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Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance
Score: 8.8 / 10
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (BG:DA) is a
far cry from the Baldur’s Gate games on the PC. Where those games offer
epic quests and deep, involving stories, BG:DA is far smaller and more
intimate. Luckily, it is also far more action packed. Instead of being a
true RPG, BG:DA is a real-time action game in the mode of Diablo, but
without the mouse clicks, and is a direct offspring of the classic,
ASCII-based game Rogue. As a RPG, BG:DA is too short and too light, but
for a Rouge-like game, it is a fairly deep and rewarding experience.
Like its PS2 counterpart, the first thing most players will notice about
BG:DA are the smooth graphics. As a PS2 game BG:DA was remarkable—an
anti-aliased wonder amidst a sea of jaggie-filled games. The Xbox
doesn’t suffer from the same problems, but BG:DA still looks wonderful.
I would have liked to have seen this version do a little more than
maintain the status quo, however. As good as the graphics are, they
could have been improved with better and more regular bump-mapping. The
occasional frame rate stutters from the PS2 version are still here
also. Regardless, BG:DA is still gorgeous
and, even on the Xbox, has little competition in its own category (I’d
say Hunter is slightly better looking than BG:DA, but that’s it).
Also mimicking the PS2 version, the sound remains excellent here. The
clash of blades, thrum of bow-strings and pain cries of creatures and
man alike are well done and involving. I always felt the sound in the
game was underrated. Hopefully it
will garner more notice this time around.
One of the places that this game lags far behind the Baldur’s Gate RPG’s
is in character selection. Here, players can only choose between three
character classes. The game is, however, a distinctly different
experience when playing with each of the characters. Regardless of which
character is chosen, the plot starts our hero out in the town of
Baldur’s Gate having just been robbed by members of a Thieves Guild.
From there, though there are some minor side quests, the game is
completely linear. It is required that each mission be completed before
the next can be taken. Even the side-quests don’t help the payer feel
less confined as most of them can be completed without even trying.
Killing everything in an area and busting up all the crates and barrels
will pretty much solve every quest. What puzzles exist are simple and
In case you couldn’t tell from the paragraph above, BG:DA’s focus is
firmly on action. The game throws hundreds of creature at you at a rapid
pace. Gameplay basically consists of slaughtering wave after wave of
critters. It is here that the game’s great graphics really pay off.
Monsters are well-modeled and animated. Even early XP builders like rats
and kobolds are given hundreds of polygons and a large number of frames
The action also benefits greatly from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
license. These are not generic monsters that our heroes encounter, but
detailed monstrosities with rich histories. An early encounter with a
huge Beholder is, for me at least, worth the price of admission. The
first time I played the game, I played that boss encounter ten times in
one night. Very good stuff. Dozens of other D&D staples make an
appearance and each one is like meeting a dear old friend.
Though the main quest is short, BG:DA does provide some replay value in
the form of the Gauntlet and Extreme modes than open up after you have
beaten the game. These amount to little more than timed dungeon crawls,
but they are challenging and may keep the game from going onto the shelf
permanently after it has been beaten using all three character classes.
In the end, BG:DA is a great game. It is a bit too short and a lot too
linear, but the combination of great graphics, sound, and theme make for
a fun experience. Still, if you have already played the game on the PS2,
there is no reason to buy it for the Xbox. This is the same game through