Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II PlayStation 2
Distributed by Acclaim
Developed by Black Isle Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
Who would have thought that the game to give PlayStation 2 gamers that Diablo like experience would have had the name Baldur's Gate in the title? The PC version of Baldur's Gate couldn't really be more different from Diablo if it tried. Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance was very different to the Baldur's Gate though and essentially it was a quick paced hack 'n' slash that was a lot more accessible to those gamers who usually can't be bothered with strict adherence to Dungeons and Dragons rules that Baldur's Gate insisted on. As a two player game Dark Alliance also shone and to date it's still one of the best two player experiences on the PlayStation 2. It was inevitable then that a sequel would arrive.
Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II follows on from where the first game left off. If you didn't play the original game it doesn't matter as it's not required. You have to choose from a Human (m), Dark Elf Monk (f), Moon Elf Necromancer (f), Dwarven Rogue (m) and Human Cleric (f). In all honestly that's not a lot of choice and once again I'm puzzled as to why you can't create your own custom class but at least you can decide how your chosen character develops as you get to allocate the skill points after you've leveled up. You'll soon run into someone who needs your help but regardless of the task you'll be hacking, slashing and plundering as many useful items as you can hold until you make your way to the end. Which character you pick will determine how you play (whether or not you simply rely on melee, ranged or spell attacks or use a combination of both) and here is what gives the game it's replay value. Once again you also get the chance to play co-operatively with a friend and as with Dark Alliance it's a lot more fun with 2 players but still enjoyable as a single player game.
Graphically the game is about the same as the first Dark Alliance game. Your view is a top down one which doesn't really allow for a great amount of detail but nevertheless there is nice bump mapping on display that makes the terrain look quite good. The character models, which you only really get to see in conversation, are OK but nothing special. There is no anti-aliasing in the PlayStation 2 version, (I don't know about the Xbox version) and it can all look a bit jaggy around the edges at times. Still the graphics get the job done quite nicely and the frame rate is constant even during hectic battles.
Dark Alliance II is a mixed bag for deaf gamers. The introduction and cutscenes are not subtitled which is disappointing to say the least. However, all conversations in the game are subtitled, which is great but maybe they are only there because they help you pick a conversation choice (which would be impossible without text) rather than being beneficial to deaf gamers. Tutorial messages are shown in text too. When you come across items that are on the floor you'll be shown in text exactly what they are. Information such as your character attributes are shown in text and you'll be notified in text when your character has leveled up. As you can see then it's OK for deaf gamers but once again there are omissions.
Basically then Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II is a worthy sequel to the original game although it's not quite up to the same standard. The same addictive qualities are still there though and it's still very enjoyable as a two-player game. I would have liked the game to have been fully subtitled, cutscenes and all, so as it would have been fully accessible to deaf gamers but what is subtitled allows deaf gamers to enjoy the game even if they can't follow the story 100%. I would have also liked the ability to have created my own custom class instead of being stuck with what's on offer. Fans of Dark Alliance will definitely enjoy the game though and when it comes to the crunch that's exactly who it is aimed at.
Game Rating: 7.9/10
In many ways it's more of the same, although not quite as good, as the original Dark Alliance. The two-player co-operative mode is still the best way to enjoy the game.
The are some elements that are not subtitled and this does spoil the experience somewhat.