What is there to say about Baldur’s Gate 3 that hasn’t already been said? I genuinely don’t know, because I haven’t read much of what anyone’s said so far.
But I’ll start with something I haven’t seen mentioned in the casual enthusiasm so far: This game is riddled with bugs. It’s the buggiest RPG I’ve seen since any average MMORPG launch in the late 1990s or early 2000s. You can’t take two steps in the game without running into a texture bug, or a camera pointed off into space, or a model that looks weird, or some interactive feature of the world that isn’t working right, or a disappearing UI, or supposed allies that suddenly start attacking you, or something. To be fair, it’s usually the kind of bug we software developers would classify as a “cosmetic” bug–something you can put off fixing until later because it doesn’t really stop customers from using the software.
Despite that, I have no doubts whatsoever that I’m going to keep playing this game and work around or ignore all the quirky bugs and annoyances, because there’s definitely something compelling about it, something that elevates it above the rest of the field, so that it might actually be that roughly one game a year that is actually worth taking time out of your busy schedule to play. It’s the kind of game that’s an experience, not just a game.
I’ve played about 12 hours so far (not counting a couple hours of false starts), and I’m playing really slow, talking to everyone, reading all the text out loud, reading books and item descriptions and whatnot, extended hour-plus tactial combat sequences, stopping to play bongos for the crowds, so that’s probably like 2 hours of content that everyone else is blowing through in their race to see the end of the story. (I imagine streamers are probably finishing up the game when I post this.)
In terms of basic gameplay mechanics, it’s essentially a mashup of Divinity: Original Sin and Dragon Age. The influences from those games are heavy.
Divinity: Original Sin, obviously, because the same studio made it, and at times it looks like they genuinely just swapped different art assets into the exact same game, undoubtedly saving tons of development time.
The Dragon Age and BioWare ancestry, however, was a pleasant surprise. It has the same “camp drama” mechanic from that game, where you go around talking to all the people in your party every night at camp. (Or, in my case, after almost every combat encounter, because I’m playing on Tactician difficulty so far.) At camp is when you find out all of your companions’ Secret Tragic Backstories(TM), something that is apparently required to play modern D&D.
Your companion characters have very obvious and differing personalities and you quickly form opinions about them, just like most BioWare games. Although I will say that none of them really stand out as being more likable than any other ones, to me personally. They all have that kind of generic heroic fantasy Secret Tragic Backstory(TM) kind of personality that’s easy to laugh at. (The Secret Tragic Backstory(TM) usually boils down to some variation of abuse or addiction. Sorry to spoil literally every story related to D&D in all of human history.)
In terms of a D&D combat simulator, I find it lacking. I think Solasta: Crown of the Magister sets the bar there, and BG3 does not meet or exceed it. It’s actually very annoying that it doesn’t lay down a tactical square grid to make things easier. With the game’s gridless system of auto-pathing, I constantly have problems getting my characters to go to the exact spot I want them to go, following the exact route I want them to take to avoid opportunity attacks, which can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
But I still find the combat fairly exciting. On Tactician difficulty, almost every fight so far has been a near-TPK. The [redacted] in the Refectory, the [redacted] in the Dank Crypt, the [redacted] in the cave: All those early encounters, I had to scratch and claw my way through them, using up almost all my resources, and there was never any certainty of winning. Update: Even the very first encounter with the [redacted] in the wreckage of the crashed ship, after both enemies’ turns, I was exactly 1 hit point away from a TPK.
I tried to make my character an antithesis to the typical Heroic Fantasy Secret Tragic Backstory(TM) character that D&D 5E always wants you to make: Mine is Tavi, a Halfling Bard with Bongos, always trying to lighten the mood with a drum circle, but so far, none of the broody companions have wanted to join in. I even hired a second halfling Bard to play the violin with me. By the end of the game, I might replace all the broody companions with a full Halfling Bard Band. (Note: Two halfling bards does not help make combat any easier on Tactician difficulty.)
That’s good enough for a first look, I suppose. I’m really enjoying it so far and don’t anticipate playing anything else for a while, despite all the bugs. I can’t
under overstate how many bugs are in this game. It’s a ton of bugs. But they’re more the endearing kind of bugs, you know? The kind of bugs you look back on fondly and laugh about as being part of that nostalgic game experience. They don’t seem to matter to my enjoyment of the game. So far, at least. So far, I haven’t actually lost anything to a bug.