Review by Dalimyr

"Undeserving of the Baldur's Gate title"

Before writing this review, I have played Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Neverwinter Nights and now Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. I must say that Dark Alliance is one of THE worst games I have ever played on any console.
When I bought a Playstation 2 I was very excited when I discovered that a Baldur's Gate game had been released for the console. I loved Baldur's Gate II, even if the graphics were dated from the very day it was released, and Neverwinter Nights took the Forgotten Realms into 3D on the PC, which wasn't a bad idea at all, and I thought that it was a very successful move on the part of Bioware and Black Isle. The big mistake made in the case of Dark Alliance was probably letting Snowblind Studios develop the game.

Baldur's Gate games, with the exception of Dark Alliance, have all had the same basic principles, even if Neverwinter Nights was in 3D instead of 2D. You could create a character, male or female, as one of several races, in any of a vast number of classes. Mages, Sorcerors, Clerics and other classes that could cast spells were able to cast any one of dozens of spells that were available. You could go in large groups, and summon creatures to act as extra allies, even cannon fodder, and best of all, you could make the game turn-based to take it one step at a time.

The other games, though, were created by Bioware. Dark Alliance, unfortunately was created by Snowblind Studios. Snowblind took the Forgotten Realms, and put the background over something similar to a Diablo-style engine. Being influenced by Diablo on more than one part, Dark Alliance has drastically distanced itself from other Baldur's Gate games.

For starters, you only control one character through the game, which makes battles against large groups of enemies more challenging.
There are only 3 different characters, a male human archer, a male dwarf fighter or a female elf mage at the start of the game, though another one is unlocked if you complete the game. These classes (fighter, archer, mage) are in fact the three classes that are seen in Diablo. There is no option to create a character, so you cannot create a male half-orc barbarian, or a female halfling thief, which you could always do in other Baldur's Gate games.
A great thing about Baldur's Gate games was the freedom that you had. While there was a story to play, you could go off the story and do several sidequests, or even, as in the case of Baldur's Gate II, own and run a stronghold (owning a thieves guildhouse is a wonderful feeling). Dark Alliance takes the freedom away. In fact, the first dungeon-crawling mission given to you sees you going through the cellar of a tavern, and then through the sewers below the city. Once you have reached the end of the sewers (which doesn't take too long) there is a quick exit to the streets of the city, which gets you into the city through a manhole, but until you have gone through the sewers and come up through the manhole from the sewers, you aren't able to go down the manhole from the street.
The story is extremely dull, and the only thing you can do in the game is follow the story. There are no sidequests that you can do without progressing through the story, which means that there are no strongholds in the game (even Neverwinter Nights let you own a tavern). Even some of the sidequests are really stupid. The first one you are likely to get would be the tavern drunk asking you to go into the tavern cellar to get him a bottle because Alyth the bartender won't sell him any drinks. Why not just simply allow the character to buy a drink from Alyth, instead of having to go to the end of the cellar to find a bottle (what's wrong with any other bottle? It's the cellar of a freakin' tavern, so there must be loads of booze there).
The story starts off by your character being mugged by a couple of thieves. You want revenge on those thieves, so what do you do? As the story goes on, you wage a war against the entire theives guild all by yourself. It's ridiculous, and out of character for a Baldur's Gate game. Shadows of Amn, for example, saw you aiming to take out just one man (Jon Irenicus) with a large group of characters. Dark Alliance sees you take on an entire guild by yourself. Is this even humanly possible?
The combat is all realtime, not at all turnbased, and is all based on hand-eye coordination, which I detest in RPGs, and there is just a small handful of spells to get, which you ONLY get through levelling up, and there are no summon creatures to speak of, so no fodder, just your archer, fighter or mage.

I am extremely disappointed in this game, that had so much potential, and I think that even giving it a mark of 3 out of 10 is being extremely generous. I think that Dark Alliance has taken the Baldur's Gate series and destroyed the very foundation of the series, replacing it by a poor Diablo-esque style of game. Dark Alliance has taken all of the roleplaying elements out of it, replacing them with tedious and extremely repetitive dungeon-crawling hack'n'slash missions.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 06/08/03, Updated 06/08/03


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