I have tried several times in the past few years to play Baldur's Gate and its sequel. Each attempt ended in frustration and the use of bad language. After the third or so try I finally figured out why – I do not deal well with a keyboard and mouse. This was a revelation of immense proportions…at least it seemed to be at the time. So in a last ditch effort to hook me on one of his favorite series my boyfriend gave me Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II for the PS2 for Valentine's Day. And they say romance is dead.
Dark Alliance II is an RPG that adheres to the Dungeons and Dragons rules, so all you table top gamers out there will be quite familiar with how things work. The rest of you who, like me, have no idea what a magic missile is needn't worry, prior knowledge of D and D regulations is not required to understand or enjoy the game. You only need to know one thing – rust monsters are bad news and you shouldn't equip any metal objects when they're around. The game does try to warn you about them repeatedly, listen to it when it does. The creatures only show up twice in the whole game but they make quite an impression.
The control set up for this game is almost identical to the one used in X-Men Legends I and II, so if you are in desperate need of a Legends fix you might want to pick this game up. Just think of it as medieval X-Men. The primary difference is that your party contains at most two people, one for each person playing. This game has no switching between characters in a large, high powered arsenal.
You have five characters to choose from, each with a different story arc. As it turns out though, each back story has very little influence on the game. Mostly it defines how rude your responses are to the NPCs (non player characters) in the game. I've run through the game as a power hungry dark elf and a virtuous human, although I've yet to actually finish the game.
Since this is a game using Dungeons and Dragons rules I expected there to be both dungeons and dragons in the game and I was not disappointed. There is a very snooty and evil dragon that you encounter a few times in the game. There are also a ton of dungeons, not to mention caves and spooky mansions. Normally this would be a good thing. After all such environments are atmospheric and entertaining. There was just one small problem that became more and more frustrating – everything was way too dark. I had to adjust the settings on my television in order to see the terrain half the time. If it weren't for the handy map up in the corner, I would've spent a lot more time walking into walls and other solid objects. Sadly there were bottomless pits one could occasionally just walk into and there was no way to see them. Some areas I only got through by trying again and again to find a path between the chasms. This method was tedious and very frustrating. Thankfully it wasn't a problem too often, but the entire game was less enjoyable simply because it was so dark. I could only come up with two reasons why the developers would light the game so poorly, either they were very big on creating a realistic atmosphere or their models were so shoddy that they had to hide them with darkness. Either way, I found it impossible to play this game in the daytime. A darkened room with very little ambient light is needed in order to see what you're doing on screen.
There were also several areas in the game that I thought I would never get through. In fact I am very near the final boss but I can't get to him because I keep dying in one area. I've asked everyone I know to try and get past it and they can't pull it off either. That may soothe my ego, but it doesn't help me finish the game; I'm not sure I ever will.
Despite these problems, Dark Alliance II is a fun game to play. I am not the most objective reviewer though, since I enjoy almost every single RPG I play. I certainly wouldn't consider paying full price for it, though. However you can easily buy it used for twenty dollars. If you don't care about actually finishing the game I recommend picking up a copy.
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