Dungeon Master or dungeon past-it?
Think of Dark Alliance in gaming terms and your mind probably drops back to the recently re-released local-lite-looter Baldur’s Gate: (yes!) Dark Alliance. You’d be forgiven for assuming that Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance – effectively Dark Alliance 3, we suppose – would retain its knockabout and accessible focus on couch multiplayer. Bizarrely, though, the game has shipped without it. Online-only is the order of the day here, though two-player split-screen is apparently to be patched in alongside the game’s first major update. Even more unfortunately, we found the Quickplay option – allowing us to jump right into a quest – is either functionless or the game’s population is simply barren. Neither of which are really ideal, especially as we began playing Dark Alliance for review on launch day. We were able to somewhat tediously create a custom lobby for playing with friends, but experienced several disconnects and lag issues.
So, taking into account our troubles with the online matchmaking and the fact we’re only getting split-screen on a promise, our first impressions of Dark Alliance were a little underwhelming. Thankfully, though, it turns out that even playing solo, the game is a good deal of good old-fashioned fun. Our first realisation was that it rather reminded us of the classic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tie-in for PS2, with its third-person hack-and-slash gameplay, combo system, and timed parrying. Choosing between four different D&D heroes – drow elf Drizzt, human archer Catti-brie, barbarian Wulfgar, and surprisingly nimble dwarf Bruenor Battlehammer – you’ll get to work making mincemeat of all sorts of goblins and a bestiary full of D&D critters. Characters feel distinctly different even initially, but it’ll take a few levels’ worth of new skills until they really begin to stand apart.
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