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Baldur’s Gate 3 on PS5 is one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had

I can finally play BG3 with my friends on PS5, and it's easily the best RPG game and multiplayer experience of the year

There we are, chatting away near the entrance to Last Light Inn, comparing the new cloaks, weapons, and armor we’ve managed to haggle away from the various traders, but one friend is too busy exploring and getting into conversations to keep up. It’s fine, it happens, and we can wait it out.

“Yo, a geezer just flew in from the balcony.”

Having already spent around 70 hours playing the PC version of Baldur’s Gate 3, and having already seen the myriad of things that could potentially go wrong, I quickly rallied the party and marched the team over to the balcony in question. A few panicked minutes later, and Last Light Inn is covered in the Shadow Curse, all of its inhabitants turned into utter abominations.

“We lost access to all of the traders?”

“Wait… does that mean we can’t remove the curse?”

BG3 Mind Flayer

Last Light Inn has a bunch of characters that are necessary to complete several in-game quests. With them all now essentially being zombies, things weren’t going well. I was willing to play things out, let the warning set in that a few small decisions could rapidly change what we’re able to do in the game. Outvoted three-to-one, we reloaded an older save.

You can’t act the sounds of lament and regret I heard that night – not from the characters, of course, but from my friends on PSN voice chat. Everyone was ready to head out on the next mission, but one adventurous type went and ruined it for the whole gang: and it wasn’t the first time. A handful of misadventures when “picking up” an item that just happened to be owned by another character may be the reason that several traders throughout the game were no longer available (dead). Raphael makes work for idle hands, and if you’re going to spend a full five minutes hogging the trading menu by yourself, what do you think is going to happen?

Another instance of accidentally collecting an item just happened to be in a cave filled with oil barrels, with oil coating the floors. One Fire Bomb later we were down to only one member of the entire enemy force left to deal with, and following a handful of Revive Scrolls, everything worked out for the best.

Baldur's Gate 3 Moon Lantern

The screeches of shock, awe, horror, and jubilation are incredible. A genuine, huge range of human emotion, all condensed into a single low-bitrate voice chat, enabled by one of the best games of 2023.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is that good – in a year with stone-cold bangers like Tears of the Kingdom, Street Fighter 6, and Armored Core VI, BG3 is standing out as the game I find myself thinking about and talking about most often, and the 70 hours I put into the Steam version hasn’t prevented another 50 hours on PS5, with around 35 of those being with my four-player co-op party.

We just might be playing the game in the most awkward possible scenario. Three PS5 consoles total, with one of those in split-screen co-op. Since launch, we’ve encountered a fair few bugs. On launch day we experienced a bug that would permanently cut out all audio until the game was restarted, multiple times. That was quickly patched, and then we realized that our split-screen pals would experience game freezes that lasted up to ten seconds (!) whenever a creature transformed or was summoned. As of the latest patch that has been smoothed out, thankfully, but now our split-screen pals have a few new minor issues, such as not being able to view two cutscenes at once, now limited to whichever one started later having no audio or subtitles. You’re probably seeing a pattern here.

The Dark Urge, a dragon man, in Baldur's Gate 3.

I could criticize Larian Studios – it’s clear moving the PC version’s launch up by a month to avoid Starfield meant that the PS5 version was receiving less attention during that time – but it’s a testament to how good this game is that a full team of four people, at least two of which don’t typically play this type of RPG, kept coming back, dealing with long load times, dealing with game restarts, because when it worked, the game was that good.

There are a few issues that crop up when playing the game like this, mind. For one, it’s incredibly difficult to actually digest the story when cutscenes can be split across four different players. You can listen in on cutscenes in progress and even vote on what responses to use, which is nice, but you’re not going to be able to absorb it all. Similarly, each of the Origin characters the game provides as party members have their own deep stories and unique interactions you can only see when taking your party on a quest around the world. The only way to replicate this with a team of friends is if everyone stays in character, puts on a voice, and flirts with you at inopportune moments.

The ideal DnD experience is had with a gang of friends, but the ideal modern RPG experience is had entirely alone and takes around 100 hours of experimenting with multiclass abilities and flirting with every character that’s willing to come back to camp. As a result, I have to recommend that everyone plays BG3 both with friends and entirely alone, if possible. The definitive BG3 experience is actually playing it twice, at least, sorry to say.

Baldur's Gate 3 Volo

The PS5 version might’ve had a somewhat rough launch period, and Act 3’s city may never run at 60fps in performance mode, but having this huge, complex PC RPG available on console means I get the opportunity to play it with friends who would never usually look twice at a lengthy tactical RPG based on Dungeons & Dragons – that description may work for many, but my friends? Not likely.

That’s worth the handful of unique quirks that come with playing the game on a controller. The multiple ability wheels that list all of your attacks, spells, cantrips, and even usable items feel a bit like overkill – especially if you’ve spent most of the game hoarding potions and scrolls – and even after more than 30 hours of play people will still need reminders on using the cursor (pressing L3), or highlighting nearby items (pressing R3), or how to use Examine to see a creature’s resistances and weaknesses (hovering over them with the L3 cursor and then pressing down on the d-pad). The UI and UX are unique for controller players, but the game is still clearly designed to be navigated with a mouse.

Once again, it’s a testament to the quality of Baldur’s Gate 3 that, through the bugs, difficulty level, and awkward UX, my friends keep coming back, and we all still can’t wait for the next lengthy, multi-hour session which will inevitably end with another dead merchant. It always does, and at this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Score: 10/10

Version tested: PS5

  • Visuals: 9/10
  • Sounds: 10/10
  • Gameplay: 10/10
  • Performance: 6/10