Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (360/PS3/PC)

Posted: June 11, 2011 in PC, PS3, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale logo

Dungeons & Dramamine

The Forgotten Realms campaign setting has been the stage for many excellent games. This includes the SSI Gold Box games, BioWare’s critically and commercially successful Baldur’s Gate series, and Interplay’s enjoyable hack-and-slash Dark Alliance games. Unfortunately, Daggerdale falls short of any of those titles.

But before I dig into the game for what it got wrong, let’s talk about what it gets right. The gameplay is a solid hack-and-slash dungeon crawl (when it works), somewhere between Gauntlet and Diablo. There’s plenty of stuff to collect, and all of it is useful in some capacity – no vendor trash, just sacks of gold, potions, weapons, and armor. In addition, there’s a good mix of quests, a few of which are optional. The storyline is OK. It exists, and in a hack-and-slash game that’s pretty much “good enough”. It pales next to something like Baldur’s Gate or R.A. Salvatore’s books, but it IS better than the Dungeons & Dragons film. In addition, some of the graphics (the ones with actual textures) look pretty good.

Glitchcraft and Heresy

Daggerdale reviewNow, let’s take a look at the bad parts.

Daggerdale is not so much a game as a collection of bugs and unfinished code being held together by the Unreal 3 engine. Characters will freeze up and be unable to move (which is essentially a death sentence as you can’t save mid-quest), textures won’t render on some weapons and armor (leaving your character looking distinctly like a smurf). Within ten minutes of starting the game, my floor textures turned flat black.  It’s bad enough that I made it to the final boss and when it came time to attack the boss…my fighter remained stuck in one place. There’s a small window of opportunity to get through an area while the boss is away, and I can’t move. Brilliant.

In addition, other players are reporting that stats, abilities, and items are being lost during gameplay. While I didn’t experience this particular bug, it just seems fair warning is in order.

The game was pretty clearly rushed out the door. I paid $15 so Atari could have me beta test the game! I mean, this wouldn’t be the first time a game needs patching, but it’s so flagrant that it stuns me. And not to go off on a tangent, but Atari has done the same “release it unfinished” thing with Temple of Elemental Evil and Alone in the Dark in the past. I’m frankly getting tired of it. I know it’s only a $15 title, but let’s compare it to two excellent downloadable titles: Mega Man 10 and Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light. Both of these games released with the same amount of polish one would expect from a full-price title.

Second, let’s look at distribution (for the PC version at least). The game is only available on DVD-ROM, as in you have to purchase a physical copy. And then it authenticates through Steam…OK, but why not just release it through Steam? The Xbox version is downloadable, so…why did I have to purchase a physical copy in a market where physical software sales are nearly dead?

Dungeons and Dragons Daggerdale reviewThe multiplayer experience, which, with 4-player co-op the game was supposedly designed around, is also quite frustrating. When you try to join a game you’re given no indication of where in the dungeon or in what quest the other players are. It’s kind of lame when you’re at level 8 and the other characters are running the tutorial mission. In addition, sometimes you’re lucky to join at all. I’ve had to hard reboot a few times when the game just hangs on the loading screen when I’ve attempted to join a multiplayer game.

Another major “what?” moment (at least from an old D&D player’s perspective): there is no character creation other than selecting a premade race/class combination and allocating a few feats. Now, when done properly, this kind of thing can work. It worked fine in Dark Alliance. However, in Daggerdale what struck me is that the rogue class is assigned to the elf and the wizard is assigned to the halfling. For those not in the D&D loop, elves have higher intelligence (and thus make better mages) where halflings have high dexterity, making them ideal rogues. Now, if we were creating our own characters, I wouldn’t stop you from taking those out for a spin, but in a game where you have no choice in the matter, you’re giving us these backwards setups?

The music is…well, for me it was nonexistent. It was irritating in the first dungeon so I turned it off and put Basil Poledouris’ Conan score on. The game doesn’t save this option change so I had to turn it off every time I played. The sound is fine for the most part, swords clanging and spells whooshing and bones clattering. And then there are the voices. There really isn’t any voice acting to speak of; however, anyone you speak to is bound to have a little worried sigh or groan. They tend to loop every few text boxes, and it would have been better in my opinion if the little niblet of sound hadn’t been included at all.

Daggerdale by Bedlam Games and AtariThe Final Verdict

I can conclude – no, I should beg you not to buy this game. It was released in an unfinished beta state. It’s pretty frustrating to do your work for you, Atari. My question is, why did Atari even buy the D&D license if they’re just gonna make crap like this? If you want a decent hack-and-slash, pick up Torchlight or wait for Dungeon Siege 3. If you’re in the mood for some real Dungeons & Dragons, download Baldur’s Gate from GoG or pick up a 4th edition starter set. There’s no reason for you to play Daggerdale.

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Comments
  1. drozzy says:

    Would be great to hear an update on this since the release on Seam.

    • Chad M. says:

      They patched it about a week ago, have been meaning to give it a post-patch update. Have just been inundated with other work. It’s coming! I promise.

  2. Jamaica-sun says:

    How much space does this game take? i just got my new lap top and i would prefer not making it extremely slow.

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