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XBox Reviews: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance


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The Final Say!

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance  - reviewed by Andrew B
Review Date: 5 May 2003
Review Score: 8.9/10 
Distributed By: Vivendi Universal

Dungeons and Dragons is the world's first role-playing game (RPG) and has spawned countless of games on different systems, from the Commodore 64 to the PlayStation 2 and it only gets better from here. The Baldur's Gate series is the extremely popular Advanced Dungeon & Dragons game series on the PC that was the first game of its kind to really capture the true spirit of RPG and Dungeons & Dragons. Fortunately for console owners, developers Snow Blind Studios have taken the premise from the PC and developed an entirely new gaming system for the console with amazing graphics and a very interesting storyline. 


If you have already played the PlayStation 2 version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance then you will find nothing new on the XBox version as it is a straight port from the PS2 with the same graphics, gameplay and storyline. However, now XBox owners can get the chance to play one of the most entertaining and exciting games to have hit the world of console gaming. 


Baldur's Gate on the XBox is a combination between Gauntlet (the original game) meets Dungeons & Dragons. The basic view of the game is an isometric view that the player can rotate for a better camera angle. Once you have created your character (three customizable characters are available), you can then enter the world of Dungeons & Dragons that has you searching for fortune and glory. As with all RPG's, your character must perform various missions for non-playing characters (NPC's) in the game  such as rescuing other characters, clearing out basements that are filled with rats or recovering lost items. Although some missions are there for "filler", the majority of missions eventually link up to the grand finale and the mystery behind the whole game. 


Unlike other PC orientated RPG's, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is all about action and you must sometimes literally fight your way through hundreds of enemies. Fortunately the game compensates because the player has access to various powerful weapons, armour and magic's that can be used against these creatures of the dark. One of the most difficult levels in the game was solving a puzzle in a room that was filled with hundreds of zombies and skeletons, needless to say my frustration skyrocketed but it was extremely fun. 


Graphically, the XBox version is almost identical to the PlayStation 2 version but that said, the PS2 version was perfect. The only downside to the graphics is the unreliable framerate issues that were also prominent on the PlayStation 2 version and these rarely occur. 

Everything has been created perfectly in this 3D world, from the towns that you visit, to exploring tombs and lairs of dragons, the developers have successfully managed to draw the player into the mythical world of Dungeons & Dragons. Baldur's Gate also has some of the most impressive lighting effects to hit a game of this style and just about everything has a realistic lighting effect that goes hand in hand with the gaming environment.


Each visual spell, whether a fireball or lighting strike has it's own unique characteristics that interact with the gaming environment so when you release a fireball in a dark tomb, the whole area will be alight from the fireball. The characters in the game have been professionally designed and each character in the game has a unique look to them with some extremely nice looking texture details. The Dragon and the Beholder simply look amazing and some of the giants that you encounter later on in the game are extremely huge that almost take up the entire screen. There are also some beautiful cut scenes in the game that is a combination of ingame graphics and CGI. 


The sound effects of Baldur's Gate are brilliant and also supports Dolby Digital for a gorgeous soundtrack and some amazing sound effects. There are a myriad of sound effects in the game from the grunts and squeals of orcs, to sounds of the magic from fireballs to the glorious sounds of good versus evil such as the clashes of swords as everything has been implemented perfectly into the game. The voice acting of the game, although professionally done and sometimes over the top is perfectly suited to the world of RPG and is what the genre is all about, action and bad acting. The soundtrack of Baldur's Gate has been created by acclaimed writer Jeremy Soule that sounds straight out of a Hollywood movie and is one of the most best suited soundtracks around for this type of game. 


Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is still one of my all-time favourite RPG's around (first on the PC, then on the PS2 and now on the XBox) and contains some amazing graphics, addictive gameplay and an interesting storyline that is sure to please just about all kinds of gamers. The game also contains a great multiplayer option (2-players) that gives players the chance to complete the game together which is just about as close you can get to Dungeons & Dragons without having a Dungeon Master. The replay value of the game is a little low and you will probably finish this game in a few weeks or regular gaming, fortunately once you have completed the game, it opens up various bonus characters such as the good dark elf Drizzt from the extremely popular Forgotten Realms book series. These bonus characters can then engage on various solo missions that are not included in the game and could be compared to the VR missions in Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance. If you are one of those console junkies that already owns this on the PS2, then there is probably no reason to get the XBox version, however if you have never had the chance to the play the original version, then do yourself a favour and buy this game now! Highly Recommended!


- Andrew B

Copyright 2002 www.impulsegamer.com