” I have never played a game that drips with so much detail in every corner.” | Here we are. Baldur’s Gate 3 finally lands on Xbox Series consoles after a much-delayed wait. But where do I even begin with this review? Since starting Baldur’s Gate 3, I’ve shared a love-hate relationship with it. Not because it’s bad, but because there is just so much to see and do, and it has been the sole reason that for the last two weeks, I have neglected sleep, my family, and any responsibilities that came my way. To be clear though, this game is addictive. This is why I asked the question at the start, where do I even begin? Larian Studios has done what most AAA developers have failed to do this year, (albeit with a couple of exceptions) which is to release a fully-fledged game across multiple platforms in a near-perfect state. I say near-perfect because nothing is truly perfect, but Baldur’s Gate 3 is the purest example of a game I have seen that has even come close to it. Every major studio right now should be worried. Larian Studios has proved that it can be done with a smaller budget and a smaller team. So why don’t we roll the dice on this review and decide right now if it is a critical success or a total failure?
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
The gang readies themselves for the fight against the Drow
Things I liked!
- The Characters | Baldur’s Gate 3 features a diverse array of characters, each with their unique personalities, backgrounds, and quests that enrich the game’s narrative. From the cautious and enigmatic Shadowheart to the charismatic yet troubled Astarion, the characters are compelling and layered, making them more than mere companions on your journey. They react dynamically to your choices, forging alliances or causing conflicts based on your actions, lending a sense of depth and unpredictability to the gameplay. The character creation system is incredibly robust, allowing players to craft their protagonists with intricate detail. From choosing race, class, abilities, appearance, and even picking a custom background, the options are vast. This system ensures that each player’s experience is deeply personalised, as the choices made during character creation significantly impact dialogues, interactions, and gameplay strategies throughout the adventure. Overall, Baldur’s Gate 3 excels in both its diverse and engaging cast of characters and the comprehensive character creation system, elevating the role-playing experience to new heights and offering a wealth of possibilities for players to explore and enjoy.
- The Story | The story of Baldur’s Gate 3 is by far one of the most enjoyable and well-written I have seen in a game in a long time. This is no tale of revenge, nor a tale of redemption. You share a common struggle with your party and in that struggle, you learn of their own, personal battles which can be tackled via sub-stories which I will talk about later. You start the game aboard a mind flayer ship where we are introduced to your character. You and your companions are infected with a parasite that promises to turn you into one of the mind flayers and so you begin your journey on a quest to remove it. However, all is not as it seems. Throughout your journey, the parasite will give you the ability to see into people’s minds. Read their thoughts, anticipate their actions, and sense their wants and needs. It is through this action that you learn more about your companions and that this is no mere coincidence that you end up together. It seems that these people have all been specifically chosen and your paths inexplicably crossed, cultivating a climactic end that I won’t spoil in this review.
- The Audio | The audio in Baldur’s Gate 3 is fantastic. The attenuation for sounds in the distance is well balanced. Rivers flowing in the distance accurately sound like they are coming from their source, birds chirping away, and bards singing inside taverns all have their own sound mix working well within the game world creating an authentic sounding soundscape. The music too is very fitting. Combat music is orchestral with cellos, drums, violins, harps, and more composing epic music that fits each scene well. Tragic events are perfectly encapsulated via the tone shift by removing drums and slowing down the beat. Every single aspect of the audio is perfect and helps create an engaging game overall.
- The Sub Stories | It wouldn’t be much of an RPG without the addition of sub-stories and quests. The main difference between the two is that sub-stories are optional things to see and do that tie into the story and give you more info about what is going on. The side quests are things to do that will give you and your party experience and earn gold and equipment. Baldur’s Gate 3 is filled to the brim with side quests. Since the areas are so large, there are usually towns, villages, NPCs, and dungeons to explore that give you more content if that’s what you want to do. I’ve been reading a lot about how this game is between 150-200 hours worth of additional side quests, and while I have done many during my time playing, I simply feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. But I plan to come back for another playthrough. Each of the side quests seems unique in their own way too which is good. I was pleased to see that it wasn’t fetch quest after fetch quest and there was some actual thought behind each one.
