The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall Retrospective Review

Bethesda's ambitious sequel to The Elder Scrolls: Arena, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, is the subject of a new retrospective review from the folks at RPG Codex. The review argues Daggerfal is a very good game, though perhaps not deserving of the praise it receives by the series' most ardent fans. An excerpt on the game's complex character progression system:

In order to ensure your survival, you'll need to create a character that can stand up to the challenge. Daggerfall has one of the most satisfying character systems in the genre, with eight attributes, eight races, dozens of skills, as well as numerous special advantages and disadvantages to choose from, which grant your character additional bonuses and maluses. Some classes, such as the Sorcerer, can stand well enough on their own without much tweaking, but you can create a more efficient custom character class to fit your own style of gameplay. If character creation is too confusing for you, there's also an option to build a character by answering a slew of multiple choice questions about your character's personality and history. The end result will be a character with three primary skills that you will want to rely on the most, along with some major and minor skills to back him up. The rest of the skills will get tossed into a miscellaneous bucket, and start off quite low. As for special advantages, they include bonuses to hit chance and damage, quicker healing, resistance to certain elements or status effects, spell absorption and so on. The more advantages you choose, however, the slower you'll level up (which might actually not be such a bad thing if you plan to spend a couple hundred hours in a game with level-scaling). The special disadvantages allow you to balance out the experience penalty from your advantages. They include forbidden equipment materials, vulnerability to certain attacks, and more.


Most Daggerfall characters are going to depend on one armor type, one melee weapon type, and one ranged weapon type, and the rest of their skills are probably going to involve spellcasting. In other words, regardless of initial character creation choices, your typical character is going to end up as a warrior-wizard hybrid of some sort. You can forget about being a diplomat or a pure rogue, as it will be quite difficult to win the game using only stealth, diplomacy, or lockpicking skills. Speaking of which, skill progression seems to work in an odd way. For example, when I had around 20 skill points invested into my lockpick skill, I was very rarely able to unlock doors, as opposed to the 20% chance I thought I would have. However, once this same skill was brought up to the mid-40s, I was able to easily unlock the vast majority of locked doors I encountered. Meanwhile, my language skills rarely increased, and it was often difficult to determine if a particular monster had decided not to attack me due to those skills or due to stealth. The exact formulas used to determine skill usage success rates in Daggerfall are a mystery.