Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game that needs almost no introduction. Being based on the traditional Dungeons and Dragons rule set, it burst onto the scene in August 2023 and landed with an impact that was absolutely unprecedented. It was almost impossible to not see clips of the game on social media, from exciting combat scenarios to hilarious outbursts from your party members. Baldur’s Gate 3 has it all.
So when I picked the console release of the game, I found myself in a world that I had never stepped foot in before. I was out of my comfort zone. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a totally different beast that made me realise I have become too comfortable with the genre of games that I play. While I immediately understood and could play games like Tears of the Kingdom and Pikmin 4, that was not the case here.
As someone who likes to consider themselves a well-seasoned player, this was a tough pill to swallow at first. That I didn’t “get” a game made me feel like I was inadequate, or maybe overconfident, in my knowledge.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a totally different beast that made me realise I have become too comfortable with the genre of games that I play.
I put the game down, feeling disappointed in myself for not being able to pick it up and play effortlessly like others. I had heard stories of people losing entire days to the game, being unable to put it down, and losing themselves in the atmosphere. Was I playing it wrong?
On every objective level, I could see exactly why this title would be Game of the Year for many people. The scale and depth of Baldur’s Gate 3 are nothing short of miraculous and ambitious in every sense of the word. The battle system is well-realised and designed to let your imagination flow with potential solutions. To propel it to even higher heights, the entire cast is engaging and memorable.
It was then I realised what I was doing was wrong.
After seeing some familiar mechanics, like quest markers and top-down strategy, I tried to play Baldur’s Gate 3 like any other strategy RPG. I was limiting myself and growing frustrated without even realising it.
As I was playing the game with a friend, they asked me why I was not shoving the nearby enemies off of a cliff. I had completely forgotten that I could even do that. I had not thought to even experiment with solutions like that in a game before. Other strategy games play with positioning and environments in the lightest possible ways in most cases. Baldur's Gate 3 creatively explores combat interactions in a video game by adding additional dimensions that have hardly (if ever) been explored before.
I should disclose upfront that I have not played Dungeons and Dragons in a formal setting before. Coming into Baldur’s Gate 3 with expectations of a familiar RPG was my downfall, and learning to think differently changed my outlook on the game.
Changing these thought processes was a battle in itself, though. Over the course of my many years of playing games, I expect and acclimate to certain aspects of game design. If you can sit down and pick up a new game quickly, it is because you recognise the patterns too. Whether you realise it, you are often more aware of a game’s mechanics than you would initially believe. It is as simple as playing similar types of games that challenge you in fairly similar ways on a fundamental level.
Baldur's Gate 3 creatively explores combat interactions in a video game by adding additional dimensions that have hardly (if ever) been explored before.
Many games rely on using similar skill sets, and this is the first time that I have come across a game that simply does not test my skills in the same way. It was an exhausting time that I absolutely adored.
Every moment was engaging, forcing me to concentrate on what I was doing and how I was doing it. Over time, I imagine it will get easier and I can effortlessly glide into a new playthrough like my close friends have done.
Early on, I felt embarrassed to ask how to properly equip my party and how to manage their inventories, how the quest log worked, and how to find other side quests. I felt completely lost in those moments and often hesitated to ask such silly questions. But it was all part of the process of learning how to adapt to this radically different way of playing a game.
Baldur’s Gate 3 will undoubtedly be an entry point to Dungeons and Dragons for many players who have not touched it before (like me). It's vital to mention that even if the sheer scale of developer Larian Studios' efforts overwhelms or confuses you, ask people around you for help. It’s an exhaustive game that does not cut any corners, and that might be one of the best things about it. The game will respond to you as you play it.
Larian does not punish newcomers by throwing them into a hard-as-nails campaign, expecting them to just struggle through it like a Soulsborne title. Learning to learn is a valuable experience across all disciplines. I thank Larian for helping me out of my comfort zone to play a game that has changed the landscape of how video games can deliver their narratives.
In an industry obsessed with narratives with the illusion of “player-choice”, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a hallmark of how choice-based narrative can function in motion. Larian should be lauded for its commitment to delivering on a concept that many thought completely impossible.
All it took was bringing Dungeons and Dragons from the table top to the world of video games.
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