Beating up hordes of monsters is always better with friends. Exploring labyrinthine dungeons full of goblins, verbeegs and other threatening creatures is a different experience when playing co-op. Fighting side-by-side, looking out for each other, and getting separated as you take different turns make gameplay all that more fun. Don't get me wrong, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a fine game when playing solo, but the multiplayer element adds a whole other layer of fun. Want to hear more? Well, sit down by the campfire, my new companion, and let me tell you all about this new release from Tuque Games and Wizards of the Coast.
As mentioned in my preview, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an action RPG with the emphasis on 'action'. Playing as one of four characters, you hack, slash, and range attack your way through levels. Combat is brutal, frenetic and endlessly fun. In fact, it borders on cathartic at times, with different attacks flowing seamlessly from one to the next. Whether you're playing as Drizzt, Catti-brie, Bruenor or Wulfgar, each hero can hold their own with style. However, there are six different difficulties to choose from, so the struggle can be very real depending on your choice.
Watch the gameplay trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance here
A big part of Dark Alliance is loot. Treasure chests are hidden around each level, with some more obvious than others. The contents of each chest is random, and different for each player in your party. You can find new weapons or pieces of armour this way, with varying degrees of rarity and elemental natures. Difficulty is a factor here, with the rewards of a higher value as you increase the level of challenge, so it's worth replaying levels once you've got a feel for them.
Many levels also house collectible items that you must obtain or destroy, adding another objective for you to work on in addition to the basic tasks of accessing areas of eliminating opponents. Some of these collectibles are concealed behind breakable walls or puzzles, so be mindful to check every nook and cranny if you want to find everything.
As you complete missions, you'll earn XP and level up your characters. This lets you improve stats, like health and strength, and gives you access to other features, such as new moves to perform in combat. It's all very traditional and what you'd expect from this sort of action RPG, and Dark Alliance is all the better for it.
The relatively simple gameplay makes for a more accessible and user-friendly experience for casual players, which makes the game an easier sell to friends when you want to suggest a new title to play together. There's still depth within Dark Alliance, with characters having different signature moves. There's also the previously mentioned array of weapons and armour, which grant different advantages if used correctly, letting you strategise before you even begin a mission.
The multiplayer works well. There were some issues during my review testing, like taking time to start a co-op session, or some progress not being saved after finishing a level, but, for the most part, Dark Alliance runs smoothly. Gameplay is fluid, with only one or two frame drops so far, and the sense of fun when playing with a friend is excellent. Being able to protect each other from incoming attacks, revive your teammates when they're down, and generally unleash hell on the gruesome hordes together is exactly why you'd want to play a game like this.
In short, Dungeon & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a wonderful counter to games like Baldur's Gate 3, thanks to its focus on action, co-op and replayability. It's straight to the point with its arcade action, endlessly fun combat, and well-crafted levels that beg to be explored. Although it's good when playing solo, it really comes alive when playing with friends, and brings back memories of playing games like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on the Nintendo GameCube. Seriously, don't sleep on this one.
Pros: Satisfying combat, well made levels, focus on multiplayer
Cons: Some technical glitches in multiplayer and occasional framerate drops
For fans of: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Outriders, Diablo
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance was played on PC with code provided by the publisher. The game launches on June 22, 2021 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One Consoles and Xbox Series X/S. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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