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Baldur's Gate 3 | Games of the Year 2023

This article discusses a minor spoiler, an item unrelated to the main quest appearing in the game’s Act 3. Read at your own peril.

This is the least and most surprising Game of the Year piece I have ever written.

Coming into the year, I knew Baldur’s Gate 3 would be my Game of the Year. It’s the latest title in my favourite franchise, following up on my favourite games of all time.

But I also knew The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom would be my Game of the Year. This is my favourite franchise, and the follow-up to my favourite games of all time… Right? Surely it is.

By the time Baldur’s Gate 3 came out, I had poured 155 hours into Tears of the Kingdom, having replayed another 100+ hours of Breath of the Wild in preparation. These were pretty much the only games I had played by the time August arrived. I got a Zelda tattoo this year. That’s how much I love this series.

Meanwhile, I had been following Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 closely since its reveal, had the privilege of getting access to events surrounding its development, had done a couple of interviews with the team, played its Early Access builds, and while I didn’t want to admit it to myself, it wasn’t clicking. I was worried.

What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I got bored of it because I had already played it in Early Access? For most of Baldur’s Gate 3’s EA, I had trouble reconciling my idealised vision of the franchise with Larian’s title. A sort of cognitive dissonance. Maybe it was its gameplay similarities with Divinity Original Sin, a series I never played in-depth for some inexplicable reason, or the absence of pausable real-time combat, or really just my own memories getting in the way.

Baldur’s Gate has been a core part of my identity since I was a kid. I remember vividly the first time I played Baldur’s Gate on the family computer circa 1999. I still think of it as a key moment of my relationship with my brother, and a moment that would come to define my taste in storytelling for decades to come. We all have that one topic we can talk about for hours. Mine is Baldur’s Gate.

When Baldur’s Gate 3’s release finally came, I delayed starting it by a few days and finished Tears of the Kingdom. I ugly cried when that ended, I swore this would be my GOTY, because how could it not be?

And then I started Baldur’s Gate 3. Again. I made my original Baldur’s Gate character, the one I’ve named my online persona after since 1999. It was like meeting an old friend. And I started playing. I played the same intro I had already played a few times in Early Access. I met the same characters I had already met, probably made the same decisions I had previously made in an embarrassing attempt to seduce Astarion. I gathered my party and I ventured forth. And it clicked.

It was right there. It was Baldur’s Gate. My favourite franchise. Following up on my favourite games of all time. My Game of the Year.

With Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian weaved a most intricate tapestry, perfectly balancing engaging new stories and characters while not forgetting its world’s past, making it relevant once more without ever feeling reheated, making it alive and breathing.

Baldur’s Gate’s DNA is all over this third entry but it still feels resolutely like a modern game, with Larian applying its decades of experience making flawless RPGs to what I feel is their masterpiece.

Every choice you make in Baldur’s Gate 3 seems meaningful, the experience is tailored to the type of character you want to play, accurately recreating what playing Dungeons & Dragons feels like in real life. One of the most interesting aspects of playing D&D is experiencing the consequences of your actions, good or bad, and while some other games have done that well, nothing (to me) comes close to Baldur’s Gate 3 and the sheer volume of events that can unfold differently depending on what you do. All crafted in meaningful and unique ways.

Nothing is undercooked, and nothing is overcooked either, no storyline ever feels like it’s outstaying its welcome.

This is all supported by incredible writing and a wonderful cast of multidimensional, flawed characters that I adore, as well as a combat system that, again, very accurately replicates what fighting feels like in D&D, all while being perfectly adapted to the constraints of a video game.

All of these things and more have been explored and discussed in-depth by the games press, the players, and frankly what has felt like the entire games industry over the past six months, and I think there’s very little that I could add that hasn’t already been said about its qualities: Baldur’s Gate 3 is undoubtedly one of the best games of 2023.

But my reasons to love Baldur’s Gate 3 are uniquely mine and I’m pretty sure that’s how most BG3 players feel, because this game gives you the tools you need to create and enjoy something that is uniquely yours, and that is where its strength resides.

So I’m looking at this game through the lens of a D&D player and of a Baldur’s Gate veteran. And I’m looking at it through the eyes of the young girl I was when I first met Jaheira and for the first time I saw a strong woman who wasn’t apologetic for speaking her mind.

My lens is having a list of BG3 moments that made me cry simply because I was overwhelmed by how brilliantly something from the past games was being brought up. I wish I could share them all because I’ve been consistently amazed by Larian’s mastery, and by this team’s intimate knowledge of its source material.

There’s something so wonderful about developing a link to a universe and it delivering in such a meaningful way decades later. Meeting some of these characters again after such a long time has been such an emotional journey and it’s not something I’ve experienced to that extent before.

At this point I would like to personally thank whoever at Larian decided to incorporate Khalid’s Gift to Baldur’s Gate 3. That was the last straw for me.

I was reaching the end of the game, and by that time I had spent over 130 hours telling anyone who would listen: but what about Khalid? I know it’s been a long time, but why hasn’t Jaheira mentioned her late husband? In 2019, I wrote a retrospective piece about Baldur’s Gate, and publicly stated that playing Baldur’s Gate without Khalid and Jaheira is not playing Baldur’s Gate.

And then, it was there. Hidden away but waiting to be found by people like me. Khalid’s Gift. If I had ever doubted that Baldur’s Gate 3 was the game I had been waiting 20 years for, that doubt would have been lifted in this instant.

Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just my Game of the Year for its clearly groundbreaking aspects, from its fluid gameplay to the verticality of its level design and its branching narrative. It’s my Game of the Year because it took everything I wanted and everything I didn’t know I hoped for, and made it a reality. It’s my Game of the Year for the little touches like Khalid’s Gift, that probably barely mattered to some players but for me meant everything.

Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just my Game of the Year. It’s my favourite game of the past 24 years.

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