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Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:09 pm
by Kipi
Developer: Bedlam Games
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action RPG
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Released: May 2011 (Windows, Xbox, PlayStation [NA]), July 2011 (PlayStation [EU])
Version Used In Review: Windows


Introduction

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (from now on just Daggerdale) is action RPC, based on the Forgotten Realms. It uses the latest edition of the ruleset, more specifically 4th Edition. Now, I'm not too familiar with that edition, the changes made by Wizards of the Coast after 3.5 Edition just felt too simplified to my taste, especially the direction of MMO system. While I haven't played any Pen n' Paper games with 4th Edition rules, I have partially read the basic rulebooks, thanks to friend of mine who borrowed those to me. This means I have some knowledge of the rule system used in Daggerdale.

While I will cover all the aspect in more detail, I must confess something; my initial reaction to Daggerdale, which I stated in another thread, was plain wrong. First hour or so completely fooled me and thus I'm taking the words I have said back. This game is just terrible. Plain and simple. But, before giving out the score, lets get down to details first.

Finally, there will be screenshots attached in this review. Since I wasn't able to upload those image to GameBanshee, I will use Photobucket instead. Also, some of the images are somewhat large in size so I'm only going to include the links in review. If you want to see the image you must follow the links.


Graphics

Daggerdale was released at summer of 2011. From the Wikipedia I also discovered that the development began somewhere around March 2010. Honestly, it's really hard to believe Daggerdale is relatively so new. At best the game graphics are mediocre, most of the time plain ugly. Cubic models, lack of details and all the glitches it has aren't something one would accept from a game that is officially supported by Wizards of the Coast and published by Atari. Yes, Bedlams Games can be considered as indie studio, though it was formed by professionals from studios like Rockstar, EA and Ubisoft and it was acquired by BitHeads in January 2011, well before the release of Daggerdale. All these facts and, based on several sources, the claim of doing AAA quality games, I just can't see this game as indie game, which makes the quality of graphics (and nearly everything else) unacceptable.

Now, cubic look and lack of details are things I could live with. After all, I'm not the kind of person who dismiss the game if it doesn't look beautiful. But with so many problems and glitches the game has I can't but wonder why the developers thought this game was in state good enough to be released? First of all, some textures fail to load completely. It feels like some of the textures were completely missing and even installing the game again didn't help. On top of that, the same graphics failed to load with every character, which means the problem wasn't in my end.

Example screenshot

This problem also occurs with certain armors as well, which actually forced me to decide between equipping better armor and continuously seeing my character with missing textures. How come the developers missed something so obvious as that?

Example screenshot

Secondly, the amount of texture clipping is way above the acceptable level. Enemies, objects, you name it. The longer I played the game, the more irritating it was.

There were also several smaller problems with graphics; skill buttons didn't always play the recharging animation correctly, which made it impossible to determine when the specific skill could be used again. Sometimes, especially when the game forced the items and skills to become unequipped, the images of hotkeys weren't updated properly. Also, sometimes the screen was cluttered by things that the game failed to remove; target circles of NPC after the quest was completed and the NPC disappeared, health bars of enemies still appearing after that enemy was killed and so on. Sometimes the fallen enemies were even left standing where they were, making it annoying to determine the potential threats in bigger fights.

What about the animations? Basically the animations are smooth. Unfortunately there are so many cases when words "smooth" and "animation" can't be used in same sentence. First of all, enemies which have been knocked to ground have the habit of being transported to standing position instantly the animation should be played. This problem extends to other animations as well; animation of receiving a hit doesn't always take place, the enemies don't fall down after being killed and so on. In worst cases the glitch even makes the whole character to disappear. Such problem occurred several times especially during the final fight, more specifically the final QTE (Quick Time Event) section, when my character was completely invisible.

Finally, the cinematics. There are two types of cinematics; first type uses the game engine to display short series of events or actions of character(s) while the second type uses separately drawn pictures with small effects to tell the story. The second type occurs rarely, I remember seeing it only four times in whole campaign. These cutscenes are also the only moments when you can experience some real voice acting. While these cutscenes are well made, the lack of actual "motion" lowers the quality somewhat. Sure, the images used are well made, but as one cutscene contains five or six different pictures at most, there is really nothing to see after the first time.

