What oh what is one to do when one feels like playing a game but is bored with one's meager selection of Xbox 360 games? One is to dust off one's trusty PlayStation 2, that's what! Well, I suppose that's true if one is me. The point of this is that I recently busted out an old fave that hails from the Age of 2001: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and you know what? That shit is still fun.
This action/RPG begins in the Dungeons & Dragons city of Baldur's Gate; the player's character is robbed and takes refuge at the Elfsong Tavern. From there, he or she embarks on a vengeance-filled quest to track down the guilty thieves; before long, however, it becomes evident that the thieves' guild is only a part of a larger world-ending scheme at play, and so the PC travels the land hoping to save civilization from destruction.
Oh man, did you see that? "Dungeons & Dragons"..."Elfsong"..."quest"..."the"...yup, BG: DA is firmly entrenched in geekdom. But we don't mind, right, because we all secretly like that stuff, right? Right? RIGHT?? Secretly. In secret. In public we'd never be all "Ooh, elven sorceress!" but in private, we'd totally be all "Ooh, elven sorceress!" when choosing our characters, right?
What I'm trying to say is that...umm...one of the characters you can choose to play is an elven sorceress. The others are human archer and dwarven warrior, but there are only minor ability differences between the three- the dwarf can use two-handed weapons and the sorceress can, oddly enough, cast a whole mess of spells. I'd lodge a minor complaint that character creation isn't a part of this RPG experience- while leveling up and choosing skills are part of the process, appearance and even naming your character are not. I won't lodge that complaint, however, because 1) this is an action RPG from 2001, and in the years since I've been spoiled by levels of customization in more current RPGs, and 2) that is something a nerd would complain about and I am so not a nerd.
Gameplay couldn't be easier as you hack, slash, and magic your way through cellars, snowy mountaintops, and swamps. Weapons, spells, and items are assigned to buttons with a dreamy layout, which means you don't have to pause the action to, say, chug a health or mana potion.
Not that I know what a mana potion is- I mean, that's something a dork might know about, but not someone as cool and socially-relevant as myself.
They may be a decade old, but dammit, the graphics still hold up. Interactions with NPCs are presented in a 1st person POV, but the battling is 3D isometric style. There's a surprising amount of detail shown, from sparks flying off of a lit fuse to gory body parts flying off of a shambling corpse. While there's not a ton of dialogue, the voice acting is better than average...although it's a bit odd to hear the ridiculously over-busty, half-elven bar wench speak with almost the same voice as the stern, capable Commander Shepard of Mass Effect (both are voiced by Jennifer Hale, which...someone told me, I swear- it's not that I would just know something so dweeby).
If you're to kill a few hours with a fun-to-play actioner with some light RPG elements, you can't go wrong with Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. It's well worth dusting off your PS2, GameCube, or Xbox to give it a whirl...although I'm sure you're much too cool to engage in anything to do with the Forgotten Realms!
Not that I know what those are, mind you.