Larian Studios’ Dungeons and Dragons RPG Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the biggest games I’ve ever faced. After over 20 hours of playing, I’m still exploring the first area, meeting brand-new characters with fully voiced, multi-path questlines and even discovering new mechanics.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say about Baldur’s Gate 3, though. Sure, I haven’t experienced 170 hours of cutscenes or any of its 17,000 endings. Hell, I’ve still only experienced one of the game’s 31 playable subraces, but Baldur’s Gate 3 is already becoming one of my favourite RPGs of all time.
The density of Larian’s adventure is intimidating with the amount of player choice available. Every scenario has a dozen different ways to tackle it, many you’ll discover after you’ve already finished your chosen solution. However, this seemingly limitless approach to any problem results in something that most PC RPGs struggle with: making you comfortable with failure.
The concept of Quick Saving and Quick Loading in RPGs has often stopped me from sticking with mistakes as I’ve aged. Every replay of Morrowind or Fallout 4 has me spamming F5 and F9 to counteract major mistakes instead of seeing through their consequences. In comparison, with Baldur’s Gate 3, I feel compelled to explore those consequences.
Every decision in Baldur’s Gate 3 relies on your character’s stats. Whether you’re using a player-created character or a prepared Origin character, everything from your class to your background to your skills can alter how you interact with every NPC, enemy and even item.
For example, early on in the game you’re tasked with finding a way to remove a Mind Flayer tadpole from your skull. There are countless ways to do this: find a medic, find a powerful Druid, rescue an enigmatic author who will attempt to lobotomise you, make a deal with a Goblin princess to remove it, make a deal with a Devil or just don’t bother with it. And these are just the paths I’ve found in my first playthrough.
Every time you attempt to go through with one of these scenarios, your character’s stats — and a great deal of luck — will determine if you can, and how you can approach it. This is done through classic Dungeons and Dragons dice rolls. Each option has a specific cost you need to hit on a combination of dice: a 1 means you fail no matter what, a 20 means you succeed no matter what and every other option is a combination of your dice roll and any bonuses your character has.
This leads to some hilarious scenarios. In one interaction, a Tiefling child tried to show off a magic ring they were attempting to sell me. My character, a magical Drow, attempted to expose the trick by performing it herself, only for me to roll a Critical Failure and completely fumble the ball in the most embarrassing way. This also happened when I tried to talk to a mysterious swamp frog who then attacked me and completely wiped my party with powerful frog magic.
Baldur’s Gate 3’s greatest strength is that it not only makes you comfortable with failure, but even excited for it. Rolling a natural one as you attempt to convince an old hag to release a pregnant peasant can unlock an entire dungeon where you must chase down the hag, defeat her army of mind-possessed victims and destroy her. Even then, you can still find a way to make the hag give up instead of finishing her off.
This is why reviews of Baldur’s Gate 3, actual in-depth reviews from people with multiple completed characters, will be hard to come by for months to come. While it doesn’t have unlimited possibilities, it has far too many to count, and that wealth of possibility is what makes failing so fun in Larian’s new RPG.
In the future, I will undoubtedly return to my save-scumming ways. After all, I do want to see everything Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer, even if that is an impossibility. (I do have other games to play, you know.) At some point, I will undoubtedly want to play as an evil scumbag who murders everything in sight without any issues.
Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t the first RPG where I’ve allowed myself to fail. (How do you play a classic Fallout game without failing 40% of the time?) But it is a rare kind of game where failing oftentimes leads to a fun scenario you would’ve never expected. I’m no longer thinking of the rampant success I could’ve had. Instead, I’m thinking of the journey myself, and my party, have been on.
Larian Studios has done the impossible in this regard. Failure is as much a consequence of your own fallacy as well as a reward. Everything I’ve done after failing was problem solving I’ve enjoyed doing, unlike Fallout 4 or Skyrim’s typical bandaid fix of just giving you another dialogue option to pass a check with.
If Baldur’s Gate 3 continues to be this in-depth at the 100-hour mark, which I have the utmost faith it will, then it will undoubtedly be a generation-defining RPG that no other video game will touch for years, if ever.