Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II

a game by Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Platform: Playstation 2
Rating: 8/10

Dungeon hacks are one of the few genres that haven't changed much over the years. Since the days of Gauntlet back in the 80's, dungeon hacks have always relied on this simple formula: hack your way through dungeons, plunder loot, level up, rinse and repeat. Yet even with this utterly simplistic formula, dungeon hacks are still as entertaining as ever, as shown by Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance when it was released in 2002. It refined the dungeon hack genre for a new generation, with sharp visuals and addictive gameplay, but with that same foundation that made dungeon hacks so fun to begin with. That's why Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, the sequel made under a different developer, had some big shoes to fill. Don't fret though, because the shoes fit nicely - they just might be a bit too snug for comfort.

Hacking and slashing is a lot of fun ' this has been established - but if you're looking for something new in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, then you might be disappointed because it mirrors its predecessor in almost every way. The formula of hacking, plundering, and leveling is still in full effect here, but everything feels more refined this time around. Levels and dungeons feel a little more focused, though there is still plenty of exploring to do, and the fantasy experience flows along nicely. Plus, the characters you can play as are all varied tactics-wise, so BGDAII warrants playing through a few times to truly see (and unlock) everything. Just make sure one of those replays is with another person in the co-op mode, because this is where the game really shines.

Much like the gameplay, the visuals haven't had much of an overhaul, but BGDAII still looks great. Most of the game is played from a top down view, but the details still shine through - details such as the well animated models, the sharp textures, and the impressive lighting effects. The audio still sounds great as well, with strong voice acting and a sweeping music score.

Despite the fact that BGDAII is a fantastic title, there are still some issues. Dungeon hacks, by nature, are repetitive and BGDAII does little to alleviate that. If you can't fathom tapping the X button constantly to plow your way through dungeons, then be weary going into BGDAII. Also, the story is a convoluted mess. It picks up right where the first game left off, but it still isn't told well, nor is it too compelling.

If you were one of the many that said, 'Man, I wish there was more of this,'? after you finished Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, then the sequel certainly won't disappoint. It's highly polished in every way and offers a lot more content - it just doesn't offer many new features nor does it fix some of the game's original problems. Still, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II is a solid addition to the franchise and dungeon hack enthusiasts, hardcore or not, should do themselves a favor and check it out.

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