I can point to the exact moment I knew Baldur’s Gate 3 would be a banger. Last year, Kurt Indovina wrote, hosted, and produced a video–aptly named The Box That Broke Baldur’s Gate 3–in which Swen Vincke spoke in great detail about how Larian Studios utilized everything short of witchcraft to program Baldur’s Gate 3 to twist and turn on itself to ensure that, regardless of the choices a player wanted to make, they’d always end up with an artifact in their inventory necessary to progress the game’s plot.

In that video, I witnessed the desperation any Game Master has dealt with, the mixture of adaptability and exasperation necessary to plan a rewarding story and simultaneously agonize over contingencies for every chaotic thought the players at your table might have. At that moment, I knew that Larian Studios understood the assignment. The developers knew that, first and foremost, the most crucial aspect of Dungeons & Dragons is encouraging and rewarding choice by trying to account for as many outcomes as possible, no matter how unlikely, every step of the way through the story. The result of honoring that ideal is the best game of 2023.

Baldur’s Gate 3 works so well because Larian cleverly uses every aspect of the game to lead your creativity back to the established narrative, curating a feeling that all options are viable and correct. Clever writing and the best all-around voice acting of any game this year bring Baldur’s Gate 3’s characters and memorable narrator to life, incentivizing you to pursue their respective storylines and follow their objectives. Intelligent enemy AI responds to your actions so even repeated combat encounters against the same enemies feel distinct, with your choices shaping fights to play out in myriad ways. Humorous discoveries seem to dot every corner of the multitude of locations, some of which can only be fully uncovered by having certain items or access to specific spells, so even after you reach the limits of the map, there’s often still a sense of mystique and discovery to the world as if you’ve barely scratched the surface of it all. And the random nature of dice rolls ensures you can’t always succeed at what you want to do and sometimes have to reevaluate, pushing you down a path that seems inspired even though Larian carefully authored it with the same care as all the other ways forward.

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