Review by Mr. T

"This feels half-baked..."

Mr. T played this game, based off the Forgotten Realms D&D that is doing quite well on PC. Now for a game that is supposed to be about free-will and choice-taking, Dark Alliance seems quite methodical- even linear. You choose 3 characters, One excels at melee attacks, another at long-range, and another... well, pretty much long range. They come in 3 different racial types, which really don't make any difference in this game other than the dwarf leader Torrgir actually recognizes the dwarf. Whoopee. Although I consider it a bonus that you can drag a friend into this, and bash monsters alongside them. But will you want to play it to completion?

For the first act of this game, the fare was pretty good. I cleared the ho-hum cellars and got into the meaty side of stopping a real threat, not some rats in a storeroom. This first act has cut-scenes; a gathering place(of-sorts) to question locals and assist them, and a mysterious entity controlling a shadowy group. Did I mention a room full of traps? I should have.
After this first encounter, you hastily discover there are two more afflicted areas, and from there - I completely fell out with the game. The 4 things mentioned above never resurface. No more story-telling other than beat point A to go to point B. Every following location has no other characters to provide you quests, only a leader and/or Weapons-merchant. The intrigue vanishes because, well 2nd act's boss reveals himself quite quickly, and the final act.. well the game manual throws it at you shamelessly.
As for the room of traps, well... what was this jump button added anyway? For the two high chests way back near the beginning of the game?

Praise

Good Character models
While I still shake my head in wonder in why everyone thinks all dwarves are men, most of the characters are well defined and fairly-well voiced (if a tad hollow in actual personality). Some of these fantasy characters seems from certain other fantasies...The customizable weaponry/armory of your persona will no doubt give hormonally active people something to jeer about, as will a few certain personalities (Want some milk with that ale?).

Excellent lighting and weapon effects!
This game shows ambient light like no one's business. The burning blades, lightning spells, and of course explosions are done quite well. What I didn't expect was so much attention to the torches and gloom in caves. It never sinks to Tomb Raider levels of blackness, but the detail is appreciated - in the rippling pools, and snow-flake inducing weapons.

Two player Co-op
My main motive for playing. You cannot hinder each other with attacks, which means no having to shuffle around in the tiny corridors dodging your enemy and your partner. It does tend to make the game easier however, as even your reward items are given duplicity.

Gripes

Congratulations! THE END
Okay, so the ending is not as bad as Karnov, but its pretty lame. Maybe because the game is quite short they thought it warranted a fuzzy ending. I heard the developers were thinking of making this a series, but after seeing how most of the ideas went out the window halfway in...

I'm an archer! But I kill a lot close up.
Everyone is forced in the beginning to close-quarters combat and even when your ranger gets a bow, or your sorceress learns a spell that doesn't have her looking in the nose hairs of a monster to cast it... you'll find it easier to rely on the swordplay you've been using before you got said accessories. The spells and such break the monotony, but are not required. Kinda like the jump button after Act I!

Don't you love games that tell you the entire story in the instruction manual?
Yeah, well, not much surprise here. I'm guessing Snowblind had alot of great ideas, got the 1st act done, and had their budget cut in half. I mean, for a hack n' slash game (which D&D is) a little plot makes the bitter open door/kill monster;repeat formula easier to swallow.

Graphics: 8
The detail is remarkable, and sometimes makes you feel just how deep in the hole/tomb/whatever you are. Even passive encounter things, such as the spooks and mice, add a presence. When playing two-player however, you might run into instances were you get confused. Especially if you wear the same armor style or weapon. Some broader variations in coloring might have helped this, as is just plan on having some distinguishing war hammer or something.

Gameplay: 8
The controls are only a little more complex than Dynasty Warriors, that being a good thing for this sort of game. It's easy to remember where block is, and the placement of the ever-needed healing potions are mapped perfectly for most ten fingered people.

Sound: 6
You won't find much here, unfortunately. The Elf-Song has the singing elf, but nothing else seems very prominent or attention-getting. The playable characters themselves hardly speak, mainly ''Take that!'' I would prefer ''How can I jump in 60 pounds of armor?'' The merchants talk, although browse in the shop more than 30 seconds and they'll repeat until you are nauseated.

Story: 4
As said before, if you were innocently reading the booklet, you've let a cat out of the bag. Whoops! The game itself does horrible in giving the character any history of the final boss in-game, which is odd given they visit the very place that agitated them.

Originality: 4
Take a popular top-down 3/4 view game and mix with one D&D handbook. A tired malt that tastes kinda dorky.

Challenge: 6
This is not a hard game, on easy or normal. There is a harder difficulty (for those that could fathom playing through a second time). But that in itself is not that intense since you've mastered the dull IA of the game in beating it once before. Designer rule #1, harder difficulty means more hardy foes, not smarter enemies.

Replay: 5
There is a hidden character, however getting him seems rather dubious after fulfilling the requirements. I would have rather just had a better made game.

Overall (Mr. T's bottom line): I felt this game was half-finished, so I'm giving it half a score. The initial scenario seems out of place compared to the repetitive scouring you singlemindly do in the other 2 parts. With all of the 9's given to this game, I just wanted to give readers another narrative on this. Not a bad game, but nothing to buy either.




Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 05/17/02, Updated 05/17/02


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