Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is a game I hold very, VERY, fondly in my memory, and it’s one I frequently re-visit. Heck, it was only last year that I got my old PlayStation 2 out to play through the adventure with a friend once more – I had as good of a time then as I did when the game originally released all the way back in 2001. With that in mind, I was especially excited for the re-release. Whilst it initially shadow dropped on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One earlier in May though, the Nintendo Switch version saw a bit of a delay until later in the month. It made me a little bit worried… was the delay because the Switch version was going to be a dud?
Well, I’ve played through the game and I’m happy to report that it certainly isn’t the case. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance on the Nintendo Switch is a great way to re-live the dungeon-crawler all over again, whether that’s on the go in the console’s handheld mode or when blasting through some sewers and killing rats with a friend on your TV.
Check out a gallery of the game’s screenshots below:
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance’s tale tells of an adventurer that arrives in the city of Baldur’s Gate and finds themselves robbed of all of their belongings by a group of thieves led by a mysterious masked man. Fortunately, the city guards come to their rescue before any lasting damage can be done, but it does leave them in the sticky situation of being without any gold and, of course, wanting revenge. Luckily, the local bar tender is looking for someone to clear out some rats in the cellar – sounds like the perfect job for an adventurer, right?
Things take an interesting turn from there when it is discovered that the sewers underneath the city have been taken over by those thieves, with nefarious scheming taking place that threatens the whole of the land. Again, it’s another perfect job for an adventurer to handle…
The whole tale is very by the numbers as far as Dungeons and Dragons-style storytelling is concerned, but it offers more than enough to keep players invested in the adventure as they venture further across the land. It brings with it plenty of interesting characters to interact with and even takes some twists-and-turns in the closing chapters, with nothing about the story ever feeling boring by any means. There’s some great voice acting on show throughout too, which adds to the cinematic presentation and means you’ll be doing more than just reading lots and lots of text.
“The whole tale is very by the numbers as far as Dungeons and Dragons-style storytelling is concerned, but it offers more than enough to keep players invested in the adventure…”
Gameplay-wise, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance plays like your traditional dungeon-crawler. Players will choose between one of three different characters, with the dwarven fighter Kromlech, the human archer Vahn, and the elven sorceress Adrianna making up the cast. Each bring something different to the table, so it’s worth playing around with the three to see which suits you best. Personally? I love playing as Adrianna thanks to her varied magic abilities, but there’s something satisfying about dishing out some heavy up-close damage as Kromlech too.
The dungeons you venture across will send you to plenty of intriguing locales across the game, with the likes of the early sewers you visit joined by derelict crypts, dwarven mines, and icy mountains, just to name a few. They’re all fairly expansive in design too, though they can feel a little linear. Whilst there are some optional areas to explore (which are often tied to some of the game’s side quests), they never feel overly intricate in design or demand extra exploration. It’s not a complaint by any means, especially since it does streamline the experience to focus on bashing up enemies and gathering loot, but it might be a bit disappointing for those who have played modern titles in the genre which emphasise exploration a bit more.
“It should be stated that Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance isn’t an easy game by any means, so there’s definitely a demand for strategic thinking for each showdown.”
With plenty of different enemies to kill, items to grab, and experience points to be earned though, you won’t tire of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance’s dungeon-crawling fast. Some of the boss battles in particular stand out as feeling quite spectacular, though getting surrounded by a mob of enemies can be equally exciting too. It should be stated that Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance isn’t an easy game by any means, so there’s definitely a demand for strategic thinking for each showdown – this might mean picking the right skills to use, knowing when to isolate enemies, or simply running away when the going gets tough. It might sound overwhelming, but it starts to feel like second nature when you expand your character’s capabilities and gear.
Whilst new armour and weapons are plentiful in the game (and change up your appearance, which is always appreciated), it’s the levelling up system that helps shape how your character plays the most. Depending on who you choose, there are multiple abilities and stats to improve, whether that’s when increasing your HP, improving your health regeneration, or unlocking a new spell to unleash on foes. Believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying than unlocking new spells when playing as Adrianna, with things like her Burning Hands, the Ball of Lightning, the Meteor Swarm, and, of course, Magic Missile, proving VERY effective when taking down enemies. It’s an intuitive system that allows you to shape your character in your own little ways, with each ability making you feel that little bit more powerful each time.
“With plenty of different enemies to kill, items to grab, and experience points to be earned, you won’t tire of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance’s dungeon-crawling fast.”
It’s clear that Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance offers everything you’d expect from a dungeon-crawler, but it is worth noting that it originally released back in 2001; this means you can expect some aspects of the gameplay to feel a little bit dated in places. Nothing is ever bad by any means, but the linearity of the dungeon design and the simple combat mechanics do see it falling short of the standards set by modern counterparts. Those who didn’t experience the game back when it originally released might be left wondering what all of the fuss was about in the first place, with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance not doing anything TOO extravagant.
You know what, though? It didn’t make the adventure any less compelling for me. I’ve spent a TON of hours with the game over the years and it still holds up so well today, even IF it isn’t as intricate or fine-tuned as other releases in the genre. The port on the Nintendo Switch is a really impressive one too, with the frame rate remaining at a consistent 60fps throughout and rarely seeing any drops – both in single player and local co-op play. The visuals look decent too thanks to their HD lick of paint, though it’s clear you are playing a game that started life as a PlayStation 2 title thanks to some basic character models and textures. Still, some of the enemies still look impressive today, whilst I’ll ALWAYS love the water effects.
“The port on the Nintendo Switch is a really impressive one too, with the frame rate remaining at a consistent 60fps throughout and rarely seeing any drops.”
Despite the solid performance, it’s hard to not feel a bit disappointed that more wasn’t added. The publisher was clear in stating that it’s a re-release as opposed to a remaster, but additions like online play or some revamped textures here and there really wouldn’t have gone amiss. It wouldn’t be so bad if it had a lower price point, but at £29.99 players might expect a little bit more – especially since it’s a twenty-year-old game now.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance does feel its age in places, but that doesn’t stop it from offering an entertaining and exciting dungeon-crawling romp. It definitely felt special re-playing it in HD and with a silky smooth frame rate for me, especially since it’s a title I’ve come back to on a regular basis ever since its initial release back in 2001… I’m happy to report that it is just as fun for me to play now as it was then.
It’s a bit of a shame that more wasn’t added to this re-release and the £29.99 price point does feel a bit steep, but it doesn’t stop Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance from offering a good time. Whilst returning gamers will probably appreciate it the most, newbies looking for a satisfying co-op quest should enjoy its adventure too.
Developer: Snowblind Studios, Black Isle Studios
Publisher: Interplay, Wizards of the Coast, Black Isle Studios
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Click here to check out the game’s eShop page.