I still remember when Baldur’s Gate 3 was first showcased to the world, back in the good ol’ days of Google Stadia (sarcasm heavily intended). There were concerns, to be sure, over it being too colorful or real-time-with-pause combat preferred by hardcore series’ fans after seeing the turn-based combat.
To top it off, Larian Studios revealed the game in classic Larian fashion: Showcasing it in real-time to a live audience with an early build, where saving wasn’t available. It resulted in some hilarious moments like CEO and game director Swen Vincke being wiped out in an early encounter and having to start over, to say nothing of the other bugs.
When it launched in early access, many fans loved its approach, but it was still rife with bugs and other technical issues. As time passed, Larian continued adding to Act 1 with new features, classes, refinements and more. There was some frustration, especially as early access wore on. Some began calling it “vaporware”, claiming it’s never coming out. Given its $60 price tag throughout, there was pressure on the development team, the studio’s biggest yet, to deliver.
It’s been almost a week since Baldur’s Gate 3 left early access for PC, and to say it surpassed expectations would be an understatement. On Steam, it reached a peak concurrent player count of 814,666. It’s not only the second biggest release of 2023 on the platform (with Hogwarts Legacy ahead at 879,308) but also ranks ninth in the all-time charts. It’s also consistently beating popular titles like Counter-Strike: GO or Dota 2. There was plenty of hype going into this launch, but even developer Larian Studios didn’t expect these numbers to be so high.
While the daily peaks will drop as more players finish the game, they’ll likely be returning for a long time. There are so many different choices and consequences, whether you save someone from a power-mad Druid in the Emerald Grove, trick some Goblins into thinking you’re an important figure to save a Deep Gnome on a moving windmill or unlock Mind Flayer powers via collecting tadpoles, even as your party members question your choices. Did we mention ripping off party members’ hands and keeping them as trophies as The Dark Urge or tossing party members to reach far-off enemies?
The attention to detail in the world, which is rife with content, is so immaculate, and the combat and approaches are so open-ended that it’s overwhelming. Even with technical issues emerging as one ventures further into a story, it’s a gorgeous-looking game with amazing music and a compelling story.
Several players on Steam agree. Of its recent 55,501 (and rising) user reviews on Steam, 95 percent are positive, resulting in an Overwhelmingly Positive rating. The overall rating is Very Positive with 93 percent of the 112,585 user reviews being positive. To say that the development team deserves this would be an understatement – they’ve delivered an exceptional experience that I felt sets a new bar for the genre.
Its popularity on PC has also had a knock-on effect for its upcoming PS5 release on September 6th, which became the most pre-ordered title on the US PlayStation Store for a time. Overall, it’s a great time to be a role-playing game fan, whether you’re into Dungeons and Dragons or not.
Obviously, despite their wildly different approaches and settings, there are already comparisons to Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield. Both are role-playing games with extensive freedom of choice, so it’s understandable. However, they’re also due to release on the same day for current-gen consoles. The main difference is that Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox Series X/S on consoles, while Baldur’s Gate 3 is available only on PS5.
Don’t worry – this isn’t to tell you what you should play, or how Bethesda fell off and Larian Studios is the new king of RPGs. Baldur’s Gate 3 has done very well on PC and will likely do so on consoles, while it’s a given that Starfield will be a massive success. Instead, it’s worth pointing out how great this situation is for players on both consoles.
Those on PS5 are getting a role-playing masterpiece which takes 75 to 100 hours on a regular playthrough and some 200 hours for completionists. It also offers extensive replay value thanks to the sheer range of classes, sub-classes, races, Feats, Spells, passives and more. You can play the same character in a new playthrough and still have a completely different experience due to the choices available.
PS5 players also get to benefit from drop-in/drop-out local split-screen co-op. You could embark on one path, making the right decisions, while your ally goes on a murder spree and fouls everything up. At least the Inspiration Points are shared.
There’s obviously going to be some concern over how it shapes up technically, especially since there are bugs and other issues in the PC version. While Larian Studios doesn’t have a one-year gap between releases like when releasing Divinity: Original Sin 2 on consoles, we have some faith that Baldur’s Gate 3 will deliver on PS5. It’s already released two hotfixes that correct hundreds of bugs, crashes and progression blockers on PC.
If you’re on Xbox Series X/S and looking forward to Starfield, not having Baldur’s Gate 3 available on the same day is also beneficial. Larian has already confirmed that the latter isn’t exclusive to PS5, and it’s working to resolve split-screen co-op issues on Xbox Series S before it can release the Xbox version. An update should arrive before the year is out, so worse comes worse, you may play it in early 2024.
That provides ample time for fans to clock in dozens, if not hundreds of hours, exploring Starfield’s vast universe, meeting and recruiting companions, building starships and venturing to many, if not all, of its +1000 planets.
Remember how Baldur’s Gate 3 was released early on PC to get out of Starfield’s way and allow fans to enjoy both games at their own pace? The delay to its Xbox version allows some breathing room for those on Xbox Series X/S. When Larian’s RPG inevitably arrives, it will hopefully be at a time between major Xbox releases.
What if you don’t own a PC but have both consoles and are looking forward to both games? Well, you’re suffering from success. Flip a coin or forgo sleep to play both, I don’t know.
Comparisons between both games seem inevitable. Baldur’s Gate 3 may have been available for almost a week, but there is so much that players are still discovering (and a lot they likely missed on the first playthrough). Starfield is massive in its own right, even without considering all of the backgrounds, Traits, weapon customization, random events, quests and choices.
As we dive further into both games, there will likely be more debate about which does what better. Which offers better companions? Which offers superior quest design? You can also bet on comparisons between the visuals and combat, despite both games being so vastly different.
Nevertheless, that PS5 and Xbox Series X/S fans have major role-playing games, one a potential Game of the Year contender and the other pretty much a shoo-in for the same, to look forward to is great.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.