Replay Value: 8.8
Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior...bah! Make a note of this folks: neither of the aforementioned RPGs are originators in the genre. The first, actual, role-playing game was a pen and paper, roll the dice, board game. Can anyone guess what it is? Chances are, most of you know I'm referring to Dungeons and Dragons. In the late 70s and early 80s, D&D was among one of the most popular pastimes in the United States. People would form clubs and set scheduled dates as to when they would meet and play. And granted, their were no epic storylines, or computer generated sequences, but building up your respective character's statistics was an addictive challenge to millions nationwide. In short, D&D became somewhat of an epidemic, if you will. The D&D franchise still remains to be a lucrative one, especially in the US. In particular, you've got a series like Baldur's Gate, which specifically orbits around the D&D universe. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance doesn't tie in with any other game of the series, so it is nor a prequel or sequel. Dark Alliance is, in fact a first, of what I hope will be more, of the series on the PS2.
Even though the camera is strictly isometric (could be shifted around using right analog), the game's visuals are still unbelievably impressive. Baldur's Gate is easily one of the finest looking games available. The textures, for one, contribute highly to this, as the game features some incredibly fine texture detail. While it may not seem like it, everything is composed entirely of polygons, and absolutely no pre-renders. The game's textures are easily the best on the Playstation 2, absolutely exceeding any other game that comes to mind. Everything is just so smooth, silky and lush - it really makes me wonder how much of the PS2's power does the engine use up. With the textures are fine as they are, the framerate never slows down, no matter how many characters are on screen. Be it five or even ten, the framerate stays intact, and streams at a perfect 60. Not to mention, it will do the same during those incredible magic spells. BG surely is one impressive title. As far as character detail goes; Dark Alliance has a great set of characters highly composed of polygons, which make them look ever so great. Being a hack n' slash, Dark Alliance includes little visual extras like cut up corpses, courtesy of your weapon of choice. In other words, you'll know when an enemy is dead if his body is split into pieces. Baldur's Gate is a really impressive game with some of the finest visuals. It lost that extra 0.1 because of a few very minor graphical glitches, other than that this is AAA stuff.
Welcome back to the Forgotten Realms. Dark Alliance is of course, a hack n' slash RPG game, so turn-based FF and DW fans will be turned off. But don't you for a second think this is a shallow title, because it's actually quite deep. The game is based on the 3rd edition D&D rule set, which I have not one clue about - but surely quite a few of you do. In BG you will be given the choice of starting the game with one of three characters; Vahn the Archane Archer, Kromlech the Dwarven Fighter, and Adrianna the Elven Sorceress. In Dark Alliance, your character starts out in the town of Baldur's Gate. Upon taking a few steps, you are clubbed from behind and knocked unconscious. Bandits from a guild have attacked you, and stolen your possessions. You wake up and enter a tavern, from which a soothing song is emitted. In the tavern you meet Alyth and Ethon. You tell them what just happened, and they advise you not to walk around after sunset. But your character insists on finding who was behind this, and seeks vengeance. A group who call themselves the Thieves Guild are responsible for what has happened, and Alyth and Ethon say that there is a way into the sewers (where the guild operates from) from the tavern cellar. They'll let you enter the cellar, but you're going to have to do a little chore while you're down there. Get rid of all the rats that infest the place, and you'll be given the key to the sewer. The sewers are filled with heathens like skeletons, zombies, little trolls with knives, gelatinous cubes, dragons and more, for a total of 35 different enemies. The game includes 40 levels, and a pretty involving story. It's not an epic, not by a long shot, but the quest for vengeance really makes things heated.
You've got an arsenal of offensive and defensive equipment to choose from, much of which will be picked up from fallen enemies. You've got axes, hammers, swords, spears, bow & arrow and tons of other powerful weapons. For your defense, you have chain mail, boots, helmets, gloves and etc. Leveling up will be done by excessive fighting! When the middle bar reaches the end, you will be rewarded with points that can be used towards various statistic improvements. As you progress, your characters will learn quintessential special attacks and abilities that will greatly aid you in your quest, especially for boss battles. Magic will especially come in handy, for defeating those pesky bosses. The level of depth in Dark Alliance is really good! Snow Blind has done a fantastic job at creating an excellent hack n' slash with very heavy elements of RPG portions. The game lasts approximately 15 hours, but with the co-operative play, this is a visit worth coming back to over and over again! The co-op mode is really well done, and I'm sure those dedicated few will get a huge bang out of the co-op mode. I commend and give my kudos for a job well done.
Dark Alliance is not only an excellent a fantastic looking and playing game, but a fantastic sounding game as well! The voice acting is this game's primary aural feature, as, unfortunately, BG: DA has no sound-score to lean back on. But, thanks to the near-perfect voice acting, I only deducted a minimal amount. Every single character that you encounter is fitted with voice acting, so it isn't only the key characters the have spoken dialogue, but every character. The clarity is crystal clear, and there is absolutely no delay or hesitation in between. Everything just streams off of the DVD, with a silky effort. Sound effects like slashes, yells, screeches and groans are all here, and sound decent for the most part. BG does have music tunes, but they are very low and aren't heard too frequently. As far as the sound goes, the only thing really missing is a fantastic orchestrated audio-score. Other than that, we've got a winner.
Controlling Baldur's Gate: DA is an easy task for the most part. If you are a fan of the series, then you've obviously played the previous three on the PC. If so, chances are you aren't accustomed to using a Dual Shock like pad as a way of controlling the game. At first, the controls may seem a little awkward, but give it five or ten minutes, and you'll be hacking and slashing your way through anything and everything. The controls are basic, X is to attack, Square is open doors, chests or do other actions, Triangle is to jump, and O is the cancel button. The camera view is isometric, but not to worry because you can adjust its angle by using the right analog stick, so there isn't much of a limitation. All in all, the controls work well, nothing to complain about.
In the end, Baldur's Gate is an excellent hack n' slash RPG. It's a deep, excellent and, needless to say, an engaging title. Fans of the series really owe it to themselves, as do casual gamers looking for a fun game. While it may be a bit short, only ranging 15 hours of gameplay time, the game is worth replaying just for the co-op mode. Gameplay aside, the game's technological aspects, such as visuals and sound, are truly fantastic, and define the term next-generation. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is worthy of a purchase. Check it out, and then thank Interplay, Black Isle and SnowBlind for one hell of a game.