Now, about the first type of cinematic. First of all, all the graphical problems which occur during the game also occur during the cinematic. Secondly, the texture quality is mostly awful, screaming for the option to skip them, which doesn't exists. Thirdly, the transition between the actual game and the cutscene is implemented horribly. For example, if completing a quest is followed by cutscene, the game first returns to normal view from conversation screen, after which the screen turns black and, after two or more seconds, the cutscene is played. After the cutscene the screen turns black again for few seconds, after which the game returns to normal view. Now, the same transition is done every time. For example, if the dialogue is followed by cutscene, which is followed by another dialogue, followed by SECOND cutscene, every transition is taken through normal game view. Really annoying feature. Finally, nearly every cutscene using the game engine is actually bad regarding the content. A good example of this is when you get attacked by golem at the beginning of the game; the video shows the golem rushing towards you, jumping and trying to kill you with aerial attack, an attack you evade barely by running away. First issue I had with that example is the aerial attack. Really, a huge golem made of stone leaps ten meters up in the air? And was it really necessary to implement the slow motion moment to the leap? And finally, why did my character was standing still during the whole video, only moving right before the golem managed to hit? Seriously, this is perhaps one of the most stupid videos I have seen in a long time.

Finally, none of the cutscenes, regardless the type, can be skipped. Since most of them are plain boring and some are even rather long, I can't but feel that the developers wanted artificially increase the length of Daggerdale. Even the video displaying the credits at the end of the game can't be skipped, which is just absurd thing.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:10 pm
by Kipi
Audio

The audio of Daggerdale follows the same rules of quality as graphics. Some of the music tracks are okay, most are just bad. There is especially one track which is about twenty to thirty seconds long and is played repeatedly. While the track probably is more complicated in terms of composition, it sounds like somebody just alternated between four different notes. And when the transition between the end and the beginning is not smooth, I was clearly able to spot the point when the track began again.

The sound effects of Daggerdale didn't give me any kind of impression. They existed, that's all I have to say about those. No, wait, there were some things after all. First of all, surprise surprise, sometimes the effects didn't take place. Secondly, sometimes sound effect caused by enemy was played even though there was no enemy around. Thirdly, the volume used in the effects were erratic at best; sometimes you could barely hear the effect coming from right next to you, sometimes it was louder than anything else and the source was far away. Few times I thought there was enemy next to me just because of the sound effect, though eventually I realized, with the help of graphical glitches, that the source of the effect was actually far away, inside different tunnel section.

Finally, the voice acting. Well, I wouldn't call the abomination implemented in Daggerdale as voice acting. It's basically combination of grunts, moans and "noises" like those. It really reminded me of the original The Sims game. Well, at least each race has separate voice for all those sounds. I wouldn't have been surprised if the developers had used only one voice for every character, which luckily isn't the case.


Story and World

The story of Daggerdale offers nothing special. Four heroes were recruited to defeat evil magician Rezlus who lives tower, from where he spreads terror across the land. Of course, to reach him, the heroes must travel through several locations and fight against the minions and servants of Rezlus, helping the locals with minor tasks along the way.

While the story has the potential of being deep and interesting, the reality is completely different. Most of the time the player is running around doing tasks to gain the trust of one faction or another. When the faction is satisfied, the player is taken to next chapter, which is basically another dungeon with new faction. The truth is, most of the time the quests made me to feel like I was just another errand boy, doing tasks nobody else bothers doing. There are hardly any variation between quests, mostly being running between certain locations and killing stuff while doing so. Few times the player is also burdened with the responsibility of protecting helpless NPC. While these "escorting" quests may sound refreshing, the fact that it's practically impossible to have the NPC killed degrades the idea to meaningless.

There are few moments when the basic concept of quests is discarded with relative better idea. The most notable moment was when the character was forced to fight several battles inside arena, each battle containing several waves of enemies and player starting with no weapons. Unfortunately, since the arena was basically littered with weapons right from the beginning, the fights never stand out from rest of the game enough. Sure I wasn't able to use that godly weapon of mine I had with me from last chapter, but the replacement weapons were so good that there was practically no difference.

