Baldur’s Gate 3 is officially out of early access and first impressions imply that it could be one of the best games of 2023. While there aren’t many scored reviews out (critics only had a few days with the game before launch), several “reviews in progress” have shared some glowing thoughts on the massive computer role-playing game (CRPG). We’ve published our own early thoughts, which align with the critical consensus, noting that it could very well be the best Dungeons & Dragons video game ever.
With so much hype around the release, there’s a question that might spring to mind: Do you have to play Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 before playing 3? That would involve going back to play two enormous games from over 20 years ago, which seems like an overwhelming task. If that’s stressing you out, don’t worry: There’s great news for newcomers.
The short answer here is no, you absolutely don’t need to play the first two Baldur’s Gate games to play 3.
Despite being the third game in a dense, lore-filled franchise, Baldur’s Gate 3 is kind of a standalone story set in the same world. It’s so far removed from its predecessors that it’s set over 120 years after the events of Baldur’s Gate 2. That’s not to mention that it’s the work of an entirely different studio. The original games were created by Bioware, but the latest installment comes from Divinity developer Larian Studios. As such, it’s an entirely fresh spin on the series.
Think of it this way: It’s like you’re playing a totally new campaign set in an established fantasy world. There are plenty of details and clear references that those who love Baldur’s Gate will catch, but they aren’t necessary to understanding the wider story. The adventure does a great job at explaining any locations, races, or lore bits it introduces. You can go in fresh and enjoy a fantasy story about evil mind flayers and eyeball parasites without much confusion.
The thing you may want to be a little more familiar with is Dungeons & Dragons, or tabletop games at large. Baldur’s Gate 3 is built on the D&D 5th edition rule set, adapting tons of its complexities. You might want a baseline understanding of how things like stat modifiers, critical successes, inspiration points, rests, and spell preparation work, and the game does a fairly good job at explaining those complexities. Combat is pretty easy to get the hang of and skill checks are streamlined in ways that always make it clear how bonuses effect your rolls. As someone who’s played a lot of D&D, I found it much easier to grasp the rules as they appear here.
Naturally, if you’re the kind of person who loves getting immersed in a fantasy world, you might want to dive into the old games to better understand the world. Consider that more of background reading than a requirement, though. Everything you need to know is in Baldur’s Gate 3 itself.