What's The Deal With Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance?

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gla55jAw

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Edited By gla55jAw

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.

The chaotic Good Drow Ranger in all his digital glory.
The chaotic Good Drow Ranger in all his digital glory.

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.

Eat Twinkle & Icingdeath, bitch.
Eat Twinkle & Icingdeath, bitch.

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.

See the original post on my blog, Current Kick - please stop by!

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Justin258

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You could also always play Baldur's Gate proper. The Enhanced Editions will run on pretty much any PC, any OS, and there are now PS4, Xbox, and Switch versions as well!

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gla55jAw

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AV_Gamer

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If you want to play a better version of this game, play Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning. They recently released a remaster of the game.

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gla55jAw

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@av_gamer: I've wanted to play that for years. I didn't realize it plays like this! I'm going to have my time filled with RPGs, it looks like.

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Wibblefish

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#5  Edited By Wibblefish

Lord of the Rings: War in the North was similar to this game in a lot of ways but far better, and that's so old iit came out on the Xbox 360 and PS3

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morningcoffee

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@gla55jaw said:

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.

Pay attention to the ring of arrows around your body when in combat. Each arrow represents an enemy, they turn yellow then red when an enemy is attacking. It's a good way of knowing when and where to dodge. Tbh I never use the lock on feature.

@gla55jaw said:

As a solo player, I find Dark Alliance to have extreme difficulty curves.

This is becoming my biggest issue with the game. I'm getting better but I still get my ass handed to me even on the recommended difficulty. They need to balance the difficulty for solo players because right now it's more balanced for 4-players. Overall I still like this game as a mindless bit of fun.

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gla55jAw

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@morningcoffee: Ah yes, I've noticed the arrows. I feel like it gets so chaotic sometimes that it's hard to focus on anything other than "JUMP! JUMP! DODGE!" ::dies::

Yeah, I don't have the checkpoint system either. I want to choose the better loot drops instead of the short rest option, especially when I'm breezing through the level...then you run into a mob or boss that takes you out in seconds.

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bigsocrates

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@av_gamer: Kingdom's of Amalur Reckoning isn't really like this game. It's a 3D fantasy game, sure, but it's much more of a true AARPG. No multiplayer, a more open world design (with dungeons) rather than individual missions and, worst of all, you can see and equip loot as soon as you get it. Plus enemies will aggro on you immediately, which is really inconvenient.

Even in terms of gameplay they're pretty different. KoA:R allows you to respec at basically any time, encourages you to mix and match abilities, and has a faster, more free flowing version of combat. Combat in Dark Alliance is very much about using a limited brawler skillset to take on a bunch of enemies while in Kingdoms of Amalur you have multiple weapons, magic, special moves, a huge arsenal of ways to take on enemies.

It also has WAY more of an emphasis on story, plot, and sidequests. KoA:R has some of the most extensive optional quest trees I can remember in an AARPG. Many are better than the actual main quests thermselves.

It's not that I think Kingdoms of Amalur is a bad game. Insofar as all you want is a 3rd Person action game with a fantasy setting it fits that bill (at least if you're willing to put up with a ton of story, because it has RPG levels of story.)

But it's not a substitute for a multiplayer focused mission based fantasy brawler. It's very different.

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gla55jAw

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Lord of the Rings: War in the North was similar to this game in a lot of ways but far better, and that's so old iit came out on the Xbox 360 and PS3

Yes! I remember a friend raving about that game. Man, my list is growing, but that's a good thing.

@bigsocrates: "mission based fantasy brawler" reminded me of Anarchy Reigns. I don't remember much about that game....but now I want to play it.

And gotcha about KoA:R. I'm cool with an RPG that has decent combat.

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@gla55jaw: I would say the combat is more than decent. It’s maybe the best combat in a real time RPG ever. As others have said, there are dozens of hours of side quests in KoA, and that is not counting the huge expansions. I 100% beat the base game. The combat is just a joy even after 100+ hours. And also as others have said, it is easy to respec at any time so you are never locked into any one class. Also, Salvatore also wrote KoA, so if you are a fan of his you will likely appreciate the story.

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gla55jAw

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@raven10Yup, I knew that about good old Bob. It's been a while since I dug deep into an RPG, so I'm thinking this might be the way. It's $20 on steam right now.. might start playing this weekend.