The popular pen-and-paper role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons has spawned numerous translations in the realm of video and computer gaming. The popular PC RPG series Baldur's Gate provided a solid RPG experience while remaining true to the D&D license. Interplay's Black Isle Studios and Snowblind have teamed up to publish and develop the first console entry in the Baldur's Gate series, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. However, the similarities between the PC Baldur's Gate series and this PlayStation 2 title are in setting and name alone. Dark Alliance is an entirely new action-oriented game that still hangs on to a few traditional RPG elements, such as experience points and skill-based character advancement. Combat of the hack-and-slash variety is the name of the game here, and those dead-set on hour-long town explorations will likely be disappointed. However, those with open minds for a new experience and a penchant for delightfully slicing their enemies apart will find that Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance definitely delivers.
Set in the Forgotten Realms and based loosely on the Dungeons & Dragons rules, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance makes use of the sword and sorcery background that so many players have become intimately familiar with. Creatures of fantasy inhabit this world, including the usual kobolds, trolls, and dragons. Your hero may be a human ranger, a dwarven fighter, or an elven sorceress. Each of the three character classes brings with it a unique methodology to success: Where one character can face nearly all creatures head-on, others may need to employ hit-and-run tactics. The characters also have unique special abilities that further set them apart from one another. The sorceress is mistress of destructive spells, the dwarf can perform a whirlwind melee attack or shake the ground with a powerful hammer blow, while the ranger can fire magical arrows, including volleys that cover large areas. To strengthen these basic abilities, your character needs to find equipment, and there's quite a variety to be found in Dark Alliance. There are many different types of normal and magical weapons to be found and equally varied types of armor. Your inventory has a weight limit, so frequent trips to the local storekeeper will allow you to sell the excess and stockpile gold pieces for a larger purchase down the line. Since Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance uses a semi-randomized system for the loot dropped from enemies and found in chests, the option to buy powerful weapons and armor keeps you from hacking through an area over and over again in hopes of finding one special item.
Arming your character to the teeth will be necessary to rid the Realms of the plague that threatens it in Dark Alliance. The game spans three acts, each set in a different part of the world and each replete with unique enemies, bosses, and quests to undertake. The subquests and levels are split into brief, easily manageable segments that can be completed in around an hour each. It's difficult to get stuck, as a quest log is always available, and teleporting back to town to change your inventory or to talk to villagers for clues is always easy. Completing each of the subquests will fill in an additional part of the plot's grand puzzle.
The story begins with your character barely surviving a nighttime attack by robbers near the entrance to the city of Baldur's Gate and being rescued from death by the timely appearance of the town watch. Penniless and distraught, your character seeks refuge in the Elfsong Tavern--a drinking establishment well known for its haunting, ghostly melody--which is your base of operations for the first act. A series of minor tasks and quests sets you on your way toward a series of climactic battles against numerous foes.