Dungeons & Dragons: DaggerdalePublisher: Atari
, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
UK Price (as reviewed): £9.99 (inc VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $14.99 (ex tax)
It’s tough to know where to begin with Daggerdale, not because there are some many varied and complex systems buried within it, but precisely because there aren’t. It’s so basic and bound by the conventions of its genre that it almost demands being summed up in two very simple words; Diablo clone
No, actually it should be three words; boring Diablo clone
It’s an incredible shame that the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, which is adapted to computer games with strange infrequency, isn’t used to its full extent. Developer Bedlam Games clearly has a broad knowledge of the diverse D&D fiction, as evidenced by the tale it weaves. The Zhentarim (read: evil wizards) are on the rise and have taken over the mines of Tethyamar (read: Dwarf-land), where they’ve built a Tower of Void (read: magic mega-weapon) that they’ll use to conquer the region on behalf of their god, Bane (read: evil god). Then, along come some heroes, naturally.
In the eyes of D&D fans this would appear to be an interesting story, especially because Daggerdale doesn’t shy away from issues such as the Zhentarim’s religious divide between the gods Bane and Cyric. What brings it all crumbling down, however, is the fact that Bedlam never tells this story in the fashion the franchise deserves. There’s no leeway for players to test the boundaries of the alignment system, for example. In fact, there's no way to shape the adventure in any way at all. It may be based on the most famous RPG franchise ever, but Daggerdale barely qualifies as part of the genre by most metrics.
It makes sense, in a way; the aim of Daggerdale is to climb to the top of the Tower of Void, so the fact that the game feels as enjoyable as running up 50 flights of stairs is only fitting.
Functionally, Daggerdale lacks depth as well. Character selection is limited to choosing one of four preset race and class combos, then naming that character (which has no effect on anything) and choosing one of a few basic abilities. There’s no option to create your own character, nor tweak your stats in any meaningful fashion.
You'd hope that this would change later in the game, but since the level cap stops you ever progressing beyond level 10, you’d be mistaken.
What this means is that Daggerdale ends up being a loot-heavy game, with players spending nearly every waking second of the game either smashing storage barrels, or gathering the contents of smashed storage barrels, and comparing them to the contents of other smashed storage barrels. Bedlam Games has clearly looked at the Dungeons & Dragons franchise and decided that it could benefit from an increase in the number of storage barrels.
Unfortunately, even loot-gathering in Daggerdale is rendered a dull and dreary task by the fact that the loot is all transparently generic. Items cycle along repetitive themes – Cracked Necrotic Staff, Cracked Infernal Staff and so on – with little to distinguish between them apart from almost arbitrarily distributed plus ones and twos. There’s almost no reason to invest in any particular style of weapon until you’ve reach a high enough level to specialise and, since the weapons are all clearly levelled, the drip-feed of gear is entirely predictable.