Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 Review

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II by developer Black Isle Studios and publisher Interplay Entertainment Corp.Microsoft Xbox One review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is one of those games I wanted to like a lot more than I did, because from a nostalgic standpoint, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s always easy to get me to try something Dungeons & Dragons related. I appreciated that these games moved away from the text-heavy, strategic combat of the PC games in favor of a more Diablo-like action style of play that better suited consoles and controllers. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II has some things going for it, but there’s some rough patches here too.

For starters, while the game has gotten a 4k visual update here, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is still not a very pretty game most of the time. Chunky characters, repeated textures and some pretty rough cinematics (especially at the beginning) quickly remind you just how old this title is (closing in on a couple of decades). Still, some of the presentation still works rather nicely. Even if the dialog’s a bit stiff given the age of the title, it’s voiced. There’s lighting effects at play that seem a bit dated by today’s standards, but were pretty impressive for the time. The music, as is so often the case in Dungeons & Dragons games, is pretty great most of the time. Caverns are appropriately haunting and ratchet up the tension nicely, though a bit more variety would have been nice.

Still, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II reminds you of its age at almost every turn. The city itself feels surprisingly small and lifeless. Character upgrades feel pretty basic, but generally meaningful. Combat is a little clunky at times but still enjoyable. It is an odd mixture of reminding me of what was while also demonstrating how far gaming has come. Other than the graphical paintjob however, there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly new about this. This is simply a new coat of paint and little more. There was an opportunity here to tweak a few things, and perhaps make Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II a better experience instead of simply a nostalgic one.

It is also worth noting some technical issues. There was a cave that has since been patched, that caused crashing when I entered it. There was another scene early on in the game where some of the goblins I was fighting simply froze into place and became unkillable. That was an issue since my quest to advance the story relied on killing them. I had to reload to an earlier save to eventually break out of that cycle. Twice I had to revert to earlier saves because quest enemies got ‘stuck’ in walls / structures and couldn’t be killed. I was able to press on and recover with some minimal backtracking in the end, but it was not the most pleasant of experiences when those glitches occurred.

All of these complaints aside, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II still delivers on its core promise of fantasy adventures, character progression and reasonable action. Using melee attacks can be a bit unwieldy at times. I found myself preferring ranged / magic – which is usually the opposite for me. In most fantasy games I gravitate towards the brawlers. Not sure I can exactly put my finger on why that’s not the case with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, but I started with the barbarian and found myself enjoying the other classes more.

There is a lot of just pressing the attack button over and over again though, as the combat itself does not have a great deal of depth. You can unlock new skills as you level up, and it gives you something to do during more challenging fights. I would say at least ninety percent of the combat can be won just by spamming away at a single button and pointing yourself in the right direction.

I will say that playing the game in co-op is a good time. It’s easier to overlook the warts when you have someone playing it with you and you are simply smashing away at your opponents. It makes the gameplay feel a bit better balanced too, as one of the common challenges that the game throws at you has more to do with sheer numbers than anything most of the enemies are actually doing. That said, I will say that the melee classes seemed to have the upper-hand in co-op. Not necessarily because they were more effective in combat itself, but because they generally attacked faster and are already next to fallen enemies. That means they tend to generate more kills (for more experience) and are in position to pick up more loot than their ranged counterparts.

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is not a bad game, but by more modern standards it is not really a good one either. Fans just looking for a trip down memory lane will probably get what they need out of this, but Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is a barebones remaster that touches up the in-game visuals and little more. On those merits, it is hard to argue that Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is good bang for the buck at roughly thirty dollars, unless you are a diehard fan of all Dungeons & Dragons games.

Despite some technical quibbles and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II’s evident age, there is fun to be had here for those who enjoy an action RPG.

Score: 6 / 10