Baldur’s Gate 3 is a massive role-playing game that’s based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop fantasy game. This latest Baldur’s Gate has been in development for six years, in early release for three, and in its first official weekend gamers racked up a whopping 1,225 years of combined play. (You might call that popular.)
It is currently available for play on PC, with a PlayStation 5 release coming out Sept. 6 of 2023.
The game’s opening act finds you abducted, in a sci-fi fantasy world, by a creature called a mindflayer. This tentacle-faced oppressor pulls your character into its ship before infecting you with a parasite that crawls into your eye socket. (Ew!) That sharp-toothed, tadpole-like creature is designed to dig its way into your virtual brain and eventually turn you into a mindflayer.
Before you meet that fate, however, the ship is attacked and crashes. And you then begin a journey to not only find a way to remove that creature burrowing through your cerebrum but to join forces with other similarly infected companions; explore quests and dungeons; and put an end to the mindflayer scourge.
Gamers begin play by choosing a predesigned “Origin” character to play as, or by creating a new character of their own from 11 different races (including elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings and the like) and some 46 different subclasses. Each of these choices then shape the different abilities, strengths, useable weapons and spells that they can work with.
At its core, that is what Baldur’s Gate 3 is all about: choice-filled adventure. Every decision you make, every character you interact with, every bond you forge will weave together the fabric of your journey. Each encounter can come with consequences—sometimes immediately and sometimes in the future of the game’s overarching story. And like a Dungeons & Dragons game, many of those choices, and how they fare, are connected to the roll of a 20-sided die.
For instance, a gamer’s choice to intimidate or persuade someone, pick a lock, or use a special attack successfully will be assigned a required number. Roll the die and hit that number or above and you succeed. Roll below, you fail. And failure can lead to everything from permanently ruined opportunities to heated battle to … death.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is predominantly a third-person, single-player RPG that lets you choose a group of three non-player characters (NPC) as your questing companions. You can meet up to 10 Origin NPCs who will wait in your camp for you to pick and choose from, based on the strengths, abilities and even personalities you desire for your team.
Each Origin NPC also has his or her own backstory and connected side quests you may choose to fulfill. Romance is a part of that equation, too (more on that below). Gamers can also play a multiplayer version of the game with up to three friends. But in that case, your friends cannot be switched out for an NPC teammate.
The story is wide and deep and filled with interestingly flawed characters who add a sense of empathy to the fantasy quests you pursue. And the game’s many choices, branching quests and character designs open the game to repeated playthroughs. In fact, the three acts of BG 3 involve hundreds of hours of play (with 174 hours of cinematics alone), and it’s been reported that there are some 17,000 possible story endings!
This game is incredibly immersive. Its characters are interesting. And despite the massive number of character choices and actions, and the layers of possible submenus to access, the gameplay of BG 3 is surprisingly intuitive.
The game also has a female narrator who conveys the protagonist’s thoughts and provides insights that tie the gamer’s actions and choices together. That small-but-important element helps connect this game to its Dungeons & Dragons roots and guide those unfamiliar with a Baldur’s Gate game.
There’s also a great deal of rich color and well-crafted perspective that aid the game’s depth and complexity.
Back in the 1970s, when Dungeons & Dragons was first presented as a tabletop entertainment, there were many concerns that the role-playing game would encourage interest in sorcery and demons. In fact, throughout the history of fantasy RPG video games, those same criticisms have worried parents.
You’ll find nothing directly satanic about Baldur’s Gate 3, but gamers should be aware of the world’s fantasy spirituality. Devilish looking characters called Tieflings have horns on their heads and red skin.
Parents should also note that BG 3 is an M-rated game packed with strong violent and sexual content.
Magic and spells abound in this world. And though there are no incantations, spell work is a constant part of battles and interactions. NPC characters can combine spells to create physical walls of vines and greenery, for example. Destructive attacks launch fire, ice and the like at foes. Some mages can transform into bears and other raging creatures. And gamers can choose magician traits and abilities for themselves.
The attacks and battles can also be extremely bloody. Most group battles feature bloody splashes and pools of gore. But some cinematics showcase ripped-open bodies and spilled entrails. Character’s decapitated heads are lifted up for display. We see people with exposed brains, and the player will rip a brain out of one person’s skull. Eyes are gouged out.
We also see physical instances of torture that focus on extracted toenails and strikes to the groin (though the actual attacks are just offscreen as the victim cries out in pain). A character stabs a victim and licks the blood from the blade. And gamers have the option of playing as a dragon-like character with dark, murderous urges, and the character derives almost sexual excitement over spilled blood.
That’s not the only bit of sexuality in play. Baldur’s Gate 3 pushes romance, nudity and sex in new directions in the gaming world. Players can opt in or out of nudity in their play (but even when opting out, they will encounter naked NPCs having sex). When opting in, gamers not only have the ability to change the shape of their character’s genitals, but they can mix and match their character’s gender and genital choices. (Hermaphrodite character choices are possible.)
Thereafter, players can then remove the clothing of their team of characters and walk about naked. Some questing situations include sexual interaction with story NPCs. And when gamers choose a romantic connection with a teammate, they have sexual interludes that feature kissing, caressing and moaning interplay, including just-off-screen oral sex. (Actual genital contact is kept offscreen in all cases.)
That easygoing sexual contact may be kept just offscreen, but the verbal interactions and after-sex reactions are not. And all that boundary pushing sexuality doesn’t actually move the story forward as much as serve as simply a form of in-game titillation.
Of course, as with everything else in this game, what you experience is all connected to your choices. And that could well be seen as both a positive and a negative. There are a number of evil and potentially dark and deadly paths that players can take in the hundreds of hours of play here.
Language is also an issue to be aware of. Uses of f- and s-words and other crudities and genital references are mixed in with exclamations of “gods-d–mit.” And some characters are prone to profane exclamations on a regular basis.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has raised the bar when it comes to memorable quests, extravagant dungeons and rarified RPG adventuring. But it’s pumped up the negative content—especially in the sexual arena—to levels unseen before, too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.