Review by iLuvMomo

"Diablo 3D and not much more..."

I really really wanted to like this one... after all the Baldur's Gate series on the PC has been one of the most memorable D&D RPGs to ever beating squares FF series. I was really dissapointed to hear that Interplay was going to end the whole epic Baal spawn saga with an expansion pack (BG2: Throne of Baal for those who have no idea what I'm talking about) I remember chatting on the Interplay message board and one producer claimed that the Infinity engine was way too old and much too limiting to incoporate the new 3rd Edition Rules without a lot of work. (yeah right... then why is Icewind Dale 2 using the same OLD infinity engine?)Since the Baldur's Gate franchise is well known and a hot prospect, the company was taking a 'new direction' for the series.

New direction indeed. Instead of focusing on the main aspects of role playing ie. playing the role of a character, the good folks and Interplay decided to make this a hack and slash adventure ala Diablo 2 with 3D graphics thrown in (think Gauntlet Legends) It is so obvious that the developers has ripped of all the gameplay mechanics of Diablo 2 and just slapped in a D&D license. The ripoff is quite blatant really. For example the Recall Potion in Dark Alliance (DA for short) transport you back to the local town/inn. Hmm... now where have I seen this before in Diablo 2. They might as well have named it Scroll of Town Portal.
The Feat system is also none too inovative either. Like Diablo 2 you gain skill points (or character points or whatever Interplay will call it) when you level up which you <surprise, surprise> use to learn certain skills/feats. Come on interplay, you can do MUCH better than that. This is just lazy work by the developers. After all, the original BG series required mages to learn spells by scribing scrolls. Obviously such mechanics could have been included in the game. For gameplay balance purposes, the player may be able to obtain the best spells (e.g. Meteor Swarm and Ball Lightning) rather early on, but would only be able to perform it once reaching a certain exp. level. Another beef I have is that it is way way WAY too easy for you to obtain the high level spells. This wouldn't be so bad if like in D2X (diablo 2 Expansion) the lower level skills were useful (e.g. Charged Bolt of the Sorceress and Tiger Strike for Assassin) Unfortunately the lower level spells/skills for the most part are just plain useless. Just look at the sorceress in DA, magic missles is plain dumb (They were one of the most effective spells for the Mage in BG1 & 2) while burning hands is a sorry joke. In the end it just becomes a race from to obtain the ultimate spells which incidentally you can obtain as early as Level 3/4. Although I'm not a huge fan of D&D, Meteor Swarm is one of the higher level spells (Level 9 if I remember correctly) and for a level 4 wizard to have one is simply absurd.
Then there is the choice of spells. Why do most of the spells/feats pick resemble D2X so closely. Although I know for a start that D2X used many aspects of the D&D series obviously the developers could have made some other better choices other than Burning Hands (Sorc's Inferno), Meteor Swarm (Druid's Armageddon) and the list goes on... Surely the D&D series isn't just limited to these spells. What about Timestop and Abi Dalzim's Horror Wilting?

As a game on its own, BG:DA barely is able to stand up to D2X. Single player mode is playable and as fun as Single player D2X is. 2 player coop is good, but why play coop when you can play 8 player multi D2X?
The graphics on this game is fairly good, but nothing to write home about especially if you have seen the goodness that the PS2 can offer with the likes of Final Fantasy X and MGS2. The water effects used is pretty good, though the lightning effects at certain parts of the game is just plain attrocious and you will need to turn up the brightness level of your TV/monitor (yes I play my PS2 games on my PC monitor) if you do not which to strain your eyes.
The controls of the game is excellent and well thought out. Best of all, you can reconfigure them if you do not like the default setting. Also, if you turn on vibration, your joypad (assuming it is Dual Shock) will rumble when your health is low.
The music in this game is above average. The tunes do not get on your nerves though they aren't noticeable as you are busy slashing away at your enemies.

Overall though, BG: Dark Alliance is what I have said in my title - Diablo 3D and not much more. Rent or buy? If you are a big D&D fan, then rent it for a weekend, play it, finish it and return it. Action gamers should just stick to D2X.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/02, Updated 02/06/02


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