In a year that has seen so many great games released across all of the gaming platforms, it's maybe no surprise that my last review of the year has swooped right in during December on Xbox Series X|S, and landed right on the top of my GOTY contenders. Baldur's Gate 3 was released in August on Windows PC and followed shortly after on PlayStation 5 in September with the Xbox Series X|S versions delayed until December due to issues with the split-screen co-op on the Series S. Having removed the split-screen option from the Series S, the game was shadow dropped on Xbox Series X|S during the live Game Awards show on December 7th, where it scooped a total of 6 awards, including the coveted Game of the Year for 2023.
Having little to no knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, which is the tabletop role-playing game that the Baldur's Gate series is based on, but on the flipside of that, having a long running love of RPG video games, I would normally have been very interested in picking up Baldur's Gate 3 and getting stuck into it. There was, however, one little stumbling block for me... turn-based combat. I have never been a fan of any game that featured turn-based tactics or combat. But, with all the hype surrounding Baldur's Gate 3, and with the awards literally stacking up, and also with the surprise shadow drop of the Xbox Series X|S version of the game just in time for the end of the year, I put my fear of turn-based combat right in the bin and then stepped up to the plate to give Baldur's Gate 3 a fair try, at the very least.
To say this game has a HUGE learning curve is the understatement of the year. I have seen more than a few folk on my social media timeline give up and move on to other games. It's true to say that Baldur's Gate 3 is not going to be for everyone. The gameplay and combat mechanics will be very divisive. It is very easy to become overwhelmed very early on. But, in saying that, if you stick with it, there is just so much on offer here. And let's also not forget that Baldur's Gate 3 is essentially an indie game. Yes it's a full-on AAA title, but the game is developed and published by Larian Studios, who are a completely independent developer.
Personally for me, I was absolutely sucked right into the gaming world here and the actual addiction was strong. I literally could not put the game down. My first time playing it, I think there were close to 18 hours straight through, from early morning right through to the small hours of the next morning. That is just how much this game, it's story and characters, and the world of Baldur's Gate 3 had gripped me. Larian Studios have created nothing short of a masterpiece here, and I can see now why the game is so very highly regarded, and even before it was released on Xbox Series X|S, had received a literal shed load of awards from its Windows PC and PlayStation 5 release. I think in all the time we have been reviewing games here on g1a5w3g1an, this is the one game that has just come out of nowhere and totally gripped me from the first moment. And this is from someone who was never a fan of games with turn-based combat. So it would be fair to say that Baldur's Gate 3 has completely and forever converted me to turn-based games. I have also just recently picked up the first two games in the series on my Xbox Series S, to play through once I am finished with part 3.
At its core, Baldur's Gate 3 is an epic tale, and each playthrough can and will be different, so you have the option to be very good or very evil, and everything in-between. I have already in my playthrough made some questionable decisions that I think I will rectify in additional playthroughs. On the Series X, there is the option for co-op split-screen, a feature that has been disabled on the Series S, and although it would have been nice to try this feature out, there is also online multiplayer options, so it is not really a deal-breaker at all. I should also point out at the time of writing, there are a lot of Xbox owners who are affected by a save game bug that seems to delete all your save games. Both Xbox and Larian are looking into this and working on a fix for it, but as yet, I have not been affected by this, and my saves all seem to be fine. Bug and glitch wise, I don't think there has been much to report from me.
So just to wrap up, Baldur's Gate 3 has been, for me, the absolute surprise of the year. It has converted me to turn-based games. It has opened up the world of Dungeons & Dragons to me. There is a massive world to explore here. There are amazing characters both allies and enemies. Larian seem to have created something special here. The voice cast could not be any better. Baldur's Gate 3 features some of the most interesting and memorable in-game characters in video games. I would also add finally, do not let the fact there is turn-based combat mechanics here. Give it a try. I did, and I absolutely love it. I just don't think there is a single thing I could say about Baldur's Gate 3 that is negative in any way. Is this my GOTY for 2023... probably. Is it a game that I can see myself playing well into 2024... DEFINITELY!
g1a5w3g1an's Rating: 5 Mind Flayer Tadpoles out of 5.
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Many thanks to ICO Partners for the Review Key.