REVIEW: ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance’ Has Great Atmosphere, Poor Execution (XSX)

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Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an action RPG developed by Tuque Games and published by Wizards of the Coast. Icewind Dale is once more under siege. An army of Goblins wreaks havoc, even as far darker powers gather looking to claim an ancient crystal’s power for their own. And all that stands between these threats and the innocent people of Icewind Dale are four brave adventurers who will face any threat to restore peace to their land.

Since its original release as a tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons has been giving players limitless chances to explore, save, or destroy fantastic worlds. And while it remains the thousand-pound guerilla in the tabletop market, publisher Wizards of the Coast has been hard at work over the last couple of decades finding numerous ways to expand the brand beyond its original format. One of the most notable avenues the company has pursued has been through video games.

With the growing ability to craft amazing narratives combining with the unique interactivity video games offer, Dungeons & Dragons is an obvious fit for the ever-expanding medium. And while the brand’s entries into that medium have not always been flawless, Tuque Games is taking another stab at bringing the worlds of D&D to gamers with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance. Let’s see how they fared.

Let’s start with a look at the game’s strongest aspect: its visual presentation. The overall design of the game’s setting and monsters is absolutely top-notch. From the crude, feral look of the Goblins to the ominous aura of necromancers as they effortlessly float toward me, evoking their dark arts, everything seen sells the dark threatening moments that Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance sets out to deliver. While the game’s visual design lands the tone of the game, the character progression mechanics similarly do a great job of adapting the feeling of character growth that D&D is known for. This is a more impressive accomplishment than it may initially sound.

With traditional D&D focusing on social interaction as well as combat, many of the game’s systems exist to facilitate the less violent side of the game. And while it wouldn’t be D&D without a charisma stat, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance’s total focus on combat doesn’t leave the iconic stat with much to do. Happily, developer Tuque Games does a great job of adapting some of the key game mechanics into new roles for this action RPG. It shows the dedication the team brought to the game and making it work as an adaptation of the classic game.

While the game manages to land its look and character growth aspects, the moment-to-moment gameplay does not fare as well. For my playtime with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance I opted to take the archer class out for a spin. The mix of melee combo attacks and range volleys of either rapid-fire shots or triple arrow fire to land heavy damage was fun. However, as the game progressed I discovered an odd design decision that greatly hampered my enjoyment of my range-oriented fighter.

As is normal for action RPGs, as the player progresses through the game they can unlock numerous new melee attacks they can combine against enemies. These are sometimes implemented by pushing the thumbstick in a particular direction when pressing the attack button. The problem with this system is that the combo will trigger even when in range mode. While the RB and RT buttons function for light and heavy attacks respectively, holding down the LT makes it so the camera zooms in tight over the character’s shoulder and attacks become ranged. However, if the player, for example, unlocks a melee attack that triggers off of pressing down and the light attack, this combination of buttons will still trigger, even if the LT is pressed for range mode. This resulted in numerous instances of me being dragged out of my range attacks to initiate a long melee combo that served no purpose but to let my enemies close in on me. And the aforementioned length of the melee animations leads to an even bigger problem with the combat. Enemies abusing your stagger animations.

Virtually every time an enemy lands a blow on the player they will momentarily stagger them. If the player is engaged with multiple enemies this can quickly lead to multiple enemies chaining attacks that leave the player staggering till eventually dead. The often lengthy, and uncancellable attack animations can leave players open to enemy attacks from of screen or long-range. This doesn’t feel like an instance where my misfortunes came from me not being cautious enough or making mistakes. There just were often too many enemies that came at me from too many angles to manage properly. This left me with my only option to progress being to challenge each mission on its easiest difficulty. This, however, made the AI so inept that I could take the time to put 20+ arrows into an enemy without it ever reacting to my attacks.

These mechanical woes were further compounded by some noticeable bugs that mostly revolved around enemies failing to spawn into areas properly. These bugs left enemies on multiple occasions floating in the air, unable to move as a steadily reduced them to pincushions.

With its frustrating controls, and questionable AI the enjoyment that can be gained from Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is severely limited. If a player is looking to romp through a strongly realized D&D world, and a classic story of heroes scrambling to stop the legions of evil, it may be worth keeping the game on easy just to enjoy the setting and story. However, if you are looking for a full-fledged action RPG experience there are far better offering out there.

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is available June 22 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and will be coming to Xbox Game Pass day one.

 

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

With its frustrating controls, and questionable AI the enjoyment that can be gained from Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is severely limited. If a player is looking to romp through a strongly realized D&D world, and a classic story of heroes scrambling to stop the legions of evil, it may be worth keeping the game on easy just to enjoy the setting and story. However, if you are looking for a full-fledged action RPG experience there are far better offering out there.