Balder’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Reviewed: 05/02/2005


For some reason slashing your way through hordes of enemies provides the most satisfactory means of relieving stress that I have ever come to discover (I’m not meanign to make some sort of strange social statement with that), and it’s for this reason that Dungeon Hackers are probably such a popular means of entertainment. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance has everything you could ever want a slash ‘n hack game to have, and it lands it all with graceful beauty.

Seriously, playing the game or even watching this game is splendor; the graphics definately offer something to write home about, especially the stunning water and lighting effects. As you see your puny little elf launch out a giant fireball which explodes, blasting the enemies near it into fresh kibbles ‘n bits, you just kinda get caught with your eyes watering. The graphics are probably best divided into two parts: gameplay, and talking. The gameplay graphics are impressive on their own, but when you dive into conversations, and the model is expanded for the talking bit, it sets new standards.

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The story is a little below average. Maybe that’s why they stuck Pam Anderson in it.

Although all the glory of beautiful graphics couldn’t sell a game to me if it didn’t have equally beautiful gameplay… which is no problem at all with this game. You begin by choosing your character and difficulty level… doesn’t that just get you pumped up! The characters you have to choose from are: Dwarf fighter, likes big weapons and hitting things with them as far as I can tell; Human archer, he seems pretty much average… and he’s an archer, so he’s got archery skills (flaming arrows and such); and the elven sorcerress, she’s got some really sweet spells, but physically is the biggest wimp in the game. After choosing your beloved character, you helplessly watch it get mugged in the city of opportunity, Baldur’s Gate. I truly can’t help but feel gipped by this, since later this very same character is taking out ice dragons and huge walking suits of armor that could kill you by simply placing their little toe on you.

Despite this, the game really does begin to launch off, with your first thrilling quest, destroy all the rats in the cellar! This brings up the topic of quests; Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance allows you to cumulate gold and experience in two ways: fighting baddies and completing quests. A quest would be a mission, so to speak, it specifies an objective for you to complete, and then rewards you with gold, experience, and sometimes an item. Of course, quests aren’t always in cellars, and also aren’t necessarily always about killing rats- sometimes they mix it up and toss in mice, gerbils, and a variety of other such rodents… only kidding. The quests form a nice ‘checklist’ for you to play through, and guides you along your path. The experience brings you closer and closer to levelling up, and once you do it gives you points that you can use to ‘purchase’ new skills or attributes, such as more health or flaming arrows, which allows for a lot of control on how your character evolves.

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Truly the best part of the gameplay–and best part of the game–is just being able to play. Puzzles might be rare, and often reflex based, but with a dungeon hacker it’s the hacking in dungeons you want- which is exactly what Baldur’s Gate offers, except in a vast array of stunning environments, from cellars with rats, to dark forests, to ice caves, and flooded tombs with zombies. You’d want to stop and admire the scenery, but your head would probably be crushed by a giant stone thrown at you by an angry troll.You control one character and just wander along being attacked by every fantasy creature the game designers could think up, all at once it. It seems like a single character should never be able to survive the onslaught, yet you keep pulling through, and not only that, but you may hardly be hurt. The game plays silky smooth, with controls so easy to manipulate, you might forget you were hold a controller. All the fights flow into each other casually, and your character calmly dices the monsters to can sized pieces. Another great feature of the gameplay is the ability to play two player, with a friend the game becomes even more fun since you now battle each other for gold and experience.

Music in this game only helps but to add to the effect. Atmosphere is always built appropriately with well orchestrated music, so that creepy areas become creepy, and other such scenarios, such as background mumbling in . Voice overs are all well done and never sound out of place.

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Good lighting effects

Probably the only thing lacking in this game would be story. There really isn’t much of a plot line for the majority of the game, you begin with a hunt for bandits, and then the rest of the game is basically held together by mini-plots and substories, and very loosely held to a main story. For almost the entirety of the game that is how the plot goes, you’re journeying around doing good for people, until the end when you discover an ancient traitor planning to attempt another attack on Baldur’s Gate. Of course, you might have realized this if you read the story in the instruction manual, but you’ll probably be waiting for her to show up with her “Dark Alliance,” until the end when you catch on this was it all along. Strangely, after defeating her another plot twist is tossed in, as though in order to make up for the lack of plot twists earlier… or possibly even the lack of a plot in general.

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is a spectacular game. It leads off with impressive graphics, great sound quality, and thrilling gameplay. It’s a treat that you’ll keep eatting until it’s finished, and one of the absolute best dungeon hackers the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube have to offer. Playing this game is like watching a beautifully orchestrated display of gameplay and graphics- plus it has weapons with awesome names like ‘fine flaming battle axe of disruption +3’, and when you’re wielding something with a kick-ass name like that, you can’t help but admire the coolness of the game.

-Valiant Warrior

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Legendary
Story Below Average
Graphics Excellent
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: 8