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Baldur's Gate 3 hands-on preview: Masterpiece in the making

Larian Studios' next RPG is hitting Steam Early Access today and so far Baldur's Gate 3 is looking like a home run, albeit with a few bruises and scrapes.

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Baldur’s Gate 3 is the most ambitious project from Larian Studios to date. The entire notion of reviving a classic RPG series and making it as deep as a tabletop RPG are noteworthy and while the overall picture is still fairly rough, Larian is making great strides towards achieving its goals. I spent the weekend playing through a fair bit of the opening chapter of the upcoming RPG, and while there are issues, there is a solid foundation in place for Larian to build off and expand upon.

Early Access woes

Before I spend too much time gushing about what Larian has achieved with Baldur’s Gate 3 so far, I want to talk about the bad. The game is still very rough – especially in the early alpha version that I spent the weekend playing around with. It was an earlier version than what Early Access buyers will be jumping into, but it contained most of, if not all of the content that players can experience today.

When Larian says that Early Access is for those who don’t mind issues, they aren’t joking. While most of the content for the first act is available in the game right now, there are still a ton of issues that you’d expect to see in early development, including missing animations, some broken items, and other general hiccups. There’s also always the possibility of save files being wiped with major updates and changes, which might be a big turn off for players who want to play through the entire experience without running into those issues.

All in all, though, I didn’t run into any big game-breaking bugs that impeded my progress. Most of what I saw appeared to be visual issues, like my character not actually playing a flute that he was supposed to. Instead, the flute simply hung freely in the air in front of my character's mouth, his hands still down at his side. There are also some missing audio cues, which can lead to some awkwardness in cutscenes and conversations.

Tabletop feels in a virtual world

Many of the RPGs that have come out over the years have always tried to push the boundaries that video games place on player choice and decision. Most of the time developers will give players a short leash, allowing them some decisions that help shape the game, but never going off the rails too much. With Baldur’s Gate 3, though, it really feels like you are playing through a D&D campaign. Much like Wasteland 3, which I reviewed earlier this year, Larian has given players a ton of different ways to go about dealing with situations.

During the first act of the game you’re introduced to a particular group of people who are trying to push another group out. I know I’m being vague, but in the interest of spoilers I want to refrain from getting too in-depth in the story. This first group is trying to push out the second group and depending on who you talk to, your party is given a few different options for how they want to press forward. The decision is completely up to you.

It’s moments like these that make games like Baldur’s Gate 3 shine, and while past titles in the RPG genre have offered similar approaches, Baldur’s Gate 3 tries to offer more than you might originally assume. It tries to fully capture the spirit of a tabletop D&D game, and while the constraints of modern video game development is still there, the offerings on hand are really fleshed out and fit well within the overall story.

D&D at its core

Based off of D&D 5e, Baldur’s Gate 3 includes a lot of up-front things that players might not be used to seeing all that much. Things like skill checks and dice rolls are front and center, giving players a broad view of what they’re dealing with. During conversations, options for Intimidation, Deception, and other types of talk will often trigger active skillchecks, where the player must roll a dice to see how they fair. It’s a great way to incorporate the D&D feel into the game and something that will make tabletop players feel right at home.

Unlike many RPGs – which allow you to change ability points and stats every level or so, Baldur’s Gate 3 follows D&D character creation heavily. You’ll pick your base states at the start, along with any race proficiency or bonuses that might come into play. This makes choosing your race and background extremely important. During my first playthrough I decided to go with a Rogue Half High-Elf, which led to some interesting conversation prompts throughout the first bits of the campaign. For my second playthrough I decided to run a Wizard and seeing how the skillchecks change things up was really interesting.

If you’re a big fan of D&D then you’re going to feel right at home. If you have limited D&D experience, though, you could find some of the components in Baldur’s Gate 3 a bit confusing at first, though the game’s basic tutorials does a good enough job of explaining them.

On the up and up

Altogether, Baldur’s Gate 3 is starting to shape into a very promising RPG. While the concerns about the game’s Early Access release are understandable, Larian Studios has a solid history of actually using the EA period to build the game up and make it even better with player feedback. I’m interested to see how the players will approach the latest title from the studio, but thus far the foundation that has been placed shows a lot of promise.

Of course, being an Early Access title, Baldur’s Gate 3 is far from perfect. A myriad of missing audio cues, visual hiccups, and just normal bugs still run rife through the first act of the story. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy dealing with bugs, then I suggest steering clear of the new RPG until it’s had a few more updates. If you’re someone who wants to enjoy what the team has made so far – and help it expand and improve – then you’re going to feel right at home in the scarred and ever-changing landscape of Baldur’s Gate 3.


This preview is based on early alpha access provided by the developer. Baldur’s Gate 3 is now available in Early Access via Steam.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

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