Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 was originally released in 2004 by developer Black Isle Studios and publisher Interplay Entertainment for the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. It was released as a spin-off of the popular Baldur’s Gate CRPGs on PC but adapted the gameplay to an action-RPG style similar to Diablo to be more controller friendly. Now, a re-release has slightly touched the game up and brought it to PC for the very first time for fans to take a trip down memory lane in the city of Baldur’s Gate.
Right up front, it is safe to say that if you’re a fan of the game’s original release, you’ll find a lot to love in the newest version. However, if you’re a newcomer to the game, it is a bit of a harder sell. Players have five classes to choose from, with two being unlocked after beating the game on normal and then extreme difficulty. Each class has a specific character, allowing players to select from Dungeons & Dragons classics like Cleric, Assassin, Rogue, Barbarian, Ranger, Monk, and Necromancer.
Each class has different starting abilities and a list of spells or proficiencies to pick from and level up as your character progresses. Dark Alliance 2’s leveling system is a double-edged sword. It does a great job of giving players options and choices to make for how they want to play the game. Each class has multiple builds that are more than capable of managing the game on most difficulties, especially spellcasting classes.
The negative side of the game’s leveling is also largely one of taste. Compared to more modern entries in the genre like Diablo, Torchlight, or Path of Exile, the combat and builds in Dark Alliance 2 are both slow and comparatively mundane. If you’re an ARPG player that looks for extremely deep builds with abilities saturated in particle effects, effect chains, and massive hordes of enemies, you’ll likely find the combat here pretty dull. If you don’t mind a slower, more methodical approach, however, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in the game’s tamer and slower gameplay.
If you want an interesting story to help push your RPG along, there isn’t much here for you. The story is incredibly basic and told in some of the clunkiest cutscenes in recent memory. The cutscenes that deliver the story feature flat camerawork, stilted dialogue, and the plot points of a fledgling Dungeon Master making their first ever homebrew campaign. When players first arrive at Baldur’s Gate, they are treated to their first look at the game’s villains, and if you extrapolate from there, it is easy to predict every plot point waiting for you.
However, Dark Alliance 2 does have some really great voice acting that makes more minor interactions much more fun. These help keep the game moving, and the pleasure of the gameplay ensures that the lackluster story does little to dissuade your enjoyment.
Dark Alliance 2 also has a fun mechanic that allows players to make their own magical equipment. Of course, there is still plenty of grinding to get the perfect runes you’re looking for, but it opens up many more options for players to customize their builds and experiment along the way. Combined with tying together various spells, the magic equipment system makes for some great customization options that improve replayability and motivate players to tackle harder difficulties.
As a re-release, however, Dark Alliance 2 leaves much to be desired. The graphics are only slightly improved alongside a resolution increase up to native 4K. There is a lot of charm in the graphics and some really great visuals, though, so this works in the game’s favor. The main issues with the re-release come from the technical side of things.
First and foremost, the game supports a two-player co-op but does not have online functionality. If you play on a PC as I did, you can use Steam Remote Play to play with a distant friend, but this brings its own suite of latency and desync issues. It also leaves console players ultimately without online support, which is ridiculous for a modern game release. The feature may be added via a patch in the future, but I don’t find that very likely as it wasn’t included in the re-release of its predecessor.
Then, there is the issue of the game’s menus. While cluttered, they preserve the visuals of the original release, which isn’t a problem, but PC navigation of the menus is an absolute nightmare. This is because there is no rhyme or reason as to whether each individual page is navigated with the arrow keys and hitting enter or simply using the mouse. The game’s main menu uses the mouse, but the character selection is arrow keys only. The in-game pause menu is mouse-friendly, but once you get to the options, you have to switch back to the arrow keys. Constantly going back and forth is a frustrating hassle, and it comes up consistently throughout a playthrough.
Overall, if you’re already a fan of Dark Alliance 2, you’ve probably either already picked the game up or were hoping to. If that’s you, I suspect you’ll have a really great time revisiting the classic. However, if you’re a new player, there is a really solid experience to find here as long as your expectations are tempered. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 has such solid gameplay and player options that it is no wonder it is as revered to this day as it is. Unfortunately, some more shoddy aspects of the re-release drag it down.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2
There is a really solid experience to find here as long as your expectations are tempered. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 has such solid gameplay and player options that it is no wonder it is as revered to this day as it is. Unfortunately, some shoddy aspects of the re-release drag it down.