Baldur’s Gate 3 PS5 Review

Baldur's Gate 3 Header

Baldur’s Gate 3 is proudly described on the PS5’s home page as a “next generation” RPG. That term is thrown around a lot in games, so much that it barely even means anything anymore. It could mean that there’s a significant jump in terms of graphical fidelity or some ambitious game design, but it could also just be a buzzword meant to sell the product – how many times have you played the “next generation” of first-person shooter, and how many times was it basically the same as the last one? Baldur’s Gate 3, however, actually deserves that description.

It’s clear almost from the beginning that this game is something special. It begins (after creating your character, of course) with an unsettling cutscene in which a mind flayer inserts a small tadpole into your eye and you get to watch it burrow up under your eyelid. It doesn’t take long before the game sets you free in the world, though you’re generally pointed towards trying to remove the tadpole from your head. In typical RPG fashion, there are things to do absolutely everywhere and, as you do more stuff, you gain more abilities that allow you to do even more stuff! This includes the usual things like upgrading your lockpicking or conversational skills, but it also includes a couple of relatively unique things.

One of the things about Baldur’s Gate 3 that makes it feel so “next-gen” is the world itself and how you can traverse it. It isn’t just a flat sprawling map, but has a lot of verticality as well, and I found the ability to jump (or fly, or teleport) to be unbelievably useful in a way that gives you the same satisfaction you can find in combat. When you’re in a huge tower and need to get down somewhere in this game, you can cast featherfall and just jump off. You can’t do that in other CRPGs and it feels like breaking through a barrier back to the possibilities of a DM-led tabletop RPG session, or like you’re getting away with something you shouldn’t.

Baldur's Gate 3 Character Creator

This is true for the rest of the game as well. That freedom to do things in unexpected and delightful ways, ways that are so unexpected that it takes multiple hours to wrap your head around it properly. It’s a level of interactivity with the world that is so unexpected – even after playing Larian’s previous games to death – that blows my mind. After a few hours you really start to get an idea of how many options are available to you – there are chandeliers and torches hanging from the ceiling that you can shoot down onto an unsuspecting enemy’s head, if there are rafters you may be able to teleport up there for some particularly effective stealth attacks, if you’re strong enough you can pick up an enemy and use them to hit another enemy, or just throw them into a chasm. I literally threw a hyena at someone last week. A hyena! It’s incredibly liberating.

A big part of this is also how rolls are handled as well. It is Dungeons and Dragons after all, so basically everything you do is controlled by dice rolls. Baldur’s Gate 3 puts them front and centre, showing you the odds before rolling, even allowing you to apply bonuses such as spells like Guidance from that screen and re-roll if you have inspiration. This allows this freedom to apply to conversations, lockpicking, trap disarming, anything you actively choose to make a roll for outside of combat, showing you the odds of success so you can make the best decision you can. Or try to, at least.

Then there’s the presentation. An actual generational leap from other RPGs, and I’ve played all of the recent ones. It’s not just good looking, it’s gorgeous, and you can zoom the camera all the way into a third person perspective to get a good look at it, too. More than that, though, it’s also fully voice acted and motion captured, and the difference is night and day compared to everything else in the genre. I’ve spent untold amounts of hours reading in CRPGs, these games are long, storied, and usually aren’t fully voiced, if at all. Here, every character has at least good voice acting, I’ve literally spoken to cats with a handful of lines in this game that have better or more voice acting than crucial characters in other games.

Baldur's Gate 3 Combat

The main companions are particularly good and the performance is really elevated by motion captured expressions and movements. You can kind of see through the cracks sometimes, but it still makes a world of difference to believing and understanding the characters and world. More importantly, this makes it much more accessible as well. It’s hard to convince someone to play a game that involves hours of reading, but add some voice and basic direction and that’s another matter. It also doesn’t hurt that the voice cast includes J.K. Simmons and Jason Isaacs…

Larian has done a remarkable job of transferring the game to console considering just how much game there is to transfer, but inevitably there are a few foibles. There are some minor control issues, especially related to aiming up a level. It can be difficult to teleport up to the level above for example because the game keeps wanting to target the room below because that’s the level you’re currently stood on. Likewise, when you’re aiming from a higher position, the camera stays at that height and zooming in quickly goes third person – i.e. pointing forward rather than down – so targeting can be a little fiddly as well. Then of course there are all the traditional issues that come with a CRPG on console, specifically awkward inventory control and management. There must be a better way than the grid with a pop-up system that blocks much of your menu view. It’s not much of an issue early on but if you’re an item hoarder like me, it can get to be be a little frustrating. You can send things to your camp basically whenever you like though, which does help to clear things out.

Baldur's Gate 3 Karlach

While Larian is working on performance optimisations, and has made some improvements since launch, the more built-up areas, and Act 3 in the titular city in particular, do have performance hiccups. You’ll find that opening/closing menus, switching characters, and starting conversations can lag for a second or so, and the performance mode’s frame rate is unstable, although I haven’t had any issues in Fidelity mode since a recent patch.

Despite generally being a stunning game, I did notice that tertiary characters in Act 3 sometimes had slightly blurry textures, no doubt a concession to allow the game to run with so many people around, but it’s still there. I don’t recall seeing this earlier in the game. The quick actions radial menu that you use to cast spells and use items in combat is auto-populated by items you pick up which is very useful, but it doesn’t rearrange them once you use them, so you end up with a lot of blank spaces that keep trying to get me to spend an hour sorting them all out, but I refuse! I also once had a serious conversation with someone like they were my companion the first time I met them, but had no idea who they were, then had another conversation where they introduced themself. I don’t know if this is a port thing, a bug, or just a character with a realistically bad memory, but it was a bit bewildering.

Summary
Baldur's Gate 3 is a masterpiece and a true next generation RPG. Sure it has a handful of small issues, but they pale in comparison to the quality of the writing, the depth in character creation, the sheer wealth of options available to players, the voice acting, the gorgeous world, which are all just exemplary. There's no wonder it has sent ripples through the industry and gathered more attention than even Larian expected, it's got quality and creativity leaking out of every frame.
Good
  • Looks fantastic
  • Excellent voice performances with mocap
  • You can play it all in split screen or online coop
  • I threw a hyena at someone
Bad
  • Some control issues
  • Unstable performance mode framerate
  • A few blurry faces in Act 3
9