Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance review (multi)

Out now for Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance brings us back to the famous D&D universe created by Wizards of the Coast. With native next gen versions available for consoles, we tried it out in  both single and multiplayer.

Of course Dark Alliance isn’t an entirely new name in gaming, as two games under that title came out roughly twenty years ago. Older gamers will probably attach the “Baldur’s Gate” name to the title for that reason, though younger gamers may have seen the more recent re-release of that action RPG as well. The current Dark Alliance does away with Baldur’s Gate (which would have been a bit confusing with Baldur’s Gate 3 in the works) but stays faithful to the Dungeons & Dragons connection, and is essentially a reboot of the franchise.

Having played the originals, what comes to mind right away when you think Dark Alliance is enjoyable hack and slash dungeon crawling, and this 2021 take on the franchise stays true to its origins. Despite a change in perspective, from isometric/top-down to third person action, there’s a familiar mix of light and heavy attacks, combined with parries, dodges and jumps. You choose from four familiar archetypes at the start, with a dwarf, an elf, an archer and a barbarian, and although the controls are the same they all play differently.

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That’s true right from the start, but progressing through the game’s campaign will also allow you to level up and further tweak your gameplay experience, unlocking new skills, moves and abilities that allow your character to further develop beyond the base skillset you’re given. In addition, leveling up also means you get to spend attribute points on your basic stats, which will help you emphasize your offensive or defensive capabilities. Combat is satisfying, and the constant stream of upgrades and unlocks means it stays interesting throughout the campaign as well.

The switch to third person also means there’s more in the way or traversal this time around, letting you engage in some light platforming and acrobatics to get to harder to reach places – possibly also finding some hidden secrets and/or loot in the process. Doing so might also involve smashing through a few obstacles and walls, so exploration is definitely encouraged. Loot management could be better and reminded us a bit of the micro management of Diablo II – having to carefully check out every bit of loot that you find – but this isn’t something that can’t be fixed with an update.

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Speaking of updates, local co-op isn’t included at launch, although it was a major appeal of the original games. It’s already been promised for a post-launch patch, but for loyal Dark Alliance fans the game will still feel like it launched in an incomplete state because of it. Online play is here though, but right after the launch we weren’t able to find a good companion to try this out with through matchmaking – so bring your own friends if you want to go online.

Dark Alliance’s fantasy setting makes it tempting to compare the game to Dark Souls visually, but although this is a nice looking fantasy hack and slasher it doesn’t feel distinctly ‘next gen’. It does perform rather nicely though, with 60 frames per second and some nicely designed locations that includes some impressive D&D-style architecture. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a decent fantasy hack and slash adventure that does the original games justice, but the score could have easily been higher with a more streamlined inventory system and the inclusion of local co-op at launch.

Score: 7.0/10

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