Dungeons & Dragons Dark Alliance Review – One Too Many Bad Rolls

Dungeons & Dragons is undoubtedly influential in the modern-day role-playing games we play today. From the tabletop to video games, the fantasy setting, lore and gameplay mechanics have been the basis of the nebulous RPG term we now see today.

The tabletop gaming IP has flirted with video games now and then. Baldur’s Gate, which a third game is now in Early Access, is one of the better success stories. But do you remember there was a Baldur’s Gate spin-off called Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance? It’s less a traditional computer RPG, and more ARPG in the veins of a Diablo.

Fast forward to 2021 and Wizards Of The Coast is reviving the Dark Alliance name again. But it’s not exactly a Diablo clone this time. With a move to a third-person, behind the shoulder camera and an emphasis on co-op play, Dark Alliance has the potential to be another good one of those co-op loot games, but this one without any guns.

But is it though? Despite valiant efforts and good ideas, Dark Alliance as it is right now is a mess. A long list of many tiny (and fixable) issues make this game a hard recommendation for solo players.


Dark Alliance will see you roam the land of Icewind Dale (also a familiar name of a video game). The frigid landscape is filled with various kinds of folks living here, though for the purpose of this game they are all evil and must be destroyed.

The game makes a lot of use of pre-rendered cut-scenes to set up each level, and those look like cash money was being spent to make them look good. Also, the levels themselves are nice to look at too. Some with towering spires, ruins of ancient dwarven temples, vistas and the like.

At first, Dark Alliance looks like another typical fantasy world, but then think about it. D&D is influential in making all the fantasy tropes we see today to begin with. You can’t fault them for having the setting and characters feeling cliche and generic by today’s standards. They started it.

Once I have come to terms with that, the art style is very well put together. An effort was made and it does the high fantasy setting justice.

The music is also fantastic too, at times. Yes, you have the usual brooding orchestra that you may have from some other fantasy media before. But there are good scores here and there. The soothing theme that plays in the hub world, in particular, is great.

When playing on the base PS4, don’t expect it to be as pretty as the official screenshots make it to be. There are compromises like less sharp textures. That’s fine.

What’s not fine is the variable performance the game runs on. The game has uncapped framerates, so there will be moments where it’s all buttery-smooth 60fps and then suddenly drops to sub-20-ish fps during battles. It’s rough. And the PS4 is also being put on blast- jet engine noise and all- to ensure the game and keep running. Sometimes, the game is running too fast, exiting the loading screen way too early before all assets are properly loaded. It’s likely a non-issue on a PS5 that has the super-fast SSDs, but on a base PS4, it’s rough.

The sound design is a mixed bag too. Sometimes the audio location for an enemy bark only comes from one side of the headphone despite them being in front of you, albeit slightly to your left or right. Battle music for boss fights not playing after respawn can happen too.


In Dark Alliance, you pick either one of four established characters in the D&D universe. You can play as Wulfgar (the main warrior), Cattie-Brie (archer), Bruenor Battlehammer (tank) or Drizzt (rouge). Each character has different stats (presented as a character sheet, nice), moveset, different abilities and their own sets of gear that you’ll be looting, equipping and upgrading.

Dark Alliance has its roots of a Diablo-like. You have loot to collect with more stat bonuses should it be a rarer drop. You start at a hub location and then pick a level to do your run. And at the end of each run, there’s a boss fight.

Put in modern features like multiplayer online co-op and a switch in perspective and now you get… a looter-slasher, I guess? It definitely feels a lot like Godfall, in more ways than one.

The one big problem that you’ll immediately feel in your hands is the controls. It’s so lumbering clumsy. Your character, even the nimblest in Drizzt, is a weighty tank that rotates ever so slowly. That’s also in fault of the default camera sensitivity being so, so low. Seriously, you better bump the horizontal sensitivity to 69 or more, and double what’s at default for aiming sensitivity. It feels so bad to control the camera when playing with a controller.

And it doesn’t stop there. Dark Alliance’s main bread-and-butter gameplay is combat, and the combat has good ideas brought down by many, many small issues. One of them being how stiff the attacks are. Once you commit to a combo, it’s really hard to cancel out and the animations.

Despite the animations looking snappy and quick for some characters, it takes forever to finish. If you are used to character action games or games with more solid combat systems Dark Alliance feels like you’re stuck on a railway. You can see the projected attack by the enemy as you wail them down in a combo, but you can’t back down. You’ve committed. You have to eat that damage. Open wide.

