Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Xbox 360 Review

June 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – Atari – Developer – Bedlam – Genre – Action RPG – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

There has been a long association between Dungeons & Dragons and computer games, and this is the first officially licensed product based on the recent 4th Edition Rules. Can this download-only experience match up to some of the finest hack & slash role-playing games of the past?

The back-story is explained in the introductory sequence. An evil sorcerer has built a tower deep in the mines of Tethamyr, unleashing hordes of Goblins on the unwitting Dwarf miners. It’s up to the player to find a way into the tower and defeat the bad guy. Play can be either in single or multiplayer mode, the latter allowing up to four players online and just two locally.

Characters are based on one of four pre-set classes – a human warrior, a dwarf cleric, a female elf rogue and a halfling wizard. The player can accept the randomly generated name or enter their own. With the beginning stats and a choice of powers to distribute points towards displayed, the game proper begins.

The first section is a tutorial, introducing the controls. The four face buttons are used for the melee and ranged attacks, interacting with objects/people and using a potion. These can be reconfigured. Holding the left trigger gives access to the character’s powers, a range of stronger attacks and magic spells that can also be reassigned to a particular button.

Actual gameplay is based on finding a character, accepting a quest and then finding the objects or enemies to complete it. Most combat will be close range, the A button being the default for the physical attacks that can be hit more than once to create a stronger damage combo. Backing off to heal the character or to change items is a useful tactic. Killing enemies and completing quests earns XP, and earning enough will increase the character’s level. The maximum in this game is level 10, with each rise giving improved stats and more powers to choose from/upgrade.

Most enemies will drop loot when killed, from simple gold coins to better weaponry and armour. These can be sold to a merchant to earn more gold for things the player does want to purchase – which should include more healing potions. Changing items and powers is done in the inventory screen, with equipment that the player cannot use highlighted in red. Cutscenes move the plot along as the character explores deeper into the mines, uncovering a serious betrayal and the malign influence behind the Goblin attacks.

The biggest problem for Daggerdale is the repetition. Quests are simple fetch or escort duties, occasionally with extra side-quests to help people and improve the character’s stats. There is very little variety in the combat, even with the extra powers, boiling down to repeatedly hitting the A button to do physical damage or X to keep enemies further at bay.

Presentation wise the game is a big let down. The menus are quite fiddly to understand, the stats printed in small writing and the object names becoming more ridiculous as you find the rarer loot. Graphically the mines are dull and very boring, with tearing and glitches frequently visible. Characters appear and disappear at odd moments, enemies emerge through solid barriers and it is all too easy to become stuck on the scenery. The story cutscenes have some nice animation in a painted style, but there are few of them. Sound is minimal and makes little impact.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of role-playing. Character interaction is limited to just pressing A to read through dialogue, and merchants are just a list of what’s for sale. The actual stats have limited impact during play, and the restriction on character creation to just four types is also disappointing. It is telling that one of the Achievements is for killing Goblins, as the game does become one long grind to get through. There is also a rather nasty bug when the player “falls” through the scenery, forcing an exit to dashboard or switching off the console to prevent the auto-save from wiping out all the character’s progress.

There are plans for two more games in the series, with characters transferring and being able to reach higher levels. The games themselves will need to reach a higher level of interaction and gameplay to be worthwhile. Those who have spent their time hunting for loot in dungeons with classics such as the Diablo series may find some enjoyment here, but in a console setting the overall polish of the game is lacking and the gameplay is too old-fashioned.