Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
Back in the late nineties, Interplay struck up a deal with TSR and, presumably, Wizards of the Coast to publish a series of PC role-playing games based around the Forgotten Realms universe, among other things. Several games spawned from that deal, including the Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment, but perhaps the most notable things to come from the deal are Bioware and Baldur’s Gate. The former was, as you would expect, the development house that brought the latter to life, and as the latter was generally very well received by just about everyone, the former took off as a result. Over a decade later, the latter has given us several critically well-received games, including Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age: Origins, and the Mass Effect series, while the latter has kind of dropped off the face of the Earth. While we’ll more than likely spend time discussing that series in the future, today is reserved for not the series itself, but for its own spinoff.
Interplay had interest in bringing the series to the console market, as it had done very well on the PC and the opportunity to replicate that success was most likely a desirable thing. Replicating the games in their entirety, however, didn’t work out as well as Interplay had hoped, as an announced PS1 port of the original Baldur’s Gate ended up on the cutting room floor before ever seeing the light of day. Console gamers tend to have different tastes from PC gamers, as numerous failed console releases of widely acclaimed PC titles have proven, so perhaps this is just as well, but this still left Interplay with a popular franchise and no way to bring it to the console market. This brings us to the Dark Alliance series: console-specific Baldur’s Gate titles with many of the conventions of their PC counterparts, but with a more console-oriented action bent. Two games have been released in the series so far, both of which were critically well received, but neither of which were well received by the gaming market, though they’ve managed to build up a strong cult following all the same. Interplay has announced that they’re considering making a sequel to the franchise, though their plans seem to fluctuate based on the temperature anymore, so we thought it’d be a good idea to check in with the staff and see what THEY thought about the franchise and whether or not it deserved another shot at gaming glory.
A.J. Hess- Stay Dead
The Dark Alliance aspect of Baldur’s Gate never really sat well with me. The original games were a wonderful – perhaps the best story-centric PC RPG’s of our time. It certainly did the franchise no favors when the decided to go play on the consoles. All this game really did was put Diablo style mechanics into the Dungeons and Dragons Universe. I’ll take a pass on ever seeing that again, especially since we have so many more games that do it better. Now, if someone wanted to take the original Baldur’s Gate and do it again in an updated version, I’d be all for it.
Oh wait, we call that Dragon Age: Origins.
Ashe Collins – Sequel
I actually liked what they did for this iteration of Baldur’s Gate and how it was implemented on the consoles. It was a bit like Diablo in play style, but the visuals were unique and often the NPC dialogue and interactions were very well done. Hell, while I’m running around in DDO or even in the tabletop we throw out quotes from several of the vendors, like “Oh, the smell of the sewers has taken a liking to you!” and so on. Plus you could unlock Drizz’t in here, who is a fan favorite from Forgotten Realms. In a sequel, though, I’d like to see it maybe get set in a different part of Forgotten Realms. I mean you travel in both console versions, but maybe try to cash in a little less on the Baldur’s Gate name this time?
Mark B. – Sequel
The Dark Alliance series interested me in ways PC iterations of the concept, like Diablo and its ilk, never really could. I mean, Diablo II was a fantastic game, to be certain, as was Diablo before it and Titan’s Quest after it, but clicking the left mouse button for a hundred hours, whether alone or with friends, just got tiring after a while. By consolidating the experience somewhat into one that was more favorable to consoles, the Dark Alliance series crafted an experience that has generated a solid fanbase and several imitations, even if it never quite achieved the immortality of its PC bretheren. With the increased interest in more Western-style RPG’s as of late, as seen by the massive popularity of games like Oblivion, Fallout 3, and the Fable series, now would be as good a time as any to revamp and re-release the series, as the current console market would likely be more receptive to the product overall.
Without the Dungeons and Dragons license, however, and without Black Isle or Snowblind Studios on-hand to assist in developing the product, it would seem that such a sequel would be disasterous at best. That said, Interplay could probably toss some money (assuming they have any to toss) at Obsidian to have them develop the game, which would essentially be the next best thing, seeing as how the company is made up of old Black Isle employees and all. Alternatively, Interplay could just sell the license to Atari, who appears to have the Dungeons and Dragons license at the moment, and since Obsidian has been working with Atari on the Neverwinter Nights series fairly recently, this would really work out like clockwork for everyone involved. Either way, it’s not a completely infeasible prospect, could actually end up being profitable for everyone involved, and would most likely result in a pretty damn good game, so I’m all for it, and I think you should be too.
Alex Lucard – Sequel
Dark Alliance 2 is probably my favourite action RPG of all time. Not only did it feature one of the best uses of D&D 3.0 ever, but it had a great plot and I loved the character builds. An Elvish Necromancer? Dwarven thief/pistoleer? AWESOME. However, it ended in such a way that a third game was needed. Stupid cliffhangers.
Interplay still has the rights to the Dark Alliance series and they have stated they want to make a third game. More importantly, GAMERS want it. Hell, the staff here voted it the best RPG of 2004 and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a truly great action RPG. Let’s hope Interplay can get the capital together so we can finally experience the final leg of this wonderful series. The only question is, what will the series look like without the Dungeons and Dragons license.
Stay Dead – 1
Sequel – 3
Start Over – 0
Spin-Off – 0
It seems that the staff is mostly in favor of bringing the Dark Alliance franchise back for another go, and while this decision isn’t completely unanimous, it’s certainly close enough to say that we’re in favor of a sequel, so long as somebody makes it and it doesn’t suck.