E3 2001 Hands-onBaldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Based upon the polished version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance being shown at Interplay's booth at E3, the PC series has made the transition to the PlayStation 2 in style.

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With the increasing power of video game consoles, many franchises that were once only found on the PC are making the jump to the next-generation consoles. Tribes 2 was announced for the PlayStation 2 earlier this week. The game is based upon the version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for the PlayStation 2 being shown at E3, and Snowblind Studios has just about completed the development of the first console installment of the long-time PC RPG.

Black Isle's Kevin Osburn stated that the story for Dark Alliance was recently changed for the final time. In the new storyline, your character is still overcome by bandits on the way to the city of Baldur's Gate, but the kidnapping scenario that was previously proposed has been dropped. Instead, your character will recover from the attack and continue along to Baldur's Gate in search of some retribution. The quest begins in a pub where the barmaid asks you to rid her establishment of rats for a reward. This is where the first NPCs are encountered and where the story's bud sprouts.

The Baldur's Gate series has seen a lot of changes while in transit to the PlayStation 2. Characters that you meet in the worlds do not join your party, and all the attacks and spells can be used on the fly. The game also unfolds in a fairly linear manner and eschews the multitasking that is so prevalent in the PC versions of Baldur's Gate. What's left is a hybrid of Dungeons & Dragons and Gauntlet. Using a primary weapon such as a sword or a battleaxe is accomplished by pressing X. Secondary weapons like spells and feats are cast by pressing the circle button. Weapons and spells may be mapped to the two buttons in the start menu. Potions may be purchased in the pub that will let you heal yourself by pressing R2. You may also purchase potions that replenish your mana. Mana replenishes your ability to cast spells and may be used by pressing the L2 button.

Osburn stated that there are currently 50 to 70 creatures included in Dark Alliance, and Snowblind Studios is adding more every day. There will also be 30 to 40 AD&D spells included. There are three status meters on the top left of the screen. The top meter represents health, the middle meter displays how much experience your character has gained, and the bottom meter measures how much mana you have remaining to cast spells.

As we've mentioned in our previews of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance leading up to E3, its graphics are some of the most impressive on the PlayStation 2. The water effects are undoubtedly some of the best ever created, and the intricate details included in each room are simply astounding. Dark Alliance plays from an isometric perspective, and while inside buildings, the ceilings in each room are transparent. When you approach an NPC and initiate a conversation, the camera zooms in on the NPC to reveal some incredibly detailed character models. Despite the fact that there are dozens of NPCs in the game, each one has an animated face that is accurately synced with the streaming dialogue. Due to the incredible amount of speech included in the game, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance will ship on a DVD. The creatures included in the game do the Dungeons & Dragons series justice. The enormous beholder is truly a sight to see, and enemies will drop appendages after being struck. The real-time lighting in each room is especially impressive as well as the refractions included in Dark Alliance's ice level.

The playable version of Dark Alliance being shown at E3 is 70 to 80 percent complete, and it already shines in a number of ways. Now that we've had a chance to go hands-on with the first console version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, our anticipation of the title has increased considerably.

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