“You are aware that you can destroy those barrels with your sword, are you not? I mean, you’re already standing right in front of them. Why are you even using your bow?”
“Well, for one thing, it looks cool, and another, shut up”.
I imagine some kind of dialogue goes through my Elven rogue Iulii’s head as, for what feels like the millionth time, I destroy something in a video game. Maybe it is the desire for gold to buy a new weapon or the hope for a healing potion that will come in handy in a difficult battle, or just pure obsessive-compulsive disorder. But whenever I find a barrel in a video game, I have to destroy it. I am not entirely sure why, but as long as barrels are being made, and they contain items that should not be there, I will smash them to pieces.
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is the latest action-RPG developed by Bedlam Games in, it would seem, an attempt to get me to break stuff. It takes the rule-set of the 4th edition of D&D and applies it to the world of video games, free from those pesky dice rolls and initiative checks. Unless the story of the D&D universe is near and dear to your heart, you probably should not go into this expecting a cinematic epic. While it does provide suitable motivation to continue on your quest, it won’t be sticking around with you once the five-ish hour campaign concludes.
The primary focus of Daggerdale is cooperative multiplayer. Up to four adventurers can team up to take on any who dare oppose them. There are only four character classes, each tied to a specific race. The standard classes/races are present, with the Elven rogue, Dwarven cleric, Human fighter and Halfling wizard. There is no option to customize the character’s physical appearance, or change his class. While it is not the most important option in the world, the option of customizing your character would have been gladly accepted.
Each character has unique proficiencies and skills, and while it is entirely possible to complete the entire game solo, teamwork is often a great advantage. Unfortunately non-host players are occasionally booted while the game continues around them, meaning when they return they are more than likely dead. Directly joining a friend’s game is the best option because linking up with random players can be a pain in the neck.
The gameplay doesn’t break away too far from the traditional action-RPG mold. Players run around worlds, accepting quests and fighting enemies, while collecting loot from busted barrels and defeated enemies. As quests are completed and enemies defeated, XP is earned that levels up the character (with a cap of 10). With the standard increases to health and attack power, leveling up gives skill points that can increase the power of special attacks or train in a new proficiency or skill. The RPG facet isn’t very deep, and aside from the traits like Constitution or Dexterity that can be leveled up individually, most characters will end up with similar skill trees. Attacks can be hot-keyed into the four face buttons on the 360 controller and the face buttons with the L-trigger held down. This also applies to healing potions and special attacks that must cool down after use.
The weapons are your standard fantasy fare, from bows and throwing knives to hammers and swords with different effect and bonuses. Armor can also have effects on both enemies and the player, and is one of the only real ways to customize the look of your character. The quests aren’t particularly exciting; they range from fetch quests to the antiquated protection missions. The few bosses that aren’t the standard “shoot him until he’s dead” fights show some promise and some measure of planning, though the same can’t be said for the vast majority of battles where simply walking into the thick of things or shooting arrows from a safe distance will suffice. To make matters worse, it seems as if a coherent plan for finishing the final boss battle was never put in place, and you just kind of stumble into the end.
The graphics are neither good nor bad, but the aesthetic design will likely appeal to fantasy fans since the game is based on the D&D property. The game also has a bad habit of popping in objects and textures that happens too frequently to be dismissed. Much of the game occurs in mines or underground, so don’t expect lots of color or vibrancy from the environments. Most of the dialogue in the game is delivered without voice acting (which really, unless you’re afraid of reading, should never be a problem), and when cut scenes are voiced an amiable job is done. Most of the time the music is just ambient noise, and rarely does it pick up. When it does, it does a fine job of providing matching them mood of the time.
There are some rather odd glitches present in the game. Most of the time these are relatively harmless bugs; like a defeated enemy being stuck in a standing position, or a character becoming stuck in a frame of an animation. Sometimes however things can be a bit problematic, such as enemies who can’t be attacked or hot-keyed weapons that are not actually there. While it amounts to a minor annoyance at best, near the end of the game your weapons are removed for a brief period and once you re-acquire them you must set everything up again. If you become accustomed to using only one weapon it can be a bit tricky to get everything back to its place before the final boss battle.
Wait for the sequel
After smashing countless barrels, slaying goblins and dragonborn and filling my pockets with gold, I ask myself if it was worth it. Was traveling through bland environments, fighting battles that grew repetitive and dealing with the glitches worth the 15-dollar asking price? Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is the first in a planned trilogy, so if you venture alone expecting a deep experience that will keep you hooked for hours, you might be better off waiting for the sequel.
Co-op when it works.
Glitchy, combat gets repetitive, no customization.