Nostalgia and jank, wrapped in one $30 bundle
Oh hey, it's Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, on modern platforms!
If you were alive in 2001 and even remotely loved hack and slash romps, chances are you've heard of this project at some point. At the time, it was one of the very few opportunities to engage in the genre on consoles, outside of alliances like Diablo 1 on PS1 (we weren't even in the era of mass beats yet from Raven Software Marvel).
Is it still worth playing? Well, it depends on your tolerance for jank and reissues where the bar is basically "does it work?" " Most.
In five minutes, I was killing rats like in the early 2000s, alongside my wife once again: with whom I beat the original a few years after its release. Why is the first quest always a rat cleanup?!
Dark Alliance is an extremely old-school action-RPG (you can choose between the predefined gender-based classes of archer, warrior, mage) and it immediately shows its true colors. You'll recognize the extremely 90s cartoon/game voices (including the indomitable Cam Clarke and Tony Jay), which add to the very hokey, yet fun atmosphere. The plots are silly, the motivations are often paper-thin, and the movement from place to place is extremely linear: but it works, in the sense that it gets things done and, at the very least, keeps you interested. .
It's also still really janky. Enemy animations are skimpy at times, and it's semi-common to face a multi-hit and suddenly have your whole life sucked away in seconds. The NPC animations are also very dodgy or non-existent, only held back by their voice performances by the aforementioned cast of pure pros. That's mainly because the 10-hour game is largely untouched.
Again, it works (a theme of this release), but cutscenes still mark the original resolution, and game visuals are tweaked to look better on 4K screens. It's basically that: no online play, no upgrades or big additions. Local play is still ongoing, which will be the main draw.
So about that. I also encountered a real annoying bug when playing the Xbox One edition on Series X, which was all about co-op. Despite plugging in a second controller, I couldn't get the second player to sign up for a long time: and ended up rebooting my system and logging back into the game several times until the problem resolved .
If you want, you can grab it on Switch, PS4/PS5, and Xbox One/Series X now, with PC and mobile editions coming “later in the year.” But after playing virtually every hack and slash known to man: Dark Alliance 1 is kind of like an appetizer to what comes next. Dark Alliance 2 is a stronger game overall, but the pair of Champions of Norrath games (which are wrapped in a more confusing publishing deal and use the Dark Alliance engine) are even stronger.
Given the number of beat 'em ups and hack and slashes being re-released these days, anything is possible, and I expect a publisher will dump them somewhere at some point. Can anyone do the X-Men Legends games next?