Besides the main quests there are several optional quests available as well. Unfortunately these quests didn't offer anything to the story, only offering another way to accumulate experience, gold and items. Also the number of optional quests was very small, basically one additional quest was available at a time and most of the time none at all. I counted six optional quests while playing, the number I confirmed by checking out several walkthroughs.

The world itself is made from several separated maps, most of them being formed by group of tunnels and hallways. There are basically three different "types" of tunnels; dwarven mines, underground caves and the tower. The only difference between the types is the texture pack used, otherwise those are more or less identical, except the actual layout of the map. Since the quests always take place in one map only, no quest is extended to another map unless it's supposed to take you to next chapter, doing the quests becomes running through the same places again and again. This is becomes especially boring because the maps are rather small; excluding the fights it takes only a minute or two to reach the other end of the map from start.

Running back and forth could be bearable if it had been possible to have more than one quest accepted at the same time. Unfortunately, once a quest is accepted, the player has to finish it before another one can be accepted. Several times I encountered a situation where I went to certain location, slaughtered all the enemies between the starting point and target location, did the task I was asked, traveled back to starting point, slaughtering all the enemies I did the first time again, completed the quest and took new one only to realize I had to go back to same place as in previous quest. And, of course, all the enemies had respawned again. Several times I was close to stop playing just because I didn't feel like repeating the same route several times in succession.

In addition, the layout of the tunnels made the errand running quite irritating at times. There was one quest which suffered from this especially; the quest had several targets, each one had to be reached and the targets were spread all around the map. The problem was that there was practically only one route to take, which made me to run through the whole map. The thing is, the map gave me an impression that I could take a shorter route as well, only requiring me to run through half the map. What the map failed to show me was that, when taking the theoretical short route, the last target was in location which was inaccessible from the direction I was coming from. This "blockade" was formed by small cliff which allowed travelling to one direction only, from the last target towards the third target. To reach the last target I had to return to starting point, travel all the way to the other end of the map and follow reach the target from there.

Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that some quests had anti-climax ending. For example, one quest near the end of the game had a final battle which gave the initial impression of epic clash with all the dialogues and even by preventing me to leave the site during the combat. In reality the fight contained a couple of minions, which I was able to kill quickly. After this the boss does some boasting and attacks. The anti-climax part was the realization that the "boss" was actually level 1 creature and even easier to kill than the minions. Really, who among the developers actually thought that putting level 1 creature against level 8 PC would make a good boss fight?

Finally, some dialogues taking place when quest was being finished were outright lying. Even if the NPC specifically says that he or she is giving me a special weapon or armor as a reward none was actually given. The only exception to this is one quest at the very beginning of the game, which actually made me think that there is no bug involved.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:11 pm
by Kipi
Interface

The main interface works more or less well enough. There are some graphical glitches related to hotkeys, though otherwise it works. The only major complain I have is the mini-map; when the character turns the map turns as well, not the arrow representing the character. Even though the layout of the world is not complicated, the rotation of the map makes it such. I can't even count the times I had to check actual map just to orientate myself again and, even after doing so, several times I was still going to wrong direction. The fact that all the tunnels are more or less identical didn't help either.

What about the other interfaces? First of all, the big map. Even though the maps weren't big, none of them was even close to fit completely to the screen. The problem is, there is no way to move the map. No way at all, which means you have to move further to view the rest of the map. Several times I just had to randomly pick one tunnel from several and hope that it would lead me where I wanted to go. Often I had to turn around and return to starting point when I realized the tunnel I took wasn't the right one. And every time I had to fight all the same enemies during the return I had fought just moments earlier.

