Kuba: I remember being extremely confused when the first trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance was presented at The Game Awards 2019. The announcement of the game in the Dungeons & Dragons universe fired my appetite, but the material prepared by the creators quickly cooled it down. This nightmare video can dream up at night. From the very beginning, however, it was known that the production from Tuque Games will be focused on cooperation, and the main tasks of the players will include chopping up hordes of opponents. So most expected gameplay in the style of the ever-popular Warhammer: Vermintide. On paper, we have a rich universe that players love, an idea for the game, the support of a large publisher who knows the brand, and an inexperienced development studio. The perfect mix to disappoint and provide players with a title that does not use its potential.
The plot of Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance takes us to the Icewind Valley, which players know best from the two installments of Icewind Dale. The land is faced with a catastrophic threat, and it can be saved by our protagonist’s team. Sounds clichéd? So it is. The team of defenders of the world can consist of up to four heroes, who are heroes from the prose of Robert Anthony Salvatore. Of course, the most famous character is Drizzt Do’Urden, who is the main protagonist of many Forgotten Lands novels. Players will surely remember him from the Baldur’s Gate series. In addition to the dark elf, the team includes: the barbarian Wulfgar, the dwarf Bruenor Battlehammer and his foster human daughter – Catti-brie, so we have a predefined team of warriors, whose skills or traits we have little influence. Each of them represents a different class, but the differences are not that clear, and it all comes down to exterminating your enemies as quickly as possible. During the game, we also do not get the opportunity to get to know them better, like them or hate them. The plot was also neglected, which is only a background and justification for further fights with hosts of enemies. So it seems to me that Tuque Games did not use the opportunities offered to them by the brand to create an interesting game world.
Konrad: It is worth adding that some pretty good ideas appeared here. For example, humorous banter between the creatures encountered on the road are charming, and our heroes like to exchange a few sentences with each other during their expeditions. The game itself is also full of references to the world of Forgotten Realms, thanks to which, fresh after finishing Icewind Dale II, I was always looking forward to mentioning the name of the city I know or the appearance of a thread read in the books.The greatest sin of scriptwriters is how painfully they shred the game’s plot, which makes it meaningless. Instead of one neatly told story, we have them here, not counting the prologue, six – each is devoted to another creature wishing to possess the legendary crystal Crenshinibon, which unexpectedly woke up and summons the daredevils hungry for power. The whole thing, then, is like ticking off a kill list. As a result, the plot quickly ceases to interest us, however, and we turn all our attention to the gameplay.
Kuba: The actual game starts in the lobby. It is a starting point where we can find a store, reward chests or a map, allowing us to choose the next mission. It is at this point that we have to decide whether we want to play ourselves or create a multiplayer game. I strongly advise against playing alone, because Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is completely not adapted to it. Playing as an archer, I could shoot at my opponents from a distance, and they didn’t even bother to get close. On the day of the premiere, the game was added to the Xbox Game Pass service, so even despite the poor reception from players, we can easily find people willing to go on a joint trip. As you can easily guess, the production of Tuque Games gains more charm when we can play it together with friends. Because in good company, it is also more pleasant to laugh out of all these shortcomings, right, Mr. Konrad?
Konrad: The corpse of the dwarfs flying into the skies at the time of death actually entertain until the very end, but unfortunately this changes the fact that in the long run Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is simply boring, regardless of whether we play alone or in cooperation. Absolutely every single map plays out exactly the same. We have to go from point A to B, where the boss will be waiting for us, or by activating four magic buttons on the way or finding a few gunpowder barrels needed to blow up the gate. All this, of course, in the endless and almost identical corridors of caves, mines and underground fortresses, invariably inhabited by a mix of dwarfs, goblins and troll-exhibitionists, only sometimes supported by other creatures.
Kuba: The creators have made an attempt to diversify each of the boards by adding optional objectives, the completion of which may make the final reward more attractive. However, they did it in the worst possible way, as these are tasks like – destroy 10 vases, pick up 7 pints. It could be easily forgotten. In my opinion, in such a game, the challenges directly based on the struggle on the battlefield would be much more appropriate. And this is how we come to the icing on the cake, which is the main mechanics of combat.However, something completely different came out. The opponents attack us in a kind of arenas, which makes each skirmish incredibly predictable. From the very first fight we realize that the AI is not doing it at all. The enemies are sluggish, and their lightning-fast reaction time can only evoke a feeling of pity. What our heroes present themselves does not set the action on. My first choice was Cattie-brie, but the ranged combat lacked efficiency and dynamics to the point that I quickly switched to a dual-wielding Drizzt. It got a little more interesting, but too often I had the impression that the character was not fully responding to my commands, making unnecessary series of attacks or dodges. What was it like for Wulfgar, who should feel like no other in the heat of battle?
