Baldur’s Gate 3: Is It Only Turn-Based?

Baldur's Gate 3 is a turn-based RPG, but is it the only option? Learn more about the combat system and whether you can play in real time.
A screenshot of Baldur's Gate 3, as four companions try and survive against difficult terrain and fire in the turn-based combat system
Image: Larian Studios

One of the big questions players are asking is whether Baldur’s Gate 3 is only a turn-based game. As a player who’s sunk quite a bit of time into Baldur’s Gate 3, I can tell you that the answer is yes. But why is that? Is turn-based combat the best way to experience Baldur’s Gate 3? How does it compare to real-time combat?

Why is Baldur’s Gate III only turn-based?

Larian Studios decided to go a different route from its younger brothers, using a turn-based system over real-time combat. The choice comes down to their desire to truly capture the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons, where strategy is key and every move counts.

In turn-based combat, each character gets their moment to strike true or repeatedly miss. They get their chance to attack or defend, to cast a spell or a cantrip, unless you get downed with a Nat 20! This approach allows players to carefully plan out their actions and weigh the potential outcomes while viewing the battlefield. In my opinion, this level of control and strategy cannot be replicated in a real-time combat system, even with the ability to pause.

Related: Can you be evil in Baldur’s Gate 3? The alignment system explained

This isn’t to say that real-time combat is bad; far from it. After sinking many hours into Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, real-time combat has always had me on the edge of my seat for different reasons. The unbridled chaos, the fast-paced decision-making, and the sudden demise of half of your party in sheer seconds – are all part of the experience. A 30 mins turn-based fight could be over in five mins in real time.

With Baldur’s Gate III, Larian Studios wanted to create a more measured and tactical combat experience. They wanted to push the boundaries of their game design and create encounters that are not just challenging but also fair and balanced.

There’s also the matter of tone and atmosphere in Baldur’s Gate 3. The sense of impending doom, the constant threat of danger, and the looming presence of powerful enemies all contribute to the gaming experience. In a real-time system, it’s easy to get lost in the heat of battle and lose sight of these atmospheric elements, of the brilliant last-second plans that could turn the tide of battle. However, with turn-based combat, players are forced to slow down; in my experience, that’s where the magic truly lies.

Baldur’s Gate 3 turn-based vs. real-time

A screenshot from Baldur's Gate 3 showing off the turn-based combat system the game provides
Image: Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3, turn-based vs. real-time, is a debate as old as time, or so it seems. These two opposing styles provide vastly different experiences, each with charm and frustration.

In the world of turn-based combat, strategy is king. Each character takes their turn, allowing you to carefully orchestrate every action, every spell, and every attack. The slow, deliberate pacing gives you unlimited time to calculate your moves and even surprise yourself with a cunning plan.

Contrast this with the brutal, fast-paced world of real-time combat. In Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, the ability to think on your feet and react quickly was paramount. Every moment of hesitation could lead to your character’s untimely demise. Strategy ultimately takes a backseat as survival instincts kick in, with a helpful dose of pausing often.

Related: Baldur’s Gate 3 – What is Advantage & Disadvantage, Explained

But while turn-based combat allows for meticulous planning, it’s also a much slower experience. There’s no time limit in Baldur’s Gate 3, which means battles can be drawn out as you take your time considering every possible move, even if the enemy is weaker than you.

Real-time combat, on the other hand, is fast and unpredictable. You can’t afford to take a break mid-battle, lest you return to a game over screen. But you can bulldoze through enemies with little qualms if you’re powerful enough. It’s a high-risk, high-reward system.

Strategy or survival, slow and steady or fast and furious – your choice. Or at least, it would be if Baldur’s Gate 3 offered the option.

FeatureTurn-basedReal-time with pause
TimingEach character takes their turn one at a time.Players can control their characters in real time, but they can also pause the game at any time to issue commands.
StrategyMore strategic gameplay. Players have more time to consider their actions and make better use of their abilities.Less strategic gameplay. Players need to be more reactive and make quick decisions.
ChallengeMore challenging encounters. Larian Studios can carefully control the timing of each encounter, ensuring that players are always facing a fair challenge.It can be difficult to create encounters that are both challenging and fair in a real-time game.
ImmersionMore immersive experience. Players are forced to take their time and consider their actions, which helps to create a more immersive and atmospheric experience.Less immersive experience. Players can often get caught up in the action and forget about the danger.

Can You Turn Off Turn-Based Combat in Baldur’s Gate 3?

Can we switch off the turn-based system in Baldur’s Gate 3? The answer is no, you can’t. Baldur’s Gate 3 is turn-based through and through.

I know some folks yearn for the real-time chaos that marked the earlier titles. As a player who’s experienced both sides, I get it. But Baldur’s Gate 3 is a different beast, built from the ground up to provide an authentic experience of a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game.

Maybe a mod will pop up one day (Keep an eye on Baldur’s Gate 3 Nexus Mods), allowing players to switch to real-time combat. Honestly, the modding community is full of amazingly talented people. But until that day, you’ll have to contend with turn-based combat.

  • Baldur’s Gate 3 rocks the turn-based combat to truly echo the strategic feel of a Dungeons & Dragons session.
  • The turn-based style of combat hands the reins to you, letting you dictate every move in battle.
  • The hustle of real-time and the chess-like turn-based combat offer very different flavors of gameplay.
  • Sadly, no switch to flip back to real-time combat in Baldur’s Gate 3 — it’s turn-based all the way!
  • Even though it’s a leap from the real-time battles of the old days, Baldur’s Gate 3 turn-based combat offers a unique and rewarding challenge.
Mark Carpenter

Mark Carpenter

Mark Carpenter is the Managing Editor at Try Hard Guides, and main guide writer. With over five years of experience in games media, including almost three years as an Assigning Editor for Pro Game Guides, and before that a Staff Writer.

His writing and game guide work has also been featured on platforms such as Metro UK and Game Rant, along with other smaller publications. He has been a devoted gamer since the days of Amiga, with a journey spanning roughly 31 years.

Mark's future goals are to grow the Try Hard Guides network as much as possible while helping gamers everywhere with gaming guide content. When not immersed in gaming, Mark enjoys delving into the worlds of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons), strumming his guitar, and indulging in a good read. His heart belongs to RPGs, the Final Fantasy series, and The Legend of Zelda. Moreover, he has a keen affection for dogs.

Contact: mark@tryhardguides.com

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