Review – Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Switch)

I usually enjoy going back to older games I originally missed, especially from genres I’m interested in. I may have passed over it for whatever reason when it came out, but it’s never too late to give it a shot. It has led to me discovering some true classics that built their genre into what it is today. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, though? Not one of those times. This game is an example of my other experience going back to older games: where I wonder why it was ever popular in the first place. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance isn’t just an unfun and overly simplistic game with terrible combat now, it was even for the time. This was the time period of Titan Quest, Divine Divinity, Gauntlet Legends, Dungeon Siege, and freaking Diablo II. This game is in a totally different league, and not a good one.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance Map

It’s insane how many memories this simple map brings back.

First, I’ll start with the good. After all, there are some substantially good things too. Too bad it’s kind of just the wrong things, for this genre at least. There’s the graphics, which have held up incredibly well, given how old the game is. This was not a remaster by the way, it’s the same game from 2002 in a higher resolution, so it’s amazing how well the old models, textures, and effects have held up. The voice-acting is actually pretty decent as well, and the music is repetitive but serviceable. The best part though is easily the setting. I love Baldur’s Gate. The original games are my favorite RPGs of all time, and any reason to reenter the Sword Coast should be enough. However, Dark Alliance proves that idea false.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance Dwarf

Not gonna lie, the fact that it’s not Dwarven Warrior bothers me. Not enough to affect gameplay of course, but enough to mention.

To be frank, I found everything else about the game subpar to just plain bad. It starts with the character selection. Instead of the character creator you probably expected from a D&D game, you only have access to a premade list. Some underwhelming premade choices, by the way. Dwarven fighter I get, but Human archer (also archer not ranger) was a weird decision. Then there’s the Elven sorceress, which isn’t as weird, but still meh. That’s also it, so hooray for variety. Each one comes with a small feat list, and you get one point per each level-up. Each one is built around the character, instead of your character being built around your chosen build. So if you’re looking for class replayability, look somewhere else.

Itemization is in the same league as characters. To be fair, this has always been an issue with D&D games. Bastard Sword +1 just isn’t exciting. But these other games got around it with expanded class building, deep choice driven stories, or simply swapping D&D itemization out for something more Diablo. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance decided to do exactly none of that. And it’s a Diablo clone, so the itemization is at the core of the game. Mess that up, and you kill a lot of the potential of the genre. Mess up itemization AND class-building, and all you really have left is the combat. Which rounds out the trio of disappointments I faced with this game.

Water Physics

I spent WAY too much time jumping in pools playing with the game’s amazing water physics.

The combat isn’t fun, and not just compared to modern ARPGs like Diablo 3 or Chaosbane, where the combat is incredibly smooth and cathartic. Compared to ARPGs from the same time period, it feels backwards and awkward. So slow, input lag is atrocious, and I found the camera (of all things in an isometric ARPG) to get in the way. This genre exists to triumphantly hack and slash your way through hordes of whatever. You fail that, you’ve failed at the basic premise of your game. Combined with the underwhelming character building and boring itemization, and you have an Action RPG that fails at everything the genre exists for.


This here is a smart man.

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance was a game I went into expecting to love. What’s not to love? Baldur’s Gate is my favorite part of the Forgotten Realms, ARPGs are my favorite genre, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. What I found was a game that is clearly a product of its time. I’m sure the weak ARPG aspects were okay when it was the only game of its kind on consoles. The amazing graphics would have clearly helped sell titles too, back when 3D was new and growing. Nowadays though, we have so many mediocre ARPGs on consoles, let alone genuinely amazing ones. Plus, we’re a little past losing our minds over interactable environments. All that’s left is a game that doesn’t play nearly as well as it looks. Hopefully the Dark Alliance reboot will be much better than this one.


Graphics: 8.0

It’s actually aged very well graphically. It still looks surprisingly good and runs very well.

Gameplay: 4.0

Itemization is boring, combat slow and awkward, and the skill system is overly simplistic.

Sound: 7.0

Voice acting isn’t terrible when compared to the rest of the game and the music is decent.

Fun Factor: 2.0

It’s just not fun at all. There are so many other better titles in the genre that to spend time with this one feels like a waste.

Final Verdict: 4.5

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is available now on PC, Xbox, Xbox One, PS2, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Gamecube.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance was provided by the publisher.