In this Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance Review we’ll be covering our Dark Alliance Impressions and taking an in-depth look at the new Action-RPG game developed by Tuque Games and published by Wizards of the Coast.
Dark Alliance Review Impressions: Is it worth it? Should you buy the Dungeons & Dragons ARPG?
- Genre: Action, Role-Playing, Dungeons
- Developed by: Tuque Games
- Published by: Wizards of the Coast
- Release Date: June 22nd, 2021
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC (Reviewed on PC)
- Price: $39.99 Standard Edition, $59.99 Digital Deluxe Edition
Dark Alliance Review: Story and Setting
Dark Alliance is based on the novel series The Legend of Drizzt written by R.A. Salvatore and set in the Forgotten Realms.
The game is set in the tundra region of Icewind Dale where four Heroes fight to protect the Ten Towns from the forces of evil who have teamed up to secure the Crystal Shard, a powerful artifact that can shift the tides of war.
Having played the original Icewind Dale games, I was very excited to be able to re-visit this icy region again. I was therefore a bit disappointed that the game does not give more of an emphasis to the scenery, even if it delivers an appropriate ambience.
The game focuses on your travels as you explore different dungeons in search for the Cyrstal Shard. The main story unravels at a steady pace as you progress, but each dungeon also features a shorter narrative than one would expect from a D&D game.
Players looking to fully immerse into the story can also find and read a massive amount of additional Lore by finding Tablets, Tomes and Paintings scattered through the dungeons. If you are fan of the series or if you just want to have a better perspective of the world these are a must-read and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering them.
Enemies are very true to their nature and you’ll often overhear their discussions as you approach them. Goblins usually chit-chat about their body-part collections, ogres are always thinking about food and cultists only care about their cult and rituals.
All this said, the game is more focused around gameplay than story, and if you are playing with friends, getting caught up in combat, you will probably wonder where the story is. For this reason, if you want to have a deeper understanding of the game’s narrative, I strongly suggest that you play in single-player mode and take your time while exploring each dungeon to hear all conversations and find all Tables and Tomes.
Dark Alliance Review: Gameplay and Combat
For a Dungeons and Dragon game, Dark Alliance takes a quite different approach, delivering fast-paced combat from a third-person perspective that is somewhat similar to Godfall. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of interesting mechanics in place, I feel that they were not well integrated with each other making the game feel more generic than it actually is.
There is no character creation in Dark Alliance, where you instead pick one of the pre-made characters when you begin the game. I was initially disappointed by this as I really enjoy making my own D&D heroes, but the realization of the characters is quite successful, with distinctive personas, looks and abilities. Characters will also comment on the story and dungeons based on their own personalities, which adds further flair to progression.
It is because of their uniqueness that, having played with all of characters, I would definitively suggest that you do not stick to a single character and instead try all of them as you make your way through the Missions. All of the missions can be completed with starter gear on the beginning difficulty of the game, so this is not an issue.
The gameplay style of each character is varied, as each has its own set of Moves, Abilities, Features and Equipment.
- Bruenor, the Dwarf King of the Battlehammer clan is a tank-type class with a heavy emphasis on defense, allowing you to be a little more reckless.
- Catti-Brie: A Human and Bruenor’s adoptive daughter focuses on agile ranged attacks and crowd, that is very useful for reviving allies
- Drizzt Do’Urden is a Drow Elf who has escaped an evil underground cult. He is very agile and deals immense critical damage from behind, but does not feature good defense.
- Wulfgar is a Reghed barbarian from the Tribe of the Elk, who Bruenor “reformed” through imprisonment. This is a balanced AoE character good for any playstyle
One of the things that I most liked about Dark Alliance is how it separates adventure and progression. You can only upgrade your character or change your equipment while you are in the main Hub. This means that you’ll earn experience by completing Missions and defeating enemies, but you won’t be granted experience points until you finish said mission. Same thing goes for Equipment, as you’ll be able to find Loot during your missions but you won’t be able to see their properties or equip it until you return to the main hub, similar to Destiny’s “Ciphers”.
These mechanics makes for much more fluid gameplay as other people won’t stop in the middle of the Dungeon to level up their characters or check what loot they just got. It also encourages you to finish the Dungeon to check all the loot and rewards you have unlocked.
Because all coop games make you argue with your friends about who carried who through the dungeon, an overview screen appears afterwards where you can compare your performance against theirs. Then, everyone is back to the main hub where you can check your stats, equip your new items and relax a little bit.
Character Progression is an integral part of D&D, and Dark Alliance does not do a very good job in this regard.
Each time you level up you’ll obtain Attribute and Feature points that can be used to enhance your character. Moves and Consumables are unlocked with gold that you earn by completing Missions and equipment can only be acquired as loot. Beyond your initial playthrough, most of these choices end up being irrelevant as you’ll eventually unlock everything at max level anyway.
All 6 classic attributes, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma are present in the game. Each of them has a different impact on your character increasing either Attack or Defense. Attribute Points cannot be re-distributed and are the only meaningful choice that you’ll make as you won’t be able to max out all of them.
Equipment: Let’s talk Loot!
Equipment is a key aspect of the game and your performance will heavily depend on your equipped items. All characters share the same amount and type of slots, but most sets (with the exception of resistance sets) are exclusive for each class. The developers revealed that each class has 12 sets, with two free DLCs coming this summer, and fall slated to add more. Sets add incremental benefits to your character per piece equipped, so you will want to pick the best bonuses and match them around, which is fun.
