Back in 2008, my wife and I happily button-mashed our way through Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, a game which I am given to understand is viewed as something of an abomination by Proper Baldur’s Gate fans, those being the fans who grew up on the isometric PC games in the late 90s.
We had a lot of fun with it, and wound up buying a few other games in the same genre. Then we found out that we REALLY prefer playing through hidden object games together, and haven’t gotten around to doing the co-operative button mashing thing since.
Then I started trying to knock off my backlog one system at a time, and that’s how Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes found its way into the tray of our aged and finicky Xbox.
I liked it a lot. It doesn’t have the most original setup – there’s an evil wizard, he tried to take over the world, you and your friends stopped him and died in the process, it’s been a few decades and someone has resurrected the wizard, so you get resurrected to, well, stop him again. The NPC who resurrects you basically tells you “he’s that way, here’s a (sword/staff/bow/mace), go do something about it, would you?”
It doesn’t need an original setup. In this case, a few fantasy cliches and a few of the nastier pages from the Monster Manual are all that are really needed to make a satisfying dungeon crawl / loot bash. There are occasional puzzles involving switches and color-coded pressure plates, and an awful lot of looking for four or five of X, where X is a set of objects you need all of in order to open a door, and a friendly shopkeeper or two to sell your junk to and buy potions from, and the rest is pretty much Front Towards Enemy, Mash Attack Button, at least on Normal difficulty.
The first couple of levels, where you’re broke and kind of short on healing potions and swinging wildly at trolls with your rusty longsword, are actually the toughest. Once you get your feet under you, it’s pretty much smooth sailing to the inevitable multi-stage final boss fight.
Playing it on a modern flatscreen, the low poly models do stand out a bit – it’s not UGLY, by any means, but it’s definitely rough around the edges. The environments hold up considerably better; it does a good job of selling the contractually-obliged swamp, fire, and ice-themed levels. There are also some cutscenes that play before boss fights; these are pre-rendered and look really good.
Total play time was probably 12 hours over four nights. It dragged a bit towards the end, if I’m honest – there’s a necropolis level which just seems to go on and on long after it’s overstayed its welcome – but I’m willing to accept that it may just have been me being impatient and wanting to get to the bit where I punch the evil wizard in his evil wizard face.