|Time for 1 run||About 7 to 9 hours|
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 was the last hurrah of Black Isle, a favorite among PIH's founders. It wasn't received as well as it deserved, however, marking one of the final nails in the coffin for the studio. The game was released for multiple platforms. This guide (once fully written) will be for the PS2 version, although the differences between the various systems is minimal. Gameplay itself lends towards the hack 'n' slash, most similar to Gauntlet but with character skills and attributes that make a difference. You are to choose one of 5 different heroes taken from the pages of Dungeons and Dragons (human barbarian, drow monk, dwarf rogue, moon elf necromancer, and a human priest) then embark upon a quest to save the Sword Coast yet again.
Starting the Game
The first thing you do upon starting a game is choose your difficulty level and then your character. To keep in the spirit of a hardcore run, you'll want to do Hard mode for your character's first playthrough of the game and then do "Extreme" once it's unlocked for that character's second playthrough. Secret characters must always start on Extreme as they start at a higher level than the others and can therefore fend for themselves immediately.
There are 5 characters to choose from initially, each with differing "feats" to choose from. Feats are similar to the Pen and Paper D&D versions, tweaked for the hack and slash gameplay of Dark Alliance 2. Some characters share feats with others, but for the most part, there is one specific string of feats that boost your character into godhood that only really works with that one specific character. Also, each character gains additional feats to choose from in Chapter 3 after completing a side-quest. For the most part, those skills are the most powerful for your character and what you'll be relying on them most heavily after they are obtained.
Leveling up is pretty simple. You gain as many points to put into your "feats" as the level you just were at (so you gain 1 feat point when you get to level 2, 2 feat points when you get to level 3, 20 points when you get to 21, etc.) Certain feats take more points to increase than others. As a general rule, don't put any ranks into feats that only benefit you for a short period of time (such as "Great Fortitude") and max out weapon focus for either one-handed or great weapons to increase the amount of attacks you get in a combo. It's also wise to get at least 2 ranks of Armor Proficiency as soon as possible to allow the use of shields and therefore blocking.
Just like in 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, you get to increase a stat by 1 every 4 levels. Every single character relies on two stats: strength and dexterity. Strength is THE most important stat in the game as it increases melee damage and gives you extra carrying capacity. Dexterity is helpful for Borador mostly, as he is the best ranged character, but helps everyone who will rely on a ranged weapon at some point from the extra damage and armor class it gives. Constitution can be helpful to get to 12, purely for the increased life regeneration, but once you get to about level 20, it is entirely useless as your HP regen is no longer noticeable. Intelligence is 100% useless, regardless of the character you are. Increasing your maximum mana pool doesn't help a single character, especially the two you would imagine need it most (the cleric and necromancer) as their natural mana regen is fineas is, and is god-like once you get 5 ranks of the Iron Will feat. Wisdom is helpful for increasing the experience you gain off monsters but there is no need to increase it permanently through leveling as a character will get to the level cap by the end of Extreme mode. (If you really want to increase it, make a couple rings, an amulet, or a pair of boots that fortifies the stat.) Charisma is the same: helpful but not important enough to increase permanently with anyone besides Dorn (as he begins the game with 11, so increasing it a single time gives the bonus).
The starting 5 characters are obviously the ones hardcore runs are made for, although they eventually end up more powerful than either secret character because you'll be able to craft weapons that blow Drizzt and Entreri's items out of the water.
Dorn the Human Barbarian
Dorn is the weapon master in this game. He is the only character where dual-wielding weapons is viable because he has access to the "Hero's Arm" feat, allowing him to equip great weapons such as great axes and greatswords in one hand. Maximizing two-weapon fighting, improved critical and death blow turn Dorn into a whirling dervish of unequaled power, especially if you use Barbarian Rage before letting loose. It is also helpful to get at least one rank in power attack or sunder armor to use as a guard break against creatures that tend to block a lot. I suggest sunder armor because your subsequent attacks will be doing more damage than the additional damage power attack gives.
Vhaidra the Drow Monk
Vhaidra is also exceptionally good at melee, with the added bonus of not requiring weapons to be good. Unarmed Combat is her bread and butter feat. At 5 ranks, she attacks super fast, super hard, and has a good chance to stun. As with Dorn, Improved Critical and Death Blow help out greatly. For her guard break, I greatly recommend Stunning Blow. You'll want to enchant a pair of gloves for her when possible, putting as many coral gems in it as possible to make your fists do even more damage. It's not a bad idea to put fire damage on them as well to help defeat trolls; however, as so many creatures in this game resist fire damage, it is recommended that you put fire damage on either your choice of a long range weapon or a staff/spear. Vhaidra is also the best character for throwing weapons once she gets her unlockable feats in Chapter 3, getting a feat that allows her to throw up to 5 at one time.
Ysuran the Moon Elf Necromancer
While Ysuran is a wizard, he benefits from the string of combat related feats just like everyone else. I highly recommend getting Armor Proficiency to 2 so you can equip shields and then getting the one-handed weapons feat in order to gain his combo attacks. Being able to block efficiently and having a way of defending yourself when enemies do finally get in close is necessary. That said, Ysuran is very good at range, especially if you have the skeleton minion or shadow creature summoned in order to absorb hits. Flame Arrow is a great feat early in the game, although it eventually gets regulated to a utility spell for killing trolls as quite a few monsters resist fire. I also had great success using Vampiric Touch, because you can use it to start melee combos similar to Power Attack with Dorn, although the second and third animations for the chain don't play correctly. Getting Vampiric Touch maxed also helps later on once you gain your Shadow Adept skills. Shadow Spray will become your new main offense, with claws of darkness allowing you to fend for yourself in melee quite effectively. Lastly, ignore the intelligence stat. It is largely worthless. Increasing your max MP is pointless if you put a few ranks into Iron Will. Your mana regen will easily cover any MP expenditures you might have.
Borador the Dwarven Rogue
Borador is hard to get used to at first. He's not very good in melee initially, meaning you'll have to rely on his ranged attacks quite a bit. His only really large damaging attack is Smokepowder Satchel. To use it effectively, rig it on the ground, run ahead to where enemies are and let loose a couple bolts, then run away once they catch up, exploding said satchel when they get close. For melee, it's best to use a one-handed weapon and a shield as he eventually unlocks "Shield Bash" in the third chapter.
Allesia the Human Cleric
Allesia lacks in single player mode. Her buffs are most effective when playing with two people, although they still help to an extent in single player play. You'll want to get at least one rank in Iron Will to boost her initial mana regen, as well as one rank in Holy Fire for some firepower at the game's beginning. One-Handed Weapons is a must as she works best with a shield and one-handed weapon. Once you max one-handed weapons and get at least 3 ranks in Holy Fire, it isn't a bad idea to spread the rest of your points into her buff spells, particularly Bless. Once you start gaining a significant amount of skill points a level, boosting Turn Undead is also very helpful as undead are a recurring enemy and make up one of the game's most difficult sections, Xanhast's Castle. Her healing spell is also helpful, but don't put any points into it until you feel comfortable with the rest of your abilities because you can just rely on potions for quite some time. The game gives you plenty.
After beating the game for the first time, the famous Dark Elf Ranger Drizzt Do'Urden becomes playable. After defeating the game on Extreme, his arch-nemesis Artemis Entreri becomes playable. Normally, secret characters in video games are imbalanced and therefore not fit for a true hardcore run. However, both Drizzt and Entreri come with one major flaw: they cannot use ranged weapons as they cannot swap out their initial weapons.
Drizzt is a walking sawblade. He begins at level 16 as a "new character" and is equipped with his two trusted scimitars, Twinkle and Icingdeath, both of which are much more powerful than basic scimitars, as well as a +4 Chainmail armor. The only downside to the swords is that Drizzt CANNOT use any other weapons, period. That means he absolutely cannot use a bow, crossbow, or throwing weapon. He also cannot ever gain a third rank in armor proficiency, meaning chainmail is the best he'll ever get to equip. His only long range option is his spell "Otiluke's Icy Sphere" which starts at one rank. He begins with both Improved Critical and Deathblow maxed (meaning he'll do roughly 220 damage upon his very frequent critical hits). You'll want to pour ranks into Two-Weapon Fighting and Icy Sphere. That's all he really needs. Drizzt also seems to lack HP so you'll want to carry extra health potions on you expecially if you start with him right away on Extreme mode.
As of writing, the author of this guide has yet to unlock Entreri. However, like Drizzt, he can only use his initial weapons, meaning he also has no long range weapon option.
The game's prologue is simple enough. The first area is nothing but goblins that die in one attack. Once you enter Trollbark Forest, the game officially "starts" as monsters stop dying in one hit and actually do enough damage to be a threat to brain dead players. The only creatures of note in Trollbark Forest are the wolves for their amount of life and the goblins with arrows. Next, you'll enter a goblin cave. Immediately, you'll face off against 10 goblin archers hiding behind breakable crates. Each character handles the situation differently, but as a general idea, you'll want to hop around one side and get behind one of the two groups. Most the goblins seem to fire their bows at the same time, meaning it's relatively easy to block the volley and then attack whichever one is closest. You'll likely have to quaff a healing potion or two from the stray arrows that hit you, but it's nothing major. The next encounter of note is a room full of goblins with a goblin shaman at the end who hits you with a poison spell as well as magic missles. You'll want to draw all the melee goblins out of range of the magic missles and dispose of them before moving in to kill the shaman. You'll likely be hit by some of the other goblin's arrows, but the shaman is by far the biggest threat. You'll fight your first boss as you move on, Bile-Tooth. He actually doesn't have a lot of HP and when he dies, so does the rest of the creatures in the room. However, he does have a shaman minion that has the potential to heal him. If it outheals your damage to the boss, kill it first and then turn back on Bile-Tooth as out-right slaying him is much easier than killing his spider companions first. There is an optional room up ahead full of those spiders. Watch out when you enter as 3 of them start attacking immediately. They have quite a bit of health and do decent damage so you'll want to block and attack in order to take as little damage as possible. Try to not run around at the beginning as all you'll do is gather even more spiders next to you. Hopefully by now, you'll have obtained at least one area-attack type move; it'll make taking them out go much smoother. Speaking to Randalla Brasshorn will allow you to go to the Prologue's final area, Wayfork Village.
This area is a lot like the very initial area of the game, except now the goblins won't immediately attack you as they will be attacking the villagers you're trying to save. There's nothing tricky until the very end where another goblin shaman is located. This one likes to run away from melee and has a rather wide-open area to do it in so range works well, as does any character that can stun or catch up with sprint. Inside the Inn, you'll find your second boss, Harnak the Butcher. Unlike Bile-Tooth, he's not a total cake-walk. You'll want to take out all his goblin companions first. It shouldn't be too difficult as none of them have a lot of HP. Harnak's attacks are unblockable, but he is very slow. You should be able to run around him to his backside and attack. He'll likely block a few times, but his block animation lasts longer than his block itself, so if you wait a moment after you notice your attacks being blocked, you'll be able to get in a few good solid hits. Go ahead and use as many potions if you got if you need to as this is the final area before you have access to the game's shop. Defeat Harnak, talk to the innkeeper for the reward, and then proceed to Baldur's Gate and Chapter 1 by talking to Randalla once again.
The first thing you'll want to do is talk to the Captain of the Guard. He's the armored fellow to your right as you first enter with the large exclamation point over his head. He gives you a quest to clear out the city's sewers. Unload all the extra loot with you to the shopkeeper (something you'll be doing quite often for the rest of the game) and then buy a full set of armor and a decent weapon if you didn't find one during the prologue. If you have 2000 gold left over, head over to your character's respective counterpart and talk to them. (Allesia talks to the priest of Helm inside the church, Vhaidra talks to her half-sister inside the inn, Borador talks to the dwarf inside the inn, and Ysuran talks to the crazy hermit wizard guy up in the northernmost enterable building. Dorn is out of luck, as are both secret characters.) Turning in gold gives you that much experience. I believe for all the characters where paying money for experience is an option, all of it must be payed by the end of chapter 2 in order to get the quest for their extra skills in chapter 3, although I have not confirmed this. Suffice it to say, the gold turn-ins are more than worth your while for the huge boost in experience they grant. Next, head over to the inn and speak with Randalla. She'll give you the option of investigating murders or kidnappings. You'll want to pick the Kidnappings option as it's much easier to accomplish, preparing you for when you do go to look into the murders. That's all there is to do in the city, so head on over to the sewers.
Baldur's Gate Sewers
The sewers are as straight-forward an area as you could ever as for. Kill all the monsters in order to satisfy the captain of the guard. You'll only encounter 3 types of enemies, and only one of which is any threat. The carrion beetles are simple, the rats a total push-over, and the slimes are quite possibly the most difficult enemies you'll encounter in the entire game. Whatever you do, stay as far away as possible and kill them with range. They shoot out anywhere between 2 and 5 gobs of goo, each of which is capable of doing anywhere between a quarter to a half of your entire health bar. Engaging them in melee is utter suicide and will end your hardcore run. They also have a good chunk of health. After cleaning up the 100+ monsters in the sewers, collect your reward and then head towards the Hands of Glory hideout to complete the quest for Randalla.
Hands of Glory Hideout