Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance review for PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Publisher: Tuque Games
Developer: Wizards of the Coast
Medium: Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is a game that I wanted to love. Everything about it spoke to me; the setting, the characters, the 3rd person action gameplay, the story, all of it. A little history about me, I started reading the Drizzt saga from R.A. Salvatore back in middle school and fell in love. I have been reading his stories religiously for more than 20 years, and the idea that I was going to be able to play a game as Drizzt and the other Companions of the Hall was amazing.

First and foremost, you have to play Dark Alliance with friends. I don?t mean the game requires it, it can be played solo, but that drops the game down from ?bad? into ?nearly unplayable?. Each character has very specific strengths and weaknesses that play off of one another. This makes character synergy great when playing together, and the inclusion of special moves that build off of each other further incentivizes you to cooperate. When playing solo though, the weaknesses of each character become crippling. The game never feels like it is properly balanced for a solo player, and the mind-numbing repetition becomes even more apparent.

I was initially impressed with Dark Alliance, but that shine was dulled within the first hour. The simple approach to combat seemed like a good starting point, and I anticipated the new moves and feats to expand on the existing mechanics in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, it never really manages to make much of a difference, and the hacking and slashing become repetitive and boring long before the game has ended. Playing with friends helps with this, as all of the killing doesn?t fall squarely on your shoulders, and you have more opportunities to take advantage of your ?class? and some of your abilities. The starting animations for these abilities are all incredibly long, which makes it very difficult to pull any of them off when playing alone and being the sole draw for aggro.

Each of the four characters has their own unique playstyle and abilities. Bruenor is a tank, Drizzt is the assassin/rogue, Wulfgar is the DPS barbarian and Catti-Brie is the archer. Each of these characters brings something unique to the team, but without others to play with, you are simply one-fourth of what the levels were built for. The only character that can successfully navigate the entire campaign with ease is Catti-Brie, but that is entirely because of the poor AI that the enemies all have. As the archer, you can stand just outside of the aggro range for the enemies and pick them off one at a time with arrows. The AI does not try to run away or dodge the attacks. They will stand perfectly still, taking arrow after arrow, as long as you stay behind the invisible line.

In addition to the gameplay suffering from a solo run, the story itself falls by the wayside. All of the character interactions come from inside the levels themselves, so if you do not have multiple characters to interact with each other you are simply left with the musings of your own character. With the already limited story, this is a serious blow to the game, further cementing the need to play with friends. Unfortunately, the game makes even this hard, with a poorly implemented cross-play system. There is no cross-play between companies, so no Playstation players joining Xbox or PC players. There is also limited cross-play between PC and Xbox. If you are playing on Windows through GamePass or the Microsoft platform, you can play with Xbox players. Steam players however are stuck by themselves. You cannot even play with other PC gamers who are playing via a Microsoft storefront. This is frustrating and makes coordinating co-op sessions even harder. Being able to play games with folks on other ecosystems is going to be vital to this industry as we move forward.

On top of the gameplay shortcomings, Dark Alliance is riddled with bugs. Instances of elevators shooting me into space, dying for literally no reason as I run through a combat area, enemies floating up into the sky where I cannot reach them and making me unable to progress, instances where my body simply fails to load and I am just a pair of legs with a floating head, the list goes on. I honestly do not think I made it through a single act without some wild bug showing itself.

All of these things make Dark Alliance a bad experience, but that doesn?t stop me from wanting it to be better. I love these characters, and I love the story they are trying to tell. Tuque games is a small, relatively new studio. I have not given up on Dark Alliance, and I hope they continue to improve and change the game into something great. With some variety, the combat could get better. With some balancing changes or NPC companions, solo play could become viable and fun. Some adjustments to the gear drops and mechanics could deepen that system and improve upon what they started with. I was left frustrated and disappointed with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, but I will keep coming back to see how it grows in the coming months, and hope to be able to love it in the future.

Note: Wizards of the Coast provided us with a Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance PC code for review purposes

Grade: C-