- The World | The world of Baldur’s Gate 3 is a rich and diverse landscape, teeming with beauty and places to explore. From the murky swamps of the Shadow Mire to the bustling city streets of Baldur’s Gate, each area boasts its own distinct ambiance, challenges, and inhabitants. Players navigate treacherous dungeons, eerie caves, and grand open spaces, each offering a unique blend of encounters, quests, and hidden treasures. What sets each area apart isn’t solely its visual design but also the way it immerses players in its atmosphere. The eerie whispers of the Underdark or the lively chatter of a crowded tavern in the city create distinct moods that deeply influence gameplay and interactions. Additionally, the diversity of enemies and challenges in each locale demands adaptability and strategy from players. The world evolves as players progress, with their choices impacting not only the story but also the state of the environments they explore. These changes make revisiting areas feel fresh, offering new quests or altered landscapes based on previous actions. In essence, the world of Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just a backdrop; it’s a living, breathing entity that continually surprises and captivates players with its depth, diversity, and the palpable sense of adventure it exudes.
- The Combat | If you are familiar with Baldur’s Gate as a series, you will be pleased to know that the turn-based combat still exists. Several RPGs are ditching this method of combat (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy) and instead going for a more modern take on combat. Baldur’s Gate 3 still allows you to plan out each of your attacks when your turn arrives. I was worried initially about the combat and how it would translate to console, but Larian Studios has done a great job at managing how this works. The left and right bumpers bring up your action wheel and you scroll between each one by tapping the right or left button to change the page. You use the left thumbstick to choose which action, spell, or item to use and then confirm that selection with A. Very simple and user-friendly. The same thumbstick allows you to move the cursor throughout the battlefield and select enemies to see what health they have remaining and to select where you want to move to. Much like traditional RPGs in its class, choosing what you do costs action points. By default, you get 1, but leveling up your character and equipping them with certain items can increase this giving you the edge in battle. Once your actions have been spent, the turns change to your next character or your enemy. Once certain conditions have been met or you or the enemy are dead, the fight ends. It’s a very simple system to get into even if you have never played an RPG before.
- Meaningful Choices | Believe me when I say this. Each choice you make in Baldur’s Gate 3 is meaningful. It may not affect you, or your party members, but it will either affect the world, the inhabitants, or later on down the line, you or your quests. When making a decision it is important to check the dialogue history, read your journal, and think about the relationships you want to make or break. Crudely pressing a button will get you nowhere and can have dire consequences and even make your life difficult down the line. It doesn’t always have to go against your morals either. Something decided on now that may seem bleak can have a positive effect overall resulting in your party or others apologising for judging you and your actions too soon. This is just another way that these characters feel so real compared to other games. They remember the smallest of details. They will apologise for judging you if they turn out to be wrong, or likewise condemn you for being too hasty. Each playthrough will be unique and will command multiple playthroughs. Some choices may not affect the team immediately but can build up over time. Usually, most decisions will result in your party members approving or disapproving your actions which build up over time. Make enough bad decisions and they will leave you. This not only affects your battle stats but can also cause future allies to ignore you as well.
- Performance | Baldur’s Gate 3 runs fairly well and consistently on Xbox Series X. There are two modes available. Quality mode and performance mode. Quality mode clocks in at 1440p and will hit 30fps throughout Act 1 and 2 with little to no problem. The game looks great, and playing on a large 70″ 4K TV showed no issues of image degrading. Performance mode will set you back to 1080p upscaled to 1440p using AMD’s FSR 2 tech, resulting in a clean image overall with a near-constant 60fps throughout. Act 3 however does reduce the performance mode down to 30fps where things are a lot more heavy in terms of objects being rendered. Since Baldur’s Gate 3 is a slow-based game, 30fps shouldn’t be a big deal for anyone. Running the game in couch co-op does lock your frame rate to 30fps though since two instances of the world are being rendered at the same time. Xbox Series S owners also get a good experience overall with the game supporting native 1080p locked to 30fps. This means no FSR is being used to reconstruct the image making the Series S look good overall still.
- Authentic Relationships | Relationships are important. Baldur’s Gate 3 does an excellent job of ensuring the player knows this at any given time. Your choices during conversations, actions during gameplay, and the other company you decide to keep affect everyone around you and what they think of you. I touched on this part above with the meaningful choices section, but it goes deeper than that. Your friends care for you, and in return, they expect the same kindness. Sometimes more. Just like in real life, you can make emotional connections with the people of Baldur’s Gate, and sometimes those connections can turn into love. If you so wish, you can pursue affection as a route to attract a mate, make love in your camp, and build affinity with that character. It’s something I have always found that games never do well, but Baldur’s Gate 3 breaks that stigmatism and delivers something worthy of investing time into.