Next is the inventory interface. There are so many issues in it that I'm only going to cover the most important ones. First of all, while the items are grouped in separated sections, why all the weapons and shields were crammed in same list? Because of this, going through the inventory to find out if I had better weapon or shield is just annoying, especially when I want to compare the special effects which are not shown on the character sheet. Secondly, the comparison system doesn't work well enough. The character sheet only shows some basic stats like total damage, resistances and protection, but nothing else. When unequipped item is selected from inventory the game shows all the changes in parenthesis next to current value, which is a bit misleading at times or even plain wrong in certain cases. The misleading is caused by the fact that, especially in case of damage, the comparison is made by using the average value while the interface only shows the value range. For example, if weapon A does 2 to 20 points of damage and B does 10 to 14 points of damage, the damage of weapon B is considered better since the average is better. To make things even worse, the comparison doesn't take the weapon speed into account, at least as far as I know. As for being completely wrong, that problem is related to a bug related to certain scripted events. In short, if the game removes any of the weapons equipped by the character, the game fails to understand that the character is not using anything, which results the comparison system being messed up. And when it happens you will see values like -3 in attack stats, though it appears to be cosmetic only and is fixed when you actually equip the item.

Third problem with inventory interface is inability to use arrow keys to scroll the list. Clicking with mouse works, as well as mouse wheel, but arrow keys don't. The interesting thing is that the game clearly recognize that up or down was pressed since the sound effect of choosing another item takes place, nothing just happens.

Finally, few words about the character screen. Just like inventory screen this one is also divided to several subsection. The issue I had appears when the character gains another level; after performing the changes, like improving skills or selecting a feat, the only way to trigger the changes is to exit the specific subsection. When you do the game asks for confirmation and states that answering yes makes the decisions permanent. The problem is that, if you were going to move another subsection, the current subsection stays open, requiring you to select the other subsection again to actually open it.


Controls and Camera

Daggerdale uses the third person view and the camera is controlled with mouse. It's simple system yet the developers managed to break it nevertheless. There are two different camera angles and neither one can be adjusted vertically, which narrows the field of vision quite much. Most of the time this isn't such an issue but as soon as passages up or down comes to play it is. Especially when moving upwards through ramp it's basically impossible to see beyond two meters ahead. Fighting is so fun when you can't see the enemy only because you can't adjust the angle vertically. There are few other problems with the camera as well, mostly with things like walls and objects blocking the view.

The controls used in Daggerdale are simple enough. Mouse buttons are used to perform actions, holding shift allows second action for both buttons. Space is used to perform special action of the character class, "F" is used to interact with the world (objects and NPCs). You can also assign skills and items to number keys 1, 2 and 3. You can also make combo attacks by using the regular attack right after the previous regular attack, the maximum number of attacks in one combo being three.

First, the best thing of the control system; the attack combo. Unlike in many other games, it's actually quite easy to perform the attack combo in Daggerdale. The reason is that the game is not picky about the timing. There are even differences between the three attacks, though only affecting the width of possible hit area and attack speed. The attack speed is perhaps the most important one since chained attacks are made a bit faster, though the difference is not big. Also, damage is not affected in any way, which is a bit disappointing. Besides, there is also one other thing I don't understand; while all three attacks have separate one, the animation is the same regardless the character class or weapon. There is no difference between dagger, 1-handed sword, quarterstaff and huge hammer.

Targeting enemies works well as long as you resort on melee combat. The game clearly marks the target by circle and, as long as the character is facing more or less to right direction, the attack hits. Of course there are situations when this isn't true but most of the time it works. To make things even easier, the game has rather large hit area for each swing, usually causing damage to surrounding enemies as well. But as soon as ranged weapons or abilities are involved, all the previous things can be forgotten. Most of the times the aim is completely off, in worst cases the target is suddenly changing to completely different enemy. And even if the character is actually shooting to right direction, the target usually manages to avoid the hit by moving two steps to either side. Finally, the actual range of all ranged attacks, magical or weapons, is way too short. This makes playing with any other class except warrior unnecessarily difficult.

Another thing regarding the controls; at times it seems like the game fails to recognize the key press or mouse button click. Perhaps there is some kind of hidden delay system or the can't handle several simultaneous input signals properly. Whichever the reason is it makes the fights annoying. And since fighting is the integral part of the game, practically the only point of the game, you can see the problem.