Equipment pieces have four main stats: Set, Rarity, Rank and Level. All equipment drops at level 1 and can be upgraded to level 3, but you can’t change an equipment’s rarity or rank, meaning that you’ll have to find new gear as you advance through the different difficulty levels.
One very cool aspect of equipment is that each piece has its own appearance, modifying how your character looks. In addition, they also feature many different Skins, providing plenty of customization and fashion opportunities – and all of this is done with gold (the in-game currency). There aren’t any type of micro-transactions in the game, so being able to fully customize my character without having to spend any additional money is a good feeling after so many games gate cosmetics behind a paywall.
Combat & Difficulty
Combat in Dark Alliance is fast and engaging. Each enemy pack is composed of different creatures and knowing which of them you need to take out first is important. The environment also plays a role, as you’ll often need to deal with hazards or explosive barrels that can be used to deal damage to both enemies and your party.
At first, I really enjoyed fighting against packs of enemies while I charged my ultimate bar to then unleash a glorious finisher. I really felt that I was getting better at the game and ready for the next difficulty, but unfortunately I seemed to hit a wall when upping it.
Generally, higher difficulty levels means more enemies, better AI and more challenge, but in Dark Alliance it means being nearly one-shotted by almost any enemy, because the difficulty is structured around your equipment rather than your skill.
While in the first difficulty mode an enemy hit would take around 10% of my hp, the same attack from the same enemy on difficulty 2 will take 40% of my hp, and a boss would one-shot me, meaning that my skill was not that important, my gear was.
This made me realize how the flow of the single-player game really is. You are supposed to grind level 1 difficulty to get better gear, then use gold to upgrade your gear to level 3. Once your equipment is capped at level 3 you’ll be able to efficiently farm the second difficulty. You then need to farm for rank 2 armor and upgrade it to level 3 to face the next difficulty and so on.
While this is a popular difficulty layout in some isometric action-RPGs, there are many major flaws with this progression mechanic in Dark Alliance. First, all Sets can drop on all ranks, meaning that you won’t be getting new or better sets as you progress through the ranks, but rather better stats on the same sets. Second, you’ll be forced to replace your equipment because it becomes obsolete very quick, making you ultimately not care about your equipment at all.
But the worst part is that I was left wondering why try a higher difficulty at all, if I was not going to find any new sets, or get better, but rather just get better stats for the same gear I already have by playing the same missions I’ve already played.
I found this demotivating, but it will probably not feel as grindy to those playing multiplayer since they’ll have friends to hang out with. Fortunately, difficulty scaling is one of those things that can be balanced from player feedback, so it’s possible that this will be addressed in a future patch.
Dark Alliance Review: Design, Visual &Audio
Dark Alliance features good but not great graphics that work well for the game’s setting and artistic vision. Environments are well constructed, and you can get the overall impression of Icewind Dale as you delve into the dungeons.
Enemy designs and character models are very good, and Armor feels and looks great, matching the style of each character.
In terms of performance the game runs smoothly and I did not face any major issues, so players should not expect to see game breaking bugs or significant glitches, which is always a plus in modern gaming.
I loved the soundtrack for the game, which feels very appropriate and sets the right atmosphere for such an epic adventure. The audio quality is also very good and you will likely notice it during both combat and exploration, as it adds an intangible “something” to the game. Voiceovers are an above-average experience, so you can expect to be entertained by character and enemy conversations without any cringe.
Dark Alliance Review: Replayability & Multiplayer
Dark Alliance features a campaign that will likely take you about 15 hours to complete without rushing. This is not a lot of gameplay, but the game is focused on repeated plays to get more loot or experience the other characters, as well as dabbling in multiplayer.
Unlike Godfall, Dark Alliance is launching with dedicated Matchmaking – and playing this game with others is certainly the way to enjoy it most. If you have friends or loved ones and are looking for a good co-op RPG experience, Dark Alliance will probably deliver just that. This could extend those 15 hours well into 20, 40 or more, depending on how much you enjoy the dungeon delving.
Dark Alliance Review: Pricepoint
Dark Alliance is launching for USD 39 – which is USD 20 less than an average PS4 game, and almost half of what other Playstation 5 titles are charging. The reason behind this price point is likely the short campaign and limited content, although the developers have already promised two Free DLCs that will add new levels and difficulties (and presumably new loot).
Given that the game has no microtransactions, you can really confirm that “what you see is what you get” and dive in based on your own appraisal of whether what you see is worth it to you. This will likely depend on whether you’re looking for a fun experience with friends or are expecting a serious RPG.
And of course, the game is included day one as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, so it is likely a no-brainer for D&D, Action and RPG fans looking to check it out on that platform.
Dark Alliance Review: Final Thoughts
Dark Alliance takes a different approach to the Dungeons and Dragons franchise by delivering a third-person Action-RPG that is more focused on fast-paced multiplayer than exploring a D&D world on your own.
If you are looking for something fun to play with your friends while you accumulate loot and unlock fancy moves, I would highly recommend that you try it out, but if you are interested in complex RPG mechanics or are looking to play solo, I would suggest you wait for a sale as your experience likely will not match the price.
We had fun with our time with the game despite some of its flaws, so you can look forward to a Build guide for each character, as well as a wealth of information that we have recorded on the Dark Alliance wiki.
If you want more reviews be sure to check out next Ninja Gaiden Master Collection: Is It Worth It? Review Impressions Of This Sekiro Souls DMC Before Nioh and The Elder Scrolls Online – Blackwood Chapter & Update 30 Review.