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Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Developer: Snowblind Studios | Publisher: Interplay
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 11/18/02 | Genre: Action/RPG

I have been looking forward to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for quite some time now. When I first heard about it I had just got my PS2. Not many games on the horizon at that time excited me. But having played and thoroughly enjoyed the original Baldur's Gate on PC, this new version caught my attention. So was it worth the wait?

For starters I should point out that BG:DA is far different from the original Baldur's Gate and its sequel (both great PC games). In fact, the only thing that these games have in common would be the campaign setting. Since the games are so different in nature I shall try to avoid making comparisons.

In Dark Alliance you get to choose your hero from three available characters: a fighter, an archer and a mage. Naturally each has its own strengths and weaknesses. In theory that would mean you should alter your attack strategies depending on which character you are playing. However, I found straightforward hack and slash to be the main course in this scrumptious little adventure. The fighter, being less complicated than the others, is probably best to play through the game the first time. You can try out the other characters once you've beaten֯ops, I almost gave away the ending.

Dark Alliance is an action adventure game with RPG elements. You'll have to fight enemies to build up your abilities and uncover the nasty truth behind what plagues Baldur's Gate. You'll arrive in town looking to make a name for yourself. Thieves will clock you almost as soon as you enter the city. Naturally, you have to get revenge. That quest for revenge reveals a much larger, far more nefarious plot. And guess who is the only stud in town with stones enough to tackle the growing evil?

You will have no trouble controlling the action in Dark Alliance. The controls are almost perfect and are well suited to the standard PS2 controller. Want to cast a spell? Just hit the control pad up or down to cycle through your available spells. Need to check the map? Tap the L1 button to get a quick overlay right there while you creep down the corridor, similar to the system used in Turok and other games. You can also use the right control stick to rotate the camera. This action is seamless and allows you to see every nook and cranny with little effort.

Graphically Dark Alliance is as good as anything the PS2 has to offer. The animations are pretty smooth for both player characters and enemies. The water effects are particularly sweet. I spent several minutes playing in the sewers the first time through just to watch how the water reacted and shimmered as I splashed and waded around.

I thought the sound quality was good as well. The voice acting is refreshing. I've played way to many games that sound like a third grader's Christmas play. You'll also hear sound effects like squeaks and grunts that make you think something is just around the corner. In most cases it's nothing, but the sounds are convincing nonetheless. I didn't notice much difference between the slice of a good blade and the devastating crunch of a morning star, so I'd have to say there is room for improvement.

Now I must rip the camera angle. The view of the action is from overhead. There is a slight angle so its not directly over the top of the character, but it gets pretty close in the Dwarven caves. This viewpoint cuts down on the some of beauty and detail in those great graphics I mentioned earlier. The view doesn't ruin the game completely, but it sure is annoying. I got used to it after awhile. Though I'd likely get used to having a tail, too, if I had to live with one everyday.

I invited my brother to play the cooperative two-player version and we liked it well enough. I haven't talked about the two-player option but it plays similar to the Playstation version of Diablo. Both of you are on the same screen together. Either of you can use the camera or map controls at any time. And you both get the special items for completing the side quests.

Dark Alliance also allows you to import a player into either version of the game, which is cool. So if you run out of money or potions you can just start a new adventure, import your character, collect the goodies from the easy enemies at the beginning of the game, then go back to your old adventure and import your character again. It's cheap and you really shouldn't need to do it, but it's nice to have that option I suppose.

In the end Dark Alliance works through the kinks to deliver an above average game. I was a little disappointed that the game was shorter than I hoped. I also would have liked to be able to look around in a first person view, like in Vagabond's Quest. And of course the camera angle is atrocious. That said the nice graphics, sweet voice acting and progressing plot help keep you glued to the end. I think this would be a great rental but only a borderline title to own. There's not quite enough action for many gamers and not quite enough RPG for others. Put me down for a solid B-. Oh yea, and let me know when the next Baldur's Gate title for the PC is ready.

By Kevin Watson - 12/10/01
ESRB Details: Blood, Use of Alcohol, Violence
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Screenshots for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

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