The gist of it.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a high-fantasy hack ‘n’ slash brawler. If you’re a fan of the Drizzt books and this game genre, and you come in with the right expectations, you’ll likely enjoy this game. It’s been plagued by mixed reviews, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it out of pocket.
The Spoiler-Free Story, Premise, and Environment.
This game takes a dip into the well known world of the Forgotten Realms. Specifically, The Legend of Drizzt, a book series by R.A. Salvator. And before you ask, no, it is not a word for word recreation of the fantastic tales of our favourite drow.
The story in this game is more of a splinter timeline kind of deal. It takes place after the first book (The Crystal Shard), and before the second, (Streams of Silver). It’s as if the ending of The Crystal Shard wasn’t as neat and tidy as it seemed, and now the Companions of the Hall have to deal with the fallout as well as new threats that wish to fill the void of ‘primary antagonist’.
Expect a harsh, unforgiving winter environment, because that’s what you get when your story is set in Icewind Dale. It isn’t the only environment you’ll battle your way through, but expect what you see to be true to the themes of the story, albeit on a grander scale.
If you’re not expecting a picture perfect rendition of what you thought Icewind Dale looks like, then the environment is one of this game’s strong points. It’s big, exciting and does the work to immerse you in this corner of the Forgotten Realms.
As for the writing, expect fun banter, slap-stick and crude laughs as well as grim themes and undertones. There are some more serious threads, but for the most part the writing reflects the game’s casual nature.
The characters you play are fairly true to their book counterparts, just don’t look for philosophical essay level depth you might be used to from the books.
It’s also worth noting this game’s voice acting. There’s a lot more than you’d expect! The various enemies you face have a lot to say if you take a moment to listen before you continue your wanton slaughter.
No joke, if you take a moment before charging in, almost every pack of enemies are in mid conversation. They reference story points, their nature and their interactions with allies and enemies.
It does wonders for your immersion if you take the time to listen. I wasn’t expecting this aspect, and I dare say it’s my favourite part of the game.
Gameplay is one of the main gripes people have had with this game, and it seems to depend a lot on what platform you’re playing on. My friends and I played on the PS4, and had few problems with the combat.
Reviews on Steam will likely tell you another story if you plan on playing PC with a keyboard and mouse. The game’s Steam page is now recommending that you play with a controller as well, so going with one is going to be a safe bet.
A specific criticism I saw was the camera. I’ve found a combination of free camera for the little guys, and camera lock for the big guys works quite well and left me with no complaints.
Another issue players have is with the difficulty scaling. I will warn you, the difference between the first and second difficulty scaling is all I have experienced, and it is a stark difference.
From what I can tell, leveling and gear is the defining factor on how high you can go. I jumped into the second difficulty tier after a couple missions, and found the big guys taking half of my health in a single hit. Things got significantly better for me as I progressed in the game.
Co-op vs solo.
I can highly recommend going into co-op for this reason too. It gets much more manageable if you fight with the other companions at your side, instead of role playing Drizzt as ‘The Hunter’. There may be some fine tuning needed in this aspect, but it in no way makes the game unplayable or unenjoyable.
Abilities & combos.
As is fairly commonplace nowadays, you’re going to have a few abilities on cooldowns as well as an Ultimate ability you’ll need to build up through fighting. These feel pretty good to use and will supplement your light, heavy and combo attacks to get you through the tougher packs of enemies.
This isn’t an open world sandbox game. Instead, you’ll be playing through chapters split into a few missions each. Think Skyrim or World of Warcraft dungeon. You’ll fight through packs of enemies and bosses that bring different challenges determined by the kind of enemy, their environment and sometimes added abilities.
Maps & hidden treasure.
The maps aren’t completely linear either. There’s going to be multiple lanes you can take throughout the levels that will bring you to the key points. However, if you’re like me, you’re going to be back tracking and taking every possible path to make sure you didn’t miss anything. And, you’ll likely be rewarded for it!
The levels are packed full of hidden niches leading to additional treasures, collectibles and sometimes enemies. You’re going to want to pay attention to your surroundings as you move through the maps. A lot of these rewards will be hidden in or through destructible environment elements.
I mentioned that leveling and gearing was important, and there is a good bit of it to pay attention to. You’ll have multiple ability and skill trees, unlocking flat bonuses as well as combat moves and combos. There’s a taste of a fighting game here, so you’ll find yourself practising some combo chains in the base camp.
If you’re familiar with the D&D systems, you’ll recognize the classic attributes of Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, and Cha. They don’t interact with your character the same way they do in D&D Fifth Edition, so read their description and pick what you think fits your playstyle best.
You’re also going to have a handful of consumable potions to help you through the levels. Don’t ignore these! They’re not the flashiest of upgrades and unlockables, but they help out a ton when you’re struggling.
You’ll find health and stamina potions, which are all well and good, but also potions such as the ‘Elixir of Cleansing’ and the ‘Elixir of Resistance’. These two specifically make tough encounters much more forgiving, as being stunned by an enemy is often the most deadly element.
Gear is going to be your main reward for level completion and exploration. Like many fantasy games, they come in Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic and Legendary.
Gear will provide you with typical flat bonuses to damage, armor, and resistances. More importantly, there are gear sets that provide you with more unique bonuses that further dictate playstyle the more of the set you collect. You can also upgrade your gear through the crystals that you find throughout the maps.
Lastly, there are also weapon and armor skins. So far, the majority of the customization you can do with skins is to change the color, so your chosen hero doesn’t appear to have a tragic sense of style.
And there you have it.
If you’re looking for your next fix of the Forgotten Realms, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance will do just that. Keep an open mind, and your expectations realistic, and you’ll have a great time with this one.
Don’t miss our FREE geek alerts every month!