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Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance Review

Initial release date: June 21, 2021

Developer: Tuque Games

Engine: Unreal Engine 4

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Mode: Multiplayer video game

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One

Genres: Action role-playing game, Adventure game


"Review Copy Provided By Wizards Of The Coast"

When the announcement was made a few years back that there was a D&D game titled Dark Alliance I was understandably hyped. It had been over 15 years since Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2 released and left us all on a cliff hanger. Scant information was given on what we could expect in this new game and then right before it came out, we got a rerelease of the original Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance on modern consoles which made me wonder if this was going to follow the second game. Well, it turns out that this game isn’t a continuation of those games and is its own thing and when it launched it was met with pretty harsh criticism. Now that the dust has settled, and several patches have dropped; the question remains on if this game is truly as the critics say or is the sleeper hit of 2021. Let’s find out!

STORY

Set after the events of the 1988 novel The Crystal Shard during The Icewind Dale Trilogy and during the fourth book of the Legend of Drizzt series.

GAMEPLAY

If you’re coming into this game under the assumption that it is going to play anything like the older Dark Alliance games, then you’ll be in for some disappointment as this doesn’t at all play like those games as it isn’t an isometric dungeon crawler like the originals but is instead closer in look and feel to the current God of War (2018) and modern over the shoulder third-person perspective action-adventure games.

You attack using the shoulder buttons allowing you to do both light and heavy attacks and be able to string them together to do combos or even just utilize one over the other and make combos out of that. You have access to special attacks and abilities that can give you various stat buffs and bonuses of which you can gain more as the game progresses, and you level up your characters. Special attacks and abilities will drain your special gauge with repeated use so make sure to use them in moderation. There’s a rage like gauge that builds up as you attack and take damage which you can activate (by pressing in the two analog sticks if you’re on console or whatever key bind you have it set to) that allows you to tank more damage and significant dish out more to your enemies. You can jump and do jump attacks along with blocking and dodge rolling.


The game is essentially broken up into you going level to level from your hub home world. At the home world hub you’re able to select what levels to go to, buy new equipment such as weapons and armor and potions, craft new gear and level up your gear, access the skill tree system for your characters, set what weapons you’ll use, and decide if you want to play through levels solo or online.


Aside from buying equipment from the hub world, you can find various items, armors, and weapons in the dungeons that you’ll be going through both on the set and off beat paths. You won’t, however, be able to change out your loadout while in dungeons and will have to wait till you get back to the hub world. I do find that aspect of the game to be a bit strange considering this game is at its core, a dungeon crawler and one where you will be finding a lot of loot at that.

From the hub world, you can select any of the levels you have access to and then decide what order you want to tackle them in and if you want to go it alone or play with other players online. If you choose to go solo, then just know that the game does have a “Recommended Level” feature to let you know where you stand when it comes to your chances of completing levels. If you meet the recommended level then you’ll not struggle to hard and will need to play to the strengths of your character to see your way to victory; on the opposite end, if you are not at the recommended level and want a challenge then you’ll most definitely get one and I can’t say that it’ll be easy for you to complete your missions.


If you choose to play with other players, then the game will match you up as best it can to form up a balanced party or you can decide to play with friends if they happen to be online and make your own lobby. Given how this game is based around having a balanced party, you won’t be able to have anymore than one of any character played at a time so there won’t be any combinations where you have 2 barbarians or 2 rangers or anything like that. While I do personally find this to be an odd decision to go with, I do somewhat understand it as even the older Dark Alliance games made it so that if you played with multiple people that you couldn’t have more than one of any class on screen at a time.


During missions, you’ll come across camp sites that will give you the opportunity to either rest and recover your health and mana or forgoing resting and getting the chance to earn extra experience points. I do like the risk vs reward system they implemented here although to be honest this level of checkpointing (which is essentially what these are; if you die, you’d start here if you rested) is pretty few and far between.

GRAPHICS

This game is serviceable. Is it gorgeous? Outside of the environments and levels....no. On PS5 and Xbox Series X the game looks fine although cloth effects look terrible unless you’re playing on PC of which makes them look a lot better and realistic.


The character models look fine as do the enemies but nothing really “stands out” if you know what I mean. It just looks serviceable in the it looks like a generic action game that is effectively indistinguishable from other generic action games from the last console generation. Environments look better on PC than they do on console but not by much as there are occasional texture pop-ins and sometimes environmental effects look wonky.


Honestly, I don’t have much to say here

AUDIO

Not much I can say about the audio as nothing really stands out. The music played for each level fits and serves its role. The voice acting is actually pretty excellent with a voice cast that nails their lines perfectly especially Crispin Freeman.


DOWNSIDES

This game for all it’s ups has several downs, and those downs bring out the reality that this is essentially a budget title that doesn’t have major funding behind it which hurts it. The fact that you can’t change your equipment in dungeons and can only do so at the hub world to me is just poor design. I can’t for the life of me understand why you would take away the one feature that so many dungeon crawlers have by doing that.


Next would be the fact that the controls can feel clunky and unwieldy at times when you are fighting enemies as they will strafe around you while your attacks are effectively in a single line in front of you which makes the decision to have this game be an over the shoulder style dungeon crawler does not make much sense. You can be in the middle of an attack of which you won’t stop until the animation finishes, and your enemies will be already moved out of the way and probably already hitting you.

The other issue with this game is in how the story often feels non-existent and when it is there it does nothing to build up towards anything. The older Dark Alliance games were masterful in their story telling while this one just fumbles the ball with its barely even there plot. The main way to gain the most from this plot is to read the books and then dive into the game and because of that the presentation hurts for it.


The worst part of this game was the decision to call it Dark Alliance as that is clearly a marketing move that would get people who played the originals to want to buy this, but the problem is this is the furthest thing from Dark Alliance or rather a Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3 as GodFall is more Dark Alliance than Dark Alliance is and that’s not taking shots at that game as I loved GodFall and it’s a much better game than this is. I know that this game is a spiritual successor to the older games but yeah it just doesn’t work for me.

THE WRAPUP

I had fun with Dark Alliance as I knew that it wasn’t Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3 and wasn’t going to continue that game’s story and world even if it had a character from that game in it. The fact that this was released at a budget price also helped me lower my expectations of this really being a standout title. Dark Alliance is exactly what it is, a budget game with no frills and not much going on for it. If you’re ok with that and the game having not much plot, so-so controls, hit or miss graphics, and solid voice acting then this is the game for you that can be enjoyable and even somewhat fun just don’t expect a lot out of it.

THE VERDICT

Wait for a sale, get GodFall instead, or get this on Xbox GamePass.