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Baldur’s Gate 3 makes gaming’s most complex genre more player-friendly than ever

With Baldur’s Gate 3 now out, I can’t help but feel a surge of excitement. A game that I have been playing, –and loving — since its early access back in 2020 is finally in the hands of the general public. Its reception is overwhelmingly positive and it is truly great to see people sink their teeth into such a fascinating and complex game. That is, if they aren’t too intimated to start.

Computer role-playing games (CRPGs) are notorious for being a complicated and daunting genre, especially one like this that draws so heavily on Dungeons & Dragons rule sets. I couldn’t blame anyone unfamiliar with the genre who just feels too intimidated by its scope. That being said, don’t let Baldur’s Gate 3 scare you off; this is the best introduction to CRPGs ever made.

Start small, start slow

The CRPG genre has a bad reputation for being unwieldy for new players thanks to all of the intricate layers of systems that tend to populate them. You usually have to deal with spells, weapon attacks, environmental stats, verticality, and so much more. It can give a new player stage fright as soon as they are given control of their character. Baldur’s Gate 3, on the other hand, does an excellent job of onboarding new players to the genre with its streamlined rules and systems.

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Lae'zel standing on top of a roof look down on a crowd of people in a city

During combat, everything you could possibly do is distilled down to four categories: Action, Bonus Action, Movement, and Reaction. If you want to do something substantial on your turn (like attack), it will cost you an Action. Something small will be a Bonus Action, while Movement is self-explanatory. Reactions are a bit different, as they only happen on someone else’s turn rather than that character’s. Most classes will get only one of each per round of combat, so players generally only have to worry about two actions and movement on their turn and a potential Reaction, as a treat.

While this system gets added on later in the game, the core stays the same. Like Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, the system that Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on, the game follows a simple rule: “Start small and start slow.” In both Baldur’s Gate 3 and 5th Edition, players start with only a few options for spells and abilities. Those wanting to roleplay as a powerful wizard at level one need to get comfortable with the idea of mainly casting cantrips for a long time. In the beginning, spell resources are low but still show the players how impactful they are. Physical attacks may be weak, but they’re still a reliable and consistent source of damage.

Any character’s first three levels are meant to help you understand the main mechanics of a particular class. That lets players understand the full breadth of what they can do piece by piece, rather than tossing everything at them all at once. It’s a crucial design decision that eases players into a complicated system.

Now for something completely different

Baldur’s Gate 3 will take the average player about 100 hours to complete. That’s pretty standard for CRPGs, considering Larian Studios’ previous game, Divinity: Original Sins II, was about the same length. That means you’re going to spend a long time with your character with their abilities and stats — 100 hours to regret your choices.

Though a major piece of Baldur’s Gate 3‘s player friendliness is that Larian Studios gives players an option to reclass early on. You cannot change your appearance, but your ability points, subclass, and class are all available for a shake-up. Not enjoying the fact that your wizard dies every time they get hit in the face with an ax? Turn them into a barbarian and have them eat axe blows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A dragonborn sorcerer in character creation
Larian Studios

The reclass option is also available for your entire party. Tired of Shadowheart not pulling her weight? Swap out her subclass to the Life domain so she can be a better support, or make her a paladin so she can properly stay in the frontlines. This reclass option only takes 100 gold to do which means you can do this early and often.

It never feels great to be stuck with certain choices when playing a game, especially one as expansive and long as this. Many CRPGs, like Pillars of Eternity, can feel like you need to craft the perfect character from the start in order to perform well. That’s a daunting task that can make long runs feel like lost causes, scaring players away. That’s not the case here. The flexibility makes it more comfortable to test out builds or correct mistakes during a level-up. Just make sure you’re okay with your facial hair choices. You can’t fix those.

All the world is a stage

Most CRPGs tend to keep players at arm’s length when it comes to storytelling. Their isometric views along with hours of silent dialogue can make players feel disconnected from what’s going on. Baldur’s Gate 3 flips that tradition on its head, though, going to incredible lengths to make the game feel more cinematic. Flashy cutscenes help that case, but what’s more impactful are the subtle ways the game keeps players invested in its characters and plot.

