Open the gate to an enthralling adventure with ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’
Stars and Stripes September 29, 2023
Imagine heading into battle with a squad that contains a guy who tried to bite you, a guy who eats your gear and two women who threaten to kill each other. It’s either a recipe for disaster or a recipe for loads of fun.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a medieval fantasy from developers at Larian Studios that’s based on the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It’s packed with interesting quests and dynamic fights. But what sets it apart from similar titles is the personalities of the companions who join your journey.
Whether playing solo or cooperatively, you can travel with up to four humans, elves, half-orcs, gnomes, hobbits, reptilian dragonborn, devillike Tieflings or interplanar travelers known as Gith. And these can fill the traditional fantasy roles ranging from pious paladin to wily wizard.
Gamers who play solo or don’t have three friends who can fill out the four-member team can turn to the assortment of oddballs provided by the developers. These are the half-elf cleric Shadowheart, who follows a dark cult; the human wizard Gale, who must consume magical items to survive; the elf rogue Astarion, who has vampiric tendencies; the human Warlock Wyll, who’s affiliated with a demon; the Gith fighter Lae-zel, who has a very, very bad attitude; and the Tiefling barbarian Karlach, whose mechanical heart is on the fritz.
As is the case with sidekicks in most RPGs, each of these adventurers comes with baggage that needs to be handled and a set of quests that must be accomplished – especially if you want to kindle a romance with one of them. The big difference here is the characters are much more compelling and the writing much more interesting than the standard fare.
The action begins on an interplanar ship belonging to the dreaded Illithid – the tentacle-faced mind flayers. An Illithid visits the ship’s “passengers” and drops wiggling worms into their eyes. Over time, these will replace the host’s head, creating another mind-flayer. However, the Illithid ship is being pursued by dragon-riding Gith warriors and it’s not long before the ship crashes back onto your home world of Faerun.
You quickly learn that the Illithid have been quite efficient in their worm distribution, leaving them inside many of the unfriendly characters you encounter. So your long-term goal is to save not only yourself but the entire world.
To make things interesting, you also learn that having a worm in your head gives you some very helpful powers. You can choose how far you want to go with this transition – using the powers and even adding more worms to your cranium.
The overall campaign is a sprawling adventure with plenty of side quests and countless little clues that can give you an advantage against an adversary or unlock an intriguing subplot. And multiple options are available in almost every encounter. Do you fight the evil Drow elf and free gnomes from servitude, or do you win his favor and possible assistance by killing the gnomes? Such divergent options – as well as the possibility of playing as different classes and races – opens the door to multiple playthroughs.
Combat is turn-based but very engaging. Each team member has multiple methods of attack and a wide variety of other actions to take in combat. Swords flash and cut. Warhammers slam. Spells fly and explode. Teeth chomp. Clerics rush to assist the injured. It’s all very exciting. I have to admit that I doubt I’d do a good job of orchestrating all of the action if it weren’t turn-based. However, it would be nice if there were some sort of “instant replay” so you could go back and see what the battle looked like in real time.
The game is excellent from a technical standpoint. The controls are very efficient, especially when you consider the wide variety of actions that need to be available at a moment’s notice. The graphics are very good, offering vivid settings and realistic character renderings and animations – though you could debate whether “realistic” is the right term to use for tentacle-faced mind flayers.
A few warnings are in order since this is an M-rated game. The romances can get very racy. In fact, the first thing that popped up when I launched the game was a question about whether I wanted to turn off the nudity. And it’s not uncommon to stumble across the scene of a battle where intestines and severed heads litter the ground.
Those who played the original Baldur’s Gate games – first released for computers two decades ago but recently rereleased for consoles – will recognize the setting, basic game philosophy and lore, which are all drawn from Dungeons & Dragons. But much has changed as greater computing capacity has led to vast improvements in game mechanics, graphics, story design and character development. The third entry in the series makes for a great return to a familiar land.
I’m a big fan of fantasy games, from Skyrim to Dragon Age to Witcher. But I find Baldur’s Gate 3 the most enthralling and satisfying title in the genre. I’m hoping for plenty of expansion packs and sequels.
Platform: PlayStation 5