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     " You discover that forces are convening to destroy everybody's favorite pub, along with the rest of the city. You of course won't let this go, even if it would erase your bar tab. "

      Title: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance by Interplay

      Format: PS2 Action RPG

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: The venerable Baldur's Gate line comes to your Playstation 2 with this new RPG. Made using the new D & D 3rd edition rules, this game promises customizable characters, over 35 creatures to fight, and 40 levels. Fight off the hordes to power you character, like any good action RPG. Well, does it come off any better than a Diablo's Gate? Read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics here are superb. Beautiful 3D character models, excellent environments. Even back in early development everyone was blown away by the water movement in this game. Blood flies from your conquered foes. You can tell how wounded bosses are by the number of bloody patches that have sprung up on their bodies. Whatever you equip your character with your character will wear. The monsters all look great, although the high angle of the camera can make some of the smaller ones a little difficult to see. 5 out of 5

      Sound: The music here is excellent, sweeping high drama all the way. It really complements your adventures really nicely. The voice work of the characters is decent, with nobody turning in a really horrible voice. The creatures make appropriate grunts and growls, and pretty screams when they die. I was a little weirded out by the singing swords in the game, making a metallic shiiing every time they were swung. The rest of the combat sounds however come out just fine. 4 out of 5

      Game Play: Okay, so it's a hack and slash campaign, played with one character…But it's still D&D, dagnabbit! The game play here is very arcade, not that that's a bad thing. Hack and slash you way through a veritable cornucopia of bad guys. Fight everything from common house Kobolds to Minotaurs, from Bug Bears to Ice Dragons. The RPG part comes in with character advancement. Following an adapted form of the 3rd edition rules, the characters gain feats and stat points as they go up levels. The feats are specific to the type of character you are playing and help to make characters different from one another. Unfortunately, there are only three characters to choose, a human archer, an elven sorceress, and a dwarven warrior. While it may be amusing to see the dwarven warrior going toe to toe with a Frost Giant three times his size, some additional choices might have been nice (Then again- I love dwarves, so what am I complaining about?). They don't even let you choose your own name. For the most part though, this game follows a fairly standard fare. Kill things for experience and money to buy better stuff so you can kill things faster to get more experience and money to buy better stuff… You know how it goes. This could have been avoided, if they'd simply had more side quests. In the first mission you get a good five or so sub quests to keep you going. After the first mission though, apparently everyone else is good to go, because you never get another sub quest. You'll just have to be satisfied with saving the world. On a final note, all the controls except the magic selection are easily used. The magic selection is a little clunky. 3.5 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: Environments vary, but generally come out looking very nice. The swamps look appropriately filled with wildlife. The Mountains look mountainous, the caves look, dank and cave-y. The levels are designed well. Most of the levels follow a dungeon layout that's fairly easy to follow. Some maps are utterly huge, with massive area to explore; others are fairly linear. Most of them fall in the middle with plenty of exploration and monster hunting to be had. 4 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Multiplayer here falls into the two player cooperative variety and works pretty well. You choose your characters and go to town. Experience is split up wisely, so that the warrior doesn't hog all the experience over the archer. By importing another character, any game can be made multiplayer. The story is the same though, and doesn't change for multiplayer. 4 out of 5

      Replayability: When you beat the game once, you unlock The Gauntlet. Beat that and you unlock Extreme difficulty. Beat it at extreme, and you get the games secret character. At that point do you really want to play the game again? The secret character is pretty cool, so maybe. The game is fairly fun, and it's likely that you'll play through it and possibly beat the Gauntlet. Otherwise, once you know the story, and see the ending, you're not likely to go through this game again. 3 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: The story here is well done. It starts off with your hapless hero being ambushed and robbed in the streets of Baldur's Gate. From there you go on to discover that forces are convening to destroy everybody's favorite pub, along with the rest of the city. You of course won't let this go, even if it would erase your bar tab. Taking up arms against a sea of troubles, you set off. The story is told fairly well through dialog with key characters. The game is split into three chapters, and no characters come from one chapter to the next. Which means some fairly cool characters die off early on. The motivations of the villains are clear, even if their reasons for working together aren't. The only real problem I had with the story though was the ending. Without giving anything away, it basically just screams "SEQUEL" at you then plays the credits. Otherwise the story plays great. 3 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: You should have no problem picking this game up and learning what makes it tick. Learning the differences between classes should be no problem to anybody who's played RPGs in the past. The instructions do a good job of explaining the stuff you need to know. The only place they falter is in the description of magical items. You'll sometimes get items with powers you don't really understand, which aren't described in the instructions. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: I think this definitely shows a great use of the PS2s capabilities. Load times are quick and painless. I got no slowdown, even in the direst of circumstances (Hey, don't laugh, that army of Kobolds looked vicious!). Saves take up 343 KB of space though, so watch out. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Well, they did a great job interpreting the 3rd edition rules and translating it into something for the console crowd to know and love. This game is most likely to be compared to Diablo II since it's a hack and slash run with pre-made characters with their own skill sets. The game is a lot of fun though. There're a variety of enemies to crush before you and a plethora of cool weapons and spells at your disposal. Ultimately, the name Baldur's Gate will draw people, and I don't think they'll be disappointed.

      The Good: Lots of enemies for the killing, and weapons to kill 'em with, beautiful graphics.

      The Bad: Limited character selection, a bit Diablo like.

      The Overall Ugly: A great console action RPG. And it's got Baldur's Gate in the name. That means something, right?

      What it's Worth: The going rate is worth it.

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