Baldur’s Gate 3 is best experienced as blind as possible. While there are some very light early game spoilers in this feature, there are no major story, character, or gameplay spoilers to worry about.
There was a moment early on during my cooperative playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3 that had my group lost in confusion and uncontrollable laughter. Shortly after completing the game’s prologue, we stumbled across someone being held prisoner while exploring the overworld. After a short discussion on how to proceed, I deceived the captors and sent them on their way. We quickly realised the character in question was Lae’Zel, one of the game’s many companion characters.
After running into Lae’Zel during the aforementioned prologue, we felt some obligation to free her from her suspended cage. While I got to work on destroying the bottom of the cage, one of our party members mistakenly targeted her with an ability, instigating combat. After a chaotic back-and-forth on what to do next, Lae’Zel was dispatched just as we realised we could disengage. We cut our losses, looted the body of our accidental adversary, and checked out the rest of the camp.
After our resident dwarf went ahead and equipped her gleaming armour, it dawned on us that we could use a Revivify Scroll on Lae’Zel to bring her back from the dead. We didn’t stop to think twice, opting to raise the Githyanki as we eagerly awaited to see how she would react. Alive but stripped down to her undergarments, we instigated conversation with Lae’Zel, only to watch her exchange pleasantries with a dwarf donning her very own equipment. We’re reminded of this hilarious whirlwind of events every time we return to camp, where a half-naked Lae’Zel waits to be brought into the fray.
It’s moments like these that capture the potential absurdity that can happen with Dungeons and Dragons in a tabletop setting. A moment of sheer hilarity that would’ve been impossible to experience in a solo playthrough. Organic, player-created stories lie at the heart of Baldur’s Gate 3, and the expansive list of options available to you in any situation feels tailor made for this purpose.
Playing with friends adds a layer of consideration and delineation not found in solo play. Differing playstyles and approaches to build crafting lead to dynamic combat encounters and puzzle solving. It isn’t just combat that’s affected , as conversation choices are made by the player who initially spoke to the NPC. While other party members can vote on which response they want to be chosen, you’re ultimately victim to whoever’s representing the group.
An early game quest showcased this to us first-hand. Our search for a lost druid led us deep into goblin territory, patrolled by countless guards who report to three goblin generals. After my charismatic warlock swayed the gatekeepers to let us through, we quickly found one of the generals; Priestess Gut. After some small talk, Gut took an acute interest in the mind flayer tadpole infecting the head of our troublemaking dwarf, separating him from apart from the rest of the team.
Priestess Gut quickly offered to remove the parasitic pain from the dwarf’s head on the condition he drinks a suspicious potion. The writing was on the wall at this stage, nothing good could come from a mystery liquid concocted by a goblin priestess. Despite having every reason to turn down Priestess Gut’s offer, our dwarf opted to drink the potion in the name of comedy and morbid curiosity – reasoning that we couldn’t fault. Unsurprisingly, the dwarf fell unconscious and was briskly whisked away to the basement’s holding cells, leading to an impromptu prison break.
That isn’t to say that things can’t come together in a satisfying fashion in coop. Another early example of our collaborative escapades saw some unfortunate positioning instigating a combat encounter we were very much ill-prepared for. Loading our most recent save meant losing almost half an hour of progress, so we chose to buckle down and attempt to overcome impossible odds. Through smart use of abilities, communication, and target prioritization, we were able to survive a gauntlet we presumed would spell our doom from the start. While this is relatively standard fare for Dungeons and Dragons regulars, seeing roll after roll play out on-screen as we held our breaths in uncertainty was an experience to behold.
What’s remarkable about co-op combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 is the way it forces you to work together and find optimal strategies. As a warlock, I have to be constantly aware of my area of effect spells and how they can damage my teammates. I also have to be mindful of how one of my main Cantrips, Eldritch Blast, can knock enemies back, potentially moving them out of the melee range of my allies. This is all without considering turn orders, de-buffs, ability cooldowns, items, and so much more. The flexibility Baldur’s Gate 3 affords in so many of its systems, means you have to work together to find the synergies that your group has.
There’s also the way in which our builds and classes leave the team feeling like each member has their own skills and specialties. Where my warlock can provide a historic lens to the investigation of certain objects and conversations, our monk can lend a more level-headed and peace-minded approach. It often has us thinking about who is best for any given interaction in Baldur’s Gate 3, both in combat, and general exploration.
The differentiations in classes also leads to less conflict over who gets what gear. If you’ve got a wide selection of classes and subclasses, you’re bound to be proficient in different weapon and armour types. Similarly, you’re all going to be looking for accessories that bolster your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Not once have we wasted time trying to decide who gets what – a far cry in comparison to some of the irreparable damage done by other co-op games with shared loot.
If you’re worried about missing out on content due to the flexibility afforded to each player, fret not. There’s plenty of systems in place to ensure everyone gets a piece of the pie no matter what’s happening in-game. From the aforementioned dialogue choice voting, to the ability to watch conversations from anywhere, a staggering amount of consideration and thought has been put into how co-op impacts every aspect of the game. These countless quality of life inclusions cement Baldur’s Gate 3 as the de-facto way to experience Dungeons and Dragons in a video game format.
One of the best inclusions is the ability to make your conversations private. This defaults to off in public settings, but automatically turns on during scenes that only involve your character. Not only does this allow romance decisions and intimate scenes to be kept close to the chest, but it also enables players to act as agents of chaos in their runs. Sowing the seeds for future conflict without other players realising until it’s far too late. This goes a long way to making your character feel like their own amongst the group, reinforcing that each of you are defined pieces of a larger puzzle.
After 15 or so hours, it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Baldur’s Gate 3 has to offer. All of our solo runs on the side have sounded markedly different from our collaborative experiences, which keeps us coming back for more. It’s a more thoughtful and mature co-op offering that’s unrivalled in scale and player choice.
What makes it all the more enticing, is its tendency to descend into utter chaos, presenting situations you simply wouldn’t find in more structured and defined co-op experiences. It’s hilarious, chaotic, tactical, and rewarding all at the same time.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is out right now on PC, and aPS5 release is set to launch on September 6th, both with online co-op for up to four players along with two player local co-op.