After 60 hours with the early access and review builds, Baldur's Gate 3 might prove to be the best D&D game ever made
Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.
The socket stares back at me, empty. I found my way to this part of Baldur's Gate 3 almost by accident, a combination of a fight gone wrong, an ingenious solution to a puzzle, and a couple of disarmed traps leading me to a legendary weapon that's the perfect fit for my cleric. After all that, I'm not going back empty-handed, but I've got no idea what fits in the socket. So, like any sensible D&D player, I try my luck. Figuring that there's no way the game is about to let me get away with this, I instruct my light-fingered rogue to try and yank the weapon free. In an instant, I'm sealed in a magical cage with sirens blaring and a doomsday device pointed squarely at my head.
FAST FACTS: BALDUR'S GATE 3
Release date:August 3, 2023
Platform(s):PC (PS5 coming September 6, 2023)
Developer / Publisher: Larian Studios
In the interests of leaving something to the imagination, I won't outline my daring escape, but it's moments like that one that make Baldur's Gate 3 feel like a truly authentic D&D experience. They are the invisible hand of the Dungeon Master, where Larian gently pushes you away from the keyboard and reminds you that for all the control you have on this world, this is someone else's story too. Sometimes that reminder comes in the form of a massive, world-ending set piece, but much of the time it's much more subtle; a rousing speech, a heartfelt confession, an encounter so silly in a part of the world so out-of-the-way that you can't help but feel the humanity in every part of this game's creation. Baldur's Gate 3 feels so rare - a game that delivers not only on the D&D ruleset, but on the whole ideal of a roleplaying experience.
After 30 hours across various early access playthroughs and another 40 with the full release, it's the breadth, depth, and density of Baldur's Gate 3 that strikes me more than anything. It's a game where the critical path sometimes feels like little more than a suggestion, where a narrative thread you picked up hours ago might return in an entirely unexpected way, where a specific character might offer an entirely new way of seeing the world, or where a wrong turn might lead you down a narrative rabbit hole so deep that when you finally emerge you feel like you're almost literally stumbling back into the light.
For all that a simplistic following of the critical path isn't integral to your enjoyment of Baldur's Gate 3's main quest, it can't be denied that the versatility of that story is a marvel. The number of ways in which the game's first act alone can reach its ending is hard to wrap your head around, and that diversity of approach carries forward. The narrative flexibility that offers is seriously impressive, a means by which you can seamlessly pivot your own story according to the whims of your own roleplaying experience. In offering that sense of branching freedom rather than binary choice, major players become products of their own world rather than archetypes to be clumsily wielded by the requirements of a more rigid story.
Where Larian chooses to tell you its own story, it does so so well that those moments feel lifted directly from a tabletop campaign. Sometimes they're massive combat arenas, or devilish puzzles. Just as often, they're opportunities for Baldur's Gate 3's cast to shine. Each of the game's six, core 'Origin' characters slot into the story as seamlessly as your own creation, taking the spotlight to build context into the world even when it might not relate to your own experience. My current highlight is Karlach, a barbarian; tricked into slavery, she spent a decade fighting in a pointless forever war before escaping prior to the events of the game. With no good guys and no winners, the very physical manifestation of Karlach's trauma might have made her gruff and nihilistic in another game, but Larian filled her with zest, humor, and a desire for life.
Baldur's Gate 3 treads the line of that kind of traditional archetype with finesse; clerics wield their radiant powers to serve a dark goddess; fanatical fighters are wracked with indecision about the object of their obsession; even my bard bucks the D&D trend by being silver-tongued, but rarely sleazy. I'm impressed with the characters themselves, although so far I'm finding the levelling curve a little underwhelming. That's a D&D problem rather than a Baldur's Gate 3 problem, but I wish I was getting a bit more out of each upgrade. The payoff is through an absolute glut of magic items which might frustrate tabletop purists, but I'm enjoying thanks to its versatility. So far, the highlight is my rogue, who has one build dedicated to pure stealth, but another set of gear that offers combat benefits based on the bonus lightning damage his bow deals. Dedicated builds definitely aren't a part of the tabletop game that I'm familiar with, but they certainly contribute a lot to the Baldur's Gate 3's video-gamification of the pen and paper game.
Too big to fail
As much as the breadth and depth of Baldur's Gate 3 are both an impressive part of its creation and in many ways key to its success, its size and scope have the potential to prove a stumbling block for some. D&D's combat is not inherently complex, and Baldur's Gate 3 does very good job of outlining the traditional 'movement-action-bonus action' loop of each character, but there's plenty of information that I found hard to parse even as a D&D player, particularly around equipped items. Perhaps that's an issue with the complexity of the tabletop game, but there are instances where Larian's been much more transparent - unlike D&D, a single button press lets me see the character sheet of everything in the game, making combat decisions a little easier to make.
The game's sheer size also means that if you're not careful, you're likely to miss a lot. With nobody capable of casting Find Familiar or Wild Shape in my party, I've missed out on whatever's hidden behind multiple cracks in multiple walls. With no druid or ranger, I can't use the Speak with Animals spell to gather information from keen-eyed critters. If you pay enough attention to the world, it's fascinating to spot how much Larian is prepared to let you miss - something as simple as taking a rest at the wrong moment might irreversibly move the story on, permanently barring you from entire swathes of narrative. From some perspectives, that's just another example of Baldur's Gate 3's authenticity, but for some it could easily prove a frustration.
