Co-op Dungeons & Dragons hack-and-slash series Dark Alliance is making a comeback.
A brand new game, dubbed simply Dark Alliance, will be released next autumn for PC and consoles, developed by Tuque Games and Wizards of the Coast.
A quick word on Tuque: it's a relatively unknown studio in Montreal created by ex-Ubisoft veterans. Livelock, the studio's first game, looks like a pretty good co-op action RPG, which bodes well. Wizards acquired Tuque a couple of months ago and there are around 55 people working there.
Back to Dark Alliance: it will be a spiritual successor, not a direct successor, to the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance games from the PlayStation 2 and Xbox era. The old story, then, will be left alone.
"It's a new story," Tuque studio head Jeff Hattem told me in an interview. "It's a spiritual successor. It's been so long since the original Dark Alliance and Dark Alliance 2 - it's generations ago, console generations - we felt it wouldn't do that- those two games are really good in their own right and we're putting our own spin on things.
"We felt like this is a new beginning for the franchise."
The new beginning means moving away from the Baldur's Gate setting and into Icewind Dale, hence the name change, but the story will continue to center around Drizzt Do'Urden and RA Salvatore's stories.
Perhaps more importantly, a new beginning means moving from top-down gameplay to third-person. "We wanted to bring in the camera to have a more intimate, visceral experience with the harshness of Icewind Dale," Hattem said.
Co-op will still be fundamental to the experience, though. Four people will be able to play through the entire story, either online or locally, in screen-quartering split-screen.
But actual gameplay details are thin. We know the playable characters are Drizzt Do'Urden, Cattie-Brie, Bruenor, and Wulfgar, and they have unique abilities and gear, and you will be able to customise them. But beyond that, and D&D being the underlying inspiration, there's not much else to know right now.
The teaser video (embedded) reminds me of Warhammer: Vermintide, another four-player action RPG but a first-person game. It seemed to have the same vibe.
But Hattem said: "Our game is its own thing. It wouldn't do justice to Vermintide, or other comparables, to one-to-one relate it. Definitely there's the co-op aspects of Vermintide that are similar. Our game plays completely differently to Vermintide since theirs is first-person and ours is third-person. [...] Our game is more group-focused." He wouldn't elaborate how.
Hattem wouldn't specify which consoles Dark Alliance is in development for but bear in mind an autumn 2020 release date puts the game in next-gen, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Scarlett territory.
Hattem couldn't talk about the possibility of cross-platform play but did say Dark Alliance will not be a free-to-play game. "We don't know the pricing just yet but it's not a free-to-play game," he said.
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance was basically Baldur's Gate for console and therefore sped up and more action packed. The original was developed by Snowblind with help from publisher Black Isle, and released in 2001, and a sequel followed in 2004, made by Black Isle. A planned third game fell apart when Black Isle was closed and Interplay went bankrupt.
Snowblind, however, would go on to make a spiritual successor of sorts in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it was pants. Snowblind was then merged with Monolith to create the excellent Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Not many people remember Dark Alliance these days. It's nearly 20 years old, after all. So it was some surprise when our former intern Imogen Beckhelling announced - herself not much older - she was a big Dark Alliance fan. How could this be? The answer is "her nan". Imogen shared her rather touching Dark Alliance story a couple of months ago.