Baldur’s Gate 3 has already consumed 500 hours of my life, and I’m just getting started

I don’t even remember what it’s like to drink hot tea any more. I’m sure my family will get back to me if whatever they need to tell me is that important. The laundry can be in whatever state the universe decides to leave it in, I won’t even pretend to care. And my teenager only breaks their bouts of suspicious quietness to remind me I’m a nerd who spends way too much time playing Baldur’s Gate 3.

“What, did you seriously forget this massive battle, the one you’ve already cleared seven times before?” he says, less politely than I rephrased his question here.

“Don’t you know how this part of the story goes by now?” he’ll moan.

Chk, like he knows anything. 

I may know the general shape of Baldur’s Gate 3 after ploughing a “I reached the endgame of an established MMO and now I’m grinding dailies for cosmetic items” number of hours into the game, but what actually happens within those boundaries still feels limitless. 500 hours in and I’m not scraping the bottom of the game’s barrel—I feel like I’ve barely taken the lid off the damned thing.

I have honestly, every single run, seen and done something new and exciting, and that’s without actively seeking anything out, or deliberately putting anything off for later either. I’ve had fun conversations with characters I didn’t know existed that have left me grinning from ear to ear (do take the time to talk to Biscotti if you see them). I’ve finally spotted an interesting little bit of treasure attached to its own secret micro-story, after somehow walking straight by the secluded little place it was lying in for hundreds of hours. 

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

I’ve been left astonished after one particular conversation with Shadowheart I’d never encountered before, one that genuinely felt like a personal interrogation conducted by a reactive human being, and not a simple set of dialogue trees combined with pre-recorded reactions. Every instinct told me I needed to find the one “correct” reply that’d win her approval and move on, but no—she wanted to uncover my personal opinion, not receive a mechanical pat on the head. In the moment it genuinely felt like magic.

I’ve experienced all of these smaller events and yet there are still vast swathes of more obvious fun still left untouched. I haven’t even tried to recruit Minthara, the tadpoled drow Paladin, yet. She’s been little more than a walking spidersilk armour loot piñata in my games, even though she could be a party member I could fight alongside, sass by the campfire, and potentially fall in (poison coated) love with.

Romance is another area I’ve still barely scratched the surface of. In the past 20 full days worth of playtime I may have accidentally flirted with Gale, deliberately whispered some unprintable words into Karlach’s very receptive ear, and literally almost died in a passionate duel against Lae’zel, but when the time comes to truly choose someone (or noone) and stick with that decision, I’ve always picked Astarion.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

I’ve turned mighty killers into harmless sheep, just because I can.

Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t try to push me down a different path for “Gotta sex ’em all” variety’s sake either. The game’s happy if I’m happy. And much like the internet’s favourite pale elf, it’s this freedom—true, honest, freedom—the game offers that I’ve come to appreciate the most. The game never, ever, tells me no, not even when I’m stupidly trying to pickpocket the beloved partner of a sword wielding demi-goddess just for fun, or when I’m piling every smokepowder barrel in the whole game behind a powerful being, like I get all of my combat tips from Wile E Coyote. I’ve turned mighty killers into harmless sheep, just because I can. I’ve also accidentally turned my entire party and a nearby team of murderous gith into cats and dogs after a wild magic sorcerer check went awry, although I don’t really remember what happened afterwards because I was too busy laughing at Dog’zel growling “I AM FURY, I AM DEATH” as their furry behind cantered across the battlefield.

If that’s not what the game’s all about, then I don’t know what is. Like some impossible magic trick, Baldur’s Gate 3 always finds a way to accommodate whatever the heck I’m doing, no matter how many gods, ghouls, or goodness knows how much time’s involved.

Baldur’s Gate 3 always finds a way to let me play.

It’s a mesmerising back and forth that I just can’t get enough of. Even if I play the exact same character in the exact same way, maybe I won’t be perceptive enough to notice something helpful this time, or persuasive enough to encourage someone to switch sides at a crucial moment. I’ve fought the same battles in countless different ways, from thoughtless rushes to very carefully orchestrated stealth takedowns, but even when I’ve reused tried and tested tactics, it’s never been safe to assume my opponents were always going to respond in the same way. Sometimes a goblin made a mad dash for a war drum and summoned their allies instead of loosing an arrow, sometimes a powerful enemy refused to position themselves right next to a yawning chasm, leaving Karlach uselessly standing around instead of ready to give them a fatal shove. There’s no one true path through this game, and I wouldn’t follow it even if it existed.

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

After 500 hours I know for a fact that Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just some game to win or lose or complete. It’s a real adventure. My adventure. Your adventure too. A true role-playing game so intensely detailed, yet so very relaxed about all those fine points, that our adventures can take whatever shape we want them to, every time.

And right now, my adventure is Honour Mode shaped, using a class I’ve not played as before. So, see you in another 500 hours? It’s not like I mind drinking cold tea these days.

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