D&D Daggerdale: Neither Dungeons Nor Dragons
When Atari and Bedlam Games teamed up with Wizards of the Coast to bring us Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale the intention was to create a quick and easy downloadable primer of 4th Edition D&D to spark interest in a wider audience. What we got was a generic middling hack and slash adventure that fails to shine in any aspect it tries to put forth. It fails as an introduction to D&D, it fails as a fun and engaging video game, and unfortunately it appears this is only the beginning.
The setup for Daggerdale is simple, you choose from 4 pre-made character classes and are dropped into a cavern beneath a tower. The story is as barebones as it gets, an evil wizard claims he will destroy the world and he is just hanging out at the top of this tower, so you and your companions must climb the tower and destroy him. Along the way you will do a bunch of fetch quests for dwarves, kill a million goblin minions, and destroy every barrel in sight.
I want to make note first that many people are complaining about game breaking glitches in Daggerdale, specifically losing all of their characters class abilities at one point in the game. I did not experience any major glitches during my entire play through of Daggerdale so cannot speak to the issues others are claiming are there. The problems I saw were minor, heavy screen tearing occurred throughout the entirety of the game, many of the textures on the environments would pop in late, and during battles with a large number of minions there would be instances of slowdown. Other than these minor issues I was able to play the game from start to finish without a hitch, whether you’d want to do so is another matter entirely.
Each of the 4 main classes gets a melee and a ranged attack, 1 class ability, and a host of special abilities. However you’re never really given a chance to utilize these abilities in any interesting ways. From the beginning of the game you are hacking and slashing through waves of similar enemies and groups without having to change tactics much. I played as the dwarven cleric and was able to abuse my classes healing ability to breeze through the game, however pretty much every enemy in the game drops a health potion so even without that ability I fail to see where this game would be a challenge. After a while combat begins to look more like Gauntlet with large groups of 1 hit kill monsters all rushing towards you as you smite them down.
The environments are bland, across 4 chapters you’ll see 2 sets of caves, 1 tower dungeon, and then the roof of the tower. Daggerdale is a downloadable title so I can cut it some slack for being shallow but you’d think since the crux of the plot is based on climbing a tower they’d at least have a tower in the game to climb, as it is you simply teleport to the top after walking through the aforementioned caves. The music for this game doesn’t help the action at all, it is mostly composed of constantly held single notes which sometimes, though rarely, increases into a heavy drum beat if there are a large number of enemies around. However the music volume is so low you probably won’t even notice it in the 5 hours it takes to play through Daggerdale.
The biggest issue I have with Daggerdale is that it fails to be an even remotely decent approximation of the D&D ruleset. They have chosen the most generic fantasy setting they could and stuck you in drab caves fighting goblins and skeletons. The enemy variety picks up in the 3rd chapter when the Tieflings and Dragonkin show up but this is D&D would it have killed them to throw in a beholder or even some kobolds in the earlier chapters?
The reason I enjoy D&D is because of the attachment I feel to the character I create. This is dissected out of Daggerdale from the start. You cannot choose your race/class combo, they are pre-made for you, so if you want to be a wizard you are stuck being a halfling. There is also no cosmetic changes that can be made for your character, you’re stuck with the model they have pre-made for you. You don’t even get to choose or assign your stats, the classes are entirely built from the start, you can just augment them as you play through the game. I understand they wanted the game to be simple for people to play, but this isn’t representative of D&D as a whole and if the intention was to get people to jump from these games to the tabletop version it simply will not work. I do not understand why they would take the time to make this generic hack and slash RPG with limited character customization and progression rather than build say a turn based strategy RPG which could actually showcase 4e D&D rules including encounter and daily powers, full character customization, actual turn based grid style battles, and even incorporate dice rolling combat.
The main problem with Daggerdale again is it is completely average in everything it does as a video game and it completely fails to be representative of ANYTHING to do with Dungeons and Dragons. I doubt anybody who plays through this tired adventure will want to continue on through the next two entries, let alone invest in the tabletop version. I cannot recommend Daggerdale over the MUCH better Torchlight which is available on PC and came out just recently for Xbox 360. The game is simply a boring slog of tedious fetch quests, tired combat, and confusing story elements which ends with a ridiculously easy final boss encounter. At no point does the game excel at anything it tries to do, at no point does it come close to offering the fun and enjoyment of a real D&D game, nor does it meet the standards of any previous D&D games that came before it. Save yourself the money and buy some dice instead.