I haven’t played Baldur’s Gate 3 – here’s why it’s my Game of the Year

I haven’t played Baldur’s Gate 3 – here’s why it’s my Game of the Year
Alex Raisbeck Updated on by

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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was my most anticipated game of the year, maybe even my most anticipated game ever. From the day it was released, it was beyond even my wildest expectations. I played it non-stop for weeks on end, and to say my review of the game was glowing would probably be an understatement. This year has been full of great games, yet, for me, TotK is still the best game I’ve played so far by a fair distance.

I would love to make a joke here, but I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already read the title of this piece and know what’s coming. With The Game Awards but a day away, my vote for Game of the Year goes to Baldur’s Gate 3, a game I haven’t played.

Baldur's Gate 3 Game of the Year: Talking to Astarion
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Not only have I not played Baldur’s Gate 3, but I’ve not played Baldur’s Gate 2, 1, or even any games of the same ilk. The closest I’ve come was one four-hour-long session of Divinity: Original Sin 2 with friends, which never happened again. So if your reaction to me saying a game I’ve never come close to touching is my Game of the Year is ‘What are you on about?’ then you know what? Fair enough. What am I on about?

Game of the Year is an inherently nebulous term. At its core, it’s supposed to mean the ‘best’ game of the year (very insightful, I know), the game you played that had better gameplay, storytelling, worldbuilding, music, etc., than any others. But games don’t just exist in a vacuum; they’re born into and out of the world we live in. And when it comes to gaming in 2023, the world that Baldur’s Gate 3 dropped into was, for good and bad, unlike any other before it.

If you’ve had the misfortune of using social media this year, you’ve probably seen endless waves of people proclaiming 2023 as the best year in gaming history. From start to finish, 2023 has been hit after hit, whether that’s blockbuster success stories like TotK, Alan Wake 2, and BG3 or surprise indie hits like DREDGE, Cocoon, Dave the Diver, and now Lethal Company.

Baldur's Gate 3 Game of the Year: Standing in a camp
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And yet,  this year could hardly have been worse for most people in the games industry. Seemingly every week, I open Twitter to new rounds of layoffs and studios shutting their doors for good. Each time Geoff Keighley tweets ‘Wow 2023 has been so awesomesauce!’, it’s sandwiched between hundreds of people who have just lost their livelihoods amidst the highest cost of living crisis in many of our lifetimes.

And things aren’t exactly rosy at many studios that have avoided the layoffs. Each game must be bigger than the last, with more content and shinier graphics. Games need to be made faster by overworked devs to meet unreasonable deadlines because the earlier it goes out, the quicker the sales come in, and the faster you can start plying your player base with microtransactions to feed the beasts that are profit and growth.

Baldur's Gate 3 Game of the Year: Rolling a Critical Failure
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And then there’s Larian Studios and Baldur’s Gate 3. Baldur’s Gate is a series with some serious pedigree under its belt. With D&D being as popular as ever, Larian could easily have spent a couple of years throwing together a game to capitalise on an established IP. And they probably would have done reasonably well out of it, making a decent return on their investment and getting started on the next project.

Instead, Larian Studios spent six years working on Baldur’s Gate 3, half of it in early access, with more than 400 people with a genuine passion for the source material working to create an intricate and masterful celebration of D&D culture. And I don’t need to have played the game to know that because whether it’s in conversations with friends or in the articles I read, the world around me has been waxing lyrical about this game for months.

Baldur's Gate 3 Game of the Year: Inspecting some armour
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Some Game of the Year winners have set a new standard for what games can be. The Witcher 3, Breath of the Wild, and Elden Ring have all become the pinnacle of their respective genres and examples to learn from for future games. And while Baldur’s Gate 3 will no doubt do the same for RPGs in the years to come, Larian Studios have set the standard not just for games, but for the studios that make them.

Larian Studios spent six years painstakingly crafting the perfect RPG, with a team given the time and space to express their passion for the genre and the Baldur’s Gate series, and have been rewarded handsomely for it. I’m not saying that every studio needs to spend six years working on their games; far from it. But Larian has shown that not only is another approach feasible, it can be hugely successful.

Baldur's Gate 3 Game of the Year: Talking with Astarion
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For studios, Game of the Year is a badge of honour, a potentially massive boost in sales, and can signal a shift in things to come. A win for Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t just a win for an incredible game; it’s a win for Larian’s approach to making games, an endorsement of their efforts, and could have hugely positive effects on how studios work going forward.

Sure, if Zelda takes home Game of the Year, I wouldn’t complain. It’s a great game and a worthy winner. Hell, I wouldn’t care if any of the other nominees took home the prize; it has no bearing on my life after all. But if a win for Baldur’s Gate 3 can make even a modicum of positive change in this industry (and the optimist in me believes that it can), then I’m team Larian all the way, baby.