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Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (GCN)

If youíve ever played either of the Baldurís Gate games for PC, when you see the name Baldurís Gate on a game, you might be expecting something with varied character interaction, many quests, and freedom in character creation. While Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance does have some of that, itís not anywhere even close to what the PC games did. So, if you played one of those and are expecting this to be the console equivalent of them, youíre probably going to be in for a bit of a letdown there. That isnít to say the game is bad, just, itís different.
If youíve never played a Baldurís Gate game before, well then, you donít have any preconceived notions of it, so, youíre all set.
In either event though, on with the review.

Gameplay: 9/10
Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance is an RPG focusing strongly on action. You work your way through many dungeons, fighting off wave after wave of enemies on the way to your goal. When you start the game, youíre given a choice between three characters to play, a Dwarven Warrior, Elven Sorceress, and a Human Archer. Each of the characters come with their own preset group of skills and stats and skills, you arenít allowed to modify their starting attributes at all. As you fight enemies, youíll gain experience points, which will eventually add up to a level. When you level, you will gain in Hitpoints and Magic Points, and be given a number of Skill Points which you can now add to your choice among a variety of different skills.
Itís not the most complex game in the world, but, itís pretty fun for what it does.

Controls: 9/10
Youíre allowed to customize any of the action buttons however you want. Iíll comment on the default layout for the buttons though.
Fighting is fairly straightforward, the A button is your main weapon attack, B casts a spell with the D-pad rotating through your list of spells. The R and L buttons drink a Health or Magic potion (as long as you have one in your inventory of course). The X button talks to people or opens doors, and the Y button jumps. Yes, there is jumping in this game. Thereís a few places where you are required to jump, but, for the most part itís not a major factor in the game.
The camera is controlled by the C-stick. For the most part, the camera works flawlessly, with you being able to rotate it right or left as far as you want. There are a few areas in the game where they donít allow you to move the camera however, which can be a bit frustrating. It doesnít happen too often though.

Story: 9/10
The main story in Baldurís Gate is crafted beautifully, and will keep you interested right up through the end of the game, and have you wondering and wanting more even then. The only problem is, the main story is it, there are no particular sidestories or anything, you basically hit every story point on your way through the game, thereís nothing you can go out of your way to find out something more or different. There really arenít any sidequests either, as, again, basically every quest there is to do you have to do on your way through the game in order to progress, there are no optional paths or anything. That aside though, again, the main story is really excellent.

Graphics: 10/10
Vast forests, ponds with water that moves and ripples as you walk through it, snow-covered mountains and breathtaking ice caves. The graphics in this game are varied and beautiful. While you are only allowed a certain view at things (while you can rotate the camera left and right as you wish, you canít zoom in or out, so, it doesnít have to deal with that), everything is clear, with no problems at all.

Sound: 10/10
The inn where you start off the game is haunted by a spirit that sings every night. So, right from the start you are introduced to a very enchanting song, which is constantly playing in that room. All of the music throughout the game is very atmospheric. Not loud or overpowering, the music goes well with the game.
The sound effects are also very good, from the clang of metal to the squish of a rat as it falls below your sword.
One annoying thing though, which is probably best to group with other comments about sound but doesnít really affect the sound rating. While there is an option to turn on text captions for the movies so that it writes out what the characters are saying on the bottom of the screen, even with that option on, there are a few movies where it decides not to do the captions at all, instead just having the characters speaking with no text. While it isnít too big of a problem, there doesnít really seem to be any reason to do that, have an option to turn on text during movies but still have some of the movies without text. If someone didnít want to see text during them, theyíd just have that option off (which is the default setting), so, if someone turned it on, obviously theyíd prefer to see the text. Not that big of a deal or anything, but nonetheless worth mentioning.

Replay: 7/10
Playing through the game once will probably take you somewhere in the area of around 9 hours. While there are 3 different main characters to play as (and a 4th one to unlock), the story doesnít differ significantly for any of them. All youíll encounter is a few slightly different dialogs, such as someone who refers to one of the characters as ďbrotherĒ will refer to another one of the characters as ďstranger.Ē None of the different characters allow any different paths or asides throughout the game. So, while playing each of the different characters allows you a different approach as far as how you attack enemies, thatís about it. While it can be interesting to play through the game with the different characters, thereís no specific story-based reason to do so. As well, again, there are no sidequests really, everything there is to do in the game quest-wise, youíre going to do on the first time through the game.
You might not have been absolutely thorough in your exploration of the game the first time through, leaving a few areas and enemies untouched, so you could go through the game again in the sense of trying to make sure you touch on every inch of ground, there isnít too much other than that.
That said, it still is a very interesting game to play, and despite there not being any specific story or quest reason to play through more than once, it still is fun to do so.

Overall: 9/10
Again, if you go into this game expecting it to be like the other games with other Baldur games, youíre probably going to come out a bit disappointed.
Aside from that though, this is a very good game for what itís trying to be, is well crafted and put together, and very fun to play.