My first computer, way back in the late 80’s, was a Commodore 64. I tried to learn programming on it (and failed after coding Hello World), but I did end up playing a ton of games, including the legendary Gold Box Series of DnD titles, starting with Pool of Radiance. So addicted was I with the games, I ended up having to sleep on the couch a few times because my girlfriend grew tired of my ignoring her. She was right, I was wrong, but still.

Over the years, I’ve played many other excellent DnD titles, including the first two Baldur’s Gate games. None of them came close to how I felt, though, during my first play through of Pool of Radiance.

Until now.

Baldur’s Gate 3 did what Pool of Radiance did and far more: it recreated the experience of tabletop rpg’s in a singleplayer computer game, then went far beyond that to tell multiple engaging stories with characters the player can’t help but come to love.

Warning: there will be a major spoiler below, which I will mark so you can skip over it.

I’m going to start with the game engine itself, which is an important detail. Baldur’s Gate 3 uses a top-down isometric view for moving characters around, and when you are just exploring the world, this is all done real-time. You point with your mouse cursor where you want your party of up to four characters to go, and they move there on their own. You can right click to stop them at any time. It works, although it’s a little hard to get used to when you’ve been playing a lot of first-person games and are used to WASD for movement. But the pathing is excellent and I only once experienced a moment where a character did something weird and died (they were jumping and somehow hit something and fell to their death). It does feel a little limiting at times after years of multiple “open world” titles, though.

The camera angles in Baldur’s Gate 3 can be adjusted. You can swoop way in close and see things in excellent detail, or pull back out to get a much wider view. You can pan left and right, and swivel around. There’s also a top-down view you can select which can be useful in some situations, like when you’re figuring out some puzzle involving the floor. All said, it works well enough.

But, though it works, my main criticism of the game is the camera. There are times when an enemy is up high and it feels almost impossible to target them. If you try to click on the picture of them and you’re not careful, you can click on the wrong thing and send your character off running somewhere else, losing their action turn. The camera would benefit from an up/down keyboard mechanism. Sometimes the camera gets stuck in some outcropping of the world or a building piece and it struggles to come loose. The system feels awkward, but overall this is a minor quibble. Once you get used to the quirks, you don’t really notice them much or you find ways around them.

When combat begins, the game changes to a turn-based combat system (you can also engage turn based mode when you’re out of combat, which can be very useful for taking actions like stealing objects or picking locks in crowds). I’ve seen some people complaining about this and stating a preference for real-time combat systems. Frankly, I think those people are confused, because most admit they pause the game to consider their next action during “real-time” combats. Why not just use turn based then? I guess maybe it’s that there’s an order to everyone’s actions, you can’t tee up multiple actions at the same time. But that’s very DnD based, and this is a DnD game, so it’s an unwarranted complaint. I personally love it and am glad when I see the few games that use turn-based combat modes.

Character creation also stands out. While there’s not as many options for body types or faces as folks seemed to be saying, there’s still plenty of ways to make an interesting looking character, and as you get into picking their class and subclass and skills and spreading out points, you will end up with something truly unique. My only struggle here was trying to figure out what all the stuff meant. It’s been ages since I’ve played DnD and the rules have greatly changed. I ultimately created a female druid for my first play through, then a male ranger for my second. Both had their strengths and weaknesses (the druid’s owlbear form was a dynamo in combat, while the ranger turned out to be far better rounded in most ways).

But the real reason this game resonates with so many people is the story telling. It’s a breath of fresh air from start to finish. Unlike Skyrim’s “ten-million different characters who want you to fetch something completed unrelated to the main story,” every sub-plot or side story here felt connected with the larger plot. People’s actions and activities were all being influenced by the main story. Often, people you meet early on show up again later, changed by the ongoing events. And how you interact with them will change how they treat you later, and whether or not they will come to your aid as the story draws to a conclusion.

Then there are the companions, who have been lauded endlessly by the press and fans alike. Rightfully so. The voice actors hired have done beautiful work bringing their characters to life. Every one of the main characters you meet who can join you on your quest are well realized, beautiful acted, and have lovely stories of their own to inhabit. Some of the stories turned out to be surprising… and deeply moving.

A few years ago I said Red Dead Redemption 2 was the only video game to make me cry. This one was the second.


During the first act, you’ll meet Karlach, a tiefling who has been turned into a demonic weapon by her master in Avernus.  She’s a weaponized slave, essentially. She has been mistreated and abused, and yet she somehow manages to be the brightest and happiest of all the characters, full of charm and joy, despite her pain. She is supportive of everyone else, even Wyll who wanted to kill her at first. But late in the game, after we’ve killed the hated Lord Gortash who sold her into demonic slavery, when her mechanical heart is starting to fail and death is approaching, she breaks down herself. Her voice is raw and thick with emotion as she tells us she doesn’t want to die, that it all feels so hopeless. It’s a very moving, touching moment, beautifully acted. Then she rallies, finds her pep, and we go finish the final battles.

Only to have her collapse and, laughing, tell us it’s over, her mechanical heart is finally giving out, and she asks us . . . how did she do?

Spectacular. That’s how you did, Karlach. You were the center of a circle of people thrust into adventure together, often unwillingly, and your positivity, your support, your love – and of course your strong battle skills – got us through it all, despite you realizing staying free meant giving up your life in the end. But you would rather die free than live a slave.

Goodbye sun, goodbye sea. Goodbye.

Such. Good. Writing.

Man, I cried listening to her speech. They do, eventually, give you a way to save her, but both times I played through I cried at that moment. Harder the second time because I romanced Karlach in the second game and she added “I love you,” as she said her goodbyes. Samantha Béart voiced the character and is truly brilliant at instilling her with boundless joy and endless humanity. Kudos to her, and please give that woman more roles in more things (not just games).


I loved the game and the characters so much I played it through twice, back to back. Over three hundred hours later, it’s now one of the definitive titles in my list of favorite games. I only hope they produce either more content for it, or a sequel to build on what they have, because I want more.

If I can make a recommendation to you, the player, though, it’s that you pay attention to the companion stories, and switch out party members liberally so you give them opportunities to experience those parts of the game that are most intimately connected with their tales. I didn’t do that my first play through, but I did on my second and it made a world of difference in how I experienced the game.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a unique title in today’s market. It is in many ways a throw back to the bygone days of computer gaming, while being so much more. It’s a solid single-player game, well rounded, well written, well balanced, with a ton of content, where the joy doesn’t turn on wracking up higher and higher kill counts, but in taking a journey with people so beautifully written and acted they become more than simple characters in a game, but cherished friends. It has rightfully put the triple A game market back on its heels and proven the lie that only “software as a subscription” with endless battle packs and extra purchases for hats and decorative-but-useless skins can be profitable.

I give it one hundred out of ten stars.

Goodbye sun.

Leave a Reply