Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

I'm NOT an RPG fan. The occasional one may catch my interest, but they really are few and far between. I'm more of the hack/slash/kill repetively type. Hence why I'm so infatuated with Baldur's Gate: Drak Alliance here on the X-Box. There are a few instances where you'll be annoyed, but most of this 8-hour romp should be a highly enjoyable experience.

As most of you probably know, this game is based on Dungeons & Dragons, a pen and paper game that would most likely get your ass kicked back in high school. This game is based on the 3rd generation of rules (or something like that since I know nothing about D&D), so for those of you who needed to know that, your welcome. You have 3 choices as far as characters go: A archer, dwarf, and sorceress. Each one of them should effect the way you play, though the archer and the dwarf could be played in the same way if you so desire.

There are numerous ways to upgrade your character. As always, experience is a key. Weapons, armor, and shields can be purchased or found as the game progresses. If you find something you already own, sell it off for more cash to buy yourself some better items. You'll need to be careful as your character can only carry so much weight and deciding what to keep/sell/buy is a major part of the game. Potions of course are also available which can heal, restore magic, or take you back to a previous "safe" area, without having to walk back through who-knows how many finished rooms, a feature that this game simply wouldn't be the same without. 

The meat of the gameplay is a basic hack and slash, filled with the usual assortment of blobs, the undead, rats, spear flinging skeletons, lizards, and a few others. There is very little speaking (a rarity for the genre), but even these segments are interactive. Your allowed to choose how to respond to each character which could very well change the story of the game, abliet only slightly.

Each of this generation of consoles can show off some great water effects, but Baldurs Gate's is amazing. The water moves so, uh, "fluidly" that you can hardly tell it's being rendered in real time. The game is presented in a 3/4 overhead view (with a fully adjustable camera most of the time) which doesn't allow player to see alot of the details put into the characters (though you can obviously see the armor change when you equip a different style), but the enviroments look outstanding. Also, when speaking to a chracter, the camera will zoom in to give you a close up view. These guys/gals actually act with their hands and facial expressions. It's simply something you have to see. Oh, and for a Teen rating, this one is damn bloody. 

Music is genrally sparse, but when it kicks in, the fully orchastrated soundtrack is unparalled. Some of the silence may seem a bit odd since it's so rare for any video game, but the sound effects were all done by professional foley artists. The voice acting is also better than anything to come before it lending a sense of realism to this game set in a fantasy world.

If you find the game a little to hard, the game does allow for 2-player co-op, a mode than seriously extends the life of the game. Already started a game? No problem. You can be joined by your freinds at any time. Granted, they will most likely be signifigantly weaker than you, you are allowed to drop weapons and the such to either give them to use or sell. Should one of you die, head to the nearest save point to respawn them, a feature that will get you out of even the most difficult scenarios. Once you've finished this one, you can imprt your characters right into a new game to power them up even more, maybe even takeing them into a difficulty level to get a decent chunk of replay value. As an added bonus, player should be able to upload their characters into the upcoming sequel so all the work isn't for naught.

If anything could pull this one's overall score down, it's the sheer monotony of hacking and slashing over and over and over and over. This is especially apparent in later levels when they begin to go on with no end in sight. Granted, the developers were more than generous with save points, but some of these levels could've been shortened to make room for some more variety. Also, 8 hours is a REALLY short for an RPG of any type. I'm also pleading for some type of battle mode in the sequel to relieve some stress caused by your idiot freind who decides NOT to enter a cave with neccesary pieces to finish the game because "we've been there."

By the time you finish this one (and see the cliffhanger ending, those bastards!) there's no doubt you'll be clamoring for more. This is really an RPG for the masses as it's not bogged down with excruciating cinemas, 45-minute CGI mini-movies, and crap loads of dialouge. The addition of the co-op mode really sets this one above any other action RPG. The melee action really can't be matched. Plus, it's got blood!!! Lots of blood! Just wait until you see the bosses get hacked up in real time. That should satisy all of the little kiddies who only seem to care about the red stuff anymore. Definitely a game for anyone.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:16 PM