As of this article’s publication, the review embargo has lifted for Baldur’s Gate 3. Don’t expect to find a lot of reviews for the biggest RPG of the year today, though.
Review codes for Baldur’s Gate 3 weren’t distributed to press until Sunday, July 30. That left critics only a few days to play through a reportedly 100-hour-long game and write a cogent critique of it. Naturally, that task is a next-to-impossible feat. We quickly decided that it would be doing a disservice to our critic, who would have had to put in unimaginable working hours in a few days, and to you, our readers, to try and rush out a review in time.
That situation might leave you with some questions and concerns. A lack of reviews for a major release can raise red flags in an era where video games often launch in an unfinished state. One can’t forget the disaster that was CD Projekt Red withholding the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 from critics, leading to a wave of inadvertently misleading reviews from writers testing on high-end PCs exclusively. We believe that transparency is more important than ever in situations like this, so we’d like to take a moment to outline our plans to properly review Baldur’s Gate 3 as well as offer our first impressions in case you can’t wait to buy it.
Though in case you’re sweating, I’ll cut to the chase: so far, so great.
Like other publications, Digital Trends received access to the full version of Baldur’s Gate 3 on Sunday, July 30. We quickly sent it over to our critic, CRPG expert Andrew Zucosky, who has been steadily working through it since then. Several members of the team have been playing it as well in order to provide our readers with some more immediate answers about performance and quality.
If you’re already sold on the game after its successful early access period and simply wondering how well it runs at launch, Computing Senior Staff Writer Jacob Roach has a full performance guide up right now. The prognosis is strong overall, as performance is stable at launch based on what we’ve played so far. There’s some hitching between zones, but there’s an option in the game’s menu to reduce VRAM usage. To get the best performance out of it, we recommend using Vulkan, turning off depth of field, and installing it on an SSD.
Note that Larian Studios pushed multiple major patches in the days after codes were distributed. It’s clear that the developer was doing some significant work on the game right up until launch, so we’ll need to play the full game to get a better sense of how polished it is overall.
As for our full review, we’re going to take our time considering the RPG’s enormous scope. Our goal is to publish a full review in time for the game’s PS5 launch on September 6. The exact date will depend on how long the game actually is, as our current priority is making sure our critic has the flexibility to play at a steady pace, better mirroring how we assume our readers will experience it.
Until then, we’ll be publishing some unique personal perspectives as we work through it. We also have a suite of guide content prepped to help get you started on your adventure. In short, expect a lot of coverage from us in the next month.
With all those logistics out of the way, there’s one question left to answer: What do we actually think of Baldur’s Gate 3 so far? We’re very impressed with our early hours, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Considering how little time we’ve had with it, we haven’t really gotten to play much beyond what was already available in early access. If you’ve yet to experience that, you’re in for a tabletop treat.
Baldur’s Gate 3 captures the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons better than any game I’ve ever played. That starts with character creation, where players build a true character sheet complete with stats and proficiencies. I’m currently running a pink-haired Drow rogue with an emphasis on persuasion. I already feel like my adventure is shaping around that specific character, as I’m using my tongue to get out of sticky situations. I’ve avoided entire fights by successful bluffing, which really makes it feel like there’s a reactive dungeon master controlling the experience.
Combat similarly impresses, boiling down the complexities of D&D battles to an easy-to-understand, but deep system. Whenever I select a character from my party to attack, I have access to a ton of actions that go far beyond attacking and blocking. I can equip multiple spells — so long as I’ve prepared them beforehand — and can even do tabletop actions like making improvised weapons or safely disengaging from an enemy to avoid opportunity attacks. It’s an incredibly robust system that I was able to pick up quickly, though it can be a bit too easy to waltz into combat encounters far too underleveled.
Other little touches really help bring that tabletop experience to life. Whenever I need to make a skill check, I have to physically roll a 20-sided die and beat a number. I can see exactly what bonus modifiers I have active, which makes it much easier to understand my character’s strengths and their chances at success. Based on the bits I’ve played, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the most digestible D&D tutorial I’ve ever played, clarifying books and books of rules and nuances.
I’m still early in my adventure, but I’m eager to see more of its rich world — especially because its vibrant colors are so pleasant to look at. I’m also bought-in on its narrative hook, in which I need to find a way to remove a mind flayer’s parasite from my eye socket (something that’s shown in a mesmerizing, grotesque opening cutscene). But for now, I’m simply having a blast learning a lot of complex RPG systems that I’ve always struggled with in tabletop form. If its early momentum keeps up, Baldur’s Gate 3 could be a quintessential RPG for both hardcore fans and newcomers. We’ll just have to wait and see how it sticks the landing.