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Will Baldur’s Gate 3 be any good on PS5?

Squeezing this enormous CRPG onto console will be no easy task.

Image credit: Larian Studios, VG247

Baldur’s Gate 3 has been a runaway success on PC that has taken a lot of people – including its creators – by surprise. For the record, I always had faith that this game would be Larian’s “Witcher 3 moment” – when an acclaimed but niche studio finally goes stratospheric with a release that becomes the watercooler game of its day. It’s been a long time coming: Larian are masters of their craft. But we don’t yet know how the PS5 version will compare to its PC brethren, in terms of visual fidelity or its gameplay experience.

Except we can make a few educated guesses in terms of how the PS5 version will shake out, because this isn’t anyone’s first rodeo when it comes to console ports of best-on-PC games. We know how BG3 will control on the PS5’s DualSense controller because it’s natively supported in the PC version: with the correct on-screen prompts and everything. And, we know roughly how the PS5 compares to equivalent PC hardware in terms of performance. Granted, 1:1 comparisons are impossible here because PCs and consoles are different beasts, designed to do different things. But in the video below we predict that the PS5 version will look similar to the PC version running at medium settings with some kind of resolution scaling - possibly AMD’s FSR 1.0, which is currently available as an option on PC.

How will the PS5 version of Baldur's Gate 3 compare to the PC version? Here's how we think it'll shake out.Watch on YouTube

Though we can’t know for sure how it’ll look until PS5 code comes in, we can answer the other part of the equation – how does it play? – pretty confidently, barring some sort of disaster where the game’s performance affects how it feels to control (not likely - see below). The controller support is excellent. Larian have done a fine job of arranging the myriad options available to traditional keyboard & mouse users onto a gamepad interface without the experience feeling lesser or compromised. The system revolves around all the important menus being mapped to triggers and bumpers – including an extensive and infinitely customisable in-combat radial menu where you’ll be spending most of your time agonising over your next move.

It just works. Yes, it’s not as immediate as a mouse pointer in how quickly you can select any given attack, item, or ability. The system is slightly fiddlier than K&M in terms of seek time for particular functions. You do, though, get direct control over your character in the overworld, which I personally find preferable to the select n’ shuffle method of party control. Sue me, I like to feel immersed. The upshot is that there are advantages and disadvantages to both control schemes, and neither one is more ‘correct’ than the other (despite what people on the internet might tell you, so ignore them). Given Larian’s previous experience in bringing the excellent Divinity: Original Sin duology console side, it was a given that they’d nail the pad experience here.

Controller support for Baldur's Gate 3 is excellent: it even support the Dualsense natively on PC. | Image credit: VG247/Larian

So, how is it going to fare in the looks department? We don’t have much to go on beyond a recent Playstation Blog post in which Larian mention that they’re currently optimising the PS5 version to target 60fps. Now, that could mean a lot of things: developers have things they can do at a code level which go way beyond the kind of graphics options that PC users have to work with. They’re also working with a standard piece of hardware that doesn’t have to run Windows 11 underneath every game it loads. We don’t know for sure what they’re going to do to hit that 60fps target.

But I'm convinced that some kind of compromise in visual fidelity will be made. I would be very surprised if the PS5 runs BG3 at native 4K – very few console games do, and of those, even fewer target 60fps – so as mentioned, some kind of resolution scaling will probably come into play here, whether it’s a bespoke solution or an off-the-shelf one like AMD’s FSR, which is natively supported by the PS5’s Radeon RX based GPU. And we know that the game’s recommended specs on PC call for 16gb of RAM plus another 8gb of VRAM. This is one of the key differences between consoles and PCs: on the PC side, system memory and video memory tend to be separate pools. The PS5, however, just has one shared vault of 16gb of (very fast) RAM between the CPU and the GPU.

You have to look pretty hard to see the difference between max settings and the medium preset. | Image credit: Larian, VG247

What does this mean, in practical terms? Well, basically, squeezing BG3 into the PS5’s small pool of memory is, we think, going to be where a lot of Larian’s optimisation efforts will be focused. And we know from simply being Nerds that one of the most effective ways to claw back memory from a game is to reduce the resolution of the textures it’s using. So, in short, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the chief compromise to be made on PS5 is in pixel detail: lower resolution textures, lower internal rendering resolution.

Differences in texture resolution are most apparent when looking at big daft looking skeleton bastards like this. | Image credit: Larian, VG247

But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to look fantastic. As you can see in the footage above, the game is still beautiful at medium settings with FSR 1.0’s quality setting applied – which effectively reduces the internal rendering resolution – and given how Larian themselves will be able to make specific, code-level optimisations for PS5’s specific hardware, it’s best to think of the visual quality I’ve settled on in the video as baseline. Essentially, the PS5 version – I heavily suspect – will look at least as good as that, and possibly a bit better.

Max settings improves the quality of the lighting and the finer details on skin and clothing, but the art direction is so solid that it still shines through when image quality is reduced. | Image credit: Larian, VG247

Baldur’s Gate 3 is slated to come on September 6th, on the same day as Starfield hits Xbox, making BG3 an unwitting and quite unofficial bannerman for Sony as the great RPG showdown of 2023 – an accidental front in the never-ending console war (sigh) – comes to a head. With Starfield targeting 30fps on console and BG3 targeting 60fps, one thing is certain: the usual suspects online are going to be absolutely insufferable when the games finally drop.

What’s also certain though is that wherever you play, 2023 is banger of a year that shows no signs of stopping. I’m thoroughly enjoying Baldur’s Gate 3, I think it’s one of the best and finest adaptations of the Dungeons & Dragons experience ever put to screen, and I don’t say that lightly – one of my earliest gaming memories is of playing Heroes of the Lance and Hillsfar with my dad on his crappy 286 PC. But BG3, my god, it’s absolutely definitive. And I fully expect to fall in love with Starfield on Sept 6th, because only fools bet against Bethesda.

I play with everything maxed, in glorious ultrawide, because I am a riddy with no mates. | Image credit: Larian, VG247

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