Alex’s game of the year 2023: Baldur’s Gate III

As I write this, I just realized that it has been exactly one year since I joined Gamereactor. It’s been a long road to get here, but 2023 was an incredible year. Gamescom, BlizzCon, getting to know all the great writers here, it was a great start. But if I have one regret, only one regret from my first year at Gamereactor, it’s turning down the opportunity to review Baldur’s Gate III.

The timing wasn’t quite right, and to be honest, I underestimated what this game could be. “I don’t really like top-down, turn-based RPGs,” I told myself. “I’ve played D&D before, but I doubt it will be all that. It will probably just be a niche RPG that pleases its audience, but won’t last more than a few weeks.” Here I am, four months later, deciding which character to play next while in the middle of a campaign.

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Yes, it got me hooked. Baldur’s Gate III got me hooked like no other title in 2023, and that’s a real accomplishment. If you’re looking for a little top 5 of things I played this year, I’d put Mortal Kombat 1, Pikmin 4, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate III in that list, in that order, with a pretty big jump between #2 and #1.

Do I need to explain why I liked this game so much? By now you’ve already seen The Game Awards, you’ve already decided whether it’s your thing or not. Nevertheless, since there are male children who refuse to accept that it’s even good, I think I’ll explain a bit about why I think Baldur’s Gate III deserves the hype surrounding it and how it even exceeds that hype.

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Baldur's Gate III

Every once in a while a game comes along with such passion, such depth, that you can’t help but be in awe of it. Alan Wake 2 has a similar amount of passion from Remedy, but I think Baldur’s Gate III stands out in how much thought went into making this game so that it can be experienced in as many ways as possible. It’s all up to you. From the story decisions you make to who you want to take to bed with you, it’s as if Mass Effect has taken enough steroids to let Mr. Olympia win with how many things there are to explore and do, and not in the sandbox-like way where you get bored within 15 minutes of looking at a beautiful setting and question marks on a map. Every nook and cranny has its own story to figure out, so every moment spent eroding the fog of war feels worthwhile.

Largely – even with Baldur’s Gate III’s solid combat and visuals – much of what keeps you coming back are the characters and stories that anchor it all. Excellent performances from every actor involved, combined with writing that gets you hooked on every word, as well as plenty of ways to discover who you want to be as a character, make it almost impossible not to play for a second time once you see the credits roll for the first time.

Baldur's Gate III

As someone who loves getting lost in a game’s story, Baldur’s Gate III left little to be desired. I would even say that the game’s main quest doesn’t do much to make you want to continue with it, but the characters and their interwoven stories make you move forward because you want to see where they end up more than you care whether the final battle will end in glorious victory or defeat.
There are also the broader factors that for me make Baldur’s Gate III the most deserving Game of the Year in 2023. Call it a hot take if you want, but I think popularity and industry impact should play a role in what we * the* game of the year. Baldur’s Gate III had an unpredictable appeal from the moment it launched (largely in part to a super hot vampire), attracting hundreds of thousands of players like me who wouldn’t have given this game the time of day if it hadn’t been as good as it is. The fact that we also saw other studios immediately claim that Baldur’s Gate III should not be expected as the norm shows how impressive this RPG is.

Recency bias be damned, Baldur’s Gate III is right up there with some of my favorite games of all time. Even after spending hundreds of hours in single player, I still feel like I am far from finished with this game, and I long for the day we see the effects of Baldur’s Gate III on the industry. Some of those effects will be bad, some will be great, but this game put Larian on the map in the same way that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt did for CD Projekt Red. Good luck with whatever you make next, guys. You’ve got mainstream eyes on you now.

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