Konrad: I’d be lying to say that playing Wulfgar in any way influences the gameplay experience. Dark Alliance remains a not very high-flying slasher, far from the finesse of Devil May Cry or even God of Wara. Although you can exchange your hard-earned money during the game for a whole host of new attacks, they actually have minimal impact on the gameplay. Kuba’s problems with the responsiveness of the protagonist may have been a consequence of delays in the connection, because in Dark Alliance even the slightest lag is enough to make the whole game stupid – the opponents look around even more thoughtlessly than before, and the attacks are launched as if our hero was covered with a solid the amount of tar. So I quickly abandoned cooperation in favor of penetrating the dungeons on my own. The problem then disappeared, but only partially, because the problems of the combat system implemented in the game, unfortunately, do not end with the lag. It is quite difficult, for example, to change the direction of the attack during a series of blows, which not only makes the main character seem to be trying to kill the air, but most of all it opens us up to opponents’ blows, as long as such a thought sprouts in their little brains. Theoretically, this problem should be counteracted by blocking the camera on one of the enemies, but the latter comes so close to the protagonist’s back that it effectively prevents us from controlling the battlefield around us.
On the plus side, you must definitely include boss battles, which can look really epic. They can, because for each dragon or beholder there are three more packed versions of ordinary opponents. Anyway, I used the word “look” consciously, because even better boss fights will not overwhelm you with their ingenuity. Well, from the holidays you will first have to slaughter the cannon fodder around the “boss”, activate the ballista or run away to a safe place from a powerful attack.And here I must admit that in the middle of the game I switched to the lowest possible difficulty level less, because I was just fed up. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance has huge problems with its balance and the norm was that after the level I was going through like a chisel, I got to the next level, where I was sent down so much that I didn’t know what my name was. This is also perfectly illustrated by the fact that some bosses have less health than some of the opponents standing in the way of them. As a result, the whole experience turns out to be much more frustrating than satisfying.
Kuba: Even the vision of a better loot that would allow our character to climb up will not motivate us to take on more difficult challenges. I must admit that despite spending more than 20 hours with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, I still haven’t fully figured out the secrets of the loot system, which seems very chaotic and ill-considered. Items obtained from later stages of the campaign and on higher difficulty levels are often weaker than those that can be obtained without effort. Even the character card and a handful of statistics known from paper D&D did not help me to come to terms with the hero. The team from Tuque Games tried to make a reference to the original, at least to a minimal extent, but it seems that no one could be fooled. The core of the problem here, however, is that the gameplay is not as much fun, and when we don’t feel like playing, it’s natural that we won’t pay too much attention to the development of our character.
Another thing that effectively repels Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance are all kinds of bugs, bugs and bothersome underdevelopment. The interface is most pronounced, giving the impression of being hastily created without consulting the test team. However, the thing that irritated me the most was the clashes on the edges of the map. Well, despite all efforts, our hero is not able to throw the opponent into the abyss, which, however, does not prevent the character from landing there. I don’t think I need to explain how absurd it looks when, after a full combo, we penetrate the enemy and land off the map. The results are not catastrophic, we lose some health points and the game throws us in the middle of the arena, but how to treat such solutions seriously?
Konrad: After all, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is simply a poor and often ill-considered production.Playing with your friends is advisable in this case, because at least for a while you will be able to cheer yourself up, making your opponents complete idiots and enjoying the glitch-ruining history. However, those who expected this Vermintide game in the Forgotten Realms universe will be disappointed, because it is a title from an absolutely different fairy tale.
Kuba: As you could read, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance turned out to be a game below our expectations. The production of Tuque Games will be disappointing both fans of cooperative choppers and fans of the Forgotten Realms universe. However, time will show how the creators themselves will react to a poor reception. It seems to me that with a little bit of work they would be able to get something more out of it. The logo of the big brand and a large base of players, thanks to the availability of the Xbox Game Pass service, make that there will always be people willing to check this title on their own skin.