That size also means that Baldur's Gate 3 needs a fast-travel feature, and I'm yet to be convinced by its inclusion. Present since early access, a series of magical portals are entirely optional, but act as an unfortunate 'get out of jail free' option, robbing some of those bigger moments of their weight. The alternative is trekking back through empty corridors or trying to fight your way home on your knees thanks to a tricky boss fight - neither option seems particularly desirable, but it remains a feature I'd prefer not to use.
The game's scope means it's also currently proving difficult to level anything like a final verdict on Baldur's Gate 3. More than 30 hours in, and the titular city is still well over the horizon. Larian's teasing it, and not particularly gently - almost every other quest seems to end with a character who says that I should catch up with them when I make it to the city. That's a smart way of seeding what's to come, as well as gently outlining the fact that your actions (or inaction) will have consequences down the road.
For now, suffice to say that Baldur's Gate 3 feels a little bit like Larian has accomplished the impossible. This is an entire, years-long pen-and-paper roleplaying campaign realized in beautiful fidelity, in a way that brings every tiny detail of your mind's eye to life. It's a Witcher-style elevation of its source material, a game that lives and breathes its tabletop origins so deeply that to see it transfer them so completely from the page to the screen almost feels wrong. At a time when Dungeons & Dragons boasts a popularity almost unknown within its five-decade history, Baldur's Gate 3 feels primed to be held up with the best of the best, with the likes of Critical Role, Curse of Strahd, and the classic D&D CRPGs of the past; Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, and, of course, with the original Baldur's Gate.
|Available platforms||Games, PC|
I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.
More about baldur s gate 3
If you're having some trouble with Baldur's Gate 3 and think it's pretty hard, that's totally fair - BG3 is a very challenging game, and while our list of Baldur's Gate 3 tips will do a lot to help you out in general, here's some advice on making the game specifically a little easier to play.What is the highest level you can get in Baldur's Gate 3 early access? ›
In the game's early access release, players can achieve a maximum level of 5, which is just enough for most of the spellcaster classes to gain access to third-level spells.How much of Baldur's Gate 3 is playable 2023? ›
Baldur's Gate 3 will fully release in August 2023. The current Early Access version allows you to play through Act 1 of Baldur's Gate 3, which lasts roughly 30 hours.How many hours does it take to beat Baldur's Gate 3? ›
Larian has always given the official length of a “normal” Baldur's Gate 3 playthrough at between 75-100 hours. That's one playthrough, normal combat, normal exploration, fixed decision making, beginning to end.What is the easiest class to play in Baldur's Gate? ›
- 5 Paladin.
- 4 Ranger.
- 3 Barbarian.
- 2 Warlock.
- 1 Fighter.
- Your character attempts to make an attack while their senses are obscured.
- Your character attempts to make a ranged attack while in melee.
- Your character attempts to make a Stealth check while wearing Heavy Armor.
What's the max level in Baldur's Gate 3? The Baldur's Gate 3 devs have confirmed that players can “reach Level 12” at this moment in time, although this could very easily be increased in the future.What is the max character level in Baldur's Gate 3? ›
Baldur's Gate 3 max level revealed
As per the game's developers, the Baldur's Gate 3 level cap is currently Level 12, though it's worth noting that this might be subject to future changes. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
However, the one major limitation of the game is the number of characters that can be in the party at a time. Baldur's Gate 3's max party size is four, which means unlocking new companions presents players with the difficult choice between leaving someone at Camp and missing out on a new character and their abilities.Will Baldur's Gate 3 have Dragonborn? ›
Dragonborn is a playable race in Baldur's Gate 3. This guide will provide an overview of this race, including Dragonborn race features, skill modifiers, and subrace options in BG3. “A proud race that values clan and skills above all else.
It's safe to say that the Cleric is the best class in Baldur's Gate 3. This is primarily due to spells like Healing Word, Bless, Guiding Bolt, and Guidance.What classes are missing in Baldur's Gate 3? ›
- 2 Path of the Storm Herald (Barbarian Subclass)
- 3 College of Glamour (Bard Subclass) ...
- 4 Undead (Warlock Subclass) ...
- 5 Swashbuckler (Rogue Subclass) ...
- 6 Way of the Drunken Master (Monk Subclass) ...
- 7 Blood Hunter Class. ...
- 8 Artificer Class. ...
Before you go shouting about how having 17,000 different endings is impossible and that it's likely just referring to minor background changes in each ending, Larian has made it very clear that this is the case.Can you romance in Baldur's Gate 3? ›
Romance in Baldur's Gate 3 has at least three moving parts. At the foundation is your approval rating with the love interest in question.How many acts can you play in Baldur's Gate 3? ›
As the game is also an epic adventure full of twists and turns, incredible voice acting, and amazing cinematic moments, the devs have also chosen to divide the game into three Acts.Is baldurs gate 3 beginner friendly? ›
It can be complex but enjoyable for beginners.Is baldurs gate 3 easy to play? ›
The rationale here is simple: Baldur's Gate 3 is complicated, with a wealth of buttons and menus to navigate and loads of information being thrown at you all the time. Once you wrap your head around it, it's great — you're going to want that kind of minute control for tinkering and hatching schemes.Is Baldur's Gate 3 good for beginners? ›
Baldur's Gate 3 offers a wide variety of classes and subclasses, making it difficult for experienced players to choose. Fighter is recommended for beginners due to its simplicity and effectiveness in combat.Is Baldur's Gate grindy? ›
Validated User. BG shouldn't require any repetitive grinding at all. It does expect you to do sidequests, but if you consider that boring grinding, it is probably not the game for you.