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Black Isle / High Voltage



T (Teen)



Q4 2002



- An accessible RPG

- Great variety of enemies, weapons, and environments

- Simple control mechanics

- Very good production values

- Lots of save points

- Some replay factor

- Rousing soundtrack



- Camera doesnít zoom

- Hardcore RPG fans will do nothing but bitch



Review: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (Playstation 2)

Review: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (XBox)

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC)

Review: Diablo II: Lord of Destruction  (PC)



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Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Score: 8.6 / 10


If youíre like me, you hear the words, ďBaldurís GateĒ and run screaming the other way.  Maybe you hate RPGs or maybe you think D&D is just too damn geeky or, if youíre like me, you just canít stand the thought of spending 30+ game hours to finish an RPG.  (Even though Iíd highly recommend Morrowind, I still cringe a bit when I figure how many actual hours Iíve put in, let alone game hours.)  Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance (BG:DA) is a light RPG Ė it has the trappings of an RPG but is largely stripped of the usual complexities and itís the better for it.


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There is still inventory to manage, important purchases to make, gold to find, experience points to earn and spells to cast but itís way more accessible than your typical RPG.


One of the biggest stumbling blocks for the non-fan of RPGs is the initial character creation.  BG:DA is devoid of this.  Instead, there are three characters to choose from that can be outfitted and equipped with skills and weapons as you rove through dungeons and gain experience points.  Hardcore fans will balk, but it makes BG:DA very accessible.


Once youíve picked your character the story unfolds.


You arrive in Baldurís Gate and get mugged.  Not relying on the local authorities to get your gold back, you take matters into your own hands but quickly get embroiled in a situation that will leave a bloodied trail of bodies in your wake.





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The main story is straightforward and sidequests donít amount to much.  This means you can concentrate on the action rather than trying to keep track of other quests.  (If youíve played Morrowind you know all about sidequests.)  And action there is, from beginning to end.


Whether it be giant rats, spiders, the undead, trolls, ice dragons, dark elves or big Jell-O cubes, the flood of viable targets is almost never-ending.  Iím told BG:DA uses characters and creatures culled directly from the 


D&D bestiary so the various creatures might have more meaning to someone familiar with the Forgotten Realms universe.  (When I describe fighting a giant cube of Jell-O, you know Iím coming from the non-D&D crowd.)  At any rate, the enemies all look good and have their own specific attack patterns, to which you have to adjust your attack strategy accordingly (which can vary quite a bit depending on your chosen character).


Presentation is practically flawless and the animated character exchanges are so good I actually listened to them.  Most times Iíll skip dialogue Ė it doesnít matter the genre Ė for a variety of reasons (poor voice work, bad writing, etc.) but with BG:DA I felt compelled to listen.  Itís like viewing a well-acted cartoon.  The lip synch is some of the best Iíve seen and the body motions are perfectly matched.


The action itself is fun to watch too, especially when you get hold of the more powerful weapons (or if you like to use spells).  Itís smooth too; just donít count on getting close to the action.  The in-game camera can be rotated (most times) but you canít zoom in.  This ability would have been welcomed in some of the more cluttered areas where itís easy to get blocked behind objects.


Control is easy to pick up Ė after 10 minutes you should be totally comfortable.  I was slightly take aback by the inclusion of a jump button.  Jumping puzzles donít usually spring to mind when someone says, ďRPG.Ē  Fortunately, BG:DA wonít be remembered for its jumping puzzles, even if it does come in handy during retreats and diving for cover.


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Most puzzles come in the form of acquiring a necessary item or defeating a specific enemy before progressing to the next area.  At most, youíll have to do careful exploring.


Save points seem to be liberal to the point of excessive in some areas.  Most are logically placed before or after major enemy encounters and boss battles (which may be the reason there are so many).  This means you never have to replay huge chunks of the game (unless you want to).  Some might critique this as making the game ďtoo easy.Ē  I found that it made playing more enjoyable (and in conjunction with Recall and Health potions frustration is at a minimum while still being challenging).


Total game time is well below 30 hours but thereís always the chance to replay with the other characters.


But is it worth the money?  Yes.  Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance manages to walk the line between hardcore RPG and straight action.  Itís fun and itís polished Ė definitely worth your time as well.


- Omni

(January 22, 2003)

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