As you progress further in the game, you’ll be able to unlock new moves. But the moves, at least for Drizzt which I played for this review, feel not only hard to consistently do, but also don’t feel as rewarding once done. The instructions to do is so non-committal it’s confusing. It’s just backward and forward tilts, but I can’t seem to figure out the exact timing window to get what seems to be easy inputs to happen on command.

Overall I feel the action of pressing buttons is just plain bad. Even outside of combat. The gear menu lags as the screen struggle to load up the items on time with the menu appearing. Contextual prompts to collect loot, coin and get on ladders can take time to appear and needed multiple presses to trigger. Sometimes inputs don’t trigger as prompt as you want, which is frustrating when there are time-sensitive situations. I have to furiously click the sticks to trigger the ultimate because I don’t trust the game to detect the first input.

There are good ideas in Dark Alliance. Your gear’s various buffs and debuffs are very much useful in combat as well as exploration. Say, if you know you’re playing through a level where enemies with a lot of fire weakness appear, gears that can proc and inflict burning will make your run more efficient. Plus, a lot of the elemental hazards and traps that can damage you, can also damage the enemies. Heck, some of the enemies’ own area-of-effect attacks can be used to your advantage. Kiting enemies to kill each other from their own actions? You know what, that’s fun!

And you know what’s not fun? Enemies won’t fall over ledges and into chasms unless they die and ragdolled. But you can mid-combo, which you will then immediately teleported to some random place. Without the screen going black, disorienting you for a bit. And probably take a damage penalty as well.

Dark Alliance’s levels are all hand-made, and there’s a lot of detours you can go to collect more gear and coin on the side. There are not long, and only a handful has puzzles that you can just brute-force through, but these diversions are much-needed to break from the monotonous hacking and slashing.

The other big issue I find with Dark Alliance is the wild, uneven difficulty. Since it’s a loot game, you have a gear score, and higher difficulties only unlock should you pass the gear loot score. My warning: don’t even think of doing the highest difficulty you can do with your current gear score. I find enemies can easily knock half of your total health easily, despite my gear score implying that I should be fine. You’re not.

The frustrating part is that it’s not all enemies that can potentially two or three-shot you. Only a handful. So there will be areas where you feel like these mooks are pure cannon fodder that offers no challenge, only to suffer a rude awakening on the other.

Dark Alliance also offers an interesting mechanic, resting. At certain parts of the level, you can choose to take a rest to refill all consumables, or decline. Declining means you’re turning down a chance to restock items, as well as forgoing a checkpoint, in favour of a better loot rarity at the end of the run.

It’s a cool risk-versus-reward mechanic. However, once you realised that most of the levels doesn’t block your progression should you not clear the area from enemies, it becomes a no-brainer decision. Why rest up and forfeit better loot drops when you can just breeze through the areas you passed before? Any objectives completed will remain so. And the levels aren’t that big that you lose meaningful progress from dying. Plus, if you reach the end of the area where a boss fight appears, you just respawn from the start of the battle. A checkpoint, if you will.

For every good idea Dark Alliance has, there’s like a hundred other C-tier issues that are not addressed that adds up to make the experience more frustrating rather than fun. You can have a good time, but you have to work for it.


As far as content goes, there’s actually a decent amount. There seven different levels each with a story arc of sorts, divided into three acts. The locations are varied enough outside of the many usage of the winter cold theme (it can’t be helped- the place’s called Icewind Dale).

With fancier loot to collect and multiplayer available, you’d get more out of Dark Alliance with buddies who can tolerate what weird jank the game throws.

Personal Enjoyment

I struggle to find a good time with Dark Alliance. Every now and then everything seems to be working my way: the combat clicks and it’s fun, the exploration detours is satisfying, and the loot drops are bountiful.

But more often than not I keep bumping my head into various issues that would have been nitpicky stuff. But they are so many it becomes a real problem.

Why do I have to wait for 10 seconds to respawn after dieing when playing the game solo? And why does it pop up the same “You Have Fallen” text (with the timer included) before it fades to black? This is the sort of nitpicky problems that would have been tolerable and funny to laugh at if they are spread apart and the basic gameplay loop is amazing.

But it’s not.

I would’ve likely tolerated Dark Alliance better should I “invite” a friend to play together and picked a different character. And it looks like the choices I’ve made have led me to a Dark Alliance experience at its worst. Drizzt is not great for solo players starting out.


Dark Alliance has the foundation to be a solid co-op hack-and-slash and loot game romp that’s fun with friends.

As it is right now, however, there are too many issues, technical or otherwise, which makes it a hard recommend.

Unless you have willing friends, venture forth into Dark Alliance with caution. There is fun to be had, but you’ll need to work for it.

Played on base PS4. Review code provided by the publisher

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