any attack is determined by dice rolls which can be absolutely galling if they don’t go your way.  There are ways to improve your chances by equipping items that improve your rolls or you can quicksave your way to success if you’re the kind of player who used to stick your fingers in all the potential pages on a Fighting Fantasy book.  This apparently isn’t even frowned at by most players and the game makes it pretty easy.

You could write thousands of words on the combat in this game alone but what matters is that it’s deep, intense and enjoyable but there is certainly a learning curve.  Again, I had my wife there talking me through many of the intricacies of it, most of which aren’t explained.  So if you’re a newbie with no one to give advice, you might possibly find the combat a little bit too intense.  Of course, you could just rely on simple melee/ranged attacks and just leave it at that, and you might even do okay, but the fun is in setting up situations which benefit your party and give you the advantage.

The main area where Baldur’s Gate 3 really impresses though is with the world itself and the way you interact with it.  It feels almost as if Larian have thought of everything you might consider and have implemented it into the game.  There are times where you think ‘what if…’ and then it works and they’ve figured out that you might just want to try that and they’ve given you a way to execute it.  The sheer depth of it is incredible.  There are so many ways to achieve the same outcome and again that speaks to the fact that really the priority here is the story that you create along the way.  Sure, there are plenty of things that have to happen to advance the storyline but there are also just things that happen because you remembered that some spell you picked up twenty hours ago might help you circumvent some puzzle or problem in a way that most people never would have considered.  Most people apart from the clever folks at Larian that is.

However, that’s something of a double-edged sword as sometimes situations are complex enough to not be beginner friendly at all.  For example, an early situation sees you meeting a potion trader who isn’t all that she seems.  It turns out this mischievous shopkeeper’s potions all come with nasty side effects and when you meet her again later in the game, she’s being accused of kidnapping a young woman.  When it all goes down and you eventually confront her, she becomes a sort of David Lopan sized hag and runs off into her lair.

You’ll follow her in where you’ll find some NPCs who are being tormented by her, all full of mad conversations and other NPCs who will attack you, mostly from the higher ground.  Get past them and you’ll enter a new area which is full of poisonous gas.  The gas can be temporarily burned off but still pumps out.  I had no idea how to safely get past it.  Apparently, the safe way is to have picked up crates (which you won’t have done because they’re worthless and very heavy – encumberance is a thing in this game) and place them on the vents.  Christ!  Or you can just charge through and maybe make it if you’re lucky.  And after all that you’ve got a very challenging fight with the hag to win.  With guidance it’s hard, but on your own it’s just impenetrable.

The game is full of situations like that where it feels just so unintuitive and you’ll end up just trial and erroring your way through before rolling back to an earlier save to just do it more efficiently.  That’s fine but if you want to play the game as it is dealt, these type of situations can be really tough to deal with.  But you keep going because Baldur’s Gate 3 is just so good.  It might not be our favourite RPG ever but it’s certainly the best one in terms of the stories and the world that it gives you.

The presentation is absolutely remarkable in many ways.  Certainly Faerûn is a fully-realised world full of variety and detail.  It looks consistently good, although if we’re nit-picking it’s not got the big jaw-dropping eye candy moments.  We’ve recently been playing Remnant II which has some proper ‘wow’ moments and I’m not sure that Baldur’s Gate 3 does that more than just having a general high level of graphical quality.  Where the game really shines in the sound design which is fantastic.  The soundtrack is epic, almost every character is voiced (and well-acted) and the narration, provided by voice-actor Amelia Tyler is superb.

On social media, PlayStation were saying that ‘if you think Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t for you, you’re wrong’ and that’s not necessarily going to be true.  It’s certainly great enough to persist with and it tells its stories with unparalleled skill, style and wit but it’s not a game with the immediacy of other RPGs.  There’s a lot to learn and most of it isn’t explained and so if you want to immerse yourself in its many charms and wonders, you might struggle to keep that immersion as you refer to Google and YouTube with regularity.  I’ve been loving the game but with the caveat that I can just shout downstairs and get some advice.  Without that there’s no doubt that I would have really struggled to get a grasp of more than the basic mechanics of the game.

Review 0
9 Overall
+ Amazing storytelling
+ Incredible depth and freedom
+ Excellent presentation throughout
+ Combat is impressively tactical
- Not beginner-friendly
- Very complicated interface compared to the PC version (obviously)
- Some scenarios are baffling at times
If you're into RPGs for the story and the world-building then Baldur's Gate 3 is as good as it gets. The depth of it is such that it'll keep rewarding players throughout multiple playthroughs but that comes at a cost where beginners may find its complex mechanics just utterly overwhelming.




About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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