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Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (Xbox 360) artwork

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (Xbox 360) review

"Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale has a lot of glitches, very little plot, almost no enemy variety and a sloppy interface that sometimes makes playing the game a chore. The first few hours almost immediately feel tedious, but the game improves from there. Unfortunately, it never really does anything especially memorable."

Thereís nothing like a game freeze to make you realize just how little youíre enjoying that game. I was provided a reminder of that fact recently while playing Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, the recent Xbox Live Arcade title from Atari.

Most of a half-hour after I accepted a quest from a dwarf who wanted me to gather ten Phaerlock Warrior skulls (think lizard craniums), the game abruptly became unresponsive. I had no choice but to reset my console. As I waited through company logo or menu after another--first on the Xbox 360 and then within the game itself--I had plenty of time to hope that the auto-save had done its job and that I would at least retain some of the experience points or weapons gathered on my recently interrupted journey. Unfortunately, all of my hopes were for naught. My elven character finally reappeared in the dungeon, just ahead of the same dwarf who had first issued the fetch quest. The meter in the upper left corner made it clear that I hadnít gained so much as a single experience point since my last proper save, despite the fact that the auto-save indicator had appeared on-screen multiple times. Iím not sure what the game was doing in such instances, but clearly it hadnít been saving anything.

I wish I could say that I was surprised. Sadly, the auto-save shenanigans were par for the course in a game that habitually falls short of what it could have been.

During my play session the previous evening, I had taken it upon myself to equip some new gear. That turned out to involve a bit of a learning process, since experimenting and pressing random buttons in Daggerdale allows you to screw up your character something fierce. The game lets players map just about any move or item they want to three of the four face buttons, so itís entirely possible to remove your melee weapon or your projectile weapon and put nothing in its place. You can fix that with another trip to the menus, of course, but the game doesnít pause just because youíre fiddling with your inventory. If you forget to equip stuff properly and you meet up with some hostile lizards or goblins, youíll have to run back to a safe area and hope you donít take too much damage along the way. Youíll eventually grow accustomed to the interface and then it works reasonably well, but the first few times you access the menus can be frustrating ordeals indeed.

Once I had settled on my desired gear (which took some time because it was difficult to even tell what represented an upgrade or what certain stats meant), I resumed my exploration of the underground region near the base of the tower that the game expects players to scale. The next time I ran into some monsters, I was surprised to find them completely unresponsive. I was able to walk right up to them and fire a few shots from my bow. They made no attempt to retaliate or even to move. I slaughtered them all. Then I slaughtered some more goblins just because I could. No one tried to attack me for most of an hour, until I finally made some more changes to my equipped gear.

As game glitches go, statuesque enemies are hardly the worst offense that Iíve encountered over the course of the last few decades. Honestly, there were times while playing Daggerdale when I wished that I could reproduce the effect, just to make it easier to quickly go up a level. Once, following slightly different circumstances that were similarly outside of my control, I did precisely that!

The game has other glitches too, though, and theyíre less easily resolved. Look online and it wonít take long to find someone who has run into one problem or another. Potential issues range from the mildly annoying (a character who appears to be skating around the dungeon rather than walking) to the extreme (all learned skills suddenly vanishing with no way to reclaim them). I encountered another glitch myself when I reached the gameís main boss. For no apparent reason, I suddenly could not use my equipped weapons until I reloaded from the last save. That situation was frustrating because at first I assumed the wizard had somehow cursed me and an inadequate cutscene (there are a number of those in the game) just didnít address the point. I spent ten minutes running around like an idiot before I finally concluded--correctly, as it happened--that I had run into another glitch.

As frustrating as they are, glitches can typically be worked through and it seems safe to assume that the developers at Bedlam Games (howís that for an appropriate company name?) will patch away most of those issues over the next few weeks. A patch wonít fix the remarkably uninteresting story that Daggerdale tells, however.

The general gist is that Rezlus, a powerful wizard, is trying to take over the realm with help from the dark god, Bane. Thereís a tower that you must scale somewhere in the midst of things, and there are lots of dwarves and humans and a couple of warring factions. Iíd tell you more but the game has so few plot twists that Iím afraid going into further detail would leave you with no surprises to discover for yourself. Youíd suppose that with the Dungeons & Dragons license at their disposal, the developers would have done something more than point you to a tower and instruct you to climb it while battling lizards, goblins and skeletons.

