IIt wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I chose Bruenor Battlehammer, Dwarf Fighter, as my Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance character, I was promised a mighty tank that would withstand anything the enemy could throw at it. Currently, Bruenor is hiding behind a rocky outcrop, waiting for his special abilities to beef up so he has a chance of survival against the giant Verbeeg (think an ogre, but leaner) where things thrown at him are traps. deadly. What Bruenor cannot resist.
Black alliance is a co-op brawler that will immediately be familiar to players of any of the many recent loot-collecting games. Playing it solo is a painful exercise, in the end. Maybe that’s because I was playing as a dwarf and literally being smaller than the goblins attacking me in groups, but I took a real bond from the start.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that the game isn’t really designed for solo players. Most fights are overwhelming experiences and are prolonged fights as you try to avoid succumbing to enemy attacks – attacks that can easily kill you in a single combo if you forget to dodge at the right time – all while reducing slowly the horde around you.
Finish this and you can take a short rest: this system is both thematically very suitable for D&D fans, but also maddeningly opaque. At the end of a big fight, when enemies are killed and you’ve wavered to pick up all the loot, you have the option of replenishing your supplies and health, or you can ignore that and increase your loot rarity instead. . It’s not said anywhere, but if you take a short rest the game creates a checkpoint and you don’t have to respawn at the very start of the level when you die.
I didn’t realize it for a while solo. Completing the first mission: a sprawling jaunt through once dwarf caverns now filled with goblins, took me two hours and 15 deaths. The only checkpoint found at the final boss: which was also brutally hard to beat.
It wasn’t helped by the game’s glitch combat: jump attacks are – officially – the coolest way to start an engagement, but quickly become less enjoyable when you find yourself stuck on top of the enemy and that you slide until you end up crashing. Sometimes the dodge just doesn’t work, leaving you where you started and ready to be beaten up by a cave troll. Myself and the co-op partner that I eventually teamed up with later noticed that button presses weren’t always registered. One boss fight in particular made the two bosses I fought invisible for a little while, even though they were still able to hit me despite their buggy cape.
The game’s progression system was also maddening. While you ostensibly get experience points for each monster you strike out, and loot both gear and a myriad of different currencies as you trawl around the place, you get nothing at all. this until the end of the level. Give up halfway and you lose everything. This means that if you’ve decided that a level is too hard and go backwards, you don’t get any of the rewards you’ve already earned.
It’s a shame because the different appearance of the items is pretty cool, and your avatar in the world starts to look very different when you equip them with different items. You level up as well, which gives you stat points to gradually make you better at things, and then your achievement points which … also gradually make you better at things.
Achievement points in the real, you-have-to-sit-at-a-table-and-play-this-while-looking-your-friends-in-the-face Dungeons and Dragons Tabletop RPG often allows you to do some amazing extra abilities. Here I can give Wulfgar some steal percentage points of life. There aren’t a lot of real choices to be made, and while I haven’t played all of the characters at max level, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a lot of build diversity for them. heroes separated by the end of the game, and each Wulfgar will feel similar.
Add another player and it gets a little more fun: I replaced my dwarf with Wulfgar, who is both very tall and very strong, with an ultimate attack that sees him swirling around the square as he is surrounded of fire. With my friend taking the reins of Catti-Brie, a human archer, we cut a strip through the enemies and laughed while doing it: leaning into our roles, I realized these characters play their best when you play them with their archetypal strengths. Wulfgar must be thrown in all situations, moving quickly. Bruenor is best suited for holding a defined position.
Over time, these characters grow even more in their roles. As you gain loot, each of the four characters has a unique collection of equipable items: Bruenor can start off with a shiny shield emblazoned with a mug of beer, but it doesn’t take long before he does. or equipped with a literal prophecy tablet, attached to his arm with chains. It’s cool, although I haven’t yet found magical items that make me coo with pleasure – an essential part of the experience when playing a loot sucking game.
I think Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is fun, of course. I don’t think it’s very good. It’s a bit short in varnish, a bit awkward, the story – featuring Valley of the Ice Wind legend Drizzt Do’Urden – little more than a fan service medium to take you from brawl to brawl. Although this is an update of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, the console rat-slayer is so different from this current iteration that it’s hardly worth mentioning.
However, it is still early days. The basic mechanics of the game are quite engaging and it’s fun to play with friends – you don’t need Hannibal Buress to know that. So I have a little hope that maybe I will play it again after a few patches and a lick of paint. There just aren’t enough of them here to recommend it right now.
Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, and PC. This review was performed on the PC copy of the game.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance can’t stop getting in his own way. Whether it’s the brutality of the single-player game, the underwhelming progression, or the buggy combat, the game is more of an uninspiring shrug than anything else, though fans of the franchise will find reasons to have fun.
- Equipable items make your characters look like tough guys
- Fun to throw with some friends
- Distinctive characters
- Insensitive combat
- Dull progression
- The PC controls are really terrible. Bring a controller.