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Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (PlayStation 2) artwork

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (PlayStation 2) review

"Mordoc illustrates he's smarter than everyone, which proves to be a mistake, as that sort of tomfoolery will DEFINITELY turn your attention towards him. Also, there are a couple of optional areas you can raid for treasure and each character has his or her own specific side quest. All in all, you'll spend a good number of hours killing stuff and collecting treasure."

When it comes to gaming, I usually am reasonably content as long as I'm can kill stuff on a pretty regular basis. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II satisfies that urge. Players can rid the lands around the city of Baldur's Gate of virtually every single being with a pulse (or without...pesky undead). It's glorious! So long, band of goblin raiders! Meet your maker, cave-dwelling troll clan! Back to the soil, army of reanimated corpses! It's pure heaven for the homicidal mind!


Now that I've calmed down, let's just say that Dark Alliance II has a way of satisfying homicidal urges. The game's a decent bit larger than its predecessor and each of its regions are TEEMING with various enemy types. Players have the choice of five different characters, as opposed to the three available in the original Dark Alliance. As for those original three; they're in a bit of a pickle. After stepping through some magic gate at the end of the first game, they open the proceedings in the sequel by being captured by Mordoc, a sinister vampire boasting both a really deep voice and a plan to take over the world.

So, with our original heroes out of the picture, we need new guys (and gals). A player (or two in cooperative mode) can pick from a barbarian, necromancer, monk, thief and cleric and begin trekking to the city of Baldur's Gate, which will be reached as soon as a clan of goblin bandits has been exterminated and a caravan owner and small village have been saved from the creeps.

Once in Baldur's Gate, you do a few quests which grant you the attention of the Harpers, who then employ you as an ally against the evil Zhentarim. Mordoc illustrates he's smarter than everyone, which proves to be a mistake, as that sort of tomfoolery will DEFINITELY turn your attention towards him. Also, there are a couple of optional areas you can raid for treasure and each character has his or her own specific side quest. All in all, you'll spend a good number of hours killing stuff and collecting treasure.

And by killing stuff and completing quests, you'll gain levels and be able to power up your character even more. You can put points into passive abilities (such as increasing your damage, how much treasure you can hold or how quickly life regenerates), spells and special attacks; which allows you to customize your character to a degree.

Just don't play as the barbarian if you're going solo.

I made that mistake. While other characters seemed to have a multitude of interesting skills, virtually everything this burly brawler could divvy points into seemed to be a passive ability that improved his attack, defense, health, etc. I think he only had either three or four skills that you could actually activate during battle and only one which I really found particularly useful (the bonus attacking ability granted for going into a berserker rage more than makes up for the loss of armor class). A far cry from the vast book of spells that some characters have. Now, I could see the barbarian being a good guy to team with the necromancer in a two-player game, as he'd be great at tearing into foes in melee combat while the frail mage kept out of harm's way and alternated between summoning undead and casting various magic arrow spells. In a solo game, though...

Hack, hack, hack; slash, slash, slash. Mix in the occasional quaffing of health potions and that's what I spent a good dozen or more hours doing. No strategy came into play. I just overwhelmed everything with pure physical might...because that was all I had. Sure, it's realistic to expect a barbarian to be a one-dimensional brute, but that doesn't make controlling him an amazingly awesome experience. Especially if you consider that Dark Alliance II is a pretty repetitive game where the fun is in exploring the various skills and abilities at your disposal and seeing if you can find 1,001 ways to turn an orc into strips of bacon. I had a great time with the barbarian until I'd done a couple of the game's four chapters and the never-ending hacking and slashing started to really wear on me. With a different, more versatile, character, that likely wouldn't become an issue, but when all I'm doing is tapping a button repeatedly to make my guy constantly swing his really big axe with a lot of brute force, I start getting negative impressions about things.

Such as how each type of cannon-fodder enemy is essentially the same. Whether they be goblins, orcs, sahaguins or troglodytes, they only seem to differ in appearance. Regardless of the species, you'll encounter melee fighters, archers and mages. And you'll be fighting them constantly while going through these vast collections of rooms and corridors that tend to only differentiate from each other in how they're drawn (although some, such as the temple of the sahaguins with its Lovecraftian vibe, are cool). If the game gives you a break from those creatures, you'll likely be in a dungeon teeming with countless skeletons and zombies. There are a number of cool larger monsters, such as the Oversized Appalachians (also known as hill giants) and many of the game's bosses, but they are rare attractions amidst the near-infinite horde of more generic foes.

I had a good deal of fun playing Dark Alliance II, but as I was nearing its conclusion, I was more than ready to finish things off and put something else in my PS2. Part of the problem was that I simply was unlucky and picked the least interesting character for a solo quest, but the game also has a bunch of enemies who all act the same littering dungeons that tended to blend together after a while. I can still see me playing it again in the future, though, if for no other reason than to experience combat through the use of a more diverse character that can't rely on mindless aggression. I doubt I'd be noticing the repetitive nature of things if I was being forced to use tactics more complicated than "run up to those guys and swing my axe until I'm the last man standing", but with the barbarian, that's pretty much all you get.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 12, 2010)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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EmP posted June 12, 2010:

When it comes to gaming, I usually am reasonably content as long as I'm can kill stuffl

Why do you hate stuffl, OD? He only has nice things to say about you.
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overdrive posted June 12, 2010:

Ahh, good catch. Sorry 'bout that, Stuffl!
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wolfqueen001 posted June 12, 2010:

Hilariously, you both missed the grammar mistake in that very same sentence at almost the exact same spot.
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WilltheGreat posted June 12, 2010:

OD is secretly EmP.
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overdrive posted June 12, 2010:

I hate everyone.

