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Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance Review

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance delivers a solid fantasy action role-playing experience, though it’s not without shortcomings.

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance is the anticipated spiritual successor to the classic Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games of the early 2000s. The new Dungeons and Dragons title wastes no time getting players involved in the action. After a brief intro cutscene that introduces the playable characters, gamers are thrust into selecting their character and setting forth into the game world. After a brief tutorial to show players the ropes of combat, Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance opens up, allowing players to explore the various dungeons and locations of Icewind Dale.

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance Review
Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance Review

Icewind Dale is a much different setting than  Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance veterans might be used to. The popular Dungeons and Dragons setting is a frozen wasteland in the north in the land of Faerun. Throughout Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance, players will experience a welcome variety of locations, from deep, dark dungeons, towers, and a host of icy locales. While some locations can feel somewhat repetitive, they don’t become overly familiar thanks to opportunities to explore and experience what each area has to offer.

The story revolves around a power struggle for Crenshinibon, the eponymous item from TheCrystal Shard novel, set in Icewind Dale. This relic possesses immense power, and if it were to fall into the wrong hands, the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale could be doomed. Seven distinct groups arise to seek out the artifact’s power, but fortunately, the Companions of the Hall make their presence known to prevent certain doom. Drizzt Do’Urdern, Bruenor Battlehammer, Wulfgar, and Catti-brie band together once more to thwart the untold destruction that could be unleashed on Icewind Dale.

The Companions of the Hall are distinct in their visual style and their combat abilities. Drizzt is a fast-moving character whose abilities revolve around dishing out as much damage as quickly as possible. Bruenor is a tank character who can withstand a great deal of punishment. Wulfgar is a heavy-hitter, wielding two-handed weapons and dealing powerful blows. Catti-brie has the most unique playstyle, as she focuses on ranged attacks more so than the other characters. Tuque Games did a great job in making each character feel unique and equally perfectly viable to play through the game solo.

The bulk of the combat is melee-focused, fast-paced, and flashy. Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance‘s combat flows very well across all characters. Chaining light and heavy attacks, with more powerful techniques, is as intuitive as it is powerful-looking. Combat is active and there is little room for passive button-mashing. To be successful in encounters, players will need to move around the battlefield, eliminate key targets and constantly refine their tactics. Players will face off against melee, ranged, and spellcasting characters, and these monsters can be challenging, regardless of the chosen difficulty level.

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance is split into seven campaigns, each consisting of three levels referred to as acts. The base of operations is Kelvin’s Cairn, which is undoubtedly a familiar name to those who are familiar with the Icewind Dale setting. It’s here that Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall can buy and upgrade items, claim their loot from previous missions, and select the next adventure. From the map, players choose the next act that they want to tackle. The difficulty level is chosen when players select a level, and chances of success are gauged from the characters’ overall power level. Even at its easiest difficulty, Dark Alliance delivers a challenging experience.

Each level in Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance is structured similarly. In most levels, players will need to accumulate a few items to gain access to the next area. After a few levels, this can become repetitive, as it’s usually gathering explosives to blow open a door or gather a few runes to open a magically locked door. Combat encounters are littered throughout each act, and while most fights have a variety of different enemy types to do battle with, it can become a little tedious. The pool of enemy unit types isn’t the broadest, and players may find themselves learning enemy attack patterns quite quickly as there aren’t many variations of them. While the fluid combat is Dark Alliance‘s biggest strength, it also highlights some of its weaknesses.

The camera can be a little finicky, especially after locking on to a specific target. This is compounded when fighting larger enemies, such as Hagedorn the Beholder. The camera tends to zoom in a bit too close and can limit the player’s visibility at crucial times. This isn’t too problematic with regular enemy groups, but it could be a source of frustration in more difficult conflicts. Jumping and rolling can also be difficult, as it’s possible to get stuck between or on top of enemies while trying to maneuver. Movement, in general, can sometimes feel clunky and somewhat unresponsive.

Despite the flaws related to handling and repetition, Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance does a lot right. The game is steeped in lore thanks to some collectible in-game items, narration, and some wonderfully animated cutscenes. Dark Alliance could be great for the casual gamer who might want to explore Dungeons and Dragons further. Veterans of the tabletop game are ought to be pleased with the focus on Icewind Dale lore. Similarly, while the game isn’t too stat-heavy, there are enough attributes, numbers, and abilities to manage to keep Dungeons and Dragons fans happy. The story is quite light, but Tuque Games has done a great job of realizing the setting of Icewind Dale and its history.

This game is a worthy successor to the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance titles. Though the combat can become a bit repetitive, it’s fast-paced and engaging for the most part. While playing solo, it’s fun and challenging, and it’s easy to see how it would flourish with a full group of players. It isn’t perfect, but the over-the-top voice acting and character models, respect for Dungeons and Dragons lore, and intuitive combat make for a charming package. It’s casual enough for anyone to pick up and play while retaining enough Dungeons and Dragons standards to keep experienced players of the tabletop game content. Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance is a fun action RPG, that has an opportunity to open up Dungeons and Dragons to a wider audience.

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance releases on June 22 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant was provided with a PlayStation 5 code for this review.

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