Bosses aside, you wonít face many monsters that donít fall into one of those three groups. I would have liked a bit more variety. Even a generic kobold or two would have spiced things up a bit, but there are none in sight. Itís not like there are a lot of bosses, either; youíll fight three or four impressive foes over the course of the entire game (including a final boss that is actually one of the coolest that Iíve ever encountered in a dungeon crawler). None of the bosses are especially difficult, but at least they look cool and provide a welcome diversion from the standard foes.

Environments are repetitive, as well. After I finished the game and watched the credits, I was dumped unceremoniously into the post-game contentÖ which basically amounts to nothing but the chance to grind if you havenít maxed out your character stats. Youíre deposited in the gameís first area and left to roam around in hopes of finding some goblins to bash. There are no new side quests or anything, just a few characters standing around and some merchants. It took me awhile to realize where I was, since one portion of the gameís world looks much the same as the next. There were a few highlights, like standing puddles of water (that donít reflect your character or even ripple when you try to splash through them) and a water wheel at a dead end near the bottom of a cave, but mostly Daggerdale is visually adequate but unimaginative.

If you do find yourself having a good time in spite of the gameís flaws (which is quite possible if you really love the genre), the good news is that there are four character classes to experience. There also are a lot of weapons to gather, and you can play the game cooperatively if you manage to sucker a friend into downloading it. Achievements are easily obtained, if youíre willing to put in the required time; youíll obtain four of them just for completing the game alone, another for doing so with a friend and a number of others for gathering a bunch of gold, items or goblin hides.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale has a lot of glitches, very little plot, almost no enemy variety and a sloppy interface that sometimes makes playing the game a chore. The first few hours almost immediately feel tedious, but the game improves from there. Unfortunately, it never really does anything especially memorable. Even with a cooperative multi-player mode and multiple classes, thereís not much reason to continue playing once youíve completed the brief main quest. Someday the title will likely be available at a discounted price and worth a purchase for that reason. In the meantime, though, itís a difficult game to recommend to anyone but the diehard dungeon crawler fan.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 26, 2011)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 27, 2011:

Well done, Jason. I'm sad now, since I was looking forward to this game. I was planning on loading 2000 MSP and picking up this and Fancy Pants Adventures soon, but it sounds like you saved me 1200 points.

I liked that you described the story as "remarkably uninteresting". Those are two words you usually don't see strung together like that because, as far as I know, they denote different things. But bearing in mind that this is a D&D game and they have tons of material at their disposal, yet the best Bedlam came up with is a basic dungeon crawl storyline with very few creatures. With such material to work with, it's remarkable that the story isn't interesting. Nice one.
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overdrive posted May 27, 2011:

When I saw a review of a new D&D game, my first hope was that someone decided to try to replicate the insane glory of the Gold Box era.

After reading the review, I am now sad.
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zippdementia posted May 28, 2011:

My only confusion is why this received a 5. Not to resurrect old boring discussions about the "numbers" but I do think it sounds like a 3 or even a 2 is more appropriate for our system. A five lists a game as "Average:
As a whole, this game is quite average. You're unlikely to find much of anything remarkable about it at all. "

When in fact it sounds like the glitches are quite remarkable. I've never come across a lying autosave!
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honestgamer posted May 28, 2011:

I feel my rating is fair to both consumers and to the game. It's rare indeed that a game with this many glitches doesn't find most of them fixed shortly after launch. In this day and age, it's safe to assume that the developers will fix most or all of them.

So why did I mention the glitches at all? Precisely because they hammered home the game's less fixable elements. Even when all of the patches are released and most or all of the glitches fixed, you'll be left playing a game that's very similar to what I experienced on a core level. Patches aren't likely to add in new enemies, better story elements and so forth. So I reviewed a game that was inefficiently put together and poorly executed, but a game that is still playable and one that can still provide moments of enjoyment for fans of the genre and this sort of experience. There were moments where I did have fun playing it and there are moments where it works well enough that a lower score wouldn't have been a proper reflection of my experience.
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shotgunnova posted May 29, 2011:

Good review. I was thinking about getting it myself, but the last paragraph made its ordinariness clear. Oh well, more MSP for eventual Skyrim goodies.

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