Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, were released in 2001 and 2004, respectively. If you owned a console, and enjoyed a bit of couch co-op RPG action, they were literally the best destination for such an undertaking. Fast-paced, engaging, pretty looking (for the time) and brimming with character, they represented everything great about the genre.
And then, for many a year, they just kind of buggered off.
Now, in this locked down year of 2021, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance releases on PC and consoles, and despite a POV switch to third person combat (more in line with 2018’s God of War) developers Tuque Games hope to recapture some of that magic. So, do they succeed?
No. No, they very much do not. It’s not even close, tbh.
Dark Alliance takes place in the cold-as-buggery region of Icewind Dale and features characters from acclaimed fantasy author RA Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt series. Either going solo, or with up to three mates, players will trek through various regions, fighting enemies, flogging gold and collectibles and amassing loot. It’s a pretty classic, if fairly unimaginative set up, so why then does it feel like such a tedious slog?
First up, the feel of the game is just off. All of the characters play like they’re knee deep in treacle, every command or movement taking place a beat or two too late, which gives everything a disjointed, ungainly quality. Secondly, the enemy AI is lamentably, laughably bad, to the point where you’ll begin to wonder if something went terribly wrong during development. Combine that with game balancing that is spectacularly skewed, making hits either do very little damage or killing you/them in one blow, and you’ve got a buggy, mechanically inept mess on your hands.
The thing is, even if the game was functioning properly, it would still be a bit ordinary. However, ordinary games can be fun with friends. Dark Alliance is barely tolerable even with a group of like-minded sarcastic chums. The graphics look great when still, but as soon as they move even a little, the janky animation, appalling collision detection and general lack of polish make the experience grim and frustrating.
Dungeons & Dragons is a huge IP, brimming with exciting lore and staggering depth and the potential of Dark Alliance was enormous. Sadly, other than aesthetics and an intriguing loot game, the title gets very little right. Perhaps a year from now, if the developers keep making improvements, it will rise to the level of mindless fun. But in its current state, particularly in consoles, it’s a nigh unplayable mess and should be avoided like a plague-infested goblin.