Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (XBLA)

Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (XBLA)

I came in to Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale both hesitant and hopeful. On the one hand, I’ve been a massive fan of Dungeons & Dragons since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. On the other hand, I’ve been a massive fan of Dungeons & Dragons since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. I could either have been very happy with a great console Dungeons & Dragons game, or I could have been extremely disappointed with an abysmally poor console Dungeons & Dragons game. Or, you know, it could have just been OK. Read on to see how it went.

To me, Dungeons & Dragons’ greatest strength has always been customization, detail, and imagination. Any character you could imagine could be created, in as much or as little detail as you wanted, and inserted into the most epic adventures. Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (hereafter referred to as either “D&D:D” or “The Game”) completely eschews the concept of character customization. You are presented with four pre-made characters to choose from:

  • Halfling Wizard: The well-traveled Halfling is one of the most resourceful races in all of Faerun. As Wizards they manipulate powerful arcane forces, using spells on the battlefield to hinder enemies or consume them with fire.
  • Elven Rogue: Elves are creatures of nature, living in perfect accord with the forest. As Rogues they can use their cunning and natural agility to great effect in battle, dealing huge amounts of damage to enemies, then slipping away without reprisal.
  • Human Fighter: The most prominent citizenry of the Dalelands, humans are renowned for their resilience and ability to adapt to perilous situations. As Fighters they often face danger at the front line of battle, defending their party, and attacking enemies relentlessly with little regard to personal safety.
  • Dwarven Cleric: The original rulers of the mine-city of Tethyamar, the dwarves are master craftsmen who believe their race were once forged from the earth of Toril. As clerics they harbor a deep respect for their gods, using divine abilities to heal allies and defeat their enemies with magical prayers.

These are your only character options. You can not mix and match class and race. You do not have the option of additional classes or races. You can not alter your character’s physical appearance in any way. You do not even have the option to change your character’s gender. If you play as the Elven Rogue, you are female. If you play as any of the other three options, you are male. I generally play a male halfling ranger or druid, but found the closest gameplay choice available to me to be a female elven rogue. Before I’ve even selected a character, the feeling of playing Dungeons & Dragons has started to slip away.

Statistically, you start off with most of your abilities already assigned. You do not get any ability points for your base stats when you first create a character, only as you level up (which is extremely slow, since the level cap is set at 10). The feats, skills, and special abilities are also very limited. Combined, these represent another key element of character customization that is taken away from the player.

To put it plainly, D&D:D does not contain the amount of customization one would expect from a game that is based on Dungeons & Dragons.

Graphically, D&D:D is good. The opening cinematic is very well stylized (and subtitled, thank the gods), while cut-scene animation is done well. I didn’t see an excess of reused environments, and environment animation and design was well done. NPC animation, while not bad per se, could have been improved so that they expressed more through movement during conversations. As a side note to the NPC comment, there is no NPC voice acting; conversation consists of grunts.

The game’s camera has two views: a closer third-person view, and a zoomed out almost over the head view. The camera can be rotated along the horizontal axis within either of these two views, but not vertically. If you’re on a hill, ramp, or incline of any sort, you will be looking directly at the ground in front of you with no way to angle your camera to see the top of the incline. This is particularly frustrating when you have enemies that you can’t see because you can’t adjust your camera angle vertically.

Saving often is required in this game, because there is a spike in the difficulty curve, and autosaves/checkpoints are few and far between. Be warned, however, that saving your game doesn’t do exactly what you would expect. If you manually save your game and you have an active quest, reloading your save game starts you at the physical beginning of your current active quest rather than at the location your save was created. If you die, you start at the physical beginning of your current active quest rather than a convenient checkpoint location. Another odd location issue is when you’re doing a quest-chain, with multiple conversation pit stops within a main quest. If you complete a small battle, and a conversation pit stop lies somewhere ahead, you are automatically thrust into the conversation, and your character is automatically moved to the location of the NPC. You then have to backtrack to your previous location to complete looting and exploring.

The game starts with a tutorial level that does a fairly good job of imparting the basic controls needed to progress. Gameplay itself is your basic button-mashing hack-and-slash, and is (for the most part) well implemented. There are times when targeting can be fickle, but it’s minor and somewhat rare. Overall, the gameplay is fairly entertaining and has repeat value with each of the four character options.

The most important feature of D&D:D as far as I’m concerned is multiplayer. Dungeons & Dragons is meant to be played with friends in a party. Including the ability to play local splitscreen or online multiplayer is absolutely wonderful, and is one of the few things about this game that truly captures the point of Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, developed by Bedlam Games and published by Atari, is available now on XBLA for 1200MSP, and soon on PSN. The issues with customization, saving, the camera, etc. keeps me from recommending this at full price. They are bigger issues for me, personally, but if you feel that they are minor issues, you will probably enjoy this game both on your own and with friends.

Review

ProsCons
Local multiplayer
Online multiplayer
Good gameplay/graphics
Lack of customization
Very few autosaves/checkpoints
Manual save does not save location
Rating
60 out of 100
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