Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Maybe Dungeons & Dragons just isn’t something that can be enjoyed without friends.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance (PC [Reviewed], PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)
Developer: Tuque Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Released: June 22nd, 2021
To answer a question that some may have, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. While there are stark differences that make this one distinct from its two predecessors, the dropping of the Baldur’s Gate name probably has more to do with the upcoming Baldur’s Gate III and wanting to avoid confusion.
Otherwise, the idea’s the same: a more action-oriented take on the pen-and-paper RPG. It’s once again set in the Forgotten Realms campaign, this time using characters from the Legend of Drizzt series. It takes place soon after R. A. Salvatore’s pulp novel, The Crystal Shards.
For what that’s worth, anyway. The plot isn’t exactly dense, involving a few factions getting their hands on magic gewgaws that you don’t want them to have. Still, you get a chance to see some of D&D’s more prolific characters in action. There’s Drizzt, Wulfgar, Catti-Brie, and Bruenor, each with their own powers, roles, moves, and loot.
The problems with playing single-player become apparent pretty quickly. The AI in Dark Alliance is absolutely daft. I spent most of my playtime as Catti-Brie (which was probably a bad choice in retrospect) and was perfectly capable of standing on a ledge to soften up groups of enemies. They can’t work ledges, period. Rather than mull about trying to get to you, they just act like you’re not there while you take potshots. They’ll even continue conversations while you try to interrupt them by feeding arrows into their groin.
Not that you even need to find a ledge to stand on. You can just go outside the rather tight range that enemies have and they’ll act like you aren’t even there anymore. They’ll just return to their neutral state. Then you can, once again, lob projectiles at their crotches until they fall over.
Or you could, you know, not cheese every encounter. It’s just really damned tempting. Even when I forced myself into direct combat, the enemies just aren’t that aggressive. There were many times where they just stood there as I lined my crosshairs up with their face or slashed up their friends. When they do attack, they’re simply predictable. Usually, the only way I’d die in combat was when I’d get trapped in a swarm of enemies. Other times, I had the difficulty too high and someone would lay me flat with a single swing.
Playing solo is just a drag. The characters prattle on the worst one-liners, and the story isn’t much to speak about. The fights are repetitive and slow, and the difficulty is all over the place. Looting is fine. It’s one of those things in video games that never really gets old, but it will only carry you so far.
I’m just not digging Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance right now. It feels rickety at best and annoying at worst. Monotonous, bland, uninteresting. However, I know that multi-player can offset some of the problems I had. I wouldn’t judge Left 4 Dead or Gauntlet based on their single-player, so it seems unfair to set my criticism in stone until I’ve sampled what Dark Alliance can offer. I’m not hopeful, but it’s worth giving it that chance. Though, if you were planning to be a solo adventurer, maybe reconsider.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]