Baldur’s Gate 3 – RPG of the generation (Picture: Larian Studios)
The PS5 edition of Baldur’s Gate 3 has taken just a month to arrive but does it really work as well as the acclaimed PC version?
We’re genuinely unsure whether the PlayStation 5 version of Baldur’s Gate 3 being released on the same day as Starfield is a coincidence. You would assume not, as trying to disrupt Xbox’s big day is exactly the sort of thing Sony would do, and yet they’ve shown little interest in promoting the game or setting it up as a counter to Bethesda’s game.
Considering Sony’s reclusive attitude over the last year or so that’s perhaps no surprise but even if they sleep on the game, you most certainly should not.
We already reviewed the PC version of Baldur’s Gate 3, when it was released last month, and it’s strange to have such a small gap between the two versions, given it was a year between the console and PC editions of Divinity: Original Sin 2 – developer Larian Studios’ previous role-player, to which this is just as much a sequel as it is to the old 90s Baldur’s Gate titles. You certainly don’t need to have played them to enjoy this or have any previous experience with Dungeons & Dragons.
Although this is an officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons game it’s not set in the standard Tolkien-esque world you might imagine. There are still elves, dragons, hobbits, and dwarves but the Forgotten Realms setting also contains a lot of much less well know races and enemies, although you may have heard talk of the mind flayers in Stranger Things. These octopus-headed enemies kick off the plot, as they invade the realm and abduct your player character and dozens of others, until their ship is brought down and the survivors form the nucleus of your role-playing party.
Before that happens though you’re infected with an Alien style parasite, that threatens to turn you into a mind flayer. Stopping this happening is your initial goal, which is a neat and easily digestible route into the game’s more complex plot and characters.
Although you don’t need to have ever played a tabletop game to enjoy Baldur’s Gate 3 its whole purpose is replicating the experience as accurately as possible. We’re not sure it needed to be quite so pedantic about the rules, with all the virtual dice rolling, but the real magic is in how it tries to offer every conceivable option at every moment – just as a human dungeon master would.
Dialogue options aren’t just a delaying tactic before you’re pushed down the one narrative path the game wants you to follow, as you can be as moral or immoral as you want and the game not only allows it but makes sure everyone around you reacts in an appropriate way.
Characters that might have hours of content associated with them can be ignored or killed, unexpected side quests can result from the smallest background details, and every fight can be tackled a near infinite number of ways – including avoiding it entirely through stealth, bribery, or a silver tongue.
On paper these might seem relatively ordinary features of a modern role-playing game but the attention to detail and flexibility in Baldur’s Gate 3 is so far ahead of any rival that it literally seems impossible at times. You can talk to any animal or corpse, and they all seem to have something to say, while every situation or puzzle always has alternative solutions that, when you discuss it with other people, you’re shocked to find were options.
The combat is turn-based, not dissimilar to XCOM, and here too the possibilities are endless, as while melee weapons are relatively straightforward the magic spells are used to their full logical extent. Ice spells aren’t just a different flavour of attack, they make the floor slippery or encase enemies, fireballs can set fire to oil slicks you purposefully release, and everything works according to a very realistic physics engine.
The PlayStation 5 version of the game is identical to the PC in terms of content, but the graphics are also handled surprisingly well. They look like they’re running on a high-end PC and unless you have a very expensive set-up there’s a good chance the PlayStation 5 version is going to look better. The only downside is that the split-screen mode is stuck at 30fps, which hints at why Larian has had such difficulty getting the option working on Xbox Series S.
The unexpected benefit of the PlayStation 5 version, which has to use a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse, is that the user interface is a lot more streamlined than the PC, which once you get a lot of high level party members is a mess of hotbars and cooldown meters. Realising that wouldn’t work on a TV the console interface is a lot more straightforward, relying more on radial menus and keeping the screen free of clutter.
Using the inventory is the only thing that’s more awkward than it was but then it was never great on the PC either, so not much has been lost.
Baldur’s Gate 3 – D&D without the tabletop (Picture: Larian Studios)
In the PlayStation 5 version you’re also controlling the characters directly, instead of pointing and clicking where you want them to go, which is a lot more immersive. We never even though to check it as an option on PC, but here it’s the only way to play and we think we actually prefer it. There are more bugs and performance issues – most commonly brief dips in frame rate – than on a powerful PC but while they’re irritating they’re easy to put up with, given everything that the game offers.
The only serious problems, that just keep the game from a perfect score, is the irritating level cap that sticks assiduously to the tabletop rules and means it takes ages to level up and you can only go as high as 12. The biggest issue, though, is that the game’s quality is uneven, seemingly because the first act was in early access for years and has been polished to perfection, whereas the others lack the same level of sandbox gameplay.
It’s the difference between very good and one of the best video game experiences ever but you can’t help but notice, especially during the final act, that everything seems to have become much more straightforward, and focused on mass brawls, than the open-ended playground that Baldur’s Gate 3 starts out as.
It will be dozens of hours before you ever discover that for yourself though, during which you’ll be witness to one of the greatest role-playing games ever made and a new benchmark for the genre. Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t perfect but that only makes it more exciting to wonder what Larian and others will create in the future…
Baldur’s Gate 3 PS5 review summary
In Short: One of the best role-playing games ever created, with an incredible level of freedom and interactivity, and a superb console port that may even be the best way to play.
Pros: Incredible freedom of choice at every possible moment, including combat, customisation, dialogue, and exploration. Excellent script and surprising accessibility for non-Dungeons & Dragons fans.
Cons: More bugs than the PC version and the slow levelling up is still annoying. Act 1 remains notably better than the rest of the game, with a slightly disappointing finale.
Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Publisher: Larian Studios
Developer: Larian Studios
Release Date: 6th September 2023 (Xbox is TBA 2023)
Age Rating: 18
To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
Sign up to all the exclusive gaming content, latest releases before they’re seen on the site.