Goes to show that I need to be more careful when redoing a sentence with all the botches that I wound up having.
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Suskie posted June 12, 2010:

Hilariously, you both missed the grammar mistake in that very same sentence at almost the exact same spot.

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zippdementia posted June 12, 2010:

That having now been said, I don't find this review very relevant. I would really like it if you could convince me more that Baldur's Gate whatever is something that I should be interested in reading about.

Just kidding.

Actually, I really like this review. I like the fact that you talked about what's wrong with the game through the interesting approach of telling us why playing as a Barbarian sucked. It kind of tells a story about your gaming experience and that kept me very interested throughout the review.

There's some distracting waffling, such as saying that you didn't have a lot of fun but you'd like to try it again, which gives the sense that you don't know what to think about the game.

Oh, and did you mean this sentence to read like this?

"... they open the second by being captured by Mordoc, a sinister vampire boasting both a really deep voice and a plan to take over the world."

Do they open the gate by being captured? I'm confused...
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stuffl posted June 13, 2010:

Despite your open wish for my demise, I will accept your apology. I'll also say that while the review convincingly covers the game's basic, I feel the focus of the first half is all on a story that, really, is just there to give you an excuse to slaughter more things (that you pretend is me) and then, when the review progresses, that focus is lost and you become quite vague. I would like to hear more on the other classes, what they actually are, an what their abilities are and how they all ineract.
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overdrive posted June 13, 2010:

Some good advice there from Zipp and my friend/nemesis Stuffl. In the interest of RotW fairness, I will act on nothing until the results are up.

Zipp: I meant to say "second game" for that one sentence you quoted. And I'll emphasize that I was trying to say that I've played games like this, such as the first BG: DA (on two systems!...PROTIP: NEVER play the GBA port) and Champions of Norrath, on the PS2 and know they're fun with good characters, but not so fun with one-dimensional hack/slash dudes, at least while going solo.

Stuffl: Very good point. I won't stretch out the review by detailing every character, but I will use the part where I mention how the barbarian makes a good partner for a character like the necromancer to detail that character's skills in some detail.
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sashanan posted June 14, 2010:

This seems like as good a place as any to plug the modern reimagining of the Bard's Tale (2004 I think it was) for a solid single player experience using the same mechanics as the Dark Alliances, the Norraths etc. It had me in stitches, at least. *shrug*
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overdrive posted June 14, 2010:

One of these days, I might have to look up that Bard's Tale game. I remember thinking it looked interesting when it came out, but I never got around to picking it up.
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aschultz posted June 15, 2010:

RotW stuff:

Opening sentence: I do not like this 3 adverbs as a way of introduction! It's like trying to emphasize your understatedness. Part of this may be style, but if you submit a review on my RotW, you may know I find this style potentially unpalatable. If you don't worry who is writing RotW when you write something, that is also good, and I'd be flattered if you may be using me as a sounding board to get it right. But I still reserve my right to frown vaguely at any individual instances that upset me!

And overall I did have to look for instances. The barbarian's story with your own cautionary tale--why it worked but still wasn't fun--is good. Perhaps it's a bit too reductionist, but it shows up the fatigue I have in a lot of RPGs where the story isn't really advancing and the enemies can be swapped.

So this review does some neat stuff, even if I think you're too dogmatically linked to the slightly slaphappy presentation and style which feels like it loses control of itself. While it's certainly fun, perhaps some more sober observation earlier might've kept it from running away at times. Otherwise it feels like someone who laughs at his own jokes a bit too much, and you stop caring whether the jokes are good. I think it's interesting you had the time to see how fights would be more rewarding with other classes and you realized that. My preference would be for more of that. And I think maybe you could justify the 7 a bit better--it sounds like there are a lot of standard AD&D components, but you believe the game works for all that, though I'm not entirely sure why. I'm curious to know. You have enough funny bits that more serious stuff won't seem dry.
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overdrive posted June 16, 2010:

Made a few minor alterations. Didn't feel like any ambitious revamping, but hopefully at least kinda addressed some issues people mentioned.

And then had to make a tiny re-edit, as I accidentally re-inserted my wish to kill poor stuffl.
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overdrive posted June 16, 2010:

Thank you for that critique, ASchultz. Very in-depth and helpful to me. To address a couple of points.

1. When writing a review, I really don't consider who may be judging it. If it's a big Alphaolympic/Summer Team Tourney sort of thing, I might agonize over how I phrase things more, but I tend to find my voice for that particular game and run with it, regardless of who will be determining the worth of the review for a contest.

2. I completely understand what you're saying with the (can't remember your exact words) "think you're funnier than you actually are" bit. That may be my biggest weakness AND strength. I throw a lot of abstract shit into my reviews that can only be described as "Rob has a buzz (or has had so many that he's really kinda buzzed all the time regardless) and thought this was a kickass line!" sort of deal. They work for others a good amount of time, but don't work a decent amount of time, as well. It's kind of my personal style that I'm essentially conversing informally with the reader, which really does lead to a sort of flippant, "look how witty I am" sort of style.
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shotgunnova posted June 25, 2010:

8/10 review

-1 for opening line
-1 not mentioning Bloodmire Manor (criminal!)

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