Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
Before players tackled evil demons and dragons with controller in hand, many did so with a piece of paper and a roll of a die. Of all the tabletop games the most well known is Dungeons & Dragons, the classic game that many of the initial video role playing games got its inspiration from. For a game based on an almost 40-year-old property that concentrates on character development and story I was sad to see this not properly reflected in Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale.
I may not be the most knowledgeable when it comes to D&D, but one thing I do know is that one of the major concentrations of the game is creating and developing your character, so when I started Daggerdale up I expected a pretty involved character creator. Unfortunately instead you get to choose from four pre-built characters (Halfling Wizard, Elven Rogue, Human Fighter, and Dwarf Cleric) and the only thing you have control over is their name and minimal choice of their initial skills. From there you are thrown into your adventure with zero background on whom you are except that you were chosen to take on the evil Zhentarim. Your character of course accepts this quest without question or comment and follows through the whole adventure without even speaking a word, which makes the characters feel very bland and lacking in the personality department. I really expected more from the property and if I never knew the title of the game I probably would never have thought it was based on D&D, which is very disappointing to see with a licensed game.
While the overall story won’t keep you on the edge of your seat, it’s not bad. Once a chapter you will get a cut-scene that looks like motion stills of art that you might see if you opened up a D&D manual. While a little short these are fully voiced, nice to look at, and quite enjoyable. But unfortunately theses are few and far in-between. Most times you get non voiced blocks of text to read from NPC’s who stand there moving their hands and grunting at you. There are also in game cut-scenes every now and then that are just sloppily presented, with textures not fully loading until part way through, stuttering, and music sometimes cutting off in the middle. Worst of all, if these happen during a boss battle sometimes the battle continues in the background and you can hear and see your character getting attacked when there is nothing you can do about it.
In these types of games story always takes a backburner to the fighting and looting and the fighting in Daggerdale is definitely the high point of the game offering fast based action and an emphasis on moving around and not just staying still and pressing the attack button over and over again. Besides your basic short and long range attacks, each character has a character specific action and can equip 4 skills from an inventory of six (seven for the human fighter). Each skill has 3 different levels and what level you use is dependent on how long you hold down the skill button before using, with the higher levels being stronger but having a longer cool down period before they can be used again. I really liked having this choice with the skills being able to activate the level one skills more often to take out groups of weaker enemies or charging it up to take off a chunk of health of a tougher one. Unfortunately the game has a camera system that likes to get blocked by objects in the environment. Nothing is worse than moving to position yourself properly against a group of enemies only to have your camera go behind a wall and end up getting hit a couple times until you can properly see again. There is a more top down view that can help to partially advert this, though things can get a bit jumbled if there is a lot of enemies on screen. There is a decent amount of loot in the game, though I found that most of what I got was not applicable to my character or just not as good as what I already had. I ended up finishing the game with one of the first weapons I got in chapter one and wearing armour I got in chapter 2. Buying equipment is also a bit frustrating since there is no good way to compare the item in the store to what you have equipped.
That’s not the only design choice in Daggerdale that led to my frustration and confusion. Take the map for example. After taking a quest an arrow points to your way on the mini map, but it can be ambiguous sometimes which way you need to go. You should be able to open up the map and see where the quest is, but for some reason you can’t scroll the map. So unless you are close to where you have to go you won’t be able to know the exact location for sure. The game also uses terms (like AC, MD, and both an Attack and Damage value) that I never quite understood right away and nowhere in the game itself did it explain them. For someone who has played D&D before I am sure this isn’t a problem, but for the average person a little explanation would have been nice. Another odd design choice is with the save system, the game does not save partially completed mission progress. So you could be 20 minutes into a quest, save and exit and when you load the game again you will have all the loot and experience that you acquired during the quest but will have to start that quest over from the beginning.
The biggest problem with the game though is the many glitches and bugs that I encountered while playing. You will constantly see graphical glitches like screen tearing and popping while you play and the game will often stutter and slow down if there is too much happening on the screen and when you open doors. Enemy’s dead bodies after being killed will frequently just stand up and not move instead of lying on the ground. There were times when I got stuck in battle animations, had lock on and targeting reticules disappear, had magic and skills just not work or not hit enemies, seen wrong descriptions on abilities, friendly NPC’s that were fighting would suddenly disappear, and had my PS3 hard lock on me multiple times. While most of these aren’t game breaking and are merely annoying, the overabundance and frequency of bugs is staggering and really shows that the game is missing that needed time for polish.
The game also finishes off with one of the most frustrating final bosses I have ever played. During this boss fight you have numerous enemies that continuously re-spawn during the battle, which wouldn’t be a problem except that some of these enemies have the ability to heal and revive. So you have times when as soon as you kill an enemy, that enemy gets instantly revived. Or you take out a few of the enemies that are attacking you only to have the boss healed back to full health again. This battle also has a section where you must take down another enemy to get access to the boss. When you do you have at most a couple of seconds to run up to the boss and hit the interaction button before the enemy pushes you back and regains all its health.. I must have run through this part about four times before I actually figured out what I had to do and accomplish it. The fight then finishes off by switching up the gameplay a bit and could have been an interesting way to end the game. Unfortunately in my play through I encountered a bug that had me thinking I had to restart the last boss all over again. Instead of resetting the scene when I had failed my character just disappeared altogether with the game still playing on and I just had to wait for my character to randomly appear back on the screen to finish.
When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I had a fairly positive attitude towards it. Sure I thought the character creation and characters were shallow considering the license but the combat was all right and it felt rather satisfying taking out a group of enemies with a well-placed spell. But the longer I played the game the more bugs and glitches I encountered that took away from my enjoyment. Also while the game lasted a decent length of around seven and half hours, most of that was spent running (and backtracking) in similar looking caves mostly fighting goblin after goblin. It was only once I got to the third chapter that I got to see different environments and different enemy types that offered a challenge. Of course this chapter was the last real chapter (chapter 4 is just the last boss fight) and shorter then the other two. While having both local and online multiplayer might give you some longevity with the title, personally I don’t think I would want to take another visit to Daggerdale. After finishing Daggerdale it’s very clear that the game was released before it was completely ready and because of this the game feels unpolished, bug ridden, and worst of all uninspired.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Motion art cut scenes
- Fast and, at times, satisfying combat
What I Dislike:
- Many many bugs and glitches
- Uninspired use of the license
- Bland Character Creator
- Last boss battle
- Not much challenge until almost the end.