Snowblind Studios’ Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance was well received by action RPG fans nationwide. The game was fast, fun and graphically impressive. Infogrames seeks to capitalize on the niche carved by Dark Alliance by releasing a new game in the Dungeons & Dragons line. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes is designed to be similar to Dark Alliance with gamers playing in a Diablo-style action RPG. Hopefully D&D: Heroes will interest players raised with a bag of dice and character sheet in hand, as well as those who like to blow stuff up.
Heroes uses a 3D polygon engine similar to Dark Alliance, however, current screenshots still do not place the graphics at the same level. Heroes’ models still seem to be a bit rough, even with smooth textures, and are not nearly as streamlined as those found in Dark Alliance. The human fighter looks exactly as he should: tall and well built. The elf wizard, however, looks like she could use some restructuring. None of the current screenshots Infogrames has released show water or any other environmental effects so it is unknown if Heroes’ will share the same extraordinary attention to detail. Spell effects, on the other hand, seem to excel in Heroes. Unlike the limited amount of spell casting seen in Dark Alliance, Heroes’ spells seem to be everywhere. Small gripes aside, the game does look good for this point in development.
Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes is set in the D&D universe but does not take place in an established world. While Dark Alliance was set in the Forgotten Realms and an upcoming PC game will feature the world of Greyhawk, Heroes will not draw from an established pool of fiction. It has yet to be seen how Infogrames will use standard D&D lore to craft their world, considering these tools were designed to be a starting point for pen-and-paper dungeon masters, not a full universe. As an action RPG, Heroes’ tale will most likely take a back seat to the game mechanics; however, no plot details have yet been disclosed. Infogrames has confirmed that they will indeed be taking the monsters from the 3rd edition Monsters Manual for use in the game.
Gameplay is where Infogrames has spent most of their time with Heroes’ as they’ve taken the action RPG genre to new heights. While one could easily label this a Dungeons & Dragons button masher, Infogrames is trying to add another level of strategy to the game, albeit an overly used one. Characters can attach an elemental attribute to their weapon: either air, fire, ice, earth, or a fifth, unannounced element. Players will want to use ice against a fire monster, air against an earth monster and so forth. The system is similar to the one used in Skies of Arcadia and just as simple. Switching between the elements is done with a single button tap. D&D purists may dislike the fact that the game does not reward players with new weapons; instead each character’s armament will morph into a new form as they gain experience. Each weapon will have a total of five forms that may be improved by finding hidden rune stones. Those looking to find a +5 Defender Long Sword amongst a red dragon’s treasure cache will be sorely disappointed. Daggers and other thrown weapons will be included, though it is still unclear if they are exclusive to the rogue class.
There will be four different player classes in Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes: the human fighter, the elven wizard, the halfling rogue and the dwarven cleric. Dice rollers may be disappointed by the limited selection, which is not nearly as broad as those found in the D&D paper-and-pen or PC RPG worlds. On the bright side, however, this allows for casual gamers as well as youngsters to have fun with Heroes without needing a degree in character creation. All four classes may be playable at once as Heroes’ includes up to 4-player gameplay. The game is also slated to use the same type of save game manipulation as Dark Alliance, allowing players to import and export characters between sessions. So, if you and your friend want to play together, just take your memory card to their house and pop it in. It is unknown whether Heroes’ will allow players to choose the same character class since this was never permitted in Dark Alliance.
Dark Alliance has been an incredibly popular game, having recently been ported to the GCN and Xbox after achieving Greatest Hits status on the PlayStation 2. After over a year of development, Infogrames is hoping to top Dark Alliance in every way possible. With an improved combat system and 4 player gameplay, they may very well achieve their goal. With some graphical improvements, D&D: Heroes could climb to the top of the action RPG pile this spring. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes is scheduled for release on all three major consoles in the first quarter of 2003.
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© 2002 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc.