Video Game Review: Baldur’s Gate 3

Sometimes I debate whether or not I should review video games. In the first place, I almost always only buy games that are very big. They’re bound to be bestsellers, and most people who are into gaming will have no doubt already heard all about those games. Secondly, by the time I’ve played enough of a game to really feel like I can give it a review, it’s months after it’s been released, and everyone who really wanted to get it, probably already got it.

So what’s the point?

Well, the point is the same as any of my other reviews, I suppose. Some of it’s just to document what I’ve been up to. Some of it is because I’m typically wrong about a lot of the things I make assumptions about. Just because a game is big on my radar doesn’t mean it’s made even a blip on everyone else’s. These days, with so many different movies and games and shows coming out all the time, it can be very (very) easy for something to just fly under the radar.

Which is why I’m still writing a review of Baldur’s Gate 3.

I played the other 2 Baldur’s Gate games, back in the day. I enjoyed them both, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how fiddly they felt to me. They’re basically tactical RPGs, where you have to tell each member of your party what to do individually. So to do anything, there was a lot of clicking involved. I never ended up finishing either of them, though I still own them. (Might have to fix that at some point, now that I’ve got a better feel for the game.) Still, I heard great things about the third installment, and then the great things just didn’t stop coming, so I broke down and bought it.

Weeks later, I’m about 35 hours into the game. (Side note: I am constantly amazed at just how much time other people seem to have. I’ll see people write online about being 200+ hours into this game already. It’s been out for 3 months. 13 weeks. That means people were playing it at least 15 hours a week straight. I suppose once I break it down like that, it doesn’t seem too outlandish, but still. It takes me forever to make much progress in a game.) I’m about 2/3rds of the way through, I think? Far enough to feel like I have a good handle on the game.

Is it as good as everyone said it is?

Pretty much yeah. The graphics are good and the gameplay is straightforward, but what really sets the game apart from others is just how many options there are in the storyline. In many games with any sort of a real story, you’re presented with only a few things you can really do. Dialogue options don’t make much of a difference. The story doesn’t change much based on your actions.

In this game, you can do just about anything. For example, you come across a druid settlement that’s under attack from goblins. In a typical game, you’d do the obvious: save the settlement. In this one, you can just ignore it altogether, or you can save it, or you can team up with the goblins. You can also save it just to plunder it yourself after the goblins are dealt with. (Or turn traitor on the goblins later on.) Main characters can die, and the story moves on without them ever coming back. You’re presented with many choices where there’s no obvious “right” answer. So you do your best, hoping you’re right and that you don’t screw everything up.

Really, it’s about as close to an interactive storytelling experience as you can get, replicating the feel of a real life RPG session remarkably well. (Except without the whole “playing with other real people” thing, though you can do that too in the game. I just haven’t, because time.)

For a person who’s really into narrative, this game is a dream. It’s a blast to see just how you can work your way through any number of predicaments, using the tools available to you. You can really outthink your opponents. You can win through stealth or brute force. I’ve tried to write some choose your own adventure-style books before. Any single branching causes a ton more work, so I realize just how astonishing the amount of effort that went into this game was. Incredible.

Is this game for you? Well, you probably already know the answer, based on the review. It’s not a shoot ’em up, heart pounding action sort of a game. It feels a lot like reading a book, just with cut scenes. If that sounds up your alley, then this is the game for you. Personally, it’s a 10/10 at the moment. I can’t officially give it that, since I haven’t finished it even once, but I’ll be surprised if it dips lower. It’s really well done. Check it out.

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