Due the simplicity of the combat system, Daggerdale is practically a clickfest, especially in melee combat. And that reveals the sad truth of Daggerdale being developed only consoles in mind, PC version being just a badly made port. This theory is even supported by the help section of the game, which was located from the options menu. The developers didn't even bother to update the images to PC version!

Example screenshot

On the other hand, the whole "help" section is practically pointless, most topics only containing one image and one sentence. Sometimes the explanation is also so vague or simple that it's not really helpful at all.

Another example

Now, two "fun" facts about Daggerdale and clickfest. First fact is that I actually managed to break my mouse while playing this game. Yes, the left button of my mouse decided to die near the end of the game. Fortunately it wasn't expensive mouse, though I have never before managed to break my mouse without throwing and walls being involved. On a side note, several times I was very close to using my mouse to practice my throwing skill. The second fact may actually explain the first fact; out of curiosity I wrote a small program that tracked and stored all the key presses and button clicks I made. It also calculated certain values, like total number of clicks of each button and key, highest amount of left mouse button clicks per minute and so on. While the results should be considered as vague, here are some of my personal records: 88 mouse button clicks in one minute, 15 mouse button clicks in ten seconds and 5 minutes with at least one mouse button click every second. Now, is anybody honestly wondering anymore why I called Daggerdale as clickfest?

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:11 pm
by Kipi
Character Development

Every RPG needs at least some kind of character development. Daggerdale uses the 4th edition of D&D rules in character development. Also, there are four classes to choose from; human warrior, dwarf cleric, elf thief and halfling wizard. The problem is, only the warrior is recommendable since the game tends to focus on melee combat and offensive playing style. Playing with wizard is practically using the "Hit and Run" tactic, though the problems with ranged combat makes it more like "Miss and Run" tactic. Thief is suffering from the same problem, though it has a bit better chance of surviving from melee combat. Cleric is fairly capable melee fighter though not as good as warrior. While the ability to heal with skills is good thing, during fights it's always better to rely on potions for faster healing.

The skill and feat system gives the impression of deep and complicated character development. Unfortunately it's only an impression and not true; each class have only handful of skills available, some not being useful at all. The list of actually useful feats is also smaller than it looks, each class having only few useful feats available.

Even the basic stats are not implemented well. Yes, the core mechanism is solid and even faithful to Pen n' Paper version. The problems are with the implementation and usage. First of all, you can't alter the basic stats when creating a character; warriors will always have the same values with Strength being the highest one, thieves will always start with high dexterity and so on. Secondly, each class has only two or three stats which are important. Warriors have Strength, thieves have Dexterity, wizards have Intelligence and clerics have wisdom. Besides the main stats mentioned earlier, Constitution and Dexterity (Strength for thieves) are the additional stats which should be improved. I'm especially wondering the usage of Charisma; it only affects the shop prices. Now, since the game is short and you can basically grind to get enough gold, I saw no reason to improve Charisma. It's just there to fill the character sheet and remove empty spot.


Anything Else?

The AI is terrible in Daggerdale. It's quite common to notice that enemy decides to run away from you, halt and perform a series of attack while you are actually behind it and not even close. Sometimes the enemies also just halt and won't do anything, giving the player an opportunity to deal some free damage. There is also the possibility that one enemy or more just decides to return to their spawning point, which may or may not be far away.

Enemies also have rather annoying habit of disappearing completely. No, I'm not talking about scripted even of skill usage. What I mean is that, at times, the enemies just disappear through the floor. Sometimes they are immediately respawned (with full health, of course), sometimes not. Nothing is more annoying that seeing a though opponent disappearing just before you managed to kill it.

The respawn system of Daggerdale is also terrible. It seems like the game is using hidden triggers all around the map; each trigger is linked to at least one group of monsters and reaching the trigger area instantly respawns all the linked creatures. The problem is that these triggers don't take the direction of where the player came into account. Several times I clearly saw the enemies respawning when I went through specific doorway or tunnel section. I was even able to force the enemies to respawn by activating the trigger, killing the enemies and activating it again.

Daggerdale is also a short game. It took me eleven hours to complete, at least that's the time Steam is claiming. Eleven hours minus two hours I used to test out other classes, resulting nine hours. Nine hours of which one hour went to final QTE section (which actually was only two to five minutes long but due the problems and flaws took more or less thirty attempts before I succeeded). Eight hours is not much and even that contains repeating certain quests. And there is no replay value in the game, trying out other character classes is not worth of it. In addition, I haven't been able to figure out the idea behind the feature that occurs after the game is finished. After the credits have been displayed your character is teleported back to the early part of the game. The thing is, there are no quests to do. What was the point of that? Kill monsters? Yeah, pointless grinding in game filled with bugs and glitches is really fun... or not!

The save system is something between bad and terrible. You can save at any time and quit, all the items and experience will be there when you return. You just have to remember to do it manually, quitting doesn't automatically save the progress. If you didn't remember, you can only hope that the previous autosave is recent. The problem is, quest progression is never saved. If the quest was still active when you save and quit, you must start the quest from the beginning. This means that you must complete every quest in one go, there is no way around it. Also, if you die during the quest, the previous save is loaded, which usually is the last autosave.

Finally, Daggerdale contains multiplayer mode as well. The problem is, every time I checked there was nobody online. The servers were as dead as my old mouse, broken by this game. I have heard that the game is actually a bit better when played in multiplayer, though I'm unable to confirm or deny that claim.


Scoring

So, what's my final opinion of Daggerdale? Honestly, it's terrible game with basically nothing good in it. Every possible potential this game could have had was negated the ability of developers to mess up things. Really, there was no feature without annoying glitches, flaws or stupidities in the whole game. Seriously, how the developers were able to mess up or break nearly everything in Daggerdale? No wonder Atari lost the license for D&D after this fiasco.

The emotions I had during the eleven hours of playing Daggerdale ranged from disbelief, sadness, anger, frustration and everything between those. Special mention goes to the final part of the game, the one that was made from QTE part that took me about an hour to beat. Without my daily meds I would have never finished it, my concentration just wouldn't have been enough. Even now, and I'm only partially joking here, I'm relieved that there were no knives nearby when I tried to beat that section of the game.

Now, the actual score of Daggerdale. As almost everything was more or less broken or messed up the score can't be above 4. Due the amount of bugs and glitches, it can't be higher than 2. And... insert some drumming here... since the QTE section of the game is full of bugs and glitches, it was wonder I was even able to finish it, I can honestly say that there are game breaking bugs in Daggerdale. And with that I have no trouble to give the final score...

My Score System: 0/10
GameBanshee Score System: 0/5

Just stay away from this game! There is no reason for anybody to play Daggerdale!

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:47 pm
by Scottg
I played a mage.. a HALFLING mage - which is the only mage allowed..

If you've ever played any D&D before then that alone pretty much tells you everything you need to know about how screwed-up this game is. :D


I struggled in the very first portion - doing a bit of exploring and getting into trouble. I had know idea what sort of time/XP it took to level-up, nor what spells (and spell levels) or feats to take. Coupled with the auto-spawn I was often level-squatting to try-out which spells seemed to be more powerful.. (ie. save game and then level-up to a higher level and try out my array of selected spells, if it didn't work - reload and try something different.) After a while I formulated a reasonable build guide-line and progressed from there. I think I left the first section of the game around character level 8 or 9 - which I'm almost certain was to high in level.

Despite those problems (or perhaps because of them and the difficulty I caused myself), I sort of enjoyed the "newness" of that first section.

Almost everything after the first section was "same song, second verse - same as the first", and because of my somewhat "enhanced" character level - was all rather easy. Only the final "boss" battle scene was difficult, and even then only because it was utterly contrived (with a different set of rules for the opponents than for you) and absurdly buggy.

Maybe I'm a "glutton for punishment" - so that's why I'd give it 2/10. :p


I think I payed $5 US for it on Steam. It *might* have been worth $1 IF it had stopped after the first section. :eek: :D


Kipi's got it right though - stay away from this game, if for no other reason than to stop publishers from publishing crap. (..even if it is now in pretty much the secondary market.)