Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II Impressions

We try out new versions of Vivendi Universal and Black Isle Studio's follow-up to the engaging multiplatform action game.

We were recently able to try out the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II. The game is the follow-up to 2001's Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, which featured a traditional action-oriented approach to the popular franchise. Black Isle Studios has now taken over development of the series--the original was done by Snowblind Studios--and it has been working to build on the promising first game. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is slated to feature more playable characters, refined gameplay, and more levels. We tried out playable builds of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game to see how many charisma points the next installment in the franchise possesses.

You'll notice some of the game's new features right from the start. The roster of playable characters has been bumped up to five. You'll find a barbarian named Dorn, a dark elf named Vhaidra, a moon elf necromancer named Ysuram, a dwarven rogue named Borador, and a human cleric named Allesia. Each character will obviously have his or her own unique abilities and level up in his or her own unique way as you progress through the game. We were only able to watch Dorn, Vhaidra, and Ysurm in action in the versions of the game we played, but each of the characters seems to feel distinctly different, which wasn't always the case in the original. In addition to the main five, there are plans to throw in an unlockable character.

The game's basic structure will be roughly the same as that of its predecessor. The story will unfold via cutscenes that will pop up in between adventuring sequences. This time out, the game will offer a total of five chapters. The individual chapters will differ some from the original game in that each character will have his or her own unique quests in every chapter that, once completed, will earn that character new abilities. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox games will both feature the same content.

The series' combat has actually been tweaked some to offer a better overall experience. As characters level up, their melee attacks will develop into longer combos. As mentioned, the characters will feature some traits that are unique to them, such as the ability to wield two swords at once. In addition, you'll be able to create new items from components you'll find in your adventures. The control scheme for combat has stayed roughly the same, although you'll be able to map up to five feats to buttons on the controller.

The graphics in the game are looking quite sharp. The core engine has been retained from the first game, although there have been some flourishes added to the visuals. You'll find new environments and new enemies to contend with, along with some impressive bosses that are certain to test your skills. The various characters maintain the high level of quality set by the original game and look great. The game will also feature some general refinements such as an improved display, compass points on the auto map, and backgrounds on the equip screen that reflect the area you're currently in. The audio in the game is still coming together, although what we were able to hear stayed pretty faithful to the previous game.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is currently slated to ship this October for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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