Most dialogue in Baldur’s Gate 3 is fully voice-acted, which is a surprise for the genre. Even the random druids and tieflings in the Emerald Grove that literally have one line are voiced. When talking to a character, the camera zooms in for a more dynamic angle so you are not just having a conversation thirty feet up in the air. Character animations are diverse and charming too. The way Shadowheart gestures with her hands when she is annoyed, or the way Astarion literally sticks his nose up in the air when he wants to be stuffy makes them ooze with character.

Astarion looking pensive with his hand resting on his chin
Larian Studios

All of that makes it easier to get invested in characters rather than seeing them as an assortment of stats and skills to use in battle. It gives us an extra reason to care when Lae’zel is talking about her people and culture because she as a character cares. That enthusiasm is infectious and makes me want to learn more about this world.

CRPGs have always had a rough reputation for inviting new players to this scene. The genre is right up there with real-time strategy games as downright daunting to approach. Larian Studios has gone to impressive lengths to change that narrative, creating a massive and complex game that can span hundreds of hours. It’s a feat that will hopefully open a “niche” genre up to the world — and if Steam stats are anything to go by, it’s working already.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is available now on PC. It’s coming to PS5 on September 6.

Andrew Zucosky
Andrew has been playing video games since he was a small boy, and he finally got good at them like a week ago. He has been in…
Baldur’s Gate 3 Patch 1 improves the game in over 1,000 ways
Karlach in Baldur's Gate 3.

Larian Studios released Patch No. 1 for Baldur's Gate 3 today, almost a month after launch and following several hotfixes. It brings over 1,000 gameplay improvements and bug fixes to the highly successful RPG.

Baldur's Gate 3 has been a massive success since its August 3 release on PC, but it definitely hasn't been free of bugs and some other weird quirks. Four hotfixes have addressed some of the most pressing issues, but these patches are much larger in scale when it comes to what they add and fix. Larian says Patch 1 is primarily focused on game balance and flow tweaks, as well as bug fixes. There's nothing too glamorous or game-changing, but it should make playing Baldur's Gate 3 an even smoother experience. 
A couple of these fixes have to do with the game's romance system. A bug causing the conclusion to Shadowheart's romance to not activate properly has been fixed, and animations have been added so taller characters don't awkwardly kiss or hug shorter ones anymore. Fixes have been made in preventing bugs at the Morphic Pool, an issue where loot wouldn't appear on corpses in multiplayer, and some Game Over screens problematically appearing where they shouldn't have. There are way too many tweaks and bug fixes to list here, so we recommend going to the Baldur's Gate 3 website to check out the full list.
Unfortunately, game performance improvements aren't part of Patch 1, as Larian Studios is saving those for Patch 2. But it says that we "won’t be waiting long" for those. Baldur's Gate 3 is available now for PC, comes to PlayStation 5 on September 6, and will launch on Xbox Series X/S before the end of the year.

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Baldur’s Gate 3 drops Series S splitscreen support to release on Xbox in 2023
Jaheira in Baldur's Gate 3.

Larian Studios promises to release Baldur's Gate 3 on Xbox Series X/S later this year after pushing the game back because of performance problems on Xbox Series S.
Baldur's Gate 3 is available now on PC and will come out for PS5 on September 6, but an Xbox Series X/S version won't be available for a little bit longer. In a July 2023 community update, developer Larian Studios explained that this is because it needed "to ensure that the game is performing without compromise across the entire Xbox X/S ecosystem, in multiplayer and with split-screen. The Xbox Series X version was running fine, but the Xbox Series S version of the game was struggling a lot more. The Xbox versions of Baldur's Gate 3 didn't have a release window until now, when Larian Studios co-founder Swen Vincke took to X to confirm it'd come to Xbox platforms before the end of the year. That said, it will exclude one notable feature.
"Super happy to confirm that after meeting [Phil Spencer] yesterday, we’ve found a solution that allows us to bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox players this year still, something we’ve been working towards for quite some time," Vincke wrote. "All improvements will be there, with split-screen coop on Series X. Series S will not feature split-screen co-op, but will also include cross-save progression between Steam and Xbox Series."
Thankfully, it looks like Xbox players won't have to wait too much longer to play this excellent game, but it will be one of the first games to notably drop a major feature between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S versions. This follows comments by Head of Xbox Phil Spencer where he said he doesn't believe Microsoft will drop support for Xbox Series S in the foreseeable future. "I want to make sure games are available on both, that's our job as a platform holder and we're committed to that with our partners," Spencer told Eurogamer. "And I think we're gonna get there with Larian. So I'm not overly worried about that, but we've learned some stuff through it. Having an entry-level price point for console, sub-$300, is a good thing for the industry."
 
