Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance – Hands-on Preview
Baulder’s Gate Dark Alliance 1 & 2 were cult co-op ARPGs back in the PS2 and original Xbox era. They became well-loved for their use of the Forbidden Realms setting along with tight isometric combat and a wonderfully inclusive co-op mode. They were the first really successful console-first games that leaned heavily on the Diablo formula and as a result, are fondly remembered by many. So it was only natural that people had some questions when D&D Dark Alliance was announced and it was discovered the game wouldn’t be isometric, instead it would be played from the third-person perspective.
Well thanks to a hands-on session with 2 other members of the Aussie media, those worries for me have been put to reset because, in just about every aspect, this Dark Alliance feels like its predecessors. It is very much an action RPG, it absolutely leans into its Dungeons and Dragons heritage and it is, without doubt, going to be at its best with three mates tagging along.
Our session started in a communal area. You know the one, a training area in one corner, a store in another and a map to take you to your destination. If you have played a video game in the last 20 years you are likely going to feel right at home here. In fact, I think just about everyone is going to be instantly comfortable in this setting. It is like a warm blanket, immediately welcoming and encouraging to potential players. In fact, I think it is fair to say that from my time with the game, everything is going to feel familiar and that is not a bad thing. This is a game that has been clearly designed to be as inviting and enjoyable as possible to a wide range of skill and knowledge levels. If you have never played an ARPG in your life, this will be a good place to start and if you think an Orc is a type of whale, no sweat. On the flip side, there is enough here that both seasoned D&Ders and experienced gamers will still find plenty of joy to be had.
When we jumped in, I immediately snagged Drizzt Do’urden, the only character I could remember from my youthful days of reading R A Salvatore novels and I didn’t regret my choice. Drizzt’s dual blades were fun to use and the combos came thick and fast. Combat is a pretty familiar affair but it actually feels like there is plenty of depth beneath the surface. There are standard light and heavy attacks, but those attacks modify depending on how long they are held, what direction is being held and where in the combo they are pressed. It is hard to say after a short playthrough but it feels like there is a bit here to sink your teeth into, while at the same time being satisfying to more casual players.
The other characters all looked great too. All the characters fit into standard D&D archetypes and are all famous characters in their own right, so massive fans of the lore should have a blast. The four-player session (3 of us and a PR tour guide) worked wonderfully, with combo moves and puzzle-solving being a real treat. The net code looks to be rock solid too, with only the US-based PR rep having any sign of lag at all and even then that was because we were using a remote service to play the game and not playing from our home machines.
When our time was up we were told that Dark Alliance would be crossplay between Xbox and PC, but not Playstation and that it is coming to Gamepass on day one. This seems like a super-smart move and should take away the problem that all co-op games face and that is finding someone who also owns the game to play with. With the game on Gamepass, there should be no shortage of players to choose from.
Before playing, I was worried that Dark Alliance was going to be a follow up to the cherished original titles in name only, but after playing that is clearly not the case. This feels very much like a continuation of the franchise and not something that is just leveraging goodwill from nostalgia. I can’t wait to get a few friends together and dive in when it releases later this month.
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Editor of Player 2, Matt spends his time yelling at strangers as they walk past, imploring them to visit Player 2. Sadly this tactic hasn’t yielded any significant results but he keeps on trying regardless.
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