Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance review: New initiatives

Tuque Games and Wizards of the Coast deliver a fully authentic D&D experience with Dark Alliance.

4

Dungeons & Dragons has had a profound impact on video games, especially RPGs, since the very beginning. There have been plenty of games that take directly from the D&D source material. Such is the case with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance. Developed by Tuque Games and published by D&D-owner Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an excellent D&D experience, despite some technical issues.

The campaign begins

Dark Alliance is set in the frigid lands of Icewind Dale, within the Forgotten Realms. The tundra is being invaded by armies of evil forces, and a band of heroes must rise in order to thwart them. The story follows Drizzt Do’Urden and his three allies - Cattie-brie, Bruenor, and Wulfgar as they fight against the dark forces.

Players have the option of taking on the role of any of the four lead characters. Each of which has their own unique race and class. Just as in classic Dungeons & Dragons, this determines how characters perform, informing their advantages and disadvantages. Although the game only gives you four characters to pick from, there’s still a solid level of variety in options in regard to playstyle.

Though we do get some background information on the main characters and their relationships with each other, I wish they got more focus in the story. One of the most magical things about D&D is how players get invested in characters, but I struggled to find a reason to care about any of the characters in Dark Alliance, outside of the fact that I was playing as them.

Roll for initiative

Combat is a core pillar of the experience in Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance. While classic D&D is entirely turn-based, Dark Alliance is an action-brawler, with battles done in real time. Taking each character for a spin, I loved how distinct each of them felt from the others. As a fan of archery in games, I spent a lot of time playing as Cattie-brie, where I pierced enemies from afar with arrows, while also dealing out some solid damage in a close-range. There is also a barbarian, ranger, and another fighter.

There are a ton of different enemies to take on in Dark Alliance. From Beholders, to Frost Giants, White Dragons, and more, fans of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise will recognize a lot of the creatures featured in the game. Battling the different monsters feels unique, as they all have distinct behaviors that forces players to adapt and react accordingly. Some moving faster than others, some having high defensive ratings.

Worthy adventurers

With Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance featuring four main characters, players are encouraged to team up with friends for their adventures. While playing in co-op, players can perform team-up moves in order to take down enemies.

The combat animations in Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance also feel really smooth. Players can chain together moves, easily blending together light and heavy attacks. Characters also have special abilities that can be used to unleash a good deal of damage. Players will also be able to unlock new abilities as they make their way through the game. These abilities will provide them new ways to take out enemies, as well as support their allies.

Loot is a big aspect in Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance. As players take down bosses and complete levels, they’ll be awarded with loot drops. This will grant them access to powerful gear, allowing players to make themselves more formidable in combat.

With disadvantage

For as exciting and frenetic as the combat is in Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, the experience is a bit hindered by bugs. I frequently experienced a bug where, upon killing an enemy, their body would ragdoll to ridiculous effect. This meant goblins soaring high into the sky, or darting off in random directions after being killed. It didn’t functionally damper the experience, but it surely broke the immersion on several occasions.

I also experienced a handful of crashes while playing the game on Steam. Though there weren’t many hitches or framerate stutters, there were instances where I was playing and the game would just completely crash out of the blue. Unfortunately, this caused me to lose substantial progress on more than one occasion.

Take back the land

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance delivers a solid D&D adventure, with exciting combat and a slew of monsters to take down. Though my experience was a bit dulled by crashes and some minor bugs, it certainly didn’t ruin the game for me. Dark Alliance fits in nicely in the pantheon of Dungeons and Dragons games.


This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance launches on June 22, 2021 for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation for $39.99 USD.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Pros
  • Combat is fast-paced and energetic
  • Solid range of playstyle options
  • The grind for better gear and upgrades feels fulfilling
Cons
  • Would benefit from deeper characterization
  • Game crashes caused lost progress
  • Animation bugs
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 21, 2021 9:00 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance review: New initiatives

    • reply
      June 21, 2021 11:11 PM

      I'm not really enjoying this one so far.

      The controls are clunky, it's kinda buggy, and just feels slow.

      :(

      • reply
        June 22, 2021 12:12 AM

        The controls are really really bad. Not just clunky and unresponsive but very unreliable, playing the archer, holding down aim to fire arrows and randomly instead of firing an arrow it'll just do a mellee move. Other times it just simply doesn't register pushing a button, just a complete mess.

        Also not sure if it's just from difficulty but the AI of enemies seems almost non-existant, most of them just stand there not attacking as i fire arrows into them.

        Even getting it free with Game Pass i feel ripped off.

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