When my version of Baldur’s Gate III was finally downloaded, I opened it right away at eleven o’clock in the evening, full of enthusiasm. I had heard and written so much about this game that I couldn’t wait for it to be available for PlayStation 5. I took that hour less sleep for granted. Since the game was already available on PC a month earlier, my review will mainly focus on the adjustments made for the PS5 version. For more depth on the story and systems, you can visit our Baldur’s Gate III PC review Justified.
Details make the game come alive
Still, I must briefly comment on the game’s story. Baldur’s Gate III has me completely in its grip. Every free moment of the day I play, and when I’m not playing, Baldur’s Gate III roams around in my mind. I sympathize immensely with the game and what happens to my companions. To illustrate, I made a choice at one point. This one turned out not much later not to work out so well and for this I genuinely did feel annoyed for a while.
Baldur’s Gate III does not manage to let go of me especially because of the great attention to detail. I can tell from everything that Larian has thought about it and put effort into this. For example, the characters, both NPCs and companions, show tremendous emotion. Not only in voice, but also from the facial expressions and posture of characters it becomes clear how they are facing you. This makes the characters just real, making it very easy to empathize.
A somewhat smaller example of Larians eye for detail is in characters’ hair. Hair styles with a ponytail come across as very realistic to me. For example, I noticed while creating my character that a tail swishes around nicely when you spin the character around. But not only that, because the hair of one of your companions also flies around very realistically while walking. Details like these show me that Larian really put a lot of love into Baldur’s Gate III.
Good to play on a controller
Whereas most players on PC naturally play with mouse and keyboard, this is not an option on PS5. Because of the huge amount of options on the screen and the low number of buttons on a controller, many people wondered how Larian would solve this. I can say that after a short period of getting used to it, Baldur’s Gate III is very playable. The game started in my preferred camera viewpoint, a third-person over-the-shoulder camera, but was very easy to switch to a top-down tactical camera. That easy switching was very nice for me when I needed a little more overview.
Whereas on PC you use your mouse to click where your character should walk, on PlayStation 5 you do so with the left thumbstick. This is a pleasant adjustment, because as far as I’m concerned that’s the best way to maneuver through a world on a controller. Still, in combat it is more like the PC version, which I also found to work well on PlayStation. The circle pointer in the center of the screen was easy to see and was very useful for selecting a place to run to or an opponent to attack. Still, I occasionally ran into problems with this. For example, my camera occasionally bumped into a wall, in which case I had to fiddle a bit to click my exact target.
On PC, it is possible to click your various actions, skills or spells with your mouse. Since this option is not available on PlayStation, Larian has come up with what I think is a very clever solution. Indeed, with L1 or R1 you open a menu with wheels, where you can very clearly see and select all your skills, spells, items and movement options. This was very intuitive and it didn’t take me very long to get used to this system. However, I did notice that as I reached higher levels and thus unlocked more spells and skills, the wheels became a bit more cluttered.
Fortunately, you can add additional wheels to this and also arrange them completely by yourself. I recommend thinking carefully beforehand about how you want to arrange the wheels, because changing the layout will take you three clicks per adjustment. For my Bard, I had decided to put all cantrips on the first wheel and fill it completely with spells. Then when I went to the next level and got an additional cantrip, I had to rearrange my wheels all over again. If you think about this a little better beforehand, you will be less concerned with rearranging these casters as you level.
Outside of combat, it is very easy to interact with items. For example, you can walk up to items and simply press the interact button. What I really like is that you can switch between different objects with left and right on the D-pad. Very handy when the wrong object is selected. A second interaction option that I really like is holding down the interaction button. When you do this you scan a small area, so to speak, after which you get a nice overview of all the objects you can do something with. This feature saved me several times in puzzles, as there were sometimes things among the “scanned” items that I hadn’t even seen myself. What I found less enjoyable outside of combat was using the aforementioned circle in the middle of the screen. That was an option, but since I so sometimes had some trouble with that, I found it more pleasant to use one of the first two ways.
Of course, the PlayStation 5 is best known for the controller’s special features: haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. I can be brief about the haptic feedback, because Baldur’s Gate III does not make use of that. Larian did use the adaptive triggers, but as far as I was concerned, they did not necessarily add to the experience. Indeed, the game stopped the triggers halfway through, but the only difference in pushing through or not was that the relevant menu remained or disappeared upon release. In itself a funny use of the feature, but not very necessary. Having played the game for about seventy hours, I can’t think of a way the adaptive triggers could have been better used in any other way.
Except for some minor issues, very good performance
In my experience, Baldur’s Gate III runs very well on PlayStation 5. Especially in act 1 and 2, the frame rate is very stable, with perhaps a dip here and there in the places with more NPCs. In this case, it was not distracting. Where the game struggles more, as on PC, is in act 3. I noticed here especially when turning the camera that the frame rate is lower than in the acts before. It was noticeable, but it didn’t bother me extremely much. In this I think it makes a difference that Baldur’s Gate III is a turn-based game where accuracy is less of an issue. After a while, I got used to the lower frame rate, which allowed me to enjoy the game to the fullest again.
I only experienced one crash in my time with Baldur’s Gate III. This one was after saving when returning to the main menu, so not an annoying moment. A few times I saw some visual glitches, but game breaking things I did not experience. What was unfortunate is that for the last 45 hours I couldn’t see how much XP I needed to get to the next level. That can be worked around, but not ideal.
In co-op the game struggles
Since Baldur’s Gate III includes split-screen co-op, I naturally tried that out to see how this runs. Since I did this on my own, I wasn’t able to do extensive testing with how this plays. I can say, however, that you can tell that the game is demanding a lot more from the console here. I noticed in every act that the frame rate was lower than in single player, and the game felt slower and slower in co-op the further you get into the game. Therefore, I think Baldur’s Gate III is more suitable for playing alone, unless a lower performance doesn’t bother you.
A gem of a game
It may seem like I’m thinking very negatively about Baldur’s Gate III in this review, but that’s only due to the fact that I’ve mostly looked at the game very zoomed in. When I take in the whole picture, I see an outright fantastic game that suffers from some minuscule pain points that I may have magnified somewhat large. I have come to love this game immensely and I think this is the reason I am looking at it very critically. WHAT a story, WHAT characters, WHAT a world. Baldur’s Gate III is one of the best games of this year as far as I’m concerned and perhaps one of the best games ever made.
Baldur’s Gate III is, simply put, a brilliant game. It is a very good representation of Dungeons & Dragons with brilliant characters, an intriguing world and a compelling story. I haven’t felt so connected to a game in ages. Every moment of every day I wanted to play it and when I couldn’t, I was thinking about the game. The port to PlayStation 5 has worked out very well. The game is very playable with a controller and the performance is very good except for a few minor things. This is a game I would recommend anyone to play.