Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

I don’t think I’ve ever been so unhyped for a game I should have been ecstatic for only to be let down?

Dark Alliance not Baldur’s Gate is a four person coop looter stabber with preset novel characters that most will not recognize outside of the famous Drizzt, and are so underutilized they may well have been blank slates.

This is what you get if you take Vermintide, slow it down, make the combat clunky and have no understanding of AI programming. It also features beautiful set pieces, fantastic cinematics, plenty of flavour banter, and has free dlc content planned with a larger paid expansion in the future.

While the game is generally a positive experience, unfortunately the places they falter are some of the most important. The combat can lock you into animations a bit long which gives a very stiff feel compared to the over the top, rapid action of the trailer. Movement and abilities do not flow together well and it’s easy to end up casting abilities you didn’t intend to or not casting ones you did. While I gave them all a try I focused on the one ranged character, Cattie, and there were substantial issues with her stamina consumption, notching arrows and movement.

Then they brought out a patch fairly quickly, and almost every single gripe I had with the game was addressed- not completely fixed, but substantial improvements were made. I no longer have any stamina issues with her, and notching a strong attack will generally smoothly transition from a previous attack, and if it does fail releasing it will at least do a weak attack rather than nothing at all. Some of the issues with awkward collision detection take time to get used to and still need work.

The game was quite buggy at release, but for a developer with only one other title under their belt they’ve had a far more rapid response to fixing issues than most.

The AI is fairly bad, enemies do not know how to respond at range and you can easily exploit this if you want. In melee, they generally are far more responsive and aggressive, and with three melee classes at least you’ll have plenty of reason to be close to foes. The loot system is fairly standard, they all have set bonuses with a theme such as fire resist gear offering resistance bonuses, as well as having a fiery look to it making each set distinct and some do look really nice. I do feel though that there’s some sets that’ll probably not get used at all.

From my play so far, loot is very random but you are adequately rewarded for playing on higher difficulties, it is by all accounts functional. There is no transmog system, and the dying system really only has skins for some gear, but at least unlike most online coop games there’s not a price tag behind it. There definitely needs to be a use for gold in the future, as your only option with unused gear is to sell it but by level ten you’ll probably have all the gold you’ll ever need in the game.

The game generally looks very nice. Most of the models, the setting, the atmospheric effects, the sky, the backgrounds- it’s beautiful and unique, and the cinematics are some of the best parts of the game- they may do little to set up the story, but they’re a good mix of action and humour. The voice acting is well delivered and this generally feels like it has good production value. Importantly, nothing really impedes just getting into the game and playing, there’s no awkward city phase where you’re talking with quest givers for half an hour between missions or looking for the right guy to talk to- you pick a mission, match making is fast and active for groups, and you go and play.

It’s relatively straight forward what you have to do in each mission, and while you can rush to objectives there’s numerous small puzzles, nooks and crannies to explore for extra loot. You can rest after certain fights to restore consumables, or increase your loot rarity- which is one of the best features I’ve seen in a game like this, basically rewarding you for playing well.

This is not a balanced, smooth, bug free game- there are some abilities that need tuning, and foes as well though the difficulty does come in a predictable curve which starts at trivial on the lowest difficulty and ends with hard hitting damage sponges at the top, as it should. It is not a complex game, feeling far more like a dungeon crawler than a traditional table top RPG. It is also a game I cannot suggest you play solo, it is clearly designed and balanced around having a four player group, though since there are no enemies that keep you stunned like in Vermintide you can beat it solo.

This isn’t a great game, and it has some clear issues with its combat, but it is more enjoyable to play with a group of friends than I expected, and I have a favourable impression due to the speed at which they began fixing issues players identified, that the game has become clearly better in mere weeks, and them having no monetization schemes definitely helps.

Overall, a decent game with a lot of blemishes, Dark Alliance is a fun experience with a group despite being fairly average.

~~Alex Cumming~~

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