Review – Daggerdale

From Hub_141, June 2011.

Rezlus, a worshipper of the Black Lord Bane and full-time Zhentarim Cleric, is up to no good. He’s building an army to conquer the “Forgotten Realms” land of Daggerdale. A mysterious mage, Lorin-Aria, has called on you, with possibly up to three friends, to put him in his place!

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is an action roleplaying game available for Xbox, PSN and PC which can be played with 1 to 4 players. It is based on the 4th Edition D&D system with players able to choose between playing as a Human Fighter, Elf Rogue, Halfling Wizard and Dwarf Cleric. Customisation comes from levelling up as experience points are gained and from picking up or purchasing items and weapons.

It’s predominantly set in the Mines of Tethyamar and play involves wandering around talking to Dwarves who will give you quests to embark on. Initially this is to help rid them of pesky goblins but soon other, bigger, evil-types join the fray!

The quests can get a little repetitive but there’s nothing quite like beating ten shades of sushi out of a goblin underboss with a flaming warhammer, especially when you’re a dwarf. Nothing. Music beats away in the background when you’re horribly outnumbered by swarming goblins, crazed dwarves or skelingtons, adding to the atmosphere well, and it’s a good indicator of if there are any enemies around when you can’t quite see them hiding somewhere.

Between and during missions the player can wander around smashing barrels to their hearts content to pilfer whatever might be inside them, be it gold or other items. I was glad to eventually meet the Dwarven Cooper who greeted me with “Who has been breaking all my barrels?” Bit old school, that. I like it!

It can descend into a button bashing experience during battles, though, but this emphasises the “pick up and play” aspect of a downloadable game. Anyone can just pick up a joypad and get stuck in without needing to fully understand what’s going on in the background with relation to level, weapon type, character stats etc.

At its most basic Daggerdale reminded me of a modern take on Gauntlet but with far more complex mechanics at work. There’s nothing wrong with that as I liked Gauntlet, and if you don’t know what Gauntlet is/was then go check it out on Wikipedia. For a more modern reference it also reminded me of the dungeon crawling sections of World of Warcraft, however Daggerdale has a much smaller game-world and is less harsh on the wallet.

Having said that, Daggerdale currently weighs in at 1200 Microsoft points on Xbox Live, roughly equivalent to £10.20 in real money, which could put off the casual purchase. It has a few other flaws, too. The menu screens can sometimes be buggy. I felt the graphics are a bit unpolished for a modern game, especially when on a close up view of someone, and the camera angles can be a bit jumpy. Also the difficulty curve is an interesting one, and failure in some missions sometimes means going all the way back to the start of them to redo everything. Even if you’ve saved it right before the end. And you lose all the items you picked up during the mission. That’s annoying!

Also, some people might see the pick-up-and-play aspect in a negative light; that this is a generic action RPG that just happens to be in a D&D wrapper. It’s the balance between making something accessible to all or one for just fans of the D&D licence. Well, I’ve only just recently been getting back into D&D gaming and, on that count I didn’t see any problems with Daggerdale.

Overall it’s a fun multiplayer dungeon crawl within a well known fantasy background, even if that could possibly have been expanded on more. Apparently it’s part of a planned trilogy of games with players able to use saved characters from Daggerdale in future releases. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next.