Tuque Games have released Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance to Xbox Game Pass for both console and PC. On the surface, this game ticked every box in what I was looking for. An action RPG set in the DnD universe, with up to 4 player co-op action, a loot system, upgrade paths, and lots of skills to choose from. In practice though, I am thoroughly disappointed by baffling design decisions and rampant bugs. It isn’t all bad news, but not since Necromunda: Hired Gun have I been more disappointed by a game. Here is our review of DnD: Dark Alliance.
Needed a bit more time in the oven.
At first glance, you may think this is a horde beat-em-up but it actually plays much more like a Souls game. Combat is deliberate and animations (kinda) cannot be canceled out of. Your attacks are tied to your right bumper for light attacks and right trigger for heavy. The left bumper is a parry when you press it and a block when you hold it. That parry appears to have no cooldown on it, and you can essentially spam it while your attack animations play out.
Every single press of an attack button chains to another animation, so if you press the right trigger three times your character will attack three times no matter what. As someone who came in expecting something a bit more spammy, I could adjust quickly, but a terrible lock-on system hinders the combat at every turn. The default camera is far too slow on console, so you should quickly up the horizontal turning to at least 75 before anything else. Far too often I found myself facing the wrong direction despite trying my damndest to hit a mob directly next to me.
Left trigger sets you up for a ranged attack, which is useless garbage for 3 of the 4 characters. B is your dodge, A is for jumping, and Y triggers your two skills through either a press or hold. The skills have incredibly long cooldowns to start with, and as each character levels independently you’re in for the long haul if you want to get deep into leveling things with each class.
A DnD Action RPG wih no mage?
There are four classes available and not one of them is a magic-user. It’s baffling that not one is in the mix, especially when one of the classes focus on ranged bow attacks. Those four characters are:
Drizzt Do’Urden an infamous Dark Elf in DnD lore. He plays like a rogue and is massively overpowered.
Bruenor Battlehamer who is a dwarven sword and board fighter who is great for a co-op group.
Catti-brie is Bruenor’s adopted human daughter who is mainly an archer who can also kick people a lot.
Wulfgar rounds things up and is a big hammer man who likes to spin around a lot while yelling.
Catti-brie has a heal to start which by default makes her unbelievably useful early on. After playing for a while in 4 man groups through Quick Play matchmaking each character felt like they had their place, though having some sort of magic user would have made me a lot happier. Each character has an ultimate ability on a long cooldown as well. Catti-brie’s arrows become enormous and super-powered, Bruenor puts up a huge buff/debuff zone around himself, Wulfgar can spin around while his hammer is on fire, and Drizzt calls in his ethereal companion who attacks enemies for a short period of time. The main issue is that no matter what the brain dead A.I. leads to you being able to exploit them as much as you want if there are any ledges around that they can’t jump up. They just stand there most of the time, and you can routinely win most fights just hitting the attacks while spamming the parry button. Some enemies though have unblockable attacks that you must dodge, but the animations queuing up for attacks routinely leads you to do one attack then having to dodge and if you accidentally do a 2nd you’re in for taking a massive amount of damage. It just is not fun solo, and it’s occasionally mindlessly fun in cooperative play.
Loot! But only when you’re in town…
One issue I had with Necromunda: Hired Gun was the fact that it was a loot-based gear system, but you could only equip gear in between missions. DnD: Dark Alliance follows this Anthem-at-launch path and you can only see what loot you got, equip it, change out skills, and unlock feats in-between missions in the small hub area. I will never understand how you can these types of loot systems encourage you to create builds and try out different skills but do not let you actually change things up mid-mission. There is a helm, upper body, lower body, gloves, boots, one ring, and one trinket slot. The typical color-coded rarity system is tied into a leveling and upgrading system that is all standard fare for the genre.
One neat mechanic during missions is the choice you can make at certain points to either take a checkpoint that saves your place, refills your consumables, and respawns all enemies or you can choose to get none of those benefits but instead gain a loot rarity buff to drops. Unfortunately for me, the checkpoint part of the choice to rest broke a few times, and I died 30 minutes into a level while playing solo and was sent all the way back to the start.
Graphics Sounds and Bugs
Graphically things run at sixty frames-per-second and at a high resolution. There were multiple times, especially in the early levels, where the framerate dropped to 5 or 10 for a few seconds at seemingly random times. Textures are a bit muddy, and overall I’d say it looks “fine”. The player models are decent, and the enemies have a decent variety and horrific nature to them. One area that constantly broke for me though was any type of leap attacks where I was landing on an enemy. Instead of going through them or just dropping next to them, I would hang above them for a second or two while the game tried to figure out what was going to happen.
The music and voice acting are both well done, especially the former. It’s the big bombastic fare you’d expect from something DnD, and I was pleasantly surprised that the voice acting held up overall. Your enemies repeat lines quite often though, and in the tutorial area, I’m pretty sure I heard the same line about 60 times in a few minutes during each part.
As this is on Game Pass the only thing you’re spending extra is your time. If you have a few friends to play with there are worse ways to go about it, but if you’re looking at this game solo then I’d say it’s a hard pass, free or not. It is available on PC and Console for Game Pass, and if you’re reading this review well after launch I’d take a look and see if they patched the game up well, because it has the potential to be solid but it’s just nowhere near there at launch.