Attention, adventurers! The long-awaited launch of Baldur’s Gate III - surprisingly not the third but the eleventh video game in the series behind previous installments, remasters, and spin-offs - approaches.
Launching on August 3rd on PC and September 6th on PS5 (with an Xbox port release date yet to be confirmed), the role-playing game helmed by Larian Studios, creators of the ‘Divinity’ series, will see players take on an adventure set within the renowned ‘Forgotten Realms’ setting of the Dungeons and Dragons universe.
Players will have the option of a single-player and cooperative multiplayer experience operating within the D&D 5th edition ruleset, falling in line with previous installments of the game using a version of the tabletop rules, with the first and second titles of the series using a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (aka ‘2nd edition’) ruleset. Thankfully, with BG3 being set in 5th edition, those new to D&D and the BG series will have an easier time settling in. You won’t have to undergo a series of lectures and seminars detailing the ins and outs of 2nd Edition and the beast that is ‘THAC0’ (don’t worry about it, you’re safe).
The game contains an extensive character creation suite (which I will no doubt be spending hours in). There, players will be able to select from eleven character races, with some containing up to ten sub-races! Also available in the character creations suite is the option for players to choose their character class and subclass from the twelve base options available in the D&D 5th edition player’s handbook.
The plot of the game takes place 120 years after the events of Baldur’s Gate II, and months after the events of the D&D tabletop adventure “Descent into Avernus” with things in the Forgotten Realms looking grim. Your character (after hours of minor touch-ups and finalisation in the creation suite) has been kidnapped by mindflayers, squid-headed humanoids with psychic and telekinetic powers, and a hankering for brains. While imprisoned, your character (and the NPCs around you) have been experimented on, with a mindlayer tadpole finding its way into your skulls. Before you can turn into a monstrous creature like that of your captors, the flying ship you find yourselves is attacked and crashes.
From there, your adventure sets off - allowing you to buddy-up with other players or the NPC captives on the ship with you - as you journey across the Forgotten Realms, to places renowned in the D&D space. Bustling cities like Baldur’s Gate, the vast cave networks of the Underdark, and other planes of existence like the Nine Hells. There you will explore, fight, socialise, and find a way of preventing your mindflayer makeover!
Baldur’s Gate III is shaping up to be a turning point in the role-playing game space. It’s got something for everyone, regardless of your knowledge of the D&D cosmos and its decades of lore. If you’re in it for the RPG experience, it’ll more than satiate your hunger for adventure with the nearly 100 hours of content in the main game alone. If you’re in it for the immersion, the depth of detail will astound you; from the breathtaking score from Borislav Slavov (the main theme and ‘Down by the River’ are personal favourites), the well-written narrative of the main story and side content (including an inclusive spectrum of romance options), to the near 174 hours of impeccably performed and animated in-game cinematics featuring a star-studded cast including the likes of JK Simmons, Jason Issacs, and Matthew Mercer.
And for those who are still on the fence, you can even pet the dogs in this game. Sold yet?
The game was released in early access on PC in September 2020, with periodic updates and patches from Larian Studios over the last three years seeking to improve the playing experience and gradually introduce new options and amend the power of certain character class options. Needless to say that they are as passionate and focused on creating the optimal D&D/RPG experience as fans of the series could have wanted.
The early access build covers the opening chapter of the game, but do not fret over going through the same experience if you’ve spent hours playing through it with every update. Larian themselves have said that the opening arc will have an extra third of the number of lines that the early access build had, meaning there are guaranteed new experiences for those of you who have played it in the last few years.
The sheer scale of Baldur’s Gate III has been a relevant talking point in the months leading up to its release, as the amount of cinematics, dialogue, and narrative elements far supersedes the average for that of an RPG game. On the one hand, this amount of detail will allow the player to experience the pillars of D&D (exploration, social interaction, and combat) in a video game format and with the level of naturally fitting dialogue pivotal to the immersive experience.
However, there is concern that this will set a new, detrimental standard when applied to other RPGs released in the future - fears of the already bloated and drawn-out genre (thanks to the likes of Elden Ring and the latest Assassin’s Creed games for example) creating an exhausting environment of grinding out play-time to achieve anything and progress further in the story.
Personally, I don’t believe that this will mark a further bloating of the RPG genre, but will instead result in BG3 marking itself as an influential outlier from the pattern of exhausting, burnout-inducing play experiences players may have experienced in the past. Much like in a D&D game, the story revolves around you, allowing you to shape its course without being bound by a set number of specific criteria to progress. It's akin to rolling the dice and embracing the unpredictable nature of your choices.
Adventure awaits you. Roll high, roll well, and tread carefully. Baldur’s Gate III releases on August 3rd for PC/Steam Deck, and on September 6th for Playstation 5.
Edited by Gio Eldred Mitre, Gaming Editor