LONDON: The “Baldur’s Gate” series dates to 1998 and this latest incarnation (available for both PC and PS5) allows gamers into a vast and hugely complex fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons, with hundreds of customization options as you weave your story from the depths of the Underdark, to the glittering rooftops of the Upper City.
For those unfamiliar with the series, adjusting to this world, its history and lore, as well as the practical aspects of turn-based role-playing game, or RPG, combat, can be difficult. But, if you are willing to persevere, you are rewarded with a story of incredible depth all shaped by your choices.
The story begins — following significant time choosing your character’s class and appearance — with you trapped on a nautiloid ship where you witness an Illithid also known as “mind flayer” place a tadpole into your brain. One dramatic air battle with dragons later and you are free and desperate to cure this contagion.
As ever with RPGs, you balance a central quest alongside a steadily increasing number of side quests. There is a fair amount of dialogue but the choices within it, which often involve going to the role of a dice, feel substantive and the silky tones of the narrator give you greater immersion into the impressive world that you find yourself in.
Combat is turn-based and akin to a game of chess with each of your four-person team possessing certain skills and strengths that need to be knitted together for success. Again, the pace of this style of game is very different from the quick reactions of other more conventional fighting fantasies like “Elden Ring” but again after a time complexity becomes familiarity.
Movement around the battle space is limited, jumping becomes an important attribute and enemy spells or actions like throwing grease can force some of your party to miss their turn, sometimes with lethal implications. Leveling up is a serious affair offering a host of new skills, but patience is required to read and understand each.
The dice mechanic can seem a bit arbitrary at first but once you get to grip with the logic of a character’s developing strengths it can reinforce the sense that your choices matter. Charismatic characters can persuade non-playable characters to do what they want, whilst stronger ones can try and use intimidation to get to a similar outcome. Again, it is worth spending time slowly understanding the menus, dialogue histories and item effects to really get the most out of the game.
The world is varied and can be fast-travelled. Music and atmosphere are both solid but one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is the relationship between your tadpole-infected group of four. It is your choices that determine who you travel with, and the world’s history will mean some companions will not get on with each other. Time spent resting in the game’s “camp” facility offers further dialogue and the chance for your characters’ relationships to become stronger. This all means that “Baldur’s Gate 3” creates a very human experience despite the outrageous fantasy world in which it is based.