Dungeon & Dragons is a fun game. You can build your own hero and delve into a world of mystery and combat coming out on the other side as a hero. But what if you don’t want to imagine all of that stuff in your brain? Well, Dark Alliance promises a more focused D&D experience, complete with pictures. I mean, it promises this, but it does fumble the delivery a little.
Okay, so this game is buggy. There’s no way around that. Playing with friends more often that not results in someone being dropped from the game, losing any loot they had collected in that run, then being unable to rejoin until the host resets the session. And that…sucks. I wants my loot, Dark Alliance, Drizzt Do’Urden has been running around with default bracers because you keep kicking me from the game. What’s up with that? Also, Dark Alliance, would you mind not preventing me from using my abilities, and also resetting my controller to default settings? ‘Cause that’d be swell.
Anywho, with that out of my system, I kinda dig this game. It’s fun. Ignoring the connection issues that will (hopefully) be patched, the gameplay is enjoyable—especially with a full party. Running around as D&D lore characters in Icewind Dale (the only level we managed to complete without issue) was cool, as was seeing a visual interpretation of these elements in motion. I mean, I’m all for imagination and building your own personal interpretation of the lore, but it’s still cool to see all of the pieces on screen. Plus, this is one of those games that actually adjusts your character model when you acquire new gear—which I always enjoy—furthering the notion that your looting ways are beneficial…and make you look like a fashion nightmare.
So, is Dark Alliance good? Maybe. I know that’s a bit non-committal, but I’m really not sure. The parts that actually worked were fun and made me want to play more, but the parts that worked were few and far between. Which sucks. So basically, wait a bit. When this game gets patched, give it a go. Until then, play some traditional Dungeons & Dragons. It’s fun, and you can tweak the rules to suit your group…assuming your DM is cool and not hung up on rules as written. All I’m saying is that there could totally be mechs in a fantasy world, and I will fight a source book to support that belief.
As probably the least well-versed of the SnapThirty team when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons lore, I went into Dark Alliance as pretty much a blank slate. While I knew nothing of the lore of Dungeons & Dragons, I found myself quickly immersed in the world of Dark Alliance and its four heroes. I could go into detail about the bugs and glitches that I encountered, and believe me they were quite plentiful, but I’m going to look at the positive aspects of Dark Alliance. The biggest positive of this game, to me, was the rich detail of the world both graphically and plot-wise. There was a multitude of fine details to the plot and characters themselves, and the game explored them in a simple yet intriguing manner without hitting you over the head with exposition and endless dialogue. Furthermore, the visuals of the game are quite a sight to behold. I often found myself running off ahead of my crew just out of sheer delight to explore every inch of the world.
I found the gameplay to be straightforward and very easy to grasp. The only concept that went over my head was the small ice that apparently hurts you. I thought this was just a visual aspect of the terrain. As it turns out, I done goofed and got myself killed on multiple occasions at the hands of my icy foe. That said, the game is very accessible and there is plenty of controller customisation to be done should you desire to do so.
What ultimately stood out to me the most out of my experience with Dark Alliance was that it was, despite its bugs and glitches, a very fun game. The game has somewhat of an addictive nature to it and the combat is very satisfying. For a game that I had multiple disconnection issues with, I found myself eager more and more each time to continue playing the game simply because of how much fun it is at its core. Once this game is patched and the issues are fixed, this will no doubt be an incredible and very enjoyable game. The foundation of greatness is there, it just needs that final coat of polish.
I feel like Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is like a cake masterpiece where some ingredients had to be substituted and the cake was taken out of the oven a bit too early. It looks brilliant, the cake is solid and moist—sweet even—but it has an odd aftertaste…and someone keeps taking the piece of cake away for me just as I’m starting to enjoy it.
Let me explain. The visual design of the game is stunning and, despite my tabletop D&D experiences being completely in the theatre of the mind, connects like-for-like in how I pictured the D&D world to be. From the molten-lava-encrusted underground of the dark dwarves to the Goblin Pits. The combat animations feel smooth and flashy too; but, from there, that’s when the cake starts to go a tad off.
Sometimes my attacks or dodges wouldn’t properly register during heated moments of combat. A tad annoying, but I can deal with this, and it seems like it would be an easy fix/tweak. The AI combat feels like it’s working in a turn-based manner while my party is working real time, which is easily hidden when working against higher level enemies but bares its teeth when you occasionally get one-shot unexpectedly. The thing that frustrated me most about the game was the disconnects. Each mission the SnapTeam and I played, at least one person was randomly disconnected from the party. And they weren’t able to rejoin. And they didn’t get any of the gear they picked up along the way. This is one of the biggest issues we faced, and the one that made me not want to play anymore.
Which is a pity because, despite the issues listed above, the game seems like a fun four-player co-op game. It just needs more time to bake. Improve the AI, fix the critical bugs and (most importantly) the issue with the net code, and I can see a great game. Truly a diamond in the rough that could achieve enjoyment levels similar to how I feel about the Warhammer: Vermintide or Divinity Original Sin series. I don’t see myself playing this much at this current state, but I am very hopeful for the dev team to improve it over the coming months. Then I will be back, with my hours possibly upped to the triple digits.
The basis of D&D: Dark Alliance is spectacular—both in lore and gameplay. I love what the game is trying to provide to the player. It is as if someone took Vermintide-ish gameplay mechanics and intertwined it with some D&D lore. The keyword here though is “trying”. The game thrives in its multiplayer environment when it functions as intended, but that was a rare occurrence. I don’t want to only focus on the negatives, but I will mention them first and get them out of the way so I can discuss the stuff I enjoyed.
Firstly: bugs, bugs, bugs galore. Like, I’m talking random disconnections from your party, settings for audio in the menu constantly resetting to the default randomly (consequently causing the audio to be deafeningly loud), abilities and ultimate moves becoming unusable mid-way through a level, many visual glitches, and poor AI. I could clearly see the potential the game had underneath all this, and kept playing for hours despite having to play around these issues. The problem here is the game is best when played in a multiplayer format with a group of friends, but with how many issues we encountered we eventually gave up. Many of us got disconnected, even once during the end-boss battle; we were booted to the menu screen with nothing to show for the last hour of battle. It was extremely discouraging and, by this point, our resolve to keep fighting these issues caved. We stopped playing.
But, all this being said, there are glimpses of really cool things in between all the mess. The lore and characters are interesting; being based within the D&D universe really had us interested from the start. The abilities are really satisfying and the satisfaction of downing a boss when playing on a higher difficulty and escaping with some substantial upgrades is there, and made me want to keep playing for more. Graphically, the game is vibrant and easy to look at. I really enjoyed learning the mechanics of making it through levels, including finding out what would harm and hinder us, and how to gain resistances to counteract this. There is so much potential, but all of it squandered by a simple inability to play the game at even a basic level. In its current form, the game requires a lot of patching. I cannot recommend the game in its current state, as I feel as though even its potential isn’t enough to save the player from the disappointment of what seems to be a lack of quality testing in the development stage.