Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance - Preview

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

   There was a time, not too long ago, when the world of Dungeons and Dragons was relegated to the ranks of geekdom. People scoffed at the idea of wasting perfectly good time pretending to be an elf or a mage or some other natural oddity when there was so much fun to be had elsewhere. Oh how the tables have turned. The Baldur's Gate franchise has managed to garner enormous success over the past couple of years, as it reigned supreme as the take-no-prisoners lord of PC RPGs. Console gamers will soon have the chance to experience for themselves the wonders that Stormblind Studios has been able to conjure up when Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for the PS2 hits stores early in December.

Weapon shopping
Shopping for sharps  

   To play a D&D-inspired game might seem a little daunting to those that have not ensconced themselves in the trappings of table top role-playing, and the developers are well aware of this. Gone is the heavy, stat-intensive game setup of yore, and in its stead we have the shiny pre-defined characters that the current title has to offer. Some might consider this a bastardization of the core concept of the series--that is, creating a character from scratch, and consequently role-playing--but the inherent drawbacks that ride the coattails of console development demand a change in the game plan. Not all the nuances of the PC games have been kiboshed; the game still uses the 3rd Edition D&D rulebook, and, once again, the action takes place in the Forgotten Realms.

Let's get hammered
Time for libation  

   The traditional role-playing genre has always relied on gamers creating their own personas and then living vicariously through them. This time around, Snowblind has decided to forego the unlimited freedom of character creation that the PC games have provided and have instead offered a trio of characters that are available at the onset of the adventure: Adrianna, an elven scorceress; Vahn, an arcane archer who is able to infuse his physical attacks with magic; and Kromlech, a dwarven fighter that, predictably, sits on the other end of the spectrum and uses his brawn to thwart the nemeses. Speaking of which, the game has the requisite couple of baddies to upset the scheme of things in addition to the monsters that dwell in the Realms. Fans of D&D will be glad to see Golums, Frost Giants, Ogres, and other familiar D&D baddies turn up in the game as fodder for your steaming helpings of hot justice. Of course, towns will also be populated by non-player characters that will serve to flesh out the story.
Flame on!  

   Gamers familiar with the franchise will be a little disappointed to discover that the game plays vastly differently to its PC brethren. The game is much more of an action title this time around, though the individual characters are imbued with unique stats, which can subsequently be altered as progress is made through the game. Many different physical weapons can be found, and, in the case of magically competent characters, new abilities can be learned as well, through the accumulation of points during battle.

   When it comes to action-adventure styled games, the story is often the red-headed stepchild in the game development family, but Snowblind is hoping that gamers will be enticed by the yarn that the game weaves. The story begins as the player's character arrives in the city of Baldur's Gate during a period of instability. The local thieves' guild is on the verge of a civil war, and it's up to the hero to sort out the mess. The story will unfurl over three acts and as more is revealed the scope of it all is realized.

Flamer Arrow
Let the fire fly  

   Gamers with friends with a similar taste in games will be happy to hear that the fine folks that crafted this title have added in a two-player cooperative option for gameplay. Items can be swapped between characters, and the progress of each player through the game can be logged on the memory card. This is a much-overlooked feature in RPG-type games, and its inclusion will surely help to increase its appeal.

The Dungeons and Dragons-based games, and the Baldur's Gate series in particular, have made massive inroads into the RPG genre on the PC, and, with its markedly altered gameplay style in tow, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance promises to replicate this success on the PS2. For more screens of the game, head on over to our BG:DA screens page. The game is set to be released to stores across North America on the third of December. Check back with us for a full review of the game in the near future.

by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
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