Dark Alliance is another Dungeons and Dragons game for the GBA. I believe there is another version of this game for the PS2 as well, but I’ve never played it. All the Dungeon and Dragons video games have a special appeal to me; it may be because they are based on a very rich and intricate world originally created by Gary Gigax and Dave Arneson. Maybe, it’s just because I was a DnD dork playing throughout high school. I don’t know…at any rate, Dark Alliance is a pretty good game.
You start off by making your character, which is fairly simple; you choose one of three classes: warrior, archer, or wizard. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks. I like the archer because he can still use melee weapons, but the perks you can buy for him upon leveling up make him a very versatile character. Once you pick your class, you get a bit of an intro.
You have entered the city of Baldur’s Gate, and no sooner do you swoon under its magnificent glamour that some thieves knock you unconscious and loot you. Fortunately, the guard shows up, and when you regain consciousness, you find yourself at the famous Elfsong Tavern where you learn that thieves have been running amok. In an effort to be helpful—in an effort to move the game forwards—you agree to clear the basement of the Elfsong of its infestation of rats.
Dark Alliance is a bit of a button masher, especially if you’re a melee character. You beat rats to death, find weapons and armor, cast spells, and complete quests to drive the plot onwards. It seems the thieves’ guild has been infiltrated by wicked minds, and the Harpers, another guild, wish to discover just who is pulling the strings.
It’s your mission as a nameless hero to defeat evil, so off you go on an adventure throughout various mountain trails, slimy sewer passages, and dank dungeons, and all crawling with brutish monsters.
Mindless button mashers can be very cathartic. Swinging your sword at ogres may get old, but the animation and graphics are quite good. Switching to spells or arrows is also often a must, especially when fighting the boss baddies. It’s just a fun game; there are no puzzles to solve, no pieces of information to decipher, not a whole lot of role playing; just kill bad guys and monsters, get gold and equipment, level up, and plod onwards.
The biggest drawback of this game, and frankly, many of the DnD based games, is that there’s no friggin’ music. I mean, really, why is it so hard to add music to a DnD game? Another issue I have is that you end up playing the exact same game over and over again regardless of which class you choose.
First of all, the items you find are preset, so you will always end up wielding the same equipment. The paths you traverse are obviously fixed. Also, the endgame boss is only vulnerable to the Onyx Sword, so you’re going to be a button mashing fighter no matter which class you choose.
Another thing that cheeses my corn about this game is that you know nothing of the story line for the longest time. You start off getting mugged. You learn about the thieves’ guild. You learn about the Harpers. You then learn about who was controlling the guild in Baldur’s Gate from the boss of that level.
Upon defeating the boss, the Harper tells you that there’s more evil in the next place, and off you go to it: a dwarven village. The dwarf there sets you off on a mission in the mountains. Then, you learn about some trouble in their mines, but it really isn’t until the very last stage that you learn what’s actually going on, and it’s all just a big, long block of text.
At that point, you won’t really even care, and then you fight the end boss, and it’s like: “Hey, there’s this bad guy that’s trying to do all these bad things out of revenge! Hey, there’s the bad guy, go get ‘em!”
I don’t know, there’s no real build up, and that’s a downer for me.
All in all, I can’t give Dark Alliance anything more than a solid C score. It’s a really fun game. I’ve played through it a few times, and I’ll play through it again because it’s satisfying, but don’t expect a high adventure tale of epic proportions because you shan’t be receiving one.
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