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Baldurs Gate | Dark Alliance 2 | review | game | Lollipop

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2

(Interplay for Playstation 2)
by Eric Chon

The original Baldur's Gate was an amazing game for its time. It took a tried-and-true formula (hack & slash) and improved and honed all the important aspects into an experience that, although short-lived, exceeded all expectations and provided loads of fun.

This sets a high precedent for its sequel, and it seems Dark Alliance 2 has an uphill battle to win the hearts of gamers, especially as the original design team has since gone on to develop the Everquest-themed Champions of Norrath. But for those who itch for some more head-bludgeoning fun in the Forgotten Realms, all is not lost.

Our story, once again, is contrived and poorly realized. Bad CG is accompanied by even worse voice acting, taking place immediately following the resolution of the first game. The Onyx Tower plays a central role again, and it's up to five new heroes to finish the task. But this is all just throw-away really. What's really supposed to get our juices flowing is the tender, succulent gameplay, and it does not dissappoint.

You few who did not enjoy the first game, look elsewhere for your fantasy-filled fun (perhaps a quick glance at the Square/Enix games will slate your salivations). As for the rest of us? It's all very familiar territory, which can be a good and bad thing at the same time.

Dark Alliance 2 contains almost the exact same gameplay as the original, with a few minor tweaks here and there to spice it up. When it comes to bashing creatures and pulling out their spines, all is well and good. There is a little more flare, a little more panache in how you decimate your foes. Control is a breeze, and the pace is brisk like Lipton. So how does it differentiate from its predecessor?

First, you're given five new characters to choose from: A human barbarian (who can rage), a human cleric (the tank), a dark-elf monk (Gordon Liu beware), a moon-elf necromancer (raise the dead!), and dwarf rogue (oxymoron, sure… but he kicks ass). This diverse bunch also benefit from wilder, more interesting feats and a greater selection of attacks. But the real crux is something far better…

You can now craft your own magic items with gems and runestones found throughout the game (or bought, if you have the cash). Talk about sweet! You no longer have to save your gold until you can afford that great new weapon only to find they aren't selling it anymore! Fuck that bastard! Now that's not an issue. This is a great dynamic that other games should pay attention to (thank you, Diablo 2, for introducing it in the first place).

And ever faithful to the book games (as faithful as an arcade game can get, that is), you even gain a prestige class if you complete certain quests in the game, unlocking new and more powerful abilities. A truly awesome addition. Multiplayer remains basically the same, except that party gold is now shared, making it easy to shop (but a friend and I didn't realize this function until someone else spent it all on armor).

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is essentially more of the same. Tweaked in the right spots and streamlined, the game is loads of fun for familiar fans. Sometimes the levels are not as awe-inspiring as the first game, but others are loads more imaginative. Having gone through the game completely in about 14+ hours, it's a large improvement over the first game's total of eight.

For the diehard fans and those wanting some quick hack & slash, Dark Alliance 2 is money well spent. Those seeking more innovations and perhaps a good story should look elsewhere.


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