|Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2|
|Developer: Black Isle Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1 or 2
I have to admit, despite the fact that I, and many others, loved the first Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance game, I didn't expect to see a sequel. It's the sort of title that I can see being widely unappreciated by the larger public, and yet, commercially it has been seen to have done well enough to warrant a sequel. Hurrah!
The game intro movie shows the three adventurers from the previous game, having just seen off the nasty threatening to enslave their world, being captured by a new group of nasties, who were simply waiting around until the coast was clear of the previous nasty. Still, it means that a new group of ridiculously named heroes can take their place, and so you pick one of five new characters, and head towards Baldur's Gate. Before you get there, you (and a friend, if you want to play the game co-op) will have slaughtered a bunch of naughty beasts that are attacking a village you pass by, and gained a few friends, and your adventure commences from there, in very much the same vein as the previous title - you meet people, agree to help them, and go and do a quest that will lead you onto the next part of the game, all in glorious isometric 3D.
Once again, you attack using both melee and ranged attacks, and will usually have a range of magical 'feats' at your disposal. As the game goes on, you'll be able to improve your character's abilities, increase the number and power of the 'feats' they can perform, find hundreds of new weapons and armour to add to your armoury, and you'll even get to craft your own items for bashing the nasties with.
The crafting system is simple, but has huge potential for producing vastly different items, although the game doesn't really harness it in the way that it could have. First of all, you get a weapon - not just any weapon though, only certain special weapons can actually be upgraded. Then, you can embed gems into the weapon to improve it - there are a whole host of different gems, all with different effects, and you can embed up to three different types, and up to 16 of each type of gem, to build one bad-assed item (+5). The problem is that it costs an inordinately huge amount to have these gems embedded (unless you play as the dwarf), which can mean that you will spend all your money to improve a weapon, and then find a better one half an hour later.
Unlike the predecessor, you can have a nice balance of ranged and melee combat in BGDA2 - for those that wish to use a bow, you have an infinite cache of arrows, and aiming is easier than before. Ranged magic is better than before, and the main character that will use this (the Moon Elf Necromancer) can raise a skeleton to tank (take a pounding) for him while he stands back and blasts the nasties with magic.
Graphically, the game is nice, but nothing special. While the original stunned, things have moved on, and this isn't quite as nice as the original (although it's close). I also have a gripe with the way that scenery constantly gets in the way of your view. When you're walking down a narrow corridor, you'll have to rotate the camera, or risk missing an important chest, or have an enemy sneak up on you, as you'll find that the near wall will always partially obstruct your view of the play area. When you've got a whole load of trees in area, it can be bloody nigh-on impossible to spot everything.
Other than the above, I have very little to gripe about in the game - it delivers more of the same action from the first game, which is something that I wanted. The game is almost certainly best shared with a friend in co-op mode, and it's all the more shame that there's no online component to the game.
The problem is that I wanted this game two years ago, and things have moved on a little since then - the need isn't quite as strong now. Still, the game is a nice distraction for the 8-12 hours that it'll take to get through.
- Top hack and slash action that was loved so much in the first game.
- Little improvement over the previous game.
- Scenery gets in the way too much.