When the original Dark Alliance came out, it was a very impressive game in all aspects. The graphics were incredible for the PS2, the voice acting was spot-on, and the level design, story, and pacing were enough to make a truly enjoyable romp. There were a few minor issues, such as some control difficulty with using ranged weapons, but by in large it was a wonderful undertaking. Fast forward a few years and the sequel is…pretty much exactly the same as the first game. Same graphics, same voice quality and sound effects, same overall “feel” of the gameplay. In fact, other than a little bit of tweaking here and there, and the introduction of a new set of characters, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is just a rehash of the first. It’s still a quite a bit of fun, but there’s also an overwhelming sense that this has all been done before.
Set in the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd-ish Edition, our story opens right where the original left off. The three adventures from the first Dark Alliance escape the destruction of the Onyx Tower by leaping through a portal leading right into the waiting clutches of the enemy. It seems that the original heroes were unwittingly helping the current Big Baddie in everything they did in the previous game, so it’s now up to a completely new band of adventurers to solve the problems once again assaulting the rather unfortunate city of Baldur’s Gate. What follows is the usual dungeon-delving, monster-hacking, and treasure-grabbing that makes action-RPGs so addictive.
This time around, there are five characters to choose from to help defend Baldur’s Gate from Unspeakable Evil. Each plays quite uniquely, avoiding the problem of different characters being nothing more than different graphics. The Barbarian is the melee powerhouse of the group, as would be expected, with the ability to efficiently wield two 2-handed weapons to devastating effect. The Cleric is also something of a combat monster, with her ability to cast some fairly powerful combat-boosting spells, in addition to her ability to cast healing magic. The Dark Elf Monk is a complete blast to play, with her unarmed combat and some pretty impressive knife-throwing abilities. Rounding out the group is the archery-centric Dwarven Rogue and the Elven Necromancer/spellcaster. These final two play a bit more slowly, at least initially, but come into their own at higher levels.
Like all good RPGs, there is a steady system of advancement for the characters. In a quasi-Dungeons and Dragons approach, killing monsters generates experience points, which leads to increase in levels, which garners points to be spent learning various skills and powers. There is some room for customization here, as not all the skills can be purchased in just one play-through. Therefore, one could play the rogue as a hit-and-run crossbow character, or possibly as a more close-combat kind of guy.
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