As Jerry Seinfeld once said — “What’s the deal with Dark Alliance?”
I wanted to like Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, I really did. R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden, Forgotten Realms novels were the vehicle that got me obsessed with the fantasy genre.
I’ve read the Dark Elf Trilogy three times and listened to the audiobook versions twice. I’ve read through the Hunter’s Blades Trilogy, (although it’s been years) and own a handful of Drizzt comics. Suffice to say, I’m a big fan.
I somehow missed out on playing any video game with Drizzt Do’Urden over the last 2 decades. I was hoping Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance would be a nice place to start, but it, unfortunately, is not.
Review scores looked bad. I watched some streams for a bit (shoutout to Nextlander) and it looked bland. But, Dark Alliance is on Game Pass, and even though Game Pass disappointed me recently with Conan Exiles, it's still a free game, so there was no reason for me not to give it some playtime. Plus, who doesn't love a loot game?
Gimme the loot. Gimme the loot.The Notorious B.I.G.
I selected Drizzt as my character (obviously) and jumped into the tutorial, which is where I encountered my first (and pretty big) red flag. The combat feels...clunky.
There are a lot of enemies to battle in D&D: Dark Alliance, but the game doesn't give you a smooth way of dealing with them.
Attack controls consist fierce & light attacks, as well as aim (for ranged), block/parry, dodge, and 2 abilities locked on the Y button (press and hold). Basic combos are included from the start, with more available as you progress your character through their levels. This is nice variety; especially since each of the 4 separate characters, each have their own unique class and playstyle. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to justify playing the game.
The camera and enemies are where this combat system falls apart. If you're prone to button-mashing, don't expect to make it through any act of the game higher than the easiest (Adventurer) difficulty. Button mashing locks you into attack strings and your character is not responsive when you need block or parry, which is paramount to staying alive. There's no attack canceling combos, so if the enemy died or moved out of the way, you're stuck until your combo finishes.
Dodging will be your best course of action for keeping your character alive, but when locked onto an enemy, the camera zooms in so close, it's hard to see who is around you. There's also no way to quickly go from one enemy to another if they're not right next to each other. I found myself locking onto an enemy, only be out of range, as I watched my attack whiff and stamina deplete. The game presents itself as almost a Devil May Cry experience, but it is not even close.
As a solo player, I find Dark Alliance to have extreme difficulty curves. When selecting an act to play, you're given a Party Combat Power level with 6 challenge levels to choose from. In white, are recommended combat levels, but you can push into harder difficulties for better loot if you/your party think you can handle the challenge. The biggest reason why I'm not having fun with Dark Alliance is that the lowest challenge level, Adventurer is a cake-walk. Mobs and bosses fall to me, all while button mashing. But, as soon as I move onto a higher level, even if the game says my power level is high enough, I have almost no chance.
Playing as defensively and smart as possible doesn't help, as the game difficulty spikes up to brutal levels. Lowly goblins can lock you into un-blockable, un-dodgeable attack sprees that drain your health bar in mere seconds. Bosses are even worse. The second boss of the game, I attempted at Challenge level 2. I made it all the way through the 30-minute act, only to run into this boss, that no tactics seemed to work against. Over and over, for almost an hour, I cheaply died. I did not want to give up, because you do not keep any of the loot you found during the act unless you complete it in full. Run into a boss that you can't beat and want to lower the difficulty? You have to start the entire level over and lose out on potential XP and any of the rare or legendary loot you found along the way.
Can this be solved by grinding out early levels for experience and better loot? Probably. Are there more RPG systems to level up and unlock? Yup. Is the game fun enough for me to want to do this? No. Big, no.
Remember that boss I ran into that I couldn't beat? Well on about try 25, he glitched into the environment and his health bar disappeared and I won the battle. That should give you the information about Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance that you need to decide if you want to play it.
I thought maybe Drizzt wasn't the character to play solo, as he's pretty squishy, but the other characters feel absolutely terrible to control. I played a few acts with Wulfgar and he has some of the slowest attacks and sprint speed I've ever seen in a video game.
D&D Dark Alliance looks and feels like an Xbox 360, Xbox live arcade game that should be $10 or $15. It's definitely not worth the discounted $40 asking price.
I don't even feel it's really worth your time as a Game Pass game, especially if you have anything in your backlog waiting for you.
I won't call this a review, since I only have 5 or 6 hours of play-time. But I don't want to play any more of Dark Alliance. I doubt that leveling up Drizzt and unlocking new abilities and feats will drastically change my view of the game anyway. Play and most definitely, buy at your own risk.
If anything, this experience got me interested in both Forgotten Realm games and third-person loot games that I've missed, so let me know if you have any recommendations. If Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance wasn't $30, I would probably buy that right now...I'm tempted.
It was interesting watching Jeff's arc of emotions of this game in the Quick Look; going from this is fine, to this game is bad. I had the same exact experience.