Updated Review (pre-patch): Dark Alliance’s multiplayer did not match our solo playthrough and considering it's one of the key features of this game, we’re docking a point from the final score.
When playing online there were delays between button inputs and the action that occurs on screen. In general, the game feels a lot more sluggish. Enemies are also not as reactive to player presence, the lock-on combat is just a little more frustrating and the difficulty is significantly reduced to the point it’s too easy as times.
Overall, the game is just not as accessible when playing in a party. It is a real shame considering this D&D title is promoted as a multiplayer experience. With some patches, the entire adventure could certainly be improved. Keep in mind, it’s been available on Game Pass since launch - so there’s also no real risk (or cost) associated with downloading this one on Xbox right now and trying it out for yourself.
As a result of these impressions, we've docked a point from the final score, and we've also altered the 'pros and cons' section of the review. The rest of the text below, however, including the conclusion, remains in its original, unaltered state.
Original Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is the latest video game adaptation of the popular tabletop fantasy RPG - not to be confused with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. With that out of the way, the new Dark Alliance is pretty much everything a seasoned D&D player would expect. This third-person four-player online co-op action brawler (with real-time combat) includes lore, questing, killing, levelling and looting.
You select from one of four heroes (sword, bow, hammer and axe). Each character has a specialisation - ranging from close combat, ranged attacks, brute strength and more. Once you’ve found the hero that's right for you, the meat of the game is broken up into a series of quests and side quests across multiple chapters. Throughout the adventure, there are more than 50 moves to unlock for each hero as they level up.
You’ll naturally become more skilled with your hero as you progress. AI might seem challenging at first but once you adapt to the combat in the game – made up of attacking, defending, combos, casting, counters and parrying – it becomes a lot easier.
The lock-on ability in combat isn’t great and the controls can be a tad troublesome in heated moments, but with some time and practice, you should find a good rhythm. Your character can also build up a unique ultimate which is handy for taking down the end-of-level bosses. And in-between stages are checkpoints – where you either create a respawn point or opt to increase loot rarity. You can also adjust the difficulty, with harder runs resulting in more rewards and XP.
For the most part, Dark Alliance is a well-executed action-brawler mixing major epic fantasy battles with some minor 3D platforming such as hazards and puzzle elements thrown in. After each quest (which can take 20 minutes to an hour), your party will head back to camp to see what new gear has been unlocked, equip better items, level up gear, chat with the merchant, customise the hero's look and improve skillsets and specialisations with points and gold coins.
The music sounds the part, and the graphics look impressive for a next-generation project of this scale, and the cinematics are also lovely. While there are some glitches from time to time – with enemies getting stuck in odd locations or not disappearing immediately when they die, it doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience. Performance of the game may also be minorly impacted in more heated moments.
If you are a long time D&D player or have played any fantasy action brawlers in the past, you’ll likely enjoy this game – either with friends, or even if you go for the more challenging route of playing alone. It certainly doesn't revolutionise the genre, but considering it’s available on Game Pass at launch, there’s no reason not to give it a go. There’s also some free DLC and a paid expansion on the way, giving Dark Alliance a chance to level up in the future.