Last weekend, I retreated from the city to a house in the woods with spotty cellphone service and my old PlayStation 2. Amazingly, the 15-year-old system (purchased with the funds from my bar mitzvah) still works, but most of the games no longer work, with one notable exception: Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance.
I’ve played the original Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance so many times I’m surprised the disc still functions. I also sprinted through Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 in a week-long marathon session with my brother after renting it from the local Blockbuster in the early 2000s.
The sequel ends in a dramatic cliffhanger, just like the original, but 13 years later I’m still waiting for some resolution. Here’s why we need Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3 now more than ever.
What’s so special about Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance anyway?
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance belongs to a special family of hack-and-slack dungeon-crawler games. Played from an overhead, bird’s eye view, you pick from a group of diverse heroes — dwarves, elves and humans, both male and female — and make your way through a series of dimly lit rooms and tunnels to eventually take out the big bad villain and save the day.
If you’ve played even one of these games you know how satisfying it can be to fight through wave after wave of increasingly monstrous enemies, ideally with a friend by your side. There are plenty of titles that fit this description, like the Gauntlet and Torchlight games. But Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, with its seamless gameplay mechanics based on Dungeons and Dragons rules and charming graphics, scratched that itch better than any other console game.
The most obvious modern equivalent to Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is Diablo 3, which offers a similar dungeon-crawling experience. But where the Diablo series essentially repeats the same basic story in each iteration, Dark Alliance featured a great story that kept raising the stakes.
The first Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance ended with a shocking twist. A humanoid lizard character that helped you through your journey turns out to be evil (go figure). He betrays your heroes, teleporting them to a dangerous land where they are quickly imprisoned. As the game ends, the forces of evil prepare to bring their true plans into action.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 picks up soon afterwards with a new cast of heroes and a new villain. Again, the game ends with a twist: Mordoc, the evil vampire you just spent the entire game defeating was nothing but a pawn in the plan of some even more powerful enemy. The true villain appears in the game’s final cinematic cutscene just before the credits roll, hidden inside a massive sarcophagus.
And that’s it.
For 13 years I’ve been waiting to find out who the true big bad of Dark Alliance is and dive back into the world of Baldur’s Gate. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why that will likely never happen.
The sad, true story of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3 was actually in development at one point, but it never saw the light of day after the game’s developer sued the publisher for using its game engine in other titles without permission. The game was canceled and today, all of the companies involved are essentially defunct.
The only real shred of hope lies with the original Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance distributor, Vivendi, which was merged into Activision and subsequently became Activision Blizzard. So the gaming behemoth behind huge franchises like Call of Duty and Overwatch could be our best shot at a new entry in the series.
However, considering that Activision Blizzard also happens to be the company behind Diablo 3, which is still adding new content more than five years after it was first released, it seems unlikely we’ll see Dark Alliance re-emerge to challenge Diablo’s dominance in the dungeon-crawling market.
Still, I’m holding out hope for a final return to the franchise. In a world of dominated by online multiplayer games, we could all use a good, old-fashioned local co-op dungeon crawl. And if any game is going to offer that experience it might as well be Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 3 (aka the one we really wanted all along).
Crazier things have happened, right?
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