Baldur's Gate 3 is available now for PC, launches for PS5 on September 6, and will finally come out for Xbox Series X/S before the end of 2023.

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I beat Baldur’s Gate 3 in 30 hours (and killed everyone in the process)
Gale talks to the player in Baldur's Gate 3.

Baldur's Gate 3 is such a long game that even though millions have played it, far fewer have seen the ending. Only 0.4% of players have gotten the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement for beating the game at the time of this writing, according to Steam. It's a game someone can put dozens of hours into, with no end remotely in sight.
That is. unless you beat it way earlier than you were supposed to.
During the climax of Act 2 in Baldur's Gate 3, I accidentally reached a premature ending -- one that my party members weren't too happy about. The ramifications of the ending definitely weren't good for the Forgotten Realms, but finding a way to wrap up Baldur's Gate 3 early just gave me an ever deeper appreciation for how personal each player's journey through this game can feel. 
Note: This article contains major spoilers for Act 2 of Baldur's Gate 3.
One last gust of Weave
Anyone who has played Baldur's Gate 3 probably knows Gale, the smooth-talking wizard who you can pull out of a portal early on in Act 1. Throughout that Act, I had to keep giving him magical artifacts to satiate some sort of curse he has, although their positive effects on Gale dulled with each new item. After doing this enough, I learned the truth: Gale was cursed by the God Mystra after betraying her. At the start of Act 2, though, Gale's former mentor, Elminster, arrives and tells Gale that Mystra has a new task for him: destroy the "Heart of the Absolute" with a Netherese Orb Blast that will essentially nuke and destroy everything around him.

This option appeared alongside Gale's other spells in menus throughout the entirety of Act 2, although using the Netherese Orb Blast early typically results in a message that said my party had been defeated and tasked me with reloading. But there is a real opportunity to use it and end things at the end of Act 2. Most of this section of the game is spent finding a way to defeat Ketheric Thorm, a Baldur's Gate 3 villain voiced by J.K. Simmons. I confronted him on top of Moonrise Towers with the help of Nightsong, who I freed, but before I could beat him, he retreated to a massive Illithid Colony underneath Moonrise Towers. Obviously, my party followed, ultimately stumbling upon Ketheric and two other villains -- Lord Enver Gortash and Orin the Red -- activating the Elder Brain that seemed to be the "Heart of the Absolute" that Gale needed to destroy.
Gale told me that this and asked me me for permission to explode and destroy everything. The first option is to tell him not to, which makes sense; there's still a whole third of the game left to play! But seeing that every major threat in Baldur's Gate 3 was here in one room and knowing how much the game had already taken over my life in a week, I told him yes.
After saying, "One last gust of Weave. One last gale to end them all," Gale blew himself up, and there was nothing else I could do as my Dream Visitor shouted, "No!" Gale blew up, killing Ketheric, Orin, Gortash, and the Elder Brain and granting me the Hero of the Forgotten Realms achievement you're supposed to get for beating Baldur's Gate 3. The post-explosion dialogue paints a gimmer future for the Forgotten Realms, though.
"Beneath the smoking ashes of Moonrise Towers, the elder brain lies destroyed," the narrator says. "But what of the tadpoles it commanded? Freed of the Absolute's control, they will complete their transformations. A plague of illithids will soon descend on the Sword Coast, enslaving all they do not affect." Credits rolled as I blankly stared at the screen, processing that this was the ending I'd worked toward.
An imperfect ending
This definitely isn't a good ending for Baldur's Gate 3; it's pretty terrible, actually. Still, the fact that I could do that speaks to a wider strength of the adventure. The best thing about Baldur's Gate 3 is how much choice it gives players. It's not just freedom in completing set objectives, but freedom to circumvent them entirely. The most fun I had with Baldur's Gate 3 was finding ways to avoid major boss fights or set pieces. Instead of picking a side in the attack on the Druid and Refugee camp, I destroyed the bridge Minthara could use to escape in the Goblin camp, killed her before having a conversation with her, and then pushed Dror Ragzlin off a ledge to kill him.

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