Analysis of Dungeons & Dragons Dark Alliance. A game that captivates, but unfortunately cannot be enjoyed
Analysis of Dungeons & Dragons Dark Alliance. A game that captivates, but unfortunately cannot be enjoyed
Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance sounds like the perfect cooperative dungeon crawler to play on Xbox Game Pass, for example; and although frankly it has many good things that deserve your attention, there are also some serious flaws that could prevent you from enjoying its dungeons properly.
Have you ever felt that frustration of having cooked something wrong? You learn the instructions by heart, use the right ingredients and prepare everything with great care, and then poof! You try it and you know that it is not exactly what you wanted to do: it may have come out a bit burnt, or too raw, or it lacks salt, or whatever. Well, something like that is what I think of Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance , only obviously I haven’t made the game. The Canadian study of Tuque Games has done it , and it is very clear to me that they had all the resources, knowledge and talent ahead of them to do it well.
As you play, you clearly see that the foundations are there, that each level is a well thought out dungeon, that there is agility when it comes to managing the squads, and even that the loot system is satisfactory from the first minute. In fact, you can see the knowledge that there is about the D&D universe (or the good hand of Wizards of the Coast when it comes to supporting developers) because some of the role-playing mechanics are very well transferred from the board game. I’m not going to fool you, I liked the game, but it was half done, with many buts and some of them quite serious.
If a point as important as the combat system does not convince, the matter starts badly: rough animations, unlockable combos that do not add much, the feeling of having to change characters every few hours so as not to get bored. On paper, anyone would say, “Wow, the frog came out, it’s a bad game” but that judgment would seem tremendously superficial and unfair to me because there are so many good things that this D&D does that it makes you angry to see the things that have stayed halfway.
Adapting D&D to cooperative action
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Like so many modern multiplayer games, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance has a sort of home base where you can meet up with your friends, carefully examine your rewards, and organize the next mission. In other words, don’t expect a traditional campaign per se, but rather a web of adventures revolving around control by the crystal shard at different locations in Icewind Dale . Rather, the story is told through cutscenes and contextual dialogues that capture the tone and personality of D&D, as well as many snippets of text and a codex that collect more detailed information for those interested in digging deeper.
That said, the respect for the universe that Tuque Games works with is almost absolute, not only narratively but also mechanically. For example, we are used to Dark Souls and similar games offering a bonfire to rest, but in D&D there is a quick rest mechanic that has been moved here as a quick decision: you have a few seconds to choose if you want to rest to get a checkpoint and make a full recovery or sacrifice that for a loot upgrade for the rest of the mission. It is not a precise adaptation of how it works in the original board game because in that one you partially depend on chance to restore health points, but it is a way of rescuing the fantasy behind this mechanic.
The D&D universe has not only been embodied with charisma and tone, but also by adapting some mechanicsThat same pattern of tailoring D&D things to suit the interests of the game is repeated here and there. The trolls regenerate health passively and automatically (an effect that is not interrupted by fire according to the rules of the fifth edition) while the goblins coexist with them in a delicate relationship of mutual benefit, shouting “kafoy! ” and other insults. I really think there is a certain value in fanserviceSo in general, and fans of the base material will be more or less happy with what Tuque Games has to offer in this regard – although surely many would give anything to have a game dedicated to Drizzt Do’Urden exclusively. But those who come “from outside” and do not live this universe in the same way have reasons to frown, as you will see below.
The visual section, by the way, is the most curious. There are sequences that seem completely out of date due to some textures and especially modeling, something difficult to understand for a production made on the Unreal Engine 4 engine that so many leading games has given us in the past generation. The good news is that beyond that, on an artistic level it is quite good, with a very marked and varied color palette, good care for lighting and decorations, and eye-catching abilities for both heroes and enemies. ¿ Outdated ? Well yes, but forgivable, too. With the sound something similar happens: we have voices (very) well characterized in English and some accompanying songs that are nothing to write home about, but they are loved.
A combat system that misses the point
The authors of Dark Alliance define their game as a brawler , so it is no surprise that the combat system takes on a major role. But it is one that is done somewhat simple, perhaps too much, because in broad strokes it goes from combining light attacks with other charged ones plus some abilities with cooldown times. It is true that there are some unlockable techniquesthat more or less give some variety to the matter, but frankly it does not get off the ground at any time. It is a subject subject a bit with tweezers, with a very relative depth that can be defended half because it is true that many light and loaded techniques complement each other well and after all, many other action RPGs are built on the same premises. What doesn’t seem so excusable to me is the fact that the controls feel somewhat clunky.
Some animations are too long or difficult to focus, or involve more than a single hit, so sometimes you end up slicing into the air without rhyme or reason. The most annoying thing is not being able to cancel an animation by rolling or using the lock key, especially when the combat system encourages you to be aggressive – with a combo counter that actually affects some achievements – so in a way or another, the game “forces” you to play thinking about the commitment that each light attack implies. It’s a pretty weird feeling that gets even more unnatural in boss fights.. Saving some like the Beholder or the White Dragon, many opponents waiting at the end of a dungeon are alternative versions of normal creatures and some of them can chain combos so long that there is no choice but to smash the dodge button.
From my perspective, I find that none of the characters that I have played mostly during the writing of the review (Drizzt and Bruenor) feel entirely comfortable. And it’s a real shame, because when things work out, the combat feels good. The enemies are quite varied and rich, the dungeons are full of alternate paths, optional objectives, collectibles, and secrets. It’s always worth a detour because the loot, although it cannot be examined during the mission ( a bug also made by Anthemin its day) this can make a difference even at low levels, as you can read below. The game had it easy to put goblins around and it doesn’t settle for that, which says a lot in favor of the development team. It’s just that it would demand a bit more on a technical level because hordes of enemies are always the same approximate size, and frankly the idea leaves a lot to be desired.
The dungeons are designed by hand, but are highly replayable from the first to the lastThere are some formidable opponents who instantly lose the thread of the game as soon as you step back a few meters, and even fortified units that stare at you like a stunner waiting for their turn to bite the dust. Things can get comical in a moment, but during multiplayer games it can become exasperating. I have had the opportunity to test that option with another person (only one, because the game was not on sale yet) and the lag issues have affected both the interactions with elements of the map and the response of the enemies, which were passing to basically stand idly by. But of course it would be unfair to value the entire online component for such a limited experience: you would do well to take it as a simple annotation to contrast with that of other people.
Loot, gear, and progression
As a fan of looters, one of the sections that excites me the most about Dark Alliance is the loot system and character development – although I am aware that this is all linked to the narrative within the original board game – and frankly , I am not disappointed. It is true that there are points that I have liked more than others, but in general I get good impressions of the subject. The game does well, for example, to be relatively generous . If you do a little exploring and fulfill the optional objectives, at the end of each mission you will have a handful of new items in your inventory, and more importantly, they are interesting and useful items from the first minute.
It is not very uncommon to find items of epic or legendary rarity from the first missions at low levels, and saving the most basic (white) all the others have some other useful affixes. I’ll get into that a bit more shortly, but I think it’s worth adding as well that all the gear pieces you find have the typical set bonuses , which scale up to eight pieces. That means that even if the RNG doesn’t bless you with the affixes you find, you can at least start planning your character starting from sets that scale in critical damage or elemental resistances, to name a few. Also, the mission selectorIt lets you know in advance what armor sets you can expect from each mission, making things easier for you if you don’t mind repeating objectives.
As I was saying, the subject of elemental resistances is pretty well handled here because many other games based on loot progression are so focused on the action that it is often not worth changing your armor just to face this or that mission. Here, on the other hand, you often enter maps full of traps of a very specific element and as you play you have a more or less precise idea of what awaits you, so you can prepare yourself thoroughly if you think it is necessary. I imagine it will become a habit for the most enthusiastic players as they tackle the missions of the higher difficulty modes, a bit Diablo- style .
You don’t rely on RNG alone for loot – you earn it by exploring, and affixes don’t define everythingOn the other hand, keep in mind that the equipment, although important, is not everything for the character sheet (in fact, it only covers passive affixes ) because apart from this we have a handful of basic attributes that govern the main statistics of all the characters and even separate sheets for specialization feats and additional combat techniques that, strangely, can be bought with gold as if it were any merchandise. I said above that the combat system is pretty simplistic in general, and crude too, and although it is definitely appreciated being able to expand the possibilities of the heroes, in reality these do not feel flexible enough to revolutionize what we are doing from the beginning. of the game: they just complement it.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is not a bad game, but rather a good game that lacks a boil. It’s hard to believe that having done the right thing in the dungeon design, RPG mechanics, or charisma of the original board game, the combat feels as bland, plain and crude as it is. I know that there will be some fans capable of appreciating its many benefits, who will enjoy a great time squeezing the character sheet to the missions of the highest difficulty available; but it is also clear to me that most will be disappointed with the controls, the AI and the feeling that it could have been better.