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Reviewed: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: June 12th, 2004
Page: 2

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 drops players right into the action - the first thing to do is get back to the town of Baldur's Gate, beating up on bandits along the way. It's a great way to introduce players both to the fighting and "roleplaying" system of the game, the need to completely explore regions when possible, and also to introduce them to their characters' own weaknesses. For instance, the Necromancer does best when hanging back and letting his summoned beasts do the fighting, while the Monk is great at close combat but desperately requires assistance in dealing with ranged enemies. Overall, the classes are highly balanced, and multiple adventurers playing together will do far better than single players trying to go through the game on their own.

Improvements to the d20 system are rare, but Dark Alliance 2 makes a few good ones. For starters, it makes the Feats system easy as possible to navigate, especially for the magic users who'll have to use the Feats system to pick up spells. Equipment is handled the same way, in a concise menu, though being 100% sure you've correctly put everything on takes a small bit of practice. Feats and spells are now assigned to a quick-select set (on the D-pad) and activated with a single button press, easy enough to handle.

Combat, of course, is vastly simplified, but still conforms to the d20 system. Any spell or effect, including just attacking, that has a specific time (1 round, 1 turn) has that time translated to a proper reset time of X seconds. This allows for decent maneuverability within the system while not dropping back to the turn-based, entirely rigid setup of Final Fantasy titles. It's worth noting that this is a tried-and-true setup, used by the Icewind Dale line, the central Baldur's Gate line, D&D Heroes, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as well.

Of course, if you're looking for high amounts of roleplaying (or even, for that matter, as much as is found in KOTOR) you're going to be sadly disappointed. Like D&D Heroes and Dungeon Siege, missions in Dark Alliance 2 are entirely based around "go here, find this and bring it back" or "clean out this dungeon and kill the bad boss inside". It's not surprising, because it's a form of gameplay that sits well with most players, but there you have it - basic hack and slash, easy on the roleplaying and decision making, heavy on killing stuff/breaking stuff.

Not that you'll be able to carry EVERYTHING you find, however - a single player has limited carrying capacity, though this is mitigated somewhat if you stock up on recall potions to get back to the shopkeeper in Baldur's Gate in a hurry to unload. When you've got enough money and/or items collected, you can also take advantage of a new feature, that of the Workshop. The Workshop, sort of like the KOTOR workbench, allows you to upgrade weapons and armor with magical runes and gemstones - two stones and some runes per item. It makes things interesting, and is much more varied than the KOTOR analogue, which is a good thing.

In terms of sound and graphics, nothing much has changed from the original Dark Alliance, which is slightly sad - the water effects haven't kept up with times, and some of the textures can be a bit lacking. The lighting system still works, especially the glow around each character, but it would have been nice to see the game improved. Of course, it's also possible that the game hasn't been improved because improvements could have taxed the PS2's aging architecture; rarely does the game see frame skips and/or slowdown, a good thing for a game that can throw a decent number of enemies onscreen at any given time.

Should you buy this game? Well, if you loved the first, absolutely. If you liked Dungeon Siege, D&D Heroes, or the Icewind Dale series, go for it. And if you're looking for a way to start off into roleplaying games, then the Dark Alliance games are a perfect place to start, because they're easy on all the tedious things that usually turn new players off from roleplaying games, and they're very easy to pick up and learn.

Added:  Sunday, June 13, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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