Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale
Daggerdale has all the elements of a fun dungeon crawler. Poor design decisions, questionable tech implementation, and repetitive, unoriginal action keep the game from that goal. This downloadable game is filled with problems from beginning to end, but a solid leveling system and functional co-op play could make committed players smile through the drudgery.
It’s easy to take certain simple things for granted in a game built around monster killing, loot collection, and leveling. It’s all pretty simple, right? Daggerdale is a case study on exactly where the genre can go wrong. It all starts out okay. There are four unique character classes, each with their own abilities and unique power sets. The heroes have a fairly standard kill-the-villain quest in front of them, and off they go to save the region from the bad guys. As soon as the action gets going, we start running into some problems. A lifeless world of unmoving NPCs awaits you in each quest hub. Accept a quest, and all others disappear; there’s no quest log, so you have to complete each quest on its own before you can go back and get another. Quest areas are darkly lit and repetitive, and you’ll be forced to backtrack through each zone many times on various fetch and kill missions. Your dungeon map won’t scroll to reveal areas beyond the visible area, so you often can’t even tell where your next objective might be. The small variety of enemies usually spawns out of nowhere, often only a few feet away from your character. Targeting during combat is haphazard and jumps easily between different foes. Layer on any number of little glitches, from enemies that freeze in mid-combat to item pick-up notifications that don’t disappear after you grab them, and Daggerdale feels like a long series of missteps.
On the brighter side, Daggerdale does have a decent co-op mode that’s available either online or offline. Poor single-player balancing is largely resolved by playing with a friend, thanks to some adjustments to difficulty that seem tied to the number of players – two offline or up to four online. By selecting powers and weapons that complement your partner, the game takes on a more strategic and enjoyable flow, even if all the technical and design problems remain. The baseline Dungeons & Dragons systems also deliver an enjoyable leveling experience, even if the implementation here is a broad abstraction of the tabletop ruleset. Both the inventory and upgrade system are presented well, and gamers who like to tweak and individualize their character might enjoy the process.
Daggerdale is a lengthy adventure, but most of the monsters and quests start to feel reiterative after the first couple of hours. Nonetheless, there are few other places to go right now for a downloadable fantasy game with co-op included. Someone should really get on that problem, because Daggerdale isn’t the solution.