- Items & Equipment | In Baldur’s Gate 3, the items and equipment you encounter are as diverse as the challenges you face. From weapons and armor to magical artifacts and consumables, each piece plays a crucial role in shaping your journey. Weapons come in various types, from swords and bows to arcane staves, providing different attack styles and damage types. Armor ranges from light to heavy, offering varying degrees of protection and mobility. Potions and consumables grant temporary buffs, healing, or other beneficial effects during combat or exploration. However, it’s the magical items that truly stand out. Rings, amulets, and enchanted gear offer unique bonuses, like enhanced abilities, resistance to certain elements, or the power to cast spells. These items often carry their own lore, adding depth to the world and providing opportunities for creative strategies in battles and interactions. Ultimately, the items and equipment in Baldur’s Gate 3 aren’t just tools for combat; they’re also narrative devices that can unlock new dialogues, quests, or secrets. They allow players to tailor their characters’ strengths and weaknesses, encouraging experimentation and diverse playstyles while enriching the storytelling experience.
The Mind Flayer Hive is eerie yet beautiful
Neither good nor bad
- A fair amount of bugs | I won’t spend too much time on this section because it never broke the game or detracted from the experience, but it is worth noting that not everything was smooth sailing. Baldur’s Gate 3 does suffer from a lot of bugs. Not the kind that you have to hunt down and kill, unfortunately, but bugs that can pull you out of the immersion. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that these bugs are silly and easily avoided and shouldn’t be present in the game. It’s almost an impossible task to find everything, but these were very common across every area I traveled through. When you kill an enemy, the body stays where it is enabling your character to loot the valuables they were carrying. However, if you leave this area and come back, the death animation will replay right in front of you resulting in quite a funny montage. This was especially funny in large groups of enemies, that usually start to be found in Act 2 and beyond. As I said, nothing game-breaking, but it is distracting. The second lot of bugs found quite often are UI elements not disappearing after a cutscene plays, or you entering and exiting a menu for example, often resulting in the gorgeous cutscenes being obscured somehow. The final set of bugs was around some of the in-game cutscenes playing twice, immediately after they finish drawing out the amount of time you are out of the game.
- Easy to exploit | If you are a little worried about the choices you make dismantling the very fabric of reality, worry not. Baldur’s Gate 3 does offer you a save-at-any-moment option, including during cutscenes before you make your choice. While I shouldn’t have to explain that the game should not be played this way and that you should embrace your decisions, you can go back if you like by simply loading that save and re-attempting for a better outcome or dice roll. I would have preferred this to not be a feature but for the sake of accessibility, I can see why it exists.
- Lack of parity | It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Xbox Series S version of Baldur’s Gate 3 completely lacks the couch co-op option. This has been heavily documented since development with the Series S ram limitation being the main culprit. However special exemptions were granted for Baldur’s Gate 3 with the co-op function coming post-launch.
The Devil himself offers you countless deals throughout the game
Things I disliked!
- Locked out of back-tracking | I’m trying to avoid spoilers here so I will do my best to explain. Baldur’s Gate 3 is broken up into 3 parts. Act 1, 2, and 3. Act 1 is a fairly simple affair setting up the story and recruiting your partners to journey with you. There are the initial main quests that also help set up character development and allow you to build bonds by learning more about them, but after Act 2, you are pretty much locked out of returning to Act 1 to follow up any unfinished quests. What is strange about this, is before you transition from Act 1 to Act 2, you are presented with a message that says “Be sure to tie up any loose ends”. But regardless of this, you are still able to travel back and carry out anything you have left unfinished. At the end of Act 2, if you try to go back to Act 1 and before you go to Act 3, you can’t. You are simply greeted with a game over the screen saying the mind flayers have found you and you must re-load a previous save. “But Aaron”, I hear you ask, “what if something happened during the story that prevented you from going back?” Well, I thought of that also. I would agree with you normally but your missions in your journal still stay active and do not update and fail like some of them do when you make a wrong choice or someone dies. So I figured this implies you can go back. A strange decision in my opinion.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 40 hours
How long to beat the story? 30-40 hours
How many Achievements did I earn before publishing? 17
How long to achieve 1000G | 200 hours +
You’ll love this game if you like these | Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2, Final Fantasy, and Table Top Simulator
95/100 ⭐| The Xbox community ate good in 2023. We had some amazing releases but nothing compares to the sheer scope and scale that Baldur’s Gate 3 delivers on. I have never played a game that drips with so much detail in every corner. The world is alive with every NPC having something interesting to say. The mechanics are tight, work well, and feature some of the best story-telling in modern-day video games. Baldur’s Gate 3 effortlessly captures the beauty of character development and combines it with the intricate details of DND turn-based combat that will leave engaged right from the very beginning. The choices you make matter and the effects of those choices echo throughout the world of Baldur’s Gate 3, with limitless possibilities and outcomes happening as a result. You simply won’t find a better game.
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I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.