As part of its large scale plan to bring the beloved Dungeons & Dragons IP to videogames, Wizards of the Coast is about to publish the action RPG Dark Alliance, a spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate spin-off games originally released for consoles about twenty years ago.
Just like those games, Dark Alliance is squarely focused on hacking and slashing, though there are a few notable differences such as the perspective (now set to third-person over the shoulder instead of isometric) and the playable characters (whereas the previous titles featured unknown heroes, this time around the roster is made of the most famous heroes of the Forgotten Realms, the Companions of the Hall from the books penned by R.A. Salvatore).
With the launch scheduled for next Tuesday, June 22nd, we reached out to developer Tuque Games (previously known for Livelock and acquired by Wizards of the Coast back in late 2019) to learn more about Dark Alliance through an interview with Lead Mission Designer Jean-François Champagne.
As a reminder, the game will be available for $39.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X. PC and Xbox users can play it with no additional cost as part of their Game Pass subscription, though, and these two platforms also feature crossplay at launch.
Which engine is being used for the game's development?
We’re using Unreal Engine to make Dark Alliance.
One element of the beloved PnP Dungeons & Dragons that you translated into Dark Alliance is the short rest mechanics. If the community responds well to that, are you open to exploring the addition of more DnD mechanics into Dark Alliance?
You might have noticed recently that we are adding couch co-op to PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC after launch; we take our community’s comments and suggestions to heart. The rest is all a matter of scale and feasibility.
How long are you expecting missions to take on average? Are there any randomized elements or objectives to add variety and incentivize replayability?
How long each level takes depends on a variety of factors. If you’re on the lowest difficulty rating, a party of four can complete one mission in about 20 minutes. If you have lower-level gear and abilities, challenge rating 2 of the same level could take up to 40 minutes. It depends on the challenge rating, what gear you have equipped, how many special moves you’ve unlocked, and how many people are in your party.
Can you talk about the emergent combat system of Dark Alliance? Will combos work in a way that potentially enhances teamwork?
The emergent combat system means that combos and move chains are not pre-canned. Moves have opportunity windows where they can be chained into other moves. As you unlock new moves, experiment with different combinations, and master your arsenal, you can devise your own combos. As for teamwork, one example (among many) is that the combo meter that fills the Ultimate Gauge is shared, so coordinating with your teammates to alternate attacks while others regain their stamina is a way to get that combo chain to run near indefinitely; which means filling your Ultimate meter faster.
How important is loot going to be for a character's power compared to the player's skill?
Gathering loot and collecting the right gear is important for advancing and progressing through the harder difficulty levels. There are six challenge ratings in the game (or six levels of difficulty to master).
Is there any way to upgrade items through gems, enchanting, and the like? If so, how does that work?
Gear can be upgraded with crystals of different quality that can be picked up as resources in the environment and/or given as rewards. The harder the difficulty, the better the quality. You can do all of that by visiting the merchant in the base camp in between missions.
As players turn up Challenge Levels in Dark Alliance, do the AI foes get smarter/more aggressive, or will they just have more health points and deal more damage?
Their direct AI behaviors won’t change, but more enemies will be able to attack you at once, making the fights feel more aggressive. The Elite System will generate unique abilities for them that will force you to adapt to each encounter a little bit differently.
With regards to character progression, can you share more on how feats and move trees are going to work in Dark Alliance? Is it possible to freely 'respec' a character?
There is no respec-ing in the game. We opted for a system that allows you to unlock every move and every feat by the time you reach max level (20). Our philosophy is that we let you progressively unlock your full arsenal as you learn to use it. Choosing what loadout you want to use on specific missions and learning how to use all your tools with maximum effectiveness is where you, the player, need to get creative and oh yeah—"git gud.”
Co-op action RPGs often add new classes or characters post-launch. Is that something that could happen for Dark Alliance, adding more playable characters?
There is already a plan to add one playable magic-user after the game launches.
A big part of keeping players engaged in cooperative action RPGs is the so-called endgame. Can you tell us what that's going to look like in Dark Alliance?
One aspect of building the ultimate companion is to get the best gear, and the best gear requires you to play on the hardest levels of difficulty. Mastering the combat system, teaming up with friends, and finding the best sets for specific challenges as you tackle the game at the highest difficulty can keep you engaged for a long, long time.
And when your main is all geared up and has become the ultimate badass, there are three other companions with completely different fighting styles for you to explore and upgrade as well.
Is there voice chat and/or text chat in the game?
There is voice chat, but not text chat.
Local co-op and full crossplay are two of the most requested features from the community. Are you working to support them post-launch?
Yes! We are working on bringing two-player couch co-op to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC hopefully with the first free DLC this summer. We’re investigating how to support two-player couch co-op on PS4 and Xbox One after that. Full crossplay is not currently part of the plan.
Will the game be enhanced for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X consoles? If so, can you share the planned enhancements as well as the target resolution and frame rates?
We put a lot of effort into bringing the Forgotten Realms to life in Dark Alliance; the game is gorgeous on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X consoles with a 4K resolution at 60 fps.
Is there anything you'd like to add about Dark Alliance?
A lot of us at Tuque are huge D&D fans and we can’t wait for the community to experience Dark Alliance for themselves!
Thank you for your time.