Baldur’s Gate 3 pushes player freedom to the absolute limit. That unparalleled level of freedom can be found in nearly every aspect of the game, from its character creation to combat, and after two full playthroughs and a dozen ongoing campaigns, I’ve still barely scratched the surface. No two experiences are alike, and every character I’ve created feels unique. While the game can’t always keep up with the spontaneity of a real-life Dungeon Master, it manages to offer plenty of agency while also ensuring that its vast, web-like narrative is compelling from start to finish.
Baldur’s Gate 3 begins in the belly of a Nautiloid, a Lovecraftian spaceship piloted by a squid-like race known as illithids. After you create your avatar and pick a class, you are infected with a parasite that slowly (and painfully) turns its host into a tentacle-adorned mind flayer. You and the other affected members of your party must find a way to remove the parasites before the transformation is complete. It’s a wonderfully dark setup that allows Larian Studios to pull together an eclectic batch of characters with a wide array of beliefs, dispositions, and backgrounds and give them a common goal. These characters aren’t adventuring together out of friendship (for the most part), but necessity. In many cases it’s an uneasy allyship rife with internal drama and conflict.
Baldur’s Gate 3 regularly puts its characters first, and it’s better for it. While the narrative isn’t all that interesting on its own and basically amounts to “purge the parasite and save the world,” the diverse cast of characters makes it so much more memorable by creating an extra layer of nuance that grounds the entire experience with more personal stakes. Karlach is a hot-headed tiefling barbarian with a heart of gold, Astarion is a pompous and flamboyant rogue with just enough charm to win you over, and Lae’zel is a battle-hardened warrior that puts an interesting spin on the fish-out-of-water archetype. There are 10 potential party members in total, and each one is backed by sharp writing, impeccable acting, and spirited animations.
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