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PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!


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GameCube Review - 'Baldur's Gate : Dark Alliance'

by Rainier on Jan. 13, 2003 @ 11:53 p.m. PST

Immerse yourself in the fast-paced, dynamic world of Baldur’s Gate : Dark Alliance. In this epic action RPG, play one of three unique characters as you explore visually stunning environments like bone-chilling ice caverns, marshy swamplands and forlorn tombs. Battle immense Frost Giants, brutal Dragons and hordes of other Dungeons & Dragons creatures. Use your wits, battle fiercely and emerge victorious!

Genre: RPG
Publisher: Interplay
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release Date: 20-Nov-2002

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is the 3rd installment of this popular PC series, and the first that is available for console junkies. Ported from a late 2001/early 2002 PS2 release of the same name, this game is capturing and addicting from the first time you pick up the controller. As the first console game to use 3rd Edition Dungeons & dragons rules, BG: Dark Alliance may be the first of many action adventure titles from forgotten realms, and wizards of the coast.

The port city of Baldur's Gate has been overcome with evil. Townsfolk are afraid to leave their houses, members of the city watch have been found dead and rumors of a thieves' guild war is all the talk in the taverns. You’re a newcomer in this strange town. Just through the gates you are mugged. Thieves belonging to a newly formed guild take all of your belongings, but before they can kill you the town watch comes by on patrol. You, of course, vow to get revenge. Befriended by Alyth, a bartender, her comrade, Ethon, and Jerek a member of a prominent guild in Baldur’s Gate, your journey begins. The further it seems you progress, the deeper you get into an evil plot to take over the world.

Characters are well rendered, and very well animated. The background changed enough to keep attention. Even the dark dungeons were different in their color schemes. Scenery includes: ice caves, swamps, forests, Sewers, Temples, and mountains, all were visually impressive. The color schemes used are versatile, and appealing. Every enemy dies explicitly and differently, which is nice when over 70% of the game is killing, after you kill an enemy the corpse stays on the screen. This is where I noticed some video glitches. When multiple corpses pile up the GC starts to frame up. There seems to be rendering issues with the texture and lighting engine as well. You can see the corpse laying on the ground and the weapon that the enemy threw from its hands a few feet away, the shadow of the weapon is still in the hands of the corpse. While it was an annoyance it did however not affect game play.

Game play was okay at best. It would have been better if pressing directional buttons while attacking changed the way you attack. The button layout is unintuitive at first, but after a 15-30 minute learning curve it is second nature. You can use the D-pad to change between long ranged and melee weapons, as well as spells. L and R triggers use healing and mana regeneration potions.

There are 3 types of characters to choose from: Adrianna the Sorceress, Kromlech the Fighter, and Vahn the Archer. Each have their own set of abilities they can learn from. Adrianna is a female elf who is frail. She cannot equip edged weapons or weapons that require more than one hand. Eventually she becomes a powerful magic user and gets to do what everyone loves…blow stuff up. Spells like Lightning Bolt, Magic Missile, and Meteor Swarm allow Adrianna to cause a mass amount of damage. While others like Fire Shield add bonuses to her armor factor. Kromlech is a male dwarf who is glory-bound. His low center of gravity and great strength help him slash through enemies. Instead of traditional magic Kromlech uses active feats like the Bull Rush; the fighter makes a short powerful charge that inflicts a tremendous amount of damage. Vahn is the only human out of the bunch. In close or ranged combat this character shines. His skill set allows him to enchant arrow’s strength and accuracy, or he can give them magical properties; Exploding, shock and ice arrows to name a few.

Leveling is pretty self explanatory; the amount of points you receive become increasingly higher as you level up, one point per level.
Each feat requires a certain amount of points to upgrade. Feats are pretty well-defined as far as what each one will do. Every four levels you can add one point to one of your stats.

There are a variety of different weapons. Swords, axes, hammers, staves and bows. Each weapon has different variations and magical properties. The elemental properties were easy enough to figure out. The damage amplifiers and other properties of weapons were a little bit harder. The standard +1 to +5 damage amplifiers apply to weapons, and armor. How is a person supposed to know that a weapon with an adamantine property does 4 times damage as the same weapon without? I think it all spawns back to the dungeons and dragon rules that I could never understand. But there is plenty of explanation in online forums and in the instruction manual.

There are many magic rings and amulets. These increase stats such as dexterity, strength, and armor factor. Items are not described very well; actually, this was really annoying. Items are dropped regularly by enemies, and with recall potions it is easy to sell your items when you become encumbered. A recall potion beams you to a “safe spot” where there is a shop keeper and often a save point, and will beam you back to the spot where you used it. It’s pretty handy to have when you run out of healing potions or arrows.

The music and background effects are a total highlight of the game. The music is dark and suspenseful, and will put you on the edge of your seat consistently. While the background sounds often overpower the music it still maintains a good balance. The hacking and slashing sounds are as realistic as you could imagine.

The multiplayer option just adds to the fun of it all. At anytime you can have one of your friends pop in as one of the other two characters and help you slash away opponents. They will start off at level one, with no weapons so you may want to have extra stuff on hand for them to equip.

Overall this game adds more of a much-needed genre to the GC and is really fun. It is limited as far as items, weapons and armor are concerned. I would highly recommend it because of the gripping storyline and good graphics. This game really made me remember Dark Age of Camelot, and Willow; the story is all there, but the lack of item descriptions and playability that could have been there is not. This game would have been a lot better if they had optimized it for the GC, instead of just porting it over.

Score : 8/10

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