The Best D&D-Inspired Action Game Ever Is On Sale In PlayStation’s Holiday Sale
Button-mashing in Baldur’s Gate.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is undoubtedly one of 2023’s best games, thanks to its satisfying character building, captivating narrative, and strategic combat. It’s built on the back of two previous RPGs similarly known for their narrative and mechanical depth. But if you’re just looking for Dungeons and Dragons vibes in a more action-oriented format, there’s another Baldur’s Gate game you need to check out.
Originally launched in 2002 for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is included in the PlayStation Store Holiday Sale until January 17. Even though it’s more than 20 years old, that makes this a great time to pick up this hack-and-slash classic.
First off, don’t confuse Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, the middling third-person action game from 2021. While the latter was clearly meant as a riff on the PS2 classic, it lost a lot of charm in its translation. Rather than third-person action, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is a top-down action RPG much like Diablo.
While you may know Baldur’s Gate 3 for its complexity, Dark Alliance II’s appeal lies in its simplicity. Character upgrades and inventory management are streamlined, letting you focus on the best part of Dark Alliance II — mowing down wave after wave of enemies.
That’s not to say that it’s completely mindless. There’s just enough story in Dark Alliance II to immerse you in the D&D-ness of it all, but it’s not the main attraction. Instead, Dark Alliance II gets a little more depth from the limited choices it does let you make about your character. There are five playable characters in Dark Alliance II, and which one you choose will drastically change the game. One nice touch is that NPCs will react differently based on who you’re playing, being helpful to some and standoffish to others.
But the real reason to switch up characters is that they all approach combat in their own ways. Playing as the front-line barbarian is a far different experience from using the defensive cleric, so it’s worthwhile to switch up your characters to see a different side of the game. As you level up, you’ll also get access to more powerful abilities, further defining your character’s role and helping them stand out from others.
That’s also what makes Dark Alliance II such an excellent co-op game — although only offline multiplayer is available. It would be impossible for me to say how much time I sunk into the original release of Dark Alliance II, easily playing dozens of hours with high school friends after class and during breaks.
Though the game doesn’t offer too many surprises, it scratches the action RPG itch better than almost any other example in its genre. Whether you prefer a speedy ranged character or a powerful mage, one of Dark Alliance II’s characters is sure to suit you. And since they’re all so distinct, just switching to a different one makes it feel like a whole new game.
When Dark Alliance II was released, the biggest criticism it got was that it didn’t improve much from the first game. That’s true, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re coming to the game fresh. The systems that it did add revolve around upgrading your equipment, adding a nice layer of customization to tailor your character to your liking.
All that being said, keep in mind that this is still a game from 2002. Unsurprisingly, it feels a bit dated compared to newer offerings like Diablo IV, especially when it comes to its looks. To be fair, part of the reason it still appeals to me is because it burned itself into my brain when I was a teenager, so it may not land the same for everyone. But while it lacks some modern polish, it’s still a fun hack-and-slash, especially if you can get a partner for some couch co-op. If you’re looking for the cutting edge, you may want to look elsewhere, but for a nostalgic action RPG at a budget price, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II is an excellent place to start.