One of the hottest upcoming PC gaming releases for video game RPG and Dungeons & Dragons fans alike is available now—albeit in early access form. Players can delve into the adventure awaiting in Baldur’s Gate III right now on PC and Stadia, but naturally with a few caveats and limitations as development on the game progresses. Here are a few details and impressions on the current state of the game.
Watch Baldur’s Gate III as it grows
If you truly love Dungeons & Dragons and the Baldur’s Gate franchise, the prospect of playing right now is very enticing. However, it’s important to note that this “early access” offering is very, very, early. Of course developer Larian Studios is entirely transparent of this fact.
The point is that early access has no true definition, and games releasing this way come out in varying degrees of completion. Some players may expect a game to be “mostly done”, releasing in early access to work out the final bugs. With Baldur’s Gate III this is not the case.
Larian Studios expects the game to remain in early access for at least a year, maybe more. At launch, players will only be able to navigate the first act (still a hefty endeavor). Furthermore, there is a limit to the number of options available right now in such areas as character creation.
If you find this copacetic, then Baldur’s Gate III will deliver exactly what it promises. It’s a chance to participate as the game develops from a rough initial build to a final release. Just don’t expect a buggy-but-complete adventure that you might be able to navigate from start to finish right away.
Performance is improving regularly
Right off the bat, launching Baldur’s Gate III hit a bit of a rocky patch for me. I was dropping frames like crazy and experiencing significant freezing. Luckily though this is a quick fix (for me) by switching from Vulkan to DirectX 11 when launching the game. A few more tweaks under settings and performance is much better.
Even as of this writing game performance isn’t perfect. The frame rate still dips regularly and it’s fairly obvious the team is still working hard on optimizing. However, what’s promising is the fact that patch releases are coming at a regular clip.
Furthermore, performance is noticeably better with each patch release. While there is still a way to go, the difference is already night and day between early access launch and now, weeks later. By the way, I’ve been spending my time in the game between a few gaming laptops, including the MSI GS66 Stealth. You can read more on this gaming laptop in my review coming soon!
Make no mistake, there are stills some glaring holes. Just the other day I noticed a character duplicate themselves in a cutscene, for example. Little omissions in overall polish poke their heads out everywhere. But then again, that’s an acceptable trait in turn for early access, and for some even part of the thrill of watching a game take shape over time.
A true Dungeons & Dragons adventure
Performance aside, the actual gameplay in Baldur’s Gate III is very promising indeed. It truly feels like a tabletop adventure in the digital realm. Perhaps even more so than previous entries in the series.
Action is a turn-based affair where everything from initiative to reprieve from death is a roll of the die. Taking the time to plot a course of action and waiting for a success or failure result just feels much more true to the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons than other games that try add elements of real-time action and combat to the mix.
NPC interactions are meaningful, and you really have the opportunity to shape your character and their perception of the world around them. The best part is that there is no slow burn in setting up the story. The narrative is intense and the dynamics are meaningful right from the start.
Of course this is ultimately important considering the narrow scope of early access at launch. I think early adopters would find frustration in a plodding intro that only picks up pace near the end of the playable portion of the game.
Who do you want to be?
It’s a certainty there will be more playable classes coming down the line. Still, there is already a healthy amount of choice available to players in character customization. Naturally this is the cornerstone of the concept of Dungeons & Dragons, so the onus is definitely on Larian to live up to this ideal.
So far I am enjoying the game in the role of a drow ranger. Yes, I admit a bit of an association, perhaps even obsession with my favourite D & D novel star, the legendary and peerless drow elf Drizzt. At least I can opt to go with a female?
There is still a lot that remains to be seen on just how deeply immersive Baldur’s Gate III will be. Yet based on what is available in the early access release so far, I have high expectations for this long-awaited continuation of the franchise.
Baldur’s Gate III early access is a promising RPG on pace to deliver an immaculate Dungeons & Dragons experience
The idea of releasing a game in early access can be divisive to say the least. On one hand, the publisher is asking players to pay full price for a game that isn’t even complete yet. On the other hand, fans get a chance to play a game early, and possibly even contribute their voice to the development process—all for a purchase that they may well have known they were going to make anyway come release day.
PC gaming enthusiasts were among the first to embrace the idea of becoming part of the development process of games through early access and developer feedback. As such it’s no surprise that there is a keen interest with this hallowed PC franchise. In the end it’s really up to potential buyers to decide whether they want an early peek as an admittedly ongoing project comes to fruition, or whether they want their first impressions of Baldur’s Gate III to be the best possible reflection of the final product.