Baldur’s Gate 3 (PS5) Review – Natural 20

Larian Studios' sprawling RPG is an absolute must-play for anyone with a PS5.

Posted By | On 07th, Sep. 2023

Baldur’s Gate 3 (PS5) Review – Natural 20

NOTE: This is our review of Baldur’s Gate 3’s PS5 version. For our detailed breakdown of the game, read our review of the original PC release through here.

A month on from its launch on PC, it’s abundantly clear that Baldur’s Gate 3 has instantly gone down as a historic RPG. It’s been widely hailed as a landmark release that has set new standards for the genre, ones that are frankly going to be nearly impossible for the vast majority of games to live up to. Even given the legacy of the Baldur’s Gate franchise the developer Larian Studios’ excellent track record in the genre, Baldur’s Gate 3’s monumental success has been more than a little surprising. Now, it’s also made its way to the PS5, and unsurprisingly, it’s instantly cemented itself as one of the best games you can play on the console.

There’s no shortage of superlatives I can rattle off when speaking about Baldur’s Gate 3, but the game’s biggest strength is probably the level of freedom it provides, and the scale across which it provides it. It prides itself on being a Dungeons and Dragons experience through and through, and commits to that in a way that no other game has ever managed to do, somehow managing to capture that feeling of constant improvisation and player-driven storytelling that one would associate DnD with, but is so difficult to properly implement in a video game.

"Baldur’s Gate 3 prides itself on being a Dungeons and Dragons experience through and through, and commits to that in a way that no other game has ever managed to do, somehow managing to capture that feeling of constant improvisation and player-driven storytelling that one would associate DnD with, but is so difficult to properly implement in a video game."

Player freedom resonates like a core tenet through every facet of Baldur’s Gate 3. On a macro level, its character creator is something you can easily pour an hour into, obsessing over the tiny, little details you can finetune to give your character the narrative and gameplay framework you like best. All of that feels even more rewarding thanks to how reactive the game is, with every single second of the experience feeling like it’s been particularly tailor-made for the character that you have created. Meanwhile, on a more moment-to-moment level, Baldur’s Gate 3 very rarely puts any restrictions on you. A lot of games claim to let players play their way, but very few achieve that on this level, where almost anything you do can and will be taken into account, and rather than preventing you from doing something unexpected or unprescribed, the game will just take it in its stride and change accordingly.

That fluidity translates to Baldur’s Gate 3’s combat as well. Dropping the real-time-with-pause functionality of previous Baldur’s Gate games and instead adopting the turn-based approach that Larian is much more familiar with, on the surface, the combat system here might seem like a pretty ordinary turn-based, tactical system- though you don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time with the game to realize that there’s way, way more going on than meets the eye.

Dice rolls are key in Baldur’s Gate 3, true to its DnD heritage, and the dynamism and unpredictability they inject into combat encounters cannot be overstated. That combines with a multitude of other variables – like your specific build, your class and subclass, how you’re choosing to progress your character, and other factors that change from encounter to encounter, like different environmental elements around you and how you choose to take advantage of them – and all of these variables coalesce to create a combat system with an incredible amount of depth and nuance. Admittedly, turn-based combat isn’t everyone’s bag, encounters in Baldur’s Gate 3 never feel stale or static, and each of them feels unique in their own way (even if they can sometimes be a bit too long, even on the default difficulty setting).

Baldur's Gate 3_02

"Combat encounters in Baldur’s Gate 3 never feel stale or static, and each of them feels unique in their own way."

And, of course, thanks to the emphasis that Baldur’s Gate 3 places on empowering the player, you can always find ways to avoid combat, if that’s how you wish to play. It very much feels like you’re crafting your own adventure with a greater degree of freedom and control than you see in most games, and none of it feels cheap or game-breaking either, because crucially, Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t just let you do what you want- it also gives weight to all of your choices with actual consequences. From smaller quests to larger narrative threads, from a single dialogue choice to more major actions taken during key story moments, the choices you make have very real and noticeable consequences, and not always the kind that are immediately noticeable (or even noticeable for several hours). Quests also have a way of intertwining with each other in unexpected ways, which means the things you’re doing will often end up impacting other seemingly unrelated characters and storylines in ways that only become clearer later on.

All of it makes Baldur’s Gate 3’s world feel incredibly alive and incredibly reactive, like it’s a dense playground full of narrative possibilities that react to the choices you make in consistently engaging and organic ways. Add to that the game’s excellent core cast of characters and its incredible writing, and what you get is an absolute treat in storytelling. That the game consistently hits that ridiculously high watermark of quality throughout its staggeringly vast scope without any major dips is an achievement that cannot be praised enough.

What makes it an even more impressive achievement, in fact, is the production values on display in Baldur’s Gate 3. From the direction of cutscenes to the way the characters animate and move during dialogue sequences – including even the most insignificant NPCs – Baldur’s Gate 3 proudly boasts a level of sheen and attention to detail that, honestly, you wouldn’t even reasonably expect from a game that’s this big.

That’s not to say this is a technically spotless experience. You wouldn’t expect a game operating on this kind of scale to have no issues to speak of whatsoever, and sure enough, Baldur’s Gate 3 has some rough edges- though they’re mostly quite easy to overlook. The inventory is a bit of a mess, for instance, and navigating through it again and again can be a bit of a chore, even with several filters available. I’ve also run into a bugs here and there, like not being able to cycle through dialogue options after coming out of the pause screen, or the audio suddenly going mute for a few seconds before automatically kicking back in again, or the odd animation glitch here and there. These are few and far between, however, and very rarely feel like more than footnotes in an otherwise compelling experience.

baldur's gate 3

"It very much feels like you’re crafting your own adventure with a greater degree of freedom and control than you see in most games, and none of it feels cheap or game-breaking either, because crucially, Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t just let you do what you want- it also gives weight to all of your choices with actual consequences."

Something else that deserves no shortage of praise is how well-suited Baldur’s Gate 3 feels to the console experience. Make no mistake, this is a PC game first and foremost, and even something as fundamental as navigating its UI is going to be a smoother experience with a mouse and keyboard. Even so, Larian has done an excellent job of removing as much of the friction as it can for those who play using a controller. The UI is, for the most part, neat and easy to read, and examples of actions feeling more cumbersome due to console controllers tend to be pretty minor- for instance, if you’re trying to chain together several jumps to navigate rocky environments, things will be a bit more tedious on a controller.

Minor issues aside, it’s hard not to be blown away by the scope of Baldur’s Gate 3’s achievements. For player freedom, for DnD simulation, for choice-based storytelling, for writing, and for a multitude of other things, it’s very much become the new gold standard. I’ve been enraptured by every single minute I’ve spent in the densely packed world of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’m going to be spending many, many more hours here before I’ve had my fill.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.


THE GOOD

Places extreme emphasis on player choice and agency; Extremely reactive world and story that take all choices into account; Actual consequences give weight to all your actions; Incredible storytelling and writing; Excellent cast of characters; Nuanced, complex combat system that rewards you more the more time you invest into it; Impressive production values, from cutscenes to animations for even the most insignificant NPCs; Neat, easy-to-use console UI and controls.

THE BAD

Some minor technical issues.

Final Verdict:
MASTERPIECE
Baldur's Gate 3 is a landmark release in the RPG genre that has instantly cemented itself as one of the best games of its kind, and an absolute must-play for all PS5 owners.
A copy of this game was purchased by author for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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