Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance II is fairly basic port of a game that, once expansive and ground-breaking, now feels dated. Old fans are sure to be delighted at another chance to tackle this title, but for newcomers, it's a much harder sell.
Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2 is here! But wait, wasn’t there already such a game? Why, yes. Indeed this is a re-release, remaster, or port (whichever you prefer) of Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance II, a hack and slash action game set in the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons and Dragons, which first came out on Playstation 2 in 2004. It’s just now been brought over to PC and modern consoles.
2004 was a bumper year for gaming, which coughed up such greats as Half Life 2, GTA San Andreas, and Star Wars Battlefront. It must be said though, it was also a bloody long time ago, and what was once critically acclaimed may no longer cut the mustard. So let’s jump right into things: how does Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance II hold up in today’s world of pandemics, NFTs, and general misery?
Not all that well, I’m sorry to say. This action RPG was probably super once upon a time – certainly, it seems like loads of people have fond memories of it. But the years have not been kind to ol’ Dark Alliance, and the thin coat of paint given to this 2022 edition has already peeled away.
In Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2, you hack and slash your way through clumps of enemies, ranging from skittering spiders to hulking trolls, occasionally firing off an ability based on a DnD feat or spell, and gradually upgrading your character. Sounds like a pretty tried and true formula, to be sure, one that Dark Alliance 2 probably played a role in shaping years ago. Yet here and now, this gameplay feels extremely basic, and at the same time fiddly and frustrating.
Melee combat, which is what most of the five playable characters will be doing most of the time, is floaty. Attacks feel inconsequential and are difficult to aim, and the lack of modern features like a targeting key are keenly felt. Breakable items shatter in a satisfying way though – videogames have had that sorted for decades, it seems.
As for the folks you’ll be chopping, well the game’s got plenty of classic DnD monsters: its bestiary pleases me. However, most enemies have quite simplistic behaviours, and you have to slog through hundreds of them per level, in groups of 2-5 at a time. There’s none of the giant hoards, flashy abilities, or polish that inject energy or at least mindless joy into later games in this oeuvre, counteracting some of the gameplay’s repetitiveness.
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After tiring of waving sticks around as the Barbarian, I switched to the Necromancer character. This spellcasting class negates the problems with melee somewhat, and features a good range of spells to try out, but little issues nevertheless constantly marred my experience. Managing energy levels to cast costly spells, when there’s no numerical indicator of the amount of energy you have left, is frustrating, for instance. Switching between abilities takes an age, and summon spells fizzle out and eat all your energy if you hold the key down, while the rest of your abilities require you to click and hold.
There are certainly things to praise. Customisation options abound with the variety of unique progression options available for each of the classes and a crafting system that lets you make your own magic items. There’s lots of replayability if you’ve the patience for it. But playing Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance II, a dozen or so minor problems, kinks which games released in the intervening years have ironed out, make themselves known.
Any port in a storm
Maybe it’s unfair of me to judge a game from 2004 by modern standards. Unless Square One Games radically remade the entire thing from the ground up, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2 was always going to come out into the world in 2022 feeling a bit creaky. Then again, it seems like not that much has been done to make this rerelease of Dark Alliance 2 worth the $30/£30 price tag that’s been stuck on it.
Overall the remake brings the resolution up to native 4k and improves textures a touch, but that’s about it. The graphics still look pretty dingy – a non-gamer would definitely believe they’re 18 years old. Achievements have been added, and loading times are minute, both good things, but while the couch co-op remains from the PS2 era, it’s a shame the devs didn’t include online multiplayer.
On the technical side of things, it’s mainly workmanlike, though a few controls the game lists in tutorials – like hotkeys for potions – are incorrect. Out and about, I’ve seen a worrying number of reports of crashing, but on PC, for me, everything seems fine and dandy – a patch to prevent the game freezing on an early level seems to have done the trick.
Overall, I find this 2022 version of Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance II to be a fairly basic port of a game that’s rather dated. If you’ve got nostalgia for it, you’ll certainly have a grand time playing this updated version, but if you’ve no history with the game, it’s hard to recommend.