Baldur’s Gate 3 on PS5 is a technically complicated but still enjoyable experience

2 months ago 101

Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of my favorite games in a very long time, exemplary in nearly every way except for one — it had to be played on PC. Of course, I have nothing against PC gaming (hello, Overwatch!), but I am a creature of comfort and count the ability to play from comfortable places as important to a game’s enjoyability as the actual game itself. So when I heard about BG3’s cross-save ability with the PS5, I fell to my very knees in appreciation, excited beyond measure that I would have the ability to enjoy this masterwork of a game from the comfort of the papasan chair in my sunroom.

The reality, though, of my experience with Baldur’s Gate 3 PS5 play has turned out to be far less worthy than the hype I had for it.

Screenshot from Baldur’s Gate 3 featuring a group shot of 4 party members — Lae’zel, the TAV, Astarion, and Shadowheart.

Would love an option to hide the UI on PS5 so I can take pretty group pictures.

Larian Studios

Being a Dungeons & Dragons-based game, Baldur’s Gate 3 has a wealth of intricate systems — exploration, combat, and roleplay — that feed into one another and fuel the kinds of emergent gameplay that’s made this game so phenomenally successful. And though Baldur’s Gate on PC and PS5 are fundamentally the same game, it feels like, for the PS5 version, you have to put in a lot more mental and mechanical work to get the same amount of enjoyment.

I fully admit that my first grievance is something one would only see in reviews from folks born before 1990. Playing on console, you naturally sit further away from the game screen and... (I cannot believe I’m admitting this at 36) I’m finding it hard to see. With my setup, I’m sitting a normal distance away from a normal-sized TV, but some of the menus — your inventory, for example — are just difficult to parse at the increased distance and can have very real (and hilarious) consequences beyond the need to squint.

After selling off some of my inventory, I got into a dialogue cutscene and realized my character was completely naked. Thinking it was a graphical glitch, I continued on until I noticed my armor class (AC) had gone down to virtually nothing. To my horror, I realized I had mistakenly sold the clothes off my body because the icon that indicated a piece of armor in my inventory was equipped was too small to see. On PC, equipped items are kept wholly separate from the rest of your inventory, so such a mistake can’t be repeated there.

Your equipment on PC (left) is kept wholly separate from your inventory unlike on PS5 where it is integrated in leading to potentially unfortunate situations.

Larian Studios and Larian Studios

That hilarious moment aside, my biggest complaint with PS5 BG3 has been exploration and discovery. On PC, your mouse cursor is the primary way you interact with the world. You can run your cursor across the screen, and whatever lights up lets you know that you can interact with it. This is how you find hidden, breakable walls that lead to secret areas or buttons to push that open secret doors. BG3’s world is so dense that I don’t notice everything there is to notice and rely on my cursor to reveal interesting things that lead to interesting encounters.

I had mistakenly sold the clothes off my body because the icon that indicated a piece of armor in my inventory was equipped was too small to see

On PS5, that discovery schema is a little different. Since you’re primarily using your joysticks to move, you don’t have a cursor by default to scan an area with. There is a way to enable a cursor mode on PS5, but even then, I found it hard to directly select items I wanted to investigate. At one point, there was a safe in a basement that I had the key to. I was looking directly at it, but even in cursor mode, I somehow couldn’t select it to open it. Frustrated, I left it behind, treasure uncollected. I didn’t realize until later that pressing left or right on the D-pad was how you were supposed to highlight and select items in the over world to examine or interact with.

Because of BG3 PS5’s different way of movement, selection, and examination, I’m at the mercy of D&D mechanics to show me what I’m missing, and those mechanics often fail me. In BG3, there are two types of discoverable objects: the kind that are completely hidden and the ones that are there but are so tiny or obscured that they’re easily missed. To find the former, you have to successfully complete a perception or survival check. That’s fine, great even. BG3 is a D&D game, after all, and sometimes you’re gonna have to roll for your supper — or treasure, as it were. But for the latter kind of object, you have to either rely on a successful skill check or find the item yourself. For some reason, nobody in my party is particularly perceptive, and I regularly fail the checks to find the not hidden but not obvious items. But even then, on PC, I had a pretty decent time finding secrets — wave cursor, discover object.

Screenshot from Baldur’s Gate 3 featuring a zoomed out view of a dungeon including a large statue of Balduran guarding a large door embossed with a stone dragon head.

There could be a trap somewhere, but my party wouldn’t see it.

Larian Studios

On PS5, “wave cursor, discover object” simply doesn’t work as well, and I’m therefore forced to rely on my party’s poor perception rolls to discover things even with the special feat that grants me an advantage on such rolls. It just feels like I’m fundamentally missing out on things I would have easily discovered on PC.

I also feel like I’m missing out in combat. BG3 PC lays out the UI such that I can see all my spells, abilities, and items at a glance to be accessed at the click of a mouse. The UI on PS5 takes a more minimalist approach, requiring you to hit the shoulder buttons to bring up several radial menus that house your spells and abilities.

One of my biggest problems as a gamer, whether I’m playing in a virtual or meat space, is that I just cannot keep track of everything I can do. One of the reasons I prefer playing Magic: The Gathering via Arena versus IRL paper play is that there are several points within the flow of an Arena match where the game will essentially pause and ask me for my input. This works as a natural reminder for what cards have abilities I can activate and when I can activate them. It’s the same with D&D. My BG3 sorcerer is far more effective than my IRL cleric because all fifty ‘leven of my sorcerer’s spells are right in front of me with tooltips that explain every minute detail of how a spell works versus having to find a cleric spell on a character sheet and cross-reference its description in a player’s handbook.

On PS5, most of my party’s biggest spells and abilities are located on the first two radial wheels — the ones that come up first when you hit the button to access them. General actions like push and dash and my inventory are buried 3-4 radial menus deep, shoved a bit off screen but accessible by pressing the shoulder button repeatedly, kinda like flipping the pages of a book.

Screenshot from Baldur’s Gate 3 featuring the game’s ability radial menus for use in combat.

A look at the radial menus on PS5.

Larian Studios

Without a complete accounting of my spells and abilities in front of my face at all times, my combat performance suffers. I am less creative, choosing to pummel enemies with my biggest, most easily accessible abilities (effective but boring) rather than finesse my way to victory through clever deployment of the game’s simplest actions (harder but deeply satisfying).

That kind of fighting is also incredibly wasteful, requiring me to expend valuable spell slots when I could have instead used them on less resource-intensive spells like my cantrips. I understand this is likely less of a problem for more melee / martial classes like fighters and rogues. But if you’re controlling characters with a deep ability pool (clerics, wizards, or sorcerers), it’s just plumb easy to forget that you have as many scalpels buried in your toolkit as you have hammers. Thankfully, you can edit your action wheels to arrange your spells and abilities however you see fit.

It’s just plumb easy to forget that you have as many scalpels buried in your toolkit as you have hammers.

Beyond my problems with exploration and combat, it just feels clunky playing on PS5. It takes a complicated concert of finger gymnastics to do the simplest of actions, and I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Say I want to stealthily kill an enemy. I have to hit left trigger to pull up the party menu, down on the direction pad to select Astarion, triangle to ungroup him, right shoulder to bring up his abilities and — oh, the enemy saw me because my fingers got tangled up on the controller.

To be clear, Baldur’s Gate 3 is still a revelation, no matter where you play it. If you were waiting for the PlayStation release to get into the game, you’re still going to have a good time. But if you’re a player transitioning from PC to PS5, there’s gonna be some massive growing pains as you adjust to what feels like a vastly more complicated experience.

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