For a week now I've been counting down the days until this game landed on game pass, not only do I love hack and slash games I also love the fantasy setting this game takes place in, so needless to say I was very excited for this game. When I woke up this morning I saw that IGN had reviewed the game so I decided to give it a quick glance trying to avoid any spoilers, and what I found befuddled me. IGN gave Dark Alliance a 4, a score we here at TheGameNut gave to Duke Nukem Forever. You can check out our grading scale here. So I ignored that review completely and decided to head in myself because let's be honest IGN is inconsistent to put it nicely. So without going on a rant about IGN and their reviewer's lack of understanding of what kind of game this was supposed to be, let's get into Dark Alliance's first hour of gameplay on the X Box Series X.
If you're looking for a deep storyline you are going to be disappointed, there doesn't seem to be much of an emphasis on story or even the playable characters. The story is very basic, a very strong crystal was created by some evil people and more evil people want it, we as the heroes have to defend it, we've seen it thousands of times.
I'm playing as the dwarf character Bruenor Battlehammer, his role is to be the tank of the group and, well, as a supporting character once you get into the skill tree system, (more on that later). The game runs you through a five-ish-minute tutorial putting you through all the normal paces, teaching you how to hit, block, heal, and so on. Then you are thrown right into it, you go to your world map and decide which quest you want to do. The game has six different difficulty levels each increasing in difficulty in relation to your "rating", seeing how easy the tutorial was I decided to jump right in at level two which I think was the perfect call to make.
The combat at first is basic but not in a terrible way, the game is a hack and slash so of course, you're going to repeat the same attack thousands of times which is to be expected. You have your light attack, heavy attack, block, parry, ultimate move, and special skills that are on a timer. Once you level up a bit and collect some gold, you can buy unlockable moves and abilities in the "moves" tab of the character menu. For example, one of the moves I have is a taunt so the target focuses on me so my teammates can unload a lot of damage without the risk of being hit. You buy moves with gold, you can also buy special abilities called "feats" with a different currency, not sure what the currency is or how you get it. The feats are much more of where you will align to one specific role for your character, what does seem interesting and fantastic for replayability is my character could go into either the damage specialization, support specialization, or the tanking specialization. Meaning I could play the game three times and get a different experience each time. The armor/weapons menu is very simple and easy to understand with clear indicators showing if a piece of gear is better or worse than what you currently have on. You can sell unwanted gear to the vendor back at the base camp, he is also where you will be able to upgrade gear and weapons, and spending those crystals you earn out on missions will grant you bonus stats and an increase to stats already on the pieces. If you don't have enough of one crystal you can spend a little gold and several lesser tier crystals transforming it into a higher tier one. Each piece of gear has a certain number of times it can be upgraded, I assume that number of upgrades will increase with the rarity of the piece.
Let's talk about the first mission, this mission had one main objective and two side objectives one of which was to collect eight mugs, and the other was to kill a mini-boss. The first level took me about an hour, but I bet you could run it in around 20 minutes if you didn't explore every nook and cranny as I did. Something that this game did that's unseen in these kinds of games is implemented a mechanic called the short rest, after a particularly tough fight or a boss you will get the option to rest at a campfire and refill your health pots and other consumables or gain no consumables but stack a multiplier to get better gear rewards.
So far it seems like I'm praising this game and I will say after only playing an hour I do like it, for me, it's the perfect fit of gear, talent trees, and settings. However, with all that good comes the bad and a fair bit of it. While I think the IGN writer was expecting this game to be the next Skyrim, I will agree it has some heavy flaws.
The combat overall is fine and I didn't have many issues with it, only a few times I was hit by a volley of arrows when I was not in the outlined zone. The voice acting in this game is abysmal, the first cutscene with Icewing is the worst case of lip sinking not matching up to the voice that I've ever experienced. Yes, it is a dragon but when the voice is coming out of the dragon its mouth isn't moving and when she stops talking it starts flapping wildly, not to mention the actual voice of the dragon being the farthest possible fit to the character of all time. All enemies of the same race share the same voice lines, it doesn't matter if it's a goblin archer you kill in two hits or a goblin boss that takes ten minutes to down they say the exact same lines, not only do they say the same lines they repeat them nonstop. I was fighting Mogthump and he said the same line four times in a matter of 45 seconds. Now perhaps the biggest sin of this game, the AI is braindead and I mean utterly braindead, I'm not sure how this game was released with this AI. Whoever is doing the QA over at Tuque Games should start looking for another line of work. Fighting six of the smaller guys is harder than fighting any of the mini-bosses or even actual bosses. For any enemy in the game except main bosses, you can grab the enemy's attention, walk backwards, and the enemy will lose interest in you, and when they turn you can sprint jump, and hit them knocking them to the ground, then rinse and repeat until they die. It's extremely disappointing to see the AI be this bad but hopefully, that's just the first level and they get more advanced throughout the game.
Overall I'm enjoying it so far, after writing this article I'm going to sink some more hours into it, keep an eye out on the site for a full review later this week. If you want to play a simple hack and slash game set in a fantasy world then this will fill your craving perfectly, if you're looking for in-depth stories and dialogue this is not the one for you. Seeing as the game is on game pass, and every gamer on X Box should have game pass at this point it's a no-brainer, download it and try it out.