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1995-2000
GamesFirst! Magazine

Preview:
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

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Due November 2001 for PS2.

 

BGDA111_lg-01.jpg (5289 bytes)Of course the PC guys here at GF! love Interplay, and with good reason. Interplay has been known as one of the top developers of PC titles for a long time now, and their games have become marks by which all other games are judged. Their series, Baldur’s Gate, is a perfect example. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons rules, the games capture a wide audience of RPG fans and deliver lots of dungeon crawling, hack and slash, wizards and warriors fun. It’s not at all surprising that Interplay chose the Baldur’s Gate setting for one of their first console titles. What is surprising is that a game publisher, and a good-sized game publisher at that, had the insight to understand that what works in PC RPGs doesn’t necessarily work on console systems, and that much more than a port of a PC title would be needed to capture the hearts of console gamers the way the series has done with PC gamers.

BGDA091_lg-01.jpg (6776 bytes)So Interplay gives us Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. Not a port of a PC title, this is an action RPG set in the Baldur’s Gate world, but not tied to the Baldur’s Gate storyline, at least not tied enough to hinder console gameplay. The game does look like a combination of Gauntlet and Diablo, but much better than either of those two, and, as the developers demonstrating the game told me emphatically: This game is not "like Gauntlet." That’s absolutely true. First, the variety and depth is much greater in BG:DA. Also, the RPG aspects are much more foregrounded: Your character improves skills and you can enhance him with new equipment. There is also more of a focus on story than in Gauntlet, and you’ll encounter a much larger variety of settings and creatures along the way.

BGDA002_lg-01.jpg (6828 bytes)There are more than 30 levels of play in BG:DA. They are set in the Forgotten Realms land of D&D, a favorite setting in the D&D world. As stated before, the game is based on Third Edition D&D Rules, a first for the console world. Fans of the pen-and-paper version of D&D will be happy to see that experience, spells, creatures, character classes, and items are all taken from the reams and reams of data available in the D&D universe. You can only choose from three character classes, which has been a drawback for fans of the Baldur’s Gate series on PC. As if to alleviate this somewhat, and to further innovate in the console realm, BG:DA will support two-player quests, so you can rope a friend into your hours and hours of RPG action.

BGDA004_lg-01.jpg (8215 bytes)I have no worries about wholeheartedly recommending this game to console RPG fans. It will be different than most console RPGs like Final Fantasy or Grandia, but it might also give a much needed shot in the arm to the console RPG genre, which, while increasingly beautiful, has not significantly developed gameplay or storylines over the past few years. Black Isle Studios, the house developing BG:DA, has earned RPG of the Year for four years running, so if there is any group qualified to evolve the console RPG genre, these are the people. If you think of yourself as any kind of RPG fan, this is a game you need to play.

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Shawn Rider

 

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