I have never tried a table-top RPG in my life. This is something that had only come to me as a child through watching cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory which had an episode about the genre where they were walking… and they’re walking along… then a dragon came out. He’s scary, crazy scary in fact but that’s just about it. So while I have little to no knowledge about the genre and the grand scheme of things when it comes to table-top RPGs, it’s sad to say that Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance never really gave me that itch to grab some pencils and a whole lot of paper.
As far as Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance goes, the table-top RPG delves into the world of video games as a dungeon-delving adventure with a hack n’ slash formula to boot. A boot with a smelly foot but a boot nonetheless. But what really stinks about this idea is the fact that it never introduces you to something DnD-like nor does it improve upon the dungeon-crawling adventure or action RPG aspects despite it being at the core of its gameplay loop. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss this in full, shall we?
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance which from this point forward will be called Dark Alliance for simplicity’s sake while also just to keep myself from going insane, is a dungeon-delving RPG using the hack n’ slash formula which is usually something that I would’ve enjoyed, emphasis on usually. You choose from four different archetypes which came in all shapes and sizes. From a greyish Drow Ranger which unlike what I normally think about the name is a master of bow and arrows no thanks to DOTA 2. However in this case he has the Kirito vibes going on with the blackish garb and its tendency to dual wield one-handed swords. There’s even a Dwarven Fighter which I think is safe to say is the shortest of the bunch yet with the beefiest of builds thanks to its massive shield, for its size at least. There’s also a Human Archer and a Barbarian but that’s nothing to write home about. Now once you actually placed yourself in the shoes of one of these heroes, you immediately get thrown into the hellish abyss that is called the repetitive loop of doom!!! Although I could’ve thought of something more ingenious but sadly we don’t have time for that.
After a brief introduction about the world which is mostly about an evil shard that draws in the chaotically evil creatures that seek for power, you get introduced to your gathering hub. A place where you’ll be staying for the rest of your measly life or at least until you get bored out of it which to be fair isn’t that hard to pull off. Here you get access to the basic things you’ll need. A merchant that would gladly buy all your trash err… I mean fantastic loot who can also upgrade your non-trashy gear, a map that you can interact with to choose which of the 21, let me say that again, twenty-one… two and one… areas you can waste your time on or die trying to waste it while also having one of the best transportation modes the modern man has made… not talking about cars or planes but actual circles of teleportation. And in case you manage to come back alive in your brief adventure, then you also have a chest where your supposed-to-be loot would come out of. Now, that’s a huge what “if” you actually survived.
Dark Alliance’s gameplay is not something new that you’d have to tell everyone including your mom especially at 3 AM when the normal people are fast asleep. What it has is its own brand of the samey dungeon crawling and the repetitive loop of stringing combos against an endless horde of monsters that would either include a goblin, an orc, or a mix of both. It never re-invents the whole formula or adds a nasty spin to the genre. It’s just you against them with only your weapons standing in the middle of all of it. Now I’m not saying the game is terrible because of that, in fact, it’s far from it. It does a decent job at bringing you intense combat if done right since the controls are actually pretty decent. Stringing combos one after the other is crisp and responsive despite some hiccups with its dodging mechanics and awkward wake-up animations after getting knocked down. Learning new moves and abilities also add to the fun and gives depth to combat but what really bugs me in this sort of situation is its game flow.
In a truer sense of the word, the game’s flow of delving into each dungeon never becomes anything different from what you have done the first few times. If you’ve played the first dungeon you pretty much experienced the entire game on its own. It’s that kind of feel which honestly makes me bored out of my mind to run more than one dungeon on a single sitting. It’s for that reason why it becomes a huge undertaking and a huge slog to crawl through what it has to offer.
Going through each dungeon and crawling your way through each area pretty much leaves you with one of two options. Stab them to death or stab them before your imminent death. There are simply not enough fun elements to keep you invested in the game other than the promise of loots with different ranks and rarities but still more of the same recycled types. Sure there are some optional objectives like collecting mugs and other trinkets which is way more important than saving the world or even finding a named boss only to kill it like the rest of the trail of corpses as you head deeper in each dungeon but it never becomes interesting enough to keep you from doing it at least twenty-one times. However, each area does have quite a bit of optional routes that lead to chests that could either come with loot or just gold. It just becomes something that is a bit underwhelming when you’re taking the time to do them only to come out with just pocket change if not with commons and greens.
Its loot and character progression system also doesn’t do anything crazy to the regular old formula. It’s still regular and it’s still old. Finishing dungeons for example would grant you experience to increase your levels which will then grant you points to increase your basic parameters like dexterity while also having a separate point system to learn new perks like passively increasing your health pool or reducing stamina consumption. Meanwhile, you learn new moves by having the minimum required level and gold to learn them. Loot on the other hand, has multiple rarities and ranks with rarities ranging from the commonly used colors like white for the most basic level while gold or yellow for legendaries. Each gear also comes with its own set of bonuses with higher rarities giving an extra effect be it added fire resistance or maximum HP. They can also come with set bonuses that would reduce stamina consumption or increase critical damage when paired with other pieces of gear.
But what makes Dark Alliance beautiful is its stunning views and awe-inspiring sceneries that may or may not include fleshy naked orcs and the like. There’s definitely something awesome about its visuals that makes me want to cry that it isn’t interesting to play for longer periods of time. From the huge towering structures and the vast and diverse landscapes, there’s a lot of potential that has been wasted here because of its monotonous and repetitive gameplay. Not to mention its story is usually lost by the time you reach each area’s third and final section due to the long slog between each story section and the overstayed gameplay loop of killing everything in sight.
Simply put, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance with its nasty dose of repetitive gameplay comes off as a boring and stale adventure about four characters trying to beat everyone in the evil shard’s naughty list. You’re obviously no Agent 47 of the hitman series so it doesn’t exactly make each encounter different other than the fact that you gain more moves or have more shiny loots the next time you enter that glowing circle in the hub. Now, if you’re expecting to play this alone, it easily becomes an even more annoying experience than having a group of friends or just some randos looking for fun. So this is something that I highly recommend that if you still would want to get this, and I’m not sure why, try and drag your friends in the same abyss with you where it’s dark but not lonely.
Developer: Tuque Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, and PC
This version of the game was reviewed on PS4, you can purchase this version on the PSN Store for £34.99 here.
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