I have been a fan of the Baldurs Gate franchise since the first game and novels was released back in 1998 & 1999 but I never really got to play it until we got a PC in 2001 but I was a huge fan of the Playstation 2 spin off Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance and its sequel. For a young gamer who had yet to regularly partake in the hobby of the tabletop iteration of Dungeons & Dragons (banned in Kuwait due to religious censorship) the next best thing was playing the console ports and boy did this game get ports. My brother and I were huge fantasy fans and recalled watching the animated series and were familiar with some of the classes so the game called to us. Not having too many friends at the time we welcomed all coop experiences and only could enjoy a handful on the Playstation though I can recall playing Diablo 1 which was coop so we were not completely out of our depth with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. I have many fond memories with this series and cannot stress how disappointed I was when I laid eyes upon the release of the latest installment in the series after believing it would add value it only turned out to be a fiasco of Blizzard proportions. Read on to see how the newest game holds up against its previous in installments in the series and what score we give it.
Baldurs Gate : Dark Alliance was designed and published by RPG legends Snowblind Studios and Black Isle Studios in 2001.The first game was set in the Sword Coast which appeared in the expansions for their PC counterparts and allowed you to choose from 3 playable characters that are staples of D&D until today:
Vahn the Ranger (Human)
Kromlech the Fighter (Dwarf)
& Adrianna the Sorceress (Elf)
and handled pretty straight forward with the fan favorite, the Drow Ranger Drizzt, being an unlockable character. One cannot neglect to mention the success of RA Salvatore’s novels helping keep D&D on the minds of fantasy fans during the turmoil that was the Wizards / Hasbro takeover years. His writing breathed life and told epic tales and I warmly can recommend most of his books and anything in set in the Forgotten Realms. His books made this unlockable player the reason many would replay the game just to be able to play as the legendary character. The Dark Alliance engine was stunning for the time and unlike the isometric rpgs of previous installments for PCs this looked better at the time and the hack and slash made it a lot easier for newer players to pick up a controller and start questing. Black Isle and Snowblind knew that a turn based or real time RPG would not be so easy to play to newer players and I can agree that in the case of the Baldur’s Gate PC games remain frustrating with the pause mechanic eventually making it all feel like work and not a game of fantasy and adventure. Though it has the letters RPG in the the genre description it is really a hack and slash and lacks the depth or customization that one would expect from a Dungeons& Dragons game.
The Dark Alliance games would also run the 3.0 rules set also referred to as 3rd Edition many with the later edition, 3.5 being dubbed by many the ultimate iteration of Dungeons & Dragons and a big step in customization, artwork and shear volume of content that would be provided. These rules were designed with combat in mind so though you are playing and Action RPG there were still enough mechanics integrated including abilities and stats adversely effecting how effective your characters would be in combat. Sadly the developers never were able to do more with Dark Alliance concerning deeper side quests and introducing other playable classes such as Cleric, Barbarian or Bard would have added more for players to come back. The exclusion of 3 player coop for the Playstation 2 made no sense and another franchise using D&D rules, Everquest would release Champions of Norrtah games as PS2 exclusives which would include more playable classes, races and offer a complete 4 player couch coop experience.
The game opens up with your party being knocked out and robbed upon entering Baldur’s Gate and awake in the company of the guard with none of your belongings. After being informed about what happened and learning that it could be the Thieves Guild you venture forth to explore and not only retrieve you stuff and uncover a darker plot afoot. From shadowy conspiracies to dark casters Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance by the end spins an interesting enough plot with an ending that is satisfying and leads into a sequel.
At its core the first Dark Alliance game was a fun playthrough or two with a mate as the combat was not so varied and the lack of interesting loot and linearity left little to come back to after that time. Sure the water graphics looked great and the story flowed with solid voice acting and writing through out but the game felt even back then to me that it had more to offer. The coop mode was broken as player 2 only received 60% of his experience for kills leading to the primary player ALWAYS being stronger. Loot was not varied enough and did not add much to the story but it did scale with the level you are playing at. For a 6th Gen title you can overlook some of these flaws and will provide an entertaining romp through the realms for both veteran and novice players alike.
Dark Alliance would win Role Playing Game of the Year from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science. The game would resurface in the Xbox and PS4 store with a 4K remaster but did not add anything new to the game which is why I skipped the purchase. I never understood why they did not add more to the game if they were going to be giving it the HD Remaster treatment, no new maps or characters were introduced so unless you can source a cheap copy you are better off waiting for it to come to Game Pass.
The Sequel, Dark Alliance 2 would be released in 2004
The story pick ups where the first left off with players being shot out the portal and into the clutches of of the evil Mordoc SeLanmere and are imprisoned in his dungeon. The new party are introduced upon entering Baldur’s Gate is expanded to 5 playable characters but remained restricted to still only 2 player coop. The players must defeat the hobgoblin bandits where you rescue Randalla your quest giver and member of the guard. The story sees the party investigating bloody murders which takes the players on an adventure across the city once more. The story does not seem as fluid and natural as with the first and does not take the writing to new heights. The voice acting would not be as promising and some of the models did not look as smooth as the previous game. As per usual for games in that era the Xbox version looks and plays the best even today and if you have a copy you are quite the lucky duck as prices have skyrocketed of late in the secondhand market.
Dorn Redbear the Babarian (Human)
Hydra the Monk (Drow)
Ysuran the Nercromancer (Moon Elf)
Boridor the Rogue (Dwarf)
Alessia the Cleric (Human)
The additional classes were needed but the selection seemed out of place to me. A Drow Monk and a Necromancer just felt out of place in a what I understood to be a good aligned party. Removing the original characters and replacing them while continuing the earlier narrative seemed odd and out of place. Concerning unlockable characters Drizzt Do’Urden makes his return with the addition of Artemis Entreri the assassin. The addition of armor creation and upgrading via the basic runes system did help improve your loot but in a whole was not enough to make the game feel like a sequel and instead feeling more like an expansion. The reviews were fair landing around 7 – 8 out of 10 and they were happy to get them. Sadly this would be the end of the series but the first two installments would gain a decent following of players and nostalgia nerds such as myself and now with emulation it has become even more accessible to players wanting to go back. I can warmly recommend these games to anyone looking for a casual game.
Now we come to present day debacles. Tuque and Wizards of the Coast decided to go in a new direction and try make a vast and expansive coop experience. Trailers looked good and the animation and graphics at first looked great but as more information surfaced many would realize that this game would not share much with the previous installments.
Tuque released a buggy, boring and bland mess of a game that did nothing to progress the series. After such along time you would think that they would learn but this game feels rushed and provides little entertainment.
The game was marketed as a hack and slash coop action RPG that would will allow for players to enter the Forgotten Realms and have exciting quests side by side with their buddies. What they delivered was a buggy mess which would frequently crash upon release with many bugs plaguing the experience. The more time passed the more players would voice their disappointment online and the rating would drop to 4 out of 10 and the gig was up. It has been said to be the worst DnD game ever released by Angry Joe and I would have to agree with him as the only highlight of the experience were graphics and the cinematics. Outside cutscenes I found myself bored and the utter lack of customization and basic options made it feel like something that should be on Game Pass or a free to play. The AI is is not well constructed or responsive and the items leave your character looking like a walking turd in 4K. The beat em up feel takes you out of the setting and when the only thing you can do is fight there is nothing here for rpg fans. As a fan of the franchise I was heartbroken to see what a steamy pile Dungeons & Dragons : Dark Alliance is. Watching reviewers just walk through levels and the amount of crashes were something I had to view for myself, truly demonstrating how rushed this game was and how little Wizards cared about their IP. When you have possibly one of the lore richest settings in the entire franchise you cannot create a balanced party let alone a engaging plot with obstacles outside of just swinging you weapon is not what a D&D game should be like in 2021.
The party in the new game consists of
Drizzt Do’Urden (Drow Ranger)
Bruenor Battlehammer (Dwarf Fighter)
Catti-Brie (Elf Archer)
Wulfgar (Human Barbarian)
which happen to be some of the biggest characters in the setting going back to the novels from the 80s until today and appear in other games both video and tabletop so it is strange that they could not balance this party. Drizzt is over powered while Catti-Brie has little in the options of armor and damage dealing so if you play this coop, which is the only bearable way 3 out of 4 of you will feel underwhelming and useless.
WIth the time Tuque had Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is missing a lot from the ability to go split screen to the giving us a game where we cannot do anything else but fight. How can a game from 2003 be that much better than the reboot in 2021 is confounding. With all the reviews available online, with the volumes of lore in their archives to give us an unbalanced party, poor items, and a dull story should not be an option yet that is precisely what Dark Alliance fans received.
This game receives a 4 out of 10
That would be all she wrote this time from the writer at Nerd Dimension and hope your eyeballs find their way back here for another review next time. Until next time please make sure to like, subscribe and tell your friends about what we are doing here. If you felt different about the game let us know in the comment section below and again, may you quest strong and your times be time.