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31 August 2014 @ 10:40 am
Game Review: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II  
A long time ago (ten years!), a game came out for PS2 called Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. And it had almost nothing to do with the original Baldur's Gate, but it was fun enough on its own, especially played co-op, that I played it through twice with the same characte. Then the sequel came out, and I played through most of it with uriany, but never quite beat it. About a year and a half ago, I decided to start playing it with softlykarou, and slowly, haltingly, we finally made it to the end.

How long it took us to play through it isn't really a reflection on the quality of the game, because the moment to moment stabbing of the bad guys is fun enough. I say "fun enough" because I was playing the necromancer since necromancers are one of my favorite character types, but I had forgotten that his most effective skill builds require standing in place and channeling, which doesn't really fit in with the mobility that most ARPGs ask of you. Meanwhile, softlykarou was playing the barbarian, dual-wielding two-handed swords that I had enchanted to the hilt, and was doing at least three times my damage at a conservative guess. Maybe four times. It was kind of hard to tell what with all the huge numbers flying out of the bad guys and overlapping. There was definitely no LFQW here.

The plot was...serviceable. The bad guy only showed up in cut scenes for most of the game and we really had no idea what we were up again, but I admit some of that is probably just us clicking past the plot to get to the next part where we could stab ogres in the face again. There was a vampire lord and the Zhentarim and a dark elf claiming to be a very tan sun elf and a part of the elemental planes and the lizard man who commited a sudden but inevitable betrayal at the end of the first game and an obvious hook into the sequel when one of the pharaohs of Mulhorand was talking to a servant who was all like "The vampire has set sail for fail!" and the pharaoh was like "lol n00b if u wnt 2 do smthing good..." Except the sequel never came.

And I can kind of see why. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance was pretty fun, even if the sorceress was obviously the best character. The water effects look like the characters are walking through weird, perfectly-symmetrical jello, but I remember thinking that they were great at the time because they actually reacted the characters' presence. The basic formula of killing guys to get items to kill bigger guys to get bigger items worked, and all of that was carried over to the sequel, but Dark Alliance II just didn't have that much to grab me.

I think it's because there wasn't really much that's changed other than the new classes and the workshop. Going from Diablo to Diablo II had the new classes, but it also had the skill system, the gems, the runes and runewords, the additional overworld areas, the acts, the mercenaries, etc., etc. Dark Alliance II is essentially the same a Dark Alliance, and that's okay, I guess, but it doesn't lead to particularly memorable or exciting gameplay when compared to the first game. I actually think I liked playing the sorceress better than the necromancer, just because casting ball lightning is a lot more visually impressive than casting shadow spray.

I'm not sure I would have played through it at all if it weren't for co-op, but even there there were enough minor annoyances that I kept finding things that bothered me. Both players having to be on the screen at the same time got one of us trapped behind objects multiple times and even led to some deaths, and any time managing inventory or skills or talking to anyone was annoying. Basically, it actively decreased my enjoyment at any time that we weren't directly engaged in killing things, and even then it was a drawback.

A nice bit of fun, but with games out now like Torchlight II or full-patched Diablo III, I don't really think Dark Alliance II is worth much more than a footnote unless you're dead-set on playing your ARPGs on a console.
 
 
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