June 25, 2021

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance review - a bad first impression but it's a grower

I can't look you in the eyes and tell you Dark Alliance is a great game because it isn't. Every rational bone in my body knows that. It's the kind of game you might play for an hour and need to see no more of because you've made your mind up. This game, you think, is a bit rubbish. And I'd struggle to tell you otherwise because to a degree, it's true. Dark Alliance makes a terrible first impression, stumbling in like it's drunk and falling over and dribbling on you. 'What happened to the series I loved?' you'll baulk. 'Where's the local co-op?! Why does it look like an Xbox 360 game?! And why does controlling it feel like my thumbsticks are clogged with Marmite?!' But - and there is a but - it's a grower, I promise. Hours later I'm really rather fond of it. It's dumb, yes, but since when was that a bad thing?

Let's rewind a bit first. Dark Alliance is the Dungeons & Dragons hack-and-slash (or action role-playing game, or beat-'em-up, or whatever you call it) series from 20 years ago that people remember because it let you play with friends on the same console. But now, in this reimagining of the series, you can't. You have to play online. Oh. And it's one of the major reasons why it gets off to a bad start, because yes you can play it on your own, and you will initially try to, but it feels lonely and a bit purposeless without someone else.

Alone, there's no one to revive you when you're downed, so you'll be forced to respawn. Alone, there's no chance of triggering team attacks, which are powerful. Alone, there's simply no respite, and everything will come for you. And when enemies pile in from all angles, they'll interrupt your attacks, mess up your block timings, and kick you while you're down. It's not much fun.

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