Jun 10, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale - Review

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:


  1. Well I am still interested.

    "DnD 4th edition" - So do you notice anything different from older games based on DnD rules?

    "(a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter)" - This was the most disappointing to me; Why would they not allow you to be a Dwarven warrior or a Elvin archer, or a halfling rogue?

  2. I really can't understand the choice of limiting the character selection dear Jonathon, but I do believe it has something to do with cutting down costs. Didn't really mind it.

    As for the rules, well, they do seem a bit WOW-y, but are still reminiscent of DnD. Mind you, I haven't read any of the 4th edition books.

  3. So many better games to play that I'll pass. Better spend that money on Desktop Dungeons. :)

  4. Oh but absolutely. DD is the mutts nuts!

  5. Never did get why everyone liked DD so much...

  6. They are working on a patch. On the Atari forums, a dev said that they had found the cause of the most notorious bug that resets your skills. So, I think it would be good to check the game once that patch is released.

    I bought it for the 360, mainly to play local multiplayer but I'd be tempted to play online. The multiplayer is fun, a sum that is better than its buggy parts. My biggest complaint with the multiplayer is that local play allows only 2 players, but online allows 4. Why the difference? There's no split screen.

    As for the 4e rules, I've not played a tabletop session with those rules, but I know folks who have and they've confirmed my interpretation of the changes--namely that the classes are squishy. I think clearly defined roles make for a better game.

    Because we've paused playing the game until the patch releases, I can't say how well Daggerdale implements 4e, but I don't think it feels like it for one simple reason: tabletop D&D is turn-based, but Daggerdale is not. There's a Diablo-ish feel to the game, for sure. However, I think we are playing roles more in Daggerdale than I have in multiplayer Diablo.

    For what it is, I think Daggerdale is a fun multiplayer action RPG, but it has flaws. In some ways, I think it is better than Dungeon Siege III, which I played the multiplayer demo. I think playing roles is easier, more effective in Daggerdale. DS3 is fun its own right, but the roles in the demo felt mushy, where it seemed that everyone was melee (at least to a point).

  7. @Jonathon: I've been in a D&D 3.5e campaign for more than a year now, my first really deep D&D gaming experience. And I'm sold that this is one of the best games that you can play. (A good friend and fellow campaign player says Magic the Gathering is probably slightly better.)

    The problem is that computer RPGs cannot (or least, have not) captured what I think is the core of what makes D&D a great game. I'm drafting a blog post of my own related to this, but the gist is that the tabletop D&D is incredibly creative. In fact, there are things that computer RPGs really haven't allowed.

    For example, a druid has a spell to shape wood. I've used that a couple of times in our campaign, but I've yet to see in any computer RPG.

    Besides the limited spells and abilities in the computer versions, the computer games limit how creative you can be--using a combination of spells and abilities among your party, for example, to summon a hippogriff, which a wizard makes invisible, and which the druid then sends over to abduct an NPC off a ship and drop in the ocean.

    Unfortunately, video game devs and publishers have abandoned pursuing the creativity and complexity of a tabletop game in favor of scripted, linear games that provide very shallow choices.

    But that critique is the basis for another blog post. :)

  8. @Gnome: A shame it's only a hack-and-slash, but it seems most modern ones are. I think I'll pass on this and wait for Skyrim.

    @guttertalk: Spells in video games are mostly combat-related, sadly. I'd love to see more spells like the one you mentioned and more truly open-ended gameplay.

  9. Aha! Another quality comment thread. Excellent, excellent.

  10. I had a look at a gameplay video, not even the lively multiplayer banter could stop me falling into a coma. Hack & slash just isn’t my bag, I prefer to live in denial and hope for Baldur’s Gate 3.

  11. I salute your brave expectation of Baldur's 3 dear Drake and must admit I too prefer proper CRPGs, but do find your average hack and slasher quite a bit amusing.

  12. I really get why they would turn a DnD based game into a hack and slash. The rules were not make with a mindless hack and slash in mind at all from what I know about it.

  13. I frankly can't comment. Haven't even seen a DnD 4th ed book myself...

  14. Nice attempt on putting a positive spin on the game. To be honest, I am not a D&D purist and all I wanted was a decent dungeon crawler and looter and instead I got Daggerdale

  15. Hehe :) I see what you mean, but I frankly enjoyed Daggerdale quite a bit. The fact that the much-needed patch hasn't been released yet is most disappointing.