My friends and I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons almost since the release of Fifth Edition nearly a decade ago (shameless plug, you can watch our live streamed adventures on my YouTube channel!).

We were excited about Baldur’s Gate 3, a long-awaited sequel to a beloved RPG series based in the most popular D&D setting, the Forgotten Realms. It’s also one of the few video games to use the D&D 5e ruleset.

I’ve had a blast playing Larian Studios’ previous RPG series, Divinity: Original Sin, including with two player co-op. But I was unsure how a story-heavy game would translate with four of us playing together.

It turns out Baldur’s Gate 3 co-op is messy, funny, and memorable — just like playing tabletop Dungeons & Dragons.

With four players, we each get to make our own custom D&D characters. We end up with a half-elf bard, a half-orc ranger, a tiefling sorcerer, and a dwarf druid (me).

Thanks to an early-game item, the sorcerer has the ability to cast speak with dead. Naturally she attempts to accost every single corpse she finds, occasionally getting some useful intel.

The ranger’s hilariously long-flowing hair makes him look like Orc Jesus, which becomes an instant running gag throughout each cutscene and dialogue.

Baldur’s Gate 3’s dialogue scenes typically feature whoever first triggered them, and we try to be mindful of taking turns ‘leading’ the party so we get to see each other’s player characters in their cinematic glory.

My druid takes the Circle of the Moon subclass at 2nd level, focusing on shapeshifting into powerful creatures. We delight in making constant bear puns, and watching the detailed animations for each beast form (try not to bust out laughing when the bear sits on a stool!).

As a Larian Studios veteran, I know that talking to animals is a whole thing, and BG3 does not disappoint. I keep my druid shifted as much as possible, only talking to animals using the Speak with Animals spell.

Sometimes I get secret items or interesting information.

Other times I get my butt kicked by an overly territorial squirrel!

There’s bearly any food here!

I knew things were going to be wild when during a critical early game mission, we fail a skill check on rescuing an important NPC. We end up knocking everyone unconscious to minimize the consequences, though Orc Jesus does steal some nice-looking armor.

Much later we see that same important NPC during a cutscene, revealing that she had made it out of that mess (with new makeshift armor and weapon). Does she harbor any ill will? We’re dying to find out!

Our outgoing bard gets caught trying to break into a house in the Druid’s Grove, fails a skill check, and actually gets thrown in jail. Thankfully we’ve already snuffed out some goblins trying to get in through the backdoor, and it’s comically easy for her to break out and rejoin us.

Our sorcerer has the shady charlatan background, and has proven adept at making deals, including talking down goblins, recruiting ogres, and getting in good with the Zhentarim, D&D’s equivalent of an organized crime ring. She leads us to a secret passage in a barn, utters a pass phrase, and unlocks an underground den of black market goods, surrounded by traps.

And we haven’t even touched on how good the combat feels as a full multiplayer team.

I thought my options would be far more limited controlling only one character — but that’s exactly what D&D is like! We actually perform much better than our equivalent solo games, thanks to quickly being able to optimize our single turn, and coordinate with each other, just like the tabletop RPG.

We were able to beat a particularly powerful spider boss fight at only 3rd level thanks to some excellent teamwork. Having prior 5e knowledge certainly helps. BG3 is not a 1:1 systems replica with the tabletop RPG (see Solasta: Crown of the Magister for a more accurate adaptation), but we’re able to bring a lot of our best practices and strategies to bear.

Playing co-op does have one distinct disadvantage, however. The loss of the wonderfully well-written, intriguing companions cannot be overstated. Lae’zel, Astarion, Shadowheart, and the rest add so much to the entire experience, that it’s a bit of a tragedy to leave them behind in camp.

There’s a reason they’re prominently displayed in all the official artwork, after all.

In my separate solo campaign I’ve loved the companions’ frequent intra-party banter, battle quips, and dialogue interjections — yes, even when they complain or disapprove of my actions and choices.

But nothing quite beats playing an amazing game with an equally amazing group of players.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is that rare gaming experience that’s worth playing both solo, and cooperatively with friends. The solo gaming experience provides an immersive fantasy world filled with well-written characters and interesting story decisions and consequences. And although it bends the rules a bit, playing Baldur’s Gate 3 multiplayer is the closest we’ve felt to playing actual Dungeons & Dragons with all the hilarious failures, memorable triumphs, and silly hijinks.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is available on PC and PlayStation 5. It’s slated to release on Xbox Series X/S later this year. It’s rated M for Mature.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.