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There’s nothing quite like D&D. Campaigns are never the same and the freedom to do anything as long as the dice allow it is a riveting concept. Translating that into a video game has always seemed a nigh-impossible challenge, but Baldur’s Gate III has pulled off something quite special. Every interaction, story beat, or discovery feels like it has a butterfly effect, changing the entire landscape of the world with one action or one line of dialogue. It’s full of these interactions and narrative webs that intersect over and over again. What further solidifies the excellence of it all is how much the player can bend the story and always have an answer on the other side of it. The more the player pokes and prods at it the better it gets, wondering at every turn what might happen next. Players can’t do anything though without the roll of the dice. That added element raises the stakes, giving players the full excitement of seeing a successful or unsuccessful roll and the consequences that follow.
Baldur’s Gate III also boasts one of the best parties of any RPG. The choices made can affect relationships with each character, which almost always influences how the player makes those choices, not wanting to upset characters. The importance of that is further enhanced by how intimate the relationships can get by being able to romance and build strong connections to all of them. There are limitations to this though, but good luck finding them all. It takes hundreds of hours to discover everything Baldur’s Gate III offers and each new campaign presents the opportunity for an entirely different experience. One that will rightfully be enjoyed for a long time.
From the opening moments of its demo, Final Fantasy XVI’s narrative hooked many RPGamers. It’s easy to become heavily invested in the dynamic and relationship of Clive and his brother, especially as the game explores themes of Clive’s guilt. Likewise, exploring the relationships between the characters over the course of two decades and seeing how the connections between them developed is a real treat. Many players were also deeply enamored by these characters, the relationships, and the beautifully touching finale. For those reasons — and despite some qualms — Final Fantasy XVI’s story ranks high up both in 2023 and in the overall franchise as well.
As a capstone to a trilogy, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key delivers on plot elements and personal character threads that have been building since the very first game. While it does not provide closure on everything, including a romantic angle that has certain fans annoyed, this third title does an admirable job with what it is given. Those who have been following the cast since the first game are deeply rewarded as they demonstrate the amount of growth they have undergone.
by Jon Jansen, Paul Shkreli, and Michael Baker