Same Game, New System
If you ever said the words “Oh crap, its 4A.M.!” you were probably playing Baldur’s Gate.
The GBA version plays just as it did on the consoles. Baldur’s Gate mixes the right amount of action with RPG. Players will assume the role of a hero and must stop a greater evil. Leveling up is the name of the game and growing stronger is what keeps players addicted.
Just like the console versions, this game starts you off as one of three heroes: fighter, archer, or wizard. Each character has strengths and weaknesses. The story is fairly linear but side quests are spread out from the main story.
Players will gain experience and gold by killing enemies. Experience points can be used to upgrade your repertoire of personal special moves. Gold is used to purchase new armor, weapons, and items. Besides buying items, enemies often drop stuff on the ground. The best armor and weapons are usually found this way. Fighting never seems to grow dull even though there are no combos. The player can assign three types of attack through the Right Shoulder button and can switch them at will. A melee weapon (sword, club, dagger, etc), a long-range weapon (bows), and a magical spell can all be equipped and switched by tapping the “R” button.
The control scheme works very well for the lack of buttons on the GBA. “A” attacks while “B” serves as the action button. “B” can perform several actions such as talk or open doors. “R” switches weapons in real time, and “L” is used to block. Blocking can only be performed when a shield is equipped however. The consoles all assigned two buttons to use health and magic potions in real time. The GBA as does this but with the “L” button. If “L” and “A” are hit together, a health potion will be used while “L” and “B” restore magic. This is clean and easy way to avoid going to the menu system every time you want to heal.
The graphics are split in detail. The environments look great, but the water effects are pretty bad. This is a shame because the console Baldur’s Gates had some of the best water effects in all of gaming. The characters are blurry too. When you equip a new piece of armor the character actually wears it. Even though the character is constantly changing his look through the use of new armor, the model just lack significant detail. Strangely, there is very little music in this game. Despite only being accompanied by the sound of your own footsteps, the lack of music doesn’t really take away from the game play experience. I think that if music was involved, it might grow to become annoying. The game does produce sound effects but they sound pretty bad even for GBA standards.
Besides from a slight graphics and musical upset, I find a few other things bother me. Baldur’s Gate is laced with pots, crates, and chests that all need opening. Breaking every pot will become mandatory because you will not want to risk missing a powerful item. However, lining up to break a pot can be rather difficult. The game knows you are going to be breaking these pots but it doesn’t seem to work with you. My biggest problem with this game involves backtracking. Recall potions are no where to be found. I completely hate the idea of tracking back for ten minutes to the shop, sell my unwanted stuff, then travel all the way back to where I was. This is just a waste of time. Also, the Select button doesn’t do anything. A map should have been assigned to this button. Because you have to walk all the way back to the shop to sell, you often forget the specific way you where traveling. A map could have cleared up this confusion. The developers also left out the two-player co-op option. The GBA version is strictly for one player. Major bummer.
If you played the console version, you know how this game plays. Despite the lack of Recall potion, no two player, and muddy character models, I still couldn’t put this game down. For some reason, killing mutant rats and giant spiders will always be a pleasure. The game will keep you interested through the twisty story and level up features. If you wait in anticipation for the next level up to gain a new ability, you bust every pot in hopes of finding a +1 item, and you want to take dungeon slaying on the go, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance will surely give you what you want.