Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II
Game Info
Xbox, PS2
Black Isle Studios
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence, Use of Alcohol
The Good

• Still looks and sounds great
• Five new characters to play with
• Great new additions to game, including the workshop

The Bad

• No major improvements
• Why is there no four player co-op?


In late 2001, Snowblind Studios, under the direction of Black Isle Studios, developed a dungeon crawler for the PS2 (which was later released on the XBox and GC) that caught many by surprise in both how good the game both looked and played. Now, without Snowblind Studios (who is working on the soon-to-be-released Champions of Norrath), Black Isle Studios created a sequel using the core engine from the first game but giving players more of what they wanted.

The story picks up right after the end of first game - the three heroes come out of a portal after beating Eldritch the Betrayer only to find themselves captured by the forces of Mordoc, an even bigger evil who has plans for the onyx tower the heroes worked so diligently to free. Since the heroes from the first game are no longer free to control, players are given five new characters to command - a barbarian, dwarven rogue, dark elf monk, cleric and a moon elf necromancer. Your chosen hero begins on the violent path to Baldur's Gate, where they'll be given quests that draw then into a pretty complicated conspiracy that works as a nice accent to the gameplay.

A large portion of your time in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II will be spent working your way through various dungeons, wading through legions of enemies in real-time combat. As you slaughter you way through these dungeons, you'll find treasure, weapons, armor and other items to pick up. Most dungeons are really not all that complicated, except for finding the occasional door level to throw and finding every secret location for some of the better weapons in the game. Melee combat is a matter of hitting the attack button over and over again, but once the player learns skills and spells, you can use your spell button to cast the equipped skill or spell (which can be scrolled through with the D-pad). There's a also a quick-spell button, which brings up four spells that can be used by pressing the corresponding button. What's nice about the controls are that you can customize your controls if you don't like the default scheme.

The question you might ask is "Why would I enter these monster-infested halls?" Quests! Throughout the game, you'll run into a number of NPCs who will give you a task and a location to go to. Most of these tasks boil down to killing something, be it monsters in a sewer, or the boss of a location. Complete these tasks to gain money and experience. The experience system is directly on Dungeons & Dragons. After earning enough experience, you gain a new level and can spend points towards learning new skills or abilities that affect how your character plays throughout the game.

Along with experience, the player also acquires new weapons, armor and gold to spend with the Trader. While most equipment is just begging to be sold off, some of it can be useful. New to Dark Alliance II is the Workshop, where players can take certain weapons and pieces of equipment and improve them with stones and gems that will power these items up. The different combinations of stones and gems that you can add to your equip gives players a large range of potential effects to add. And when equipping your weapons, you can equip up to three different arrangements (ranged, two-handed weapons, and single-handed weapons), which can be quickly switched out with the D-pad.

While you might think that the game is pretty simple to combat, you do have to take certain strategic elements into consideration. Certain enemies are strong to specific weapon types, while weak to others. When fighting skeletons, blunt melee weapons do more damage that pointed and if you run into a Rust Monster, be sure to unequip your metal weapons and armor and attack only with a bow and arrows. Also, this time around, you have an unlimited quiver of bows at your disposal.

The graphics engine for Dark Alliance II is basically the same engine from the first game except with new locations, new enemies and new characters. Back when the first title came out, the engine was a wonderfully executed joy to behold. Now, while the engine shows little improvement, it still presents some great looking locations with excellent visual effects to accent a a game that's just pleasant on the eyes. Locations have some nice textures to them and the light effects give the gameworld a nice ambiance to it. Yeah, you can say there's been very little improvement, but considering how great the first game looked, I can't imagine how much better this title could have looked. Maybe some HDTV support would have been nice.

Audiowise, the game fairs well across the board. Considering how well the first title fared in this department, Black Isle Studios has managed to hold the line well. Sound effects and the moody music do a great job at capturing the game's ambiance well. The voice-acting is pretty sharp and appropriately themed, including everyone's favorite shopkeeper from the first Dark Alliance.

What people may hold against Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is exactly what the game is - a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler sequel. The standard gameplay may not be overly deep and some may find it a bit repetitious, but for those who enjoy the genre, Dark Alliance II gives you heaping amounts of what you want. Also, as a sequel, the game doesn't make any major changes to the game when it comes to gameplay, audio or graphics, but considering the standard already set, it's not like there's much room for improvement.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is a the sequel that will give fans more of what they enjoyed about the first game. Improvements are only minor, but they manage to compliment what was an already excellent package.

- - Vane

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