Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Publisher: Interplay Developer: Snowblind Studios
Reviewer: Paul Tipton Released: 12/04/01
Gameplay: 85% Control: 92%
Graphics: 93% Sound/Music: 86%
Story: 74% Overall: 90%

Baldur's Gate is more than a huge hit for the PC and has now made its way to the PS2. When times were rough for RPGs on the PC, shooters reigned overall, Baldur's Gate was there. It brought back hope for RPGs on the PC, but can the PlayStation 2 title be as good? Well, I can't tell you that considering I haven't played the PC version, so you're looking at a 100% unbiased review. Although, you can use this review to determine which is better for yourself.

The gameplay is good, but faces a few limitations in your playable characters. You have the options of an Elven Sorceress, Dwarven Fighter and Human Archer, each featuring a small difference in fighting style. Battling takes place in active time and is a hack and slash.

There is a huge variety of equipment and items, obtained through shops, dungeons, and defeating monsters or bosses. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance has a few ultimate weapons I guess you can say, which can only be attained through secret levels and side quests. Equipping weapons, armor and other items is very simple, but you have to watch what you carry, keeping in mind each item weighs something and your character can only hold so much.

Levels are gained through the traditional experience system and experience is obtained through defeating monsters and bosses. When gaining levels you can customize your characters attributes and learn new spells. There are a ton of spells pulled straight from Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, which makes for a better gaming experience.

Graphically speaking, this game is phenomenal. The character design, level structure, etc. is great, you can clearly tell a lot of time was spent in this department. Characters move with better than average realism, a lot of detail and good color use was put into the designs.

Dungeon design was also well done, it's a great demonstration of what the PS2 has to offer. When in battle, the fighting and spells draw you in due to the simple fact of the engrossing graphics.

Sound effects were done with true professionalism. The sword clashing along with monster slashing all sound very realistic. Baldur's Gate also features many different sound effects, eliminating the problem of old sounds, annoyance, and boredom. The entire game contains voice acting, which was done nicely, and the dialogue is VERY WELL written.

The music that you can actually hear is great, although the sound effects really disrupt it. You rarely hear the music over the sounds, and with the hack and slash battling, there is always a sound effect to be heard. Honestly, the only real reason I marked Music down was because most of the music was smothered by clashing swords. An excellent example of good music is in the Elfsong Tavern, so I gave this section the benefit of the doubt, since all the music I heard was good.

The game starts out with a cut-scene of your chosen character being robbed by a group of thieves and left unconscious. The local town people recommend that you visit the Elfsong Tavern (named for the Elven Woman's ghost singing and haunting the halls) in hopes of identifying your attackers.

You soon meet Alyth, the owner of Elfsong Tavern and also talk with many visitors. You find out that the thieves are working with Baldur's Gate, and they are attempting to destroy the old guild. To find them, you must travel through the underground passage, although it requires a key and at a cost. If you will defeat the overgrown rats in the passage, Alyth will give you the key. Which is where your adventure begins.

The game features very advanced dialogue to help the story unfold, but the game is very linear. Each character follows the same path, but allows a somewhat unique experience. As time progresses, the story becomes more developed, and at times becomes confusing because of all the different quests.

As for the control, it is pretty responsive and your actions occur almost instantly. There really aren't any difficult combos, but the button smashing does enable a small combo. The control is pretty realistic and left a door open for an entertaining battle.

Overall Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is a great Action/RPG, although from fan input, I have heard the PC players will dislike it. Personally, I feel it is a great addition to your game shelf and features descent replay value.

Paul Tipton

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