When I originally previewed Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I was pretty excited about it, what with it being the first DnD 4th edition CRPG to hit PCs and consoles; an interesting choice supported by its advertised modular system and episodic, thus manageable, lenght. Then the first reviews came -hitting sites a few days before the review copy hit my door- and they were less than stellar. Everyone complained about something and I decided to stop reading before actually playing the game, though the damage was done.
I installed the PC version of Daggerdale with the lowest of expectations, only to have them sink further when I was asked to either join or log into gamespy. Now, I'm not a multiplayer fanatic, but I have come to expect to enjoy such overtly social modes of gaming without having to sign up with any service. Always thought that Steam was more than capable and more than enough for this sort of things, and seeing Daggerdale run via Steam yet still requiring me to remember one more password, well, I simply couldn't be bothered. Then again, in CRPGs it's the solo experience that counts, isn't it? Of course it is dear.
On to the single-player campaign it was then and I went on to choose among the four available characters (a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter), customize him/her and go on and travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. There I would get to explore the catacombs of Tethyamar under the Desrtmouth Mountains (I'm not making those names up you know; and, yes, I haven't played any proper DnD for years now), where a dwarven community is having troubles with goblins, undead things, an assortment of nasties and the malicious deity Bane. So far, so generic, I know, but playing through this story felt oddly refreshing and reminiscent of the things a seasoned DM would come up with.
The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What's more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it's a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn't completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating.
The varied bugs, visual glitches, lack of overall polish and shoddy camera, on the other hand, do border on infuriating and keep Daggerdale from becoming the game it could be, which is frankly a shame, especially considering it gets so many things right. Then again, there's always hope that the first patch will fix things up considerably... Oh, and the game's length is longer than I expected, without it ever becoming boring.
Verdict: A traditional hack-and-slash CRPG that's too buggy for its own good. Definitely worth a try if you are into this sort of thing and don't mind the generic plot.
Related @ Gnome's Lair: