Baldur’s Gate is a name that evokes childlike nostalgia for many, bringing to mind the dominance of Dark Alliance in the action RPG space on the consoles of yesteryear. Specifically, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is a title that often arises in discussions regarding the peaks of the genre during the sixth console generation. The 2004 RPG enthralled us with its hack ‘n’ slash adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons world, letting us take control of heroes including the necromancer Ysuran Auondril and the ever-popular drow Drizzt Do’Urden. Fast forward nearly two decades since the original release of Black Isle Studios’ beloved game and we are now being provided a blast from the past in the form of a Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 re-release on modern platforms.
As a game from a bygone era, its ability to entertain in the modern day is largely dependent on the already highlighted topic of nostalgia. Those diving back into Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 on newer platforms will likely feel the addictive swell of joy course through them as they are transported back to a much different time in the gaming industry (and in their own lives as well). Anyone deciding to give the classic a go for the first time is likely going to have a much different experience, one whose flaws aren’t obscured by rose-tinted glasses. Not all gems age gracefully over time.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 places players in the role of one of several starting heroes: Dorn Redbear (human barbarian), Vhaidra Uowiir (drow monk), Ysuran Auondril (moon elf necromancer), Borador “Goldhand” (dwarven rogue) and Allesia Faithhammer (human cleric). The heroes are entrenched in a relatively straightforward campaign that sees the protagonists of the previous game captured by the nefarious vampire, Mordoc. It doesn’t take long for the new adventurers to become embroiled in this plot, traveling through and around the city of Baldur’s Gate. The environmental tones do well to reinforce the grim situation, even if the story itself fails to captivate.
The hack ‘n’ slash combat at the core of the gameplay experience has not aged terribly well. Either that can be viewed as faithful preservation or an uninspired re-release. While we have to keep our expectations in line for this simple remaster, it also sits as a stark reminder of how far gaming has come in the past eighteen years. For this reason, those with fond memories of the action RPG are more prone to overlook these modern-day deficiencies in the name of nostalgia, but even then it can be difficult to avoid acknowledging during extended sessions. Often times melee characters will be hacking away at an enemy and suddenly have the strikes miss their very close opponent. This requires slight repositioning to get those hits back in before your own health is depleted.
Characters such as the necromancer fare slightly better due to their ranged combat, but even then the limitations of the original hardware don’t foster the type of powerful gameplay one might expect from a fantasy adventure. For example, the necromancer can only summon a single undead follower instead of raising a small army. Again, this is not a jab against the game for maintaining its limitations from 2004, but rather the information is highlighted to drive home the basic nature of this particular remaster effort.
The remaster of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is as simple as it gets. Higher framerate and resolution support go a ways to enhancing the original experience, but it can hardly be called transformative. It sits alongside other re-releases, such as Blizzard’s remaster, Diablo 2: Resurrected, which also relied heavily on prior familiarity to maximize the fun factor. Dark Alliance 2 still looks like a title yanked from the past largely as-is. For some, that is all that is desired. But not everyone is going to find the rougher edges endearing. At least the format allows for sessionable gameplay, encouraging players to jump in and knock out some levels at their leisure.
Taking on the wide array of missions, side quests and general loot/stat leveling can be an engaging endeavor, and it is further elevated by the reintroduction of cooperative play. Two players can tackle the entire campaign in co-op, but just like the rest of the game this feature is shackled by the restraints of the game’s original form. 2-player co-op is restricted to local play, meaning you and a friend will have to return to the old school approach of sitting side-by-side in front of the TV. Online play is nonexistent and, quite honestly, a missed opportunity to further revitalize Dark Alliance 2.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 Review Verdict
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2: All in all, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is exactly as you remember it, for better or worse. This remaster is not a transformative effort; it simply exists to bring the original experience to a new generation of platforms and players. If you long to return to simpler times and dive into an experience that has gone mostly unmodified, this is absolutely worth picking up. For everyone else unburdened by nostalgic cravings, there are more fleshed out remasters and modern aRPGs